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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Where the Wild Things Are

For most people, Caribbean cruises are simply about fun in the sun. Wildlife (unless you’re planning to qualify yourself), is not high on the list.

But wildlife is there for the watching—without even leaving the port. Just look up, look down and look around whenever you’re on the ground:

Iguanas—In Aruba, they feed them. In St. Thomas, they goad them. And in Cozumel, they leave them alone. The lizards seem to be just about everywhere.

Plotting strategy on the rocks in St. Thomas
They’ve nearly taken over Charlotte Amalie’s Crown Bay Harbor in St. Thomas. Dozens climb in and out of the rocks at the pier, mugging for photos or begging bemused cruisers for handouts. They’re the pigeons of Paradise.

In Wilhelmina Park in Aruba’s Oranjestad, they also act like they own the place. They bask in the sun, watch the kids play and fight over the lettuce the park staff throws them.

They’re harder to spot in Cozumel, where they roam the waterfront, blending into the terrain. If you look closely, you can spot them on the walk from the pier into town.


Peering from a palm on
 L.G. Smith Blvd. 
If you don’t get enough of them in the wild, you can always pick up a likeness; they’re on flip flops, ashtrays and many other tchotchkes from China. 

Caribbean parakeets—We spotted the brilliant green birds on Oranjestad’s main drag, picking at the palm trees.

Hummingbirds—While hardly unique to the Caribbean, these little whirlwinds can often be found around vibrant tropical foliage. My spouse captured one mid-air as it headed from one flower to another in Princess Cays.

Pelicans—We’ve seen these on several islands, but where I remember them most is in Grand Cayman. One had planted itself firmly at the edge of a little rickety row boat, perhaps to get first dibs when a new catch came in.

Vervet monkeys—I’d heard about the little green monkeys indigenous to St. Kitts, but was unprepared to see one on the arm of a local as soon as I’d gotten off the ship. Silly me, I quickly learned my photos didn’t come free.

Then there was that day at sea, brilliant and made for sun-bathing, when the cruise director suddenly broke the bonhomie with an urgent address over the PA, “A school of whales was just sighted starboard.” Within seconds, some hundred bathing-suited, sunscreen-slathered cruisers, like a herd of cattle, stormed starboard for a look-see.

Then, a few seconds later, over the PA, “Sorry, just kidding.”

We’d been had. Groans ensued as the scantily clad returned to their loungers and Bahama Mamas.

Wild things do abound, you just need to know where to look. But remember that if all else fails, there’s always SeƱor Frog!

Musing’s Top Tip: Want quick video snapshots of the ports to help you plan? Check out onboard.com. It’s a travel agency site, but has 50 short and well done videos with highlights of the ports at many Caribbean and other destinations.