After a brief stint in a parking garage and a nice midnight drive down to the guesthouse we stayed at, we got up early the next morning to wander around the beach and up to the back entrance of the Reserva Natural de Humacao. And let’s be honest, walking through a quiet neighborhood to a private beach and down to a gorgeous park is pretty much right up our alley.
It was like being home, except more tropical, more windy, and more wave-y. And right from the start, the Other Half was enamored by the ghost crabs on the beach. W hy? Because he had never seen a wild crab before. I know, we’re all shedding a tear of joy that he got to be chased by crabs for the next week.
We slowly walked along the beach, picking up the hatched shells of sea turtle eggs and small bits of corals and sponges, as the big knoll loomed larger and higher ahead of us. And right before we entered the nature reserve’s grounds, we noticed a big wall of seaweed with what looked like some tarantulas on it:
It turns out they were just some really leggy marine crabs. But we only spent a few brief moments looking at them, because we were distracted by the strange buzzing noises emanating from the forest around us. Convinced there were giant cicadas to be had, we traipsed up the trail. We heard rustling all around us, but the only thing we could find was lizard:
It took us almost an hour up the knoll and back before we figured out how to see through the close brush around us to the small, brightly colored birds called bananaquits that were responsible for the buzzing calls.
The reserve climbs up a knoll for a wonderful sea view before weaving in and out of the beach and a forest that surrounds two lagoons.
We wandered around the lagoons for the better part of three hours, at one point pausing to watch a mangrove cuckoo catch katydids from the trees around us.
When we got back, it was just in time for lunch, a hammock, and a warm rainstorm. It was wonderful just because we hadn’t seen real rain in so long. The rain stopped just long enough for our hosts to load up some kayaks and truck us out to a public beach so we could play in the waters around Cayo Santiago, which houses a free-ranging population of rhesus macaques managed by the Caribbean Primate Research Center.
Fun fact: This center is where the Rh blood antigen factor was first described. The + or – at the end of your blood type (ex. AB+, O-) tells whether you have the Rh factor in your blood or not.
Anyway, after watching the monkeys groom, argue, eat, and chase each other through the trees (much like many human families), our host Bob invited us to snorkel through a grounded barge (aka shipwreck) which has become the home for myriad fish and brown pelicans. The Other Half passed in favor of finding iguanas and monkeys, while I jumped on the chance to go snorkeling for the first time.
I will admit, I love the water. I’m just really awkward when it comes to fish and sharp rusty objects in close proximity to me. After all, we grew up in waters where the two fish you were most likely to see were small sharks and big sharks. Luckily, Bob was very patient and was wonderful in pointing out all the different species of fish we were seeing. Pufferfish. Squirrelfish. Polychaetes that retract when you poke them. Angelfish. Parrotfish. Fish we didn’t even know the name of that gathered around our goggles to stare in through the plastic at us.
In a word, it was awesome. And not in the ‘rad, dude!’ kind of way. Awesome in the ‘if I smile too wide or look around too fast at all the amazing things around me, my mask will gap and I won’t be able to see’ kind of way.
And heck, the Other Half even got to see a pufferfish as it swam under our kayaks on our way back around the island.
When we got back, I announced my intentions to our hosts to search their yard for coqui frogs, which are tiny, 1″ long endemic amphibians that coat the island with their whistled serenades after nightfall. Bob laughed and said ‘good luck!’ Apparently the little buggers are hard to locate and even more difficult to spot.
But sure enough, hiding in the bromeliads were half a dozen coqui frogs:
I was so excited to find them, even if they were the most common of the 14 extant species on the island. I went to sleep knowing that this was probably the best day of vacation ever.
And because I know that you don’t necessarily want to look through all of the photo vomit we took, here’s some other things we saw near Humacao: