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Monday, May 24, 2010

Cayo Largo, Part I: The Resort Ground Critters

About a month ago, Sarah and I went on a trip to Cayo Largo, a beautiful little resort island off the coast of Cuba. Part of what makes Cayo Largo such an interesting place to visit is that there are no permanent residents of the island; everyone who works on the island only spends a few weeks rotation at a time. Most of the island remains undeveloped and wild, particularly the northern half. While such a situation sparked a number of resort reviews that gave only mediocre results due to guest boredom, it meant that Cayo Largo was a perfect destination for us. We weren't going to hang out in Latin night clubs, we were going to relax and explore beautiful tropical flora and fauna. The resort that Sarah and I stayed at was called Hotel Playa Blanca, and from what we saw it was definitely one of the nicest on the island. Oddly enough, another common complaint in both reviews and even from some of the guests we talked to was that the food was nothing special, but we found it to actually be quite enjoyable. There was always a lovely selection of fresh fruit, and the cooked dishes usually had a fascinating assortment of root vegetables.

We arrived in the middle of the night at the tiny airport located on the island, and got shuffled off to various buses going to the different resorts. Despite it being the wee hours of the morning the heat was intense and the humidity oppressive. Our bus also had an adorable little boy who was clearly confused by all this traveling, and, after being told by his parents that he was in Cuba now, loudly announced that he didn't like Cuba because Cuba "had no food". According to his logic, he was hungry for a snack and, since his parents weren't able to give him one at the moment, this meant the whole country must be devoid of food. We spotted him happily playing around the resort a few days later, so I believe he eventually got his snack and learned that Cuba did, in fact, have food.

Our first day was spent mostly exploring the grounds around the hotel. Even just strolling along the path, however, we spotted a host of critter holes littering the grounds and a huge number of anoles basking on the rocks and vegetation. Although we took a number of photographs of the anoles, they were by far the most impressive when showing off their dewlaps. I managed to catch a pair mating, which led to an impressive display of the male's bright orange and yellow dewlap (either in an attempt to frighten me off, or as part of the mating ritual - apparently dewlaps are used for both). Towards the end of the week, Sarah managed to catch one also giving a dewlap display, so I have included that picture here as well.

An anole mating pair, with the male showing off his impressively coloured dewlap (click to see full-size)

Anole partially displaying his dewlap (click to see full-size)

After wandering around snapping pictures of the anoles, we discovered who was making all the holes: land crabs! Although most of the crabs spent their time underground during the day and barely ventured beyond the threshold of their burrows in the evening, we ran into one intrepid explorer scavenging one of the restaurant floors for food just before noon. After we started showing some interest in him, he put up his claws and got into a scuttling stand-off with Sarah (she got a few successful pokes on his back without getting pinched) before finally escaping in a bed of vegetation.

Scavenging crab looking for a fight (click to see full-size)

Scavenging crab got away (click to see full-size)

The resort also included a band of fairly scraggly cats running around (probably feral - they were pretty skittish when it came to people) which we gradually spotted over the course of the week. Probably the most exciting on-resort creature, however, was the resident iguana. Despite our wandering through most of the resort that first morning, we did not discover him until the second day after getting a tip from some return guests (a very nice couple who we ran into multiple times).

The iguana starting to escape, but deciding the effort to get off the path was just too much (click to see full-size)

The iguana lived underneath one of the resort villas, and here he was hanging out just outside his hole (click to see full-size)

Here is my favourite photograph of our iguana friend (click to see full-size)

We ended up visiting the iguana every day after we found him. Although I am not sure he appreciated our visits, he was just so interesting that Sarah insisted we go see if he was out having a bask. He never quite warmed up to us the way Sarah thought he should have, but he grudgingly seemed to put up with our gawking.

Sarah sneaking up on our iguana friend (click to see full-size)

Continue Reading: Part II: Beach Critters


BeamStalk said...

Very awesome, sounds like a place I would like to visit as well.

Mozglubov said...

I would certainly recommend it! Of course being part of Cuba means it is not always that accessible from all parts of the world (namely the U.S.), but Cayo Largo (and the Hotel Playa Blanca in particular) is certainly a lovely tropical paradise.