I love monkeys!  I am fascinated by them.  For some reason, perhaps because I look a little bit like Curious George, they seem to be fascinated by me too.  I have always been drawn to the monkey.  Which is precisely why, when I recently visited Belize, I took a tour of the country's Community Baboon Sanctuary, which is home to roughly 2,000 black howler monkeys.  The experience was exhilarating and I got some really cool photos of my new friends!

Here's something you need to know . . . the locals in Belize call howler monkeys "baboons."  But the baboons really are howler monkeys and about 200 private landowners across this region vowed to conserve the land to protect the howler population.  And, they have.  If you visit the Community Baboon Sanctuary, you can actually take a tour through part of the habitat and experience the howlers up close and personal.  See!

Our guide was Geraldine, who, by the way, was incredible.  The guides actually "call" to the male howlers by mimicking them.  Males are VERY protective and will actually "scream" back at the guide to let her know she's in his territory.  As Geraldine told us in between calls, "I'm actually pissing him off."  And, she was!

We heard the monkeys rushing toward us before we ever saw them in the tree tops.  We knew they were close and it was awesome!  We could see the leaves and limbs moving and we could hear the male warning us to back off.  I wasn't nervous.  I was completely fascinated and in awe.

Howlers live in troops and those troops typically range in number between 5 and 8.  Of course, because they are so territorial, there is just one dominant male in each.  And Geraldine summoned this particular troop by angering that male.  While he stayed in the tree tops to observe (they are actually way more bark than bite), one of his females and her infant descended to check us out.  They knew Geraldine had bananas!

Isn't she beautiful?  We were told not to touch the howlers, but that didn't stop them from touching us.  I mentioned that monkeys are fascinated by me for some reason and, before I knew it, mama monkey was grabbing me.

That was, literally, the highlight of the trip.  It's one thing to get off a cruise ship and have someone plop a monkey on your shoulder for a photo, but it's quite another to engage with monkeys in the wild, in their habitat.  And did I mention the infant?

She was about the sweetest thing I have ever seen.

See what I mean? And mom was just as gorgeous.  I love this photo.  She actually seems to understand what Geraldine is saying to her.

I have traveled a lot of places and I have seen a lot of things.  But my trip to the Community Baboon Sanctuary in Belize completely stands out in my memory bank.  It was a fascinating journey into the world of howler monkeys and a group of people dedicated to their preservation.  Seriously, if you're ever in Belize, I highly recommend hiring a driver and taking this hour-long journey outside Belize City.  It's educational, inspirational and, well, natural.

For more information about the Community Baboon Sanctuary, CLICK HERE!  And, if you ever end up there, be sure to ask for Geraldine!

She was a tremendously knowledgeable and helpful guide and completely understands the power of the "call of the wild."  This was a "wild" experience this Curious George will never forget.