An Unforgettable Island
Trip Start Jan 03, 2007
14Trip End Feb 21, 2007
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The whole island is a national park & includes 46 species of reptile, 18 of these snakes, bats, sloths, monkeys, tortoises, as well as the abundant marine life in its waters which can be seen snorkeling from the beach or diving.You cannot walk outside the complex, partly to protect the wildlife & partly for your safety, as there are 4 types of venomous snakes, incl Coral (deadly), wellington boots being compulsory for hikes.
The 1st afternoon, the main guide Daniel took 2 of us on a fascinating tour around part of the old prison, full of old ghosts & destructive monkeys who enjoy pulling off tiles & banging them on things all day! Until 1984, the island had been a maximum security prison designed for 1,500 but holding up to 2,000 unfortunates who were often not bad people, just the poor protesting against the government. Conditions were appalling, with rooms for torture including one, the " bottle" where the victim was forced to stand for days in the impossibly tiny cell not more than 2 feet wide, with a central hole as a toilet & meager rations dropped in from above.Many prisoners' families could not afford the journey so they never received any visitors.
In the evening I joined Daniel in the "workers" side of the open air restaurant, being made very welcome & getting to know the students studying the wildlife there, introducing them to my "Pass the Pigs" game! As most visitors are national, I was quite a novelty! The next day was even better, as Daniel & I went on a 6 hr hike through the tropical forest & along beaches until we arrived at the most beautiful, Playa Palmeira. He chopped up a fresh coconut & we spent several hours in the warm water & lying under the palm trees. On the actual walk, we saw 4 snakes & being a snake expert, Daniel caught one & let me gently hold it! It was a beautiful green with a yellow underbelly, not slippery, but smooth & slightly cooler than our skin temperature, such a privilege to see one that close! We also saw numerous types of lizard, including the famous BLUE one endemic to the island, amazing plant life, more monkeys & a BLUE freshwater shrimp!
After a quick bite to eat, I swapped wellies for flippers & went out on a dive. The dive master & I went to a sort of wreck where we saw huge numbers of fish, some of those HUGE & quite ugly! Halfway through, I turned around to be eye-to-eye with a turtle who was totally unfazed & came towards me as I backed off. I put out my hand & again she moved forwards. Soon Pablo & I were stroking her, rubbing the algae off her carapace (shell) & tickling her soft bits! She left to breathe but came back for more attention! It was breathtaking to be totally at one with such a huge gentle creature who had barnacles to prove she was no youngster. It felt like she just wanted some TLC after travelling the seas alone, & was an incredibly special moment for me.
The next day we hiked inland to a little waterfall & swam in the "agua dulce", literally "sweet" water as they call freshwater in Spanish. My 2nd dive was unfortunately cancelled , but I just chilled out taking more monkey photos as they sauntered through the grounds. Later I celebrated my birthday early with Daniel & co.