There's an Island in South Carolina With 4,000 Wild Monkeys

You can only see the monkeys as you pass by the island from a boat.

Two Rhesus monkeys grooming
Photo: James Warwick / Getty Images

As far as unique destinations go few places have Morgan Island beat.

Tucked away in the St. Helena Sound, off the coast of Beaufort, South Carolina sits Morgan Island. It's made up of more than 2,000 acres of pristine land, but don't get your hopes up of lounging on the sand. Because this island strictly belongs to the monkeys. More than 4,000 of them to be exact.

How on earth did a colony of monkeys make it to an island off the coast of South Carolina, you ask?

As Greenville Business Magazine explained, in the summer of 1979, 1,400 rhesus monkeys were placed on the island to use as research animals. Since then, their population has boomed to about 4,000.

It was all part of a plan by the U.S. government to establish a "self-sufficient breeding program" after India banned the export of viable research animals, the magazine reported. And Morgan Island was the perfect home.

Now, CHS Today reported, Morgan Island is both owned and managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and the monkey colony itself is owned by the National Institute of Allergy + Infectious Diseases. This means humans aren't allowed on the island as they may disturb the population — it's illegal to even try to access the land. However, that doesn't mean you can't see them at all.

Visitors are still welcome to take a boat trip around the island and cruise the coast to spot a monkey or two hanging out in the distance. To make this visit even easier, try visiting nearby Edisto Island and launch your boat or kayak journey from there, where the tides are weaker and the journey is shorter. Just remember: The island is theirs, not yours. So keep your distance and enjoy this unique destination from just the right spot.

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