Monkeys abound in the trees around our Rainforest Expeditions lodges. But hidden in the dense jungle vegetation, it can be surprisingly hard to find them! So we've put together the ultimate guide to spotting monkeys in the rainforest, compiling our favorite tips and tricks to see — and snap amazing photos of — these lively primates.
Step 1: Learn their unique calls
It might seem counterintuitive, but the key to finding monkeys is actually using your ears, not your eyes! Take the time to memorize their calls:
- The bird-like whistles of Tamarin and Squirrel Monkeys
- The "whoops" of Dusky Titi Monkeys
- The grunts of Capuchin and Howler Monkeys
- The barking "alarm" calls of Spider Monkeys
Once you can pick their unique "voices" out of the rainforest soundtrack, you have a much better chance of spotting a monkey.
Red Howler Monkeys often fill the air around our Rainforest Expeditions lodges with their loud calls. Photo by Lucas Bustamante.
Step 2: Visit a Floodplain Forest
Floodplain forests are full of tall trees, close to rainforest rivers. Because they're so close to rivers, the rainy season floods these forests, depositing valuable nutrients — which foster amazing biodiversity and enormous trees! This means monkeys, lots of them.
Monkeys come to floodplain forests to snack on figs from towering rainforest fig trees, and to find other food and water sources. These forests are some of the best spots to see and photograph monkeys. Lucky for us, our Rainforest Expeditions lodges sit near several floodplain forests, with the most remote, biodiverse one at our Tambopata Research Center lodge. Check out booking information here:
Step 3: Watch and listen to the canopy
Most monkey life occurs, of course, far above our heads in the tall trees of the rainforest. As you walk through the jungle or ride a quiet boat along the river, keep your eyes and ears on the canopy.
While monkeys are great climbers, they’re not exactly elegant climbers. They jump, swing, and crash through the trees. So listen for that crashing, the rustle of leaves up above, then wait… and usually a monkey (or a hundred monkeys!) will soon come into view.
The tiny squirrel monkey lurks in the canopy, noticed by only the most observant visitors. Photo by Jeff Cremer.
Step 4: Tread with caution
Like other rainforest wildlife, monkeys are often easily scared away by loud, bold, or aggressive humans. They're especially shy in isolated areas of the forest, where they may not be used to humans and their antics. As you walk down jungle paths, keep noise to a minimum and avoid rustling clothing or loud electronic devices.
This goes doubly for snapping good photos. Monkeys tend not to sit still long enough to get a good shot, not to mention the strong back-light of the sky, so getting a decent photograph takes some patience to say the least.
Step 5: Take a guided "monkey walk"
Trained guides are invaluable for spotting rainforest animals, particularly elusive monkeys. A good guide will know the calls of specific monkey species, and be familiar with their favorite places, foods, and their typical behaviors. Before booking a trip to a rainforest region — whether it be in Africa, South America, or Asia — check your lodge or tour company's credentials. Make sure your guides are well-trained, well-compensated, and committed to treating monkeys and other wildlife with respect and discretion. It will make your experience so much more worthwhile!
At Rainforest Expeditions, our highly trained guides lead spectacular monkey walks through the floodplain forests near our lodges in Tambopata, Peru. To find out more about Amazon travel options, feel free to chat with our Amazon experts!