One of the great reasons to own a RV is to be able to participate in a program called Harvest Hosts. Unique and interesting adventures await when you take advantage of this membership. We had a fun experience recently as we were traveling through Florida near Gainesville. We called the hosts at the Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary and asked if we could park our RV there for the night. They said “Yes!” and we received a warm greeting when we arrived.
The Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary is located just north of Gainesville on a large tract of land. The monkey rescue facility saves primates that have been abused by owners, abandoned, or used for research. Here are a few examples of some of the animals there: one monkey spent 20 years in a lab for cocaine research, one was abandoned at a roadside attraction, and one was an organ grinder’s monkey. There are over 250 monkeys in residence here and some have really heart-breaking stories of survival. These primates can live up to 50 years so it is common for them to be abandoned.
The medical issues that some of the monkeys have range from diabetes from being fed so much candy to permanent hair loss due to long-term wearing of diapers fixed to their bodies with duct tape. Many of the monkeys that were kept as pets are missing their teeth because they were pulled to prevent them from biting their owners. Interestingly enough, some are just lonely after decades of solitude.
Over 20 years ago, Kari Bagnall, the founder, became aware of how some breeders treated monkeys. As a result, she left her vocation, sold everything, and moved to an area that had a climate that was better for the monkeys. She has been caring for primates ever since.
Kari and her dedicated team work tirelessly to rescue and care for as many monkeys as possible. Regular checkups and medications are required to help bring these animals back to health and to keep them healthy. The monkeys are housed in large caged areas with intricate wire tunnels that allow the animals to travel from area to area.
This sanctuary, that now covers over 40 acres, is the largest for “New World” primates in North America. In addition to the large housing system for the monkeys, this sanctuary also has a medical clinic, where veterinarians can examine and treat the monkeys, administrative offices, storage buildings, a small gift shop, and of course places to park the Bighorn.
Kari and Andrew gave six of us (two other couples that were part of our visit had arrived with their RVs and were spending the night too) an extensive tour of the grounds and provided some history of many of the monkeys. The population here includes spider monkeys, marmosets, capuchins, squirrel monkeys, and tamarins.
Thanks to Harvest Hosts we were able to experience a great day that we likely would have not known about otherwise. The Harvest Host program has grown rapidly in the last two years and now facilitates unique overnight stays at over 2,100 wineries, farms, attractions, and museums across the country. The cost for the overnight stay is free but as a courtesy you are requested to make a purchase while on site. Harvest Host membership costs less than $100 annually and includes a great app for finding your next experience. By the way, we are in no way affiliated with Harvest Hosts. Just fans.
Another example of a great experience was our stay on Lamborn Farm in Leavenworth, KS as we made our way east last fall. Established in 1877, this family-owned farm is on the National and Kansas State Register of Historic Places. We were able to park alongside a wonderful big red barn and spend the night. Our host gave us a tour and was extremely friendly. The couple is restoring the farm and they already house typical farm animals. The barn itself is a great rustic wedding venue.
The General Patton Memorial Museum near Palm Springs, CA. was another unique Harvest Host experience. We wrote about it here.
As you can see, we are having a blast traveling around and experiencing all the places that make this country such a wonderful place to explore.