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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Monkeys and Chickens and Lizards, Oh My! A Walk on the Caribbean’s Wild Side

Your idea of a wild time in the Caribbean might be endless buckets of beer by the sea.

But there’s another wild side to the Caribbean—and you’ll want to take your camera for this one. 

Look out for this fauna and flora to fawn over when you get back home:

The fauna for ya

Iguanas—They’re everywhere. All over the rocks at Crown Bay pier in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. In Aruba’s Oranjestad, wandering around Wilhelmina Park. In fact, they’re so common in Aruba, their likeness shows up everywhere—even on flip-flops.
Bring some iguanas home from Aruba's Oranjestad

And now, the real thing--posing for the camera in Charlotte Amalie's Crown Bay pier
Chickens—Unless you grew up on a farm, the sight of roosters roaming around may be a bit startling. But you’ll see them in downtown Charlotte Amalie; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; and Frederiksted, St. Croix.

Monkeys—You don’t have to venture far into St. Kitts to see the little local vervet monkeys. Just a stroll down the pier in Basseterre will do. There are several on the arms (or heads) of the locals, picture-ready for a fee. 
All dressed up and ready to go--into your arms for the camera and a fee in Basseterre, St. Kitts
Cats—San Juan has a cat problem. They’re on top of cars, under cars, roaming the streets, lying on sidewalks. But, like most animals, if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you. And some of them are so pretty and robust, you’d swear they were pets.
Checking out the tourists from the sidewalks of San Juan

Caribbean parakeet—I once had a parakeet in a cage. Imagine my surprise to find several pecking away high up on a palm tree on the busy L.G. Smith Boulevard in Oranjestad. It’s yet one more reminder when you travel: look up.
Parakeets pecking at the palms in Oranjestad, Aruba
Don't forget to look up when you're in Aruba's Oranjestad--you don't want to miss the parakeets
Fish—With water so clear—particularly off the pier in Kralendijk, Bonaire and to some extent, Princess’ private Bahamian island of Princess Cays—fish become entertainment. It’s yet one more reminder when you travel: look down.

In Grand Cayman, take a left from the pier, and walk a few blocks along the water. You’ll come up to a small fish market on the beach. After they’ve cleaned the fish, the vendors toss the remains into the water and you can watch the live stuff—some of them several feet long—zooming in for an easy meal, like pigeons descending on a hunk of bread.

Stop and smell the flora

Bougainvillea—These paper-thin flowers come in some 300 varieties and many bright colors, and you’ll find them all over the Caribbean, climbing the walls and hanging down planters.

Palms—They’re on the beaches, in the streets, in the yards, in the gardens. They’re tall and top-heavy. They’re useless when you’re in search of shade, and they break easily in storms. But what would the Caribbean be without its palms?

Cacti—The ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao are super dry, despite being in the middle of the ocean. So, it’s not unusual to see cacti and palms sharing the same front yard.
Palms and cacti share this yard in the cruise port in Bonaire
Unlikely neighbors in this yard in KralendijkBonaire
Hibiscus—Big, bold and colorful, the hibiscus is common in the tropics, and is the national flower of Haiti. But its petals are not just for admiring—they also find their way into tea in Mexico, and are even dried and garnish desserts.
Cozumel is just one of the cruise ports you'll find hibiscus
Cozumel has its own share of the showy hibiscus
Plumeria obtuse—White and yellow clumps of loveliness, these West Indies natives can be found in the Bahamas, Mexico, Barbados, Belize and other warm places.
These were blooming along the waterfront of Barbados' Bridgetown
Frangipani—This multi-colored beauty is known for its fragrance and is sometimes an ingredient in perfume. It’s been said that its smell becomes most intense at night—to lure moths for pollination. Don’t let their heady smell tempt you to touch them, though, the sap is an irritant.
These frangipani caught our eye while shopping in the Pelican Village Craft Centre in
Bridgetown, Barbados
Mango—A staple of the Caribbean diet, when they’re in season, you’ll see them hanging from trees at ports like Roseau, Dominica and Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Bananas and plantains are plentiful too, as are coconuts, throughout the Caribbean islands.
Not quite ripe, but appealing just the same, hanging off a tree in St. Thomas' Charlotte Amalie
Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, allspice—These are all grown in Grenada. The island is the world’s second-largest producer of nutmeg—the spice is even on the Grenadian flag. Baskets of pre-packaged spices are sold in the port city of St. George’s and make great holiday gifts for the cooks on your list.

Put more spice in your life with these souvenirs from St. George's, Grenada
When I look at this list I’ve just created—and it’s only a sliver of the Caribbean’s charms—it’s easy to see why the islands were seized, battled over and settled on. And are so much fun to visit!