In the 1930s the owner of a Silver Springs boat company brought monkeys to the state park. He thought it would be good for tourism.
“The monkeys were brought to Silver Springs State Park by Colonel Tooey in the 1930s. Tooey owned a river-cruise tourist attraction and thought the monkeys would be a defining trait of the ride.
However, after purchasing the monkeys from a wildlife dealer out of New York and placing them on an island at Devil's Elbow on the Silver River, they promptly swam across the water and thrived in nearby woods, a state historical timeline shows,” the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Lore has long attributed the monkeys’ presence to the Tarzan movies.
“Local legend has it that the monkeys descended from animals used to film several Tarzan movies nearly 50 years ago at Silver Springs. The first monkeys were brought here at that time, but by a former Jungle Cruise operator who figured that the animals would add an exotic and amusing touch to the lush natural setting,” the New York Times reports.
These monkeys are native to Central and East Asia. For nearly 80 years, they have made themselves at home in the park.
I recently took a kayaking trip with BK Adventure to see the rhesus macaque monkeys. While they’re awfully cute, they aren’t native. They can be dangerous. There have been scary encounters between the primates and humans.
To learn more about this unique piece of Florida history, I joined Ramesh BK and his team. BK Adventure takes kayakers and bikers on eco tours.
“We do try to respect the environment,” Ramesh said.
The goal is to show people what Florida has to offer beyond theme parks. “We do have the amazing, beautiful landscape and ecosystem,” Ramesh said.
He’s from Nepal and said he grew up with the same type of monkeys. Ramesh said he’s more at home in the outdoors than elsewhere.
He has traveled the world rafting, climbing and skydiving. He opened BK Adventure in 2015.
“I’m kind of like an adrenaline junkie,” he said.
On this tour, we didn’t just see monkeys. We passed right by dozens of turtles, scores of birds and plenty of gators.
Allow around four hours for this trip. The BK team will bring supplies for sandwiches so you can fuel up during the tour.