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Friday, March 23, 2012

Cayo Largo, Part IV: Island Critters

In the middle of our vacation, Sarah and I went on a day-long boat excursion. In Cayo Largo Part III, I had promised to put up pictures and videos from the snorkeling we did while on the excursion, but I had forgotten that I first needed to put up a post about the first part of our excursion: Iguana Island. As always, click on the images for a larger size.

Our excursion started early in the morning. A bus picked us up at our resort and, after brief stops at a few other hotels to pick up some more people, drove everyone to the marina. We had arranged our excursion with the small catamaran option, meaning eight passengers and two crewmen. The captain was a short and lean man with wrinkled, leathery skin befitting a Cuban sea-captain. He sported mustache that was also quite fitting, and was very particular about the rule that no shoes were to be worn on the boat. I don't think the captain spoke a word of English, and aside from a few brief pantomimed conversations spent most of the trip stoically scanning the horizon oblivious to his small cargo of tourists.

Manuel, the first-mate, was young and jovial, and spent most of his time organizing our entertainment. Language was a bit of an issue - four of the other passengers were French-Canadian who had moderate Spanish (and Manuel appeared to be more comfortable with French than English), so they had no problem. However, the other two passengers were a Russian couple with no Spanish and only moderate English at best. I tried my best to help translate, but considering that I was already only getting about half of what Manuel said since his English explanations tended to be a bewildering blend of French, English, and Spanish, I really have to wonder how much managed to get passed along. In the end communication was not really all that vital since we mostly just had to keep our shoes off and watch the early morning sun track across the water.

After a brief trip, we arrived at our first destination of the day: Iguana Island. It is a small rocky island not far from Cayo Largo. As soon as we disembarked we were greeted by dozens of iguanas. Since it was still somewhat early in the morning most were content to simply bask in the sun, but there were a few who were curious about the ranks of tourists unloading on their island.

An iguana basking on the rocks.

One of the largest (and hungriest) iguanas we saw.

Although the massive numbers of iguanas were exciting enough, we quickly discovered that Iguana Island was also inhabited by another type of creature as well. There were several hutias ambling about on the island, seemingly perfectly at home with their reptilian compatriots. There are actually several species of hutia endemic to Cuba, so I am not sure which type were on the island.

A hutia hanging out in a shady patch.

A hutia and an iguana coexisting.

Finally, here is a short of video of one of the hutias walking about. The audio track was mostly just wind on the camera's microphone, so I cut it out entirely (so if you can't hear anything, don't worry; your speakers are probably still working just fine).

The next installment will finally get to the underwater critters from our snorkeling trip.