Finca Los Monos (the Monkey Farm) is a privately funded garden. It is situated on Isla Colon, the largest island in the enchanting archipelago of Bocas del Toro, on the Caribbean coast of the Republic of Panama. At 9.2 degrees north of the Equator, the islands enjoy a steady temperature of between 80 and 93 degrees (27 C – 33 C) all year round, with adequate rainfall to keep them lush and humid.
David and Lin Gillingham arrived in Bocas in 1998 after years of traveling around the world in search of the perfect place to settle. They purchased the 20 acre property which was then a thick, green wall of jungle covering the rolling hills and gullies. First they hacked a pathway in by machete and within six months they built their hilltop house. This was finally home!
Lin, has worked hard to fulfill her dream of creating a tropical garden. Whilst clearing the land, she made forays into the rainforests and mountains where she discovered and collected more plants, as well as purchasing from nurseries on the mainland. Over the years she has created a magnificent garden with large collections of heleconias, gingers, palms, flowering trees, fruits, spices and ornamentals.
Although Lin has no formal botanical training she shares her passionate enthusiasm with Dave and the local people working there to have crafted a place of lasting beauty to share with all lovers of tropical nature.
Finca Los Monos is a 10 minute drive from Bocas town, just past the Smithsonian Institute, on the Idaan hilltop. The farm spanning the island from coast to coast has stunning views, both eastward toward the archipelago of Bocas del Toro and westward toward the mountainous mainland, with the turquoise Caribbean in between.
Visitors enter beneath two Flame of the Forest trees (Delonix Regia) into a large Palapa that serves as a visitor’s center. This beautifully thatched building is available for rent as a venue for meetings and intimate wedding ceremonies.
From the visitor’s centre, the meandering pathway begins in the palm garden where stately Traveler’s trees stand tall alongside palms originating from all around the world. A flower covered pergola forms a whimsical tunnel onto a hillside covered with bright red & pink gingers and colourful hibiscus that flower all year round. Humming birds and butterflies are constantly drawn to the nectar of these exquisite tropical flowers.
The visitor then continues through a cool tunnel of red and pink Torch Gingers and heleconias to a site where a 100 year old well has been resurrected.
In the shade of the stately old trees it is possible to see the resident troop of Howler monkeys, often with their babies and perhaps a sloth or iguana. Off the footpath, tiny colourful frogs can be seen, camouflaged among the fallen leaves.
Two fish-ponds have been created, home to small tropical fish, many varieties of frogs and dragonflies and covered with water-lilies. The caiman who resided there were caught by hand and relocated. The ponds are in an idyllic location, surrounded by many palms, cycads and enormous pandanus standing monstrously tall on their stilt roots.
The hillside undulations of the farm often surprise the visitor with clear and silhouetted views of the Caribbean Sea and the mountainous mainland. All along the meandering path, there are uniquely placed and planted areas with shade and sun loving explosions of colours created by the mixing of foliage plants, logs with orchids and epiphytes, hillsides of heleconias and both flowering and fruit trees.
The visitor can see over a dozen species of edible bananas and taste some of the tropical fruits. The tour is also educational, the plants being labeled to give their medicinal and practical usages and which pollinators favour them.
With all the abundance of fruit and flowers, a wide variety of birds reside at or visit the farm. Parrots, tanagers, woodpeckers, orioles, flycatchers, green Ibis and many more. One may be lucky enough to see the exquisitely, small nests of the hummingbirds or at the other end of the scale, the 3-4’ long pendulous nests of the Montezuma Oropendulas.
Come visit and bathe in the beauty and sensory delights of Finca Los Monos to share the wonder of tropical nature.
Bring your camera and binoculars for an unforgettable tour.
Visiting hours: Monday – 1pm
Fridays – 8.30am
Other times by arrangement.
Tours last about 2 hours. Refreshments provided.
Sturdy footwear recommended.
Entrance fee: $10 per person or $5 for residents and pensioners.