Negros Oriental has so much to offer. Waterfalls, hiking, diving… and monkeys! If you’re looking for a cool outdoor activity to suit every age the Monkey Sanctuary in Sta Catalina is a tonne of fun. Less than 2 hours drive from Dumaguete City, the Sta Catalina Monkey Sanctuary is an easy day trip for families, friends, couples… you name it.
HOW TO GET TO THE STA CATALINA MONKEY SANCTUARY
Sta Catalina is around 1 hour and 40 minutes from Dumaguete city if you have your own mode of transport. The best way to get anywhere in the Philippines is with your own motorbike, which you can rent for $8 USD a day or if you’re not comfortable driving a bike, you can rent a car for $40.
You can also take a Ceres bus from Dumaguete city to Sta Catalina town proper for $2.60, which will take 2 and a half hours, or a public V-hire (van) for $2 which stops less frequently and will only take 2 hours. From the town, you will then need to take a habal habal (motorbike taxi) to the Monkey Sanctuary. At the time of writing (July 2020) there’s a lot of road works between Siaton and Sta Catalina, so this route will take longer than going through the mountains of Pamplona.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Entrance to the Sta Catalina Monkey Sanctuary is $0.60 per person, plus $0.40 for parking. If you want, you can also buy bananas for the monkeys for $1 a bunch. The bananas are optional and you don’t need them to interact with the monkeys, but it does make it a bit more fun and hands on! If you’ve been to monkey sanctuaries elsewhere in the Philippines, you might have fed them peanuts or bread, but these monkeys are on a strict banana only diet.
OUR EXPERIENCE AT THE STA CATALINA MONKEY SANCTUARY
First thing’s first, hold onto your bananas. These monkeys don’t hold back! We lost half our bunch to a courageous pickpocketer before we even crossed the bridge. The smartest of monkeys will cross the bridge to improve their chances of getting a banana before you reach the rest of the group (pack? What is a group of monkeys called anyway?) inside the sanctuary grounds.
The grounds are beautiful and natural, less like a zoo and more so an open space on the edge of the jungle where the monkeys are free to come and go as they please. Don’t be fooled into thinking they’re hanging around to be your friend, they’re just in it for the bananas. And we’re totally okay with that.
We loved seeing all the baby monkeys, which is living proof that the monkey population is doing well and thriving. So many teeny tiny Benjamin Button looking babies hanging onto their mums! As much as you want to cuddle the babies, it’s important to give the mamas space, but they’ll appreciate an extra banana or two thrown their way.
Pay your taxes to the king. And by taxes we mean bananas. We’ve been to a fair few monkey sanctuaries, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that you don’t mess with the king. The king of this particular troop (we have since Googled what a group of monkeys is called) kept his distance, but if he came over demanding bananas we would’ve happily given them up and thrown in a few extra to keep the peace. Kings will bully the bananas out of any monkey or human he chooses. It’s his world, we just live in it.
But in all seriousness, monkeys are unpredictable and wild, they aren’t puppies. Treat them with respect, read their body language (growling isn’t good) and stay close to the guys with sticks. These men are the guardians of both monkeys and humans, and the monkeys tend to behave around them.
Much like walking around the sketchy part of Manila, you’re also at risk of being mugged at the Sta Catalina Monkey Sanctuary… but by monkeys. Anything in your pocket is fair game, from your entrance ticket to your car keys or cellphone. You’re much better off putting it somewhere out of reach. We went during the pandemic so masks were mandatory, and even those weren’t safe from sticky fingers. Also, there was a pregnant goat. Way more chill than the monkeys.
Just before we left, we met the very kind and welcoming owner of the Sta Catalina Monkey Sanctuary, who rolled up with a speaker hanging around his neck and a microphone, blasting old school rnb tracks (Nelly fans will be stoked) and talking to an unknown entity. At first we thought he was speaking to staff on his little microphone, but we realised he was actually talking to his beloved monkeys. When we asked him about the music, he said “the monkeys like to listen to music” What kind of music? “Any kind.”
We had a lot of fun at the Sta. Catalina Monkey Sanctuary and it was the perfect start to our Dumaguete to Sta Catalina day trip. After about an hour playing with monkeys, we moved onto Mantabios Falls just down the road. Check out our complete guide to this awesome waterfall in Sta Catalina and add it to your itinerary.
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WHERE TO STAY NEAR THE STA CATALINA MONKEY SANCTUARY
Most people who visit Negros Oriental are told to stay in Dumaguete, but what they really mean by that is stay around Dumaguete. True, Dumaguete City has plenty of tourist inns and budget hotels, but it’s the surrounding towns of Dauin and Zamboanguita that offer the best spots to stay. There’s not a whole lot to do in the city itself, so when you stay in the nearby municipalities there’s plenty of nature to explore whilst still being nice and close to Dumaguete City. Check out our top picks for accommodation near Dumaguete City.
LUXURY: Atmosphere Resorts & Spa, Dauin
Atmosphere Resorts & Spa in Dauin is the resort to stay at if you’ve got a big budget and fancy the finer things in life. Atmosphere has hosted its fair share of local celebrities and deep pocketed divers looking for the best beachfront luxury in Dauin.
MIDSCALE: Mike’s Dauin Dive Resort, Dauin
If you want to stay by the ocean without breaking the bank, Mike’s Dauin Dive Resort in Dauin is a comfortable midscale accommodation option perfect for diving enthusiasts. If you’ve never dived before, you can get your certification at Mike’s, and divers of all skill sets can enjoy the abundance of macro diving opportunities in and around Dauin.
BUDGET: Bongo Bongo Divers, Dauin
Bongo Bongo Divers is one of the most popular hostels in Dauin for backpackers looking for cheap accommodation in a convenient location. The rooms are simple, without any glitz and glam, but the vibe is fun and welcoming. They have a variety of room styles to choose from, ranging from couples rooms to AC or fan only dorms.
AIRBNB: Villa Amani, Zamboanguita
Villa Amani in Zamboanguita is the perfect holiday home for small families or groups of friends looking for privacy that a traditional resort or hotel can’t offer. The main house sleeps 4 with additional space for 2 in the guest house, or you can book the guest house separately if it’s just the 2 of you and you’re on a budget. The property has a swimming pool, an unbeatable view of Apo Island and kayaks to use whenever you want.
MORE NEGROS ORIENTAL GUIDES:
Mantabios Falls, Sta. Catalina
Turtle Island, Siaton
Hidden Beach, Siaton
Swimming with Turtles, Apo Island
Rock Point View Deck, Apo Island
Casaroro Falls, Valencia
Tottyn Falls, Valencia
Original Casaroro Falls, Valencia