I have always been enchanted by nature and the wild creatures living within it. Growing up in Pacifica, it was always a big event if I spotted a deer or an owl in the backyard. At the county park I sometimes glimpsed coyote or a bobcat. As I moved further south to San Diego, I relished the dolphins that often showed up in the surf and the PB parrots that flew by from time to time. This year living in Rosarito I loved seeing the many gray whales migrating north. This side of Mexico has even more marine animals to enjoy, and that is a big reason why we’re here. Swimming with whale sharks, schools of tropical fish, eagle rays, and turtles is truly amazing. And this summer, actually just this week, I am reminded of all the natural wonders that exist on land as well.
Our condo is right next to a jungle, which is full of lots of nature. Since we arrived we’ve seen our fair share of insects and reptiles. We’ve seen three snakes, dozens of iguanas and geckos, and six scorpions. Here’s one little snake that we found in the condo. He was small and harmless (sorry the video is so shaky, I’m not a very calm videographer when it comes to snakes!)
All the scorpions, unfortunately, were found in our condo. In fact, in our bedroom. We are slowly getting less shocked when they show up in our house, and Mark has become an expert at killing them quickly with a newspaper-wrapped book. But sometimes you just don’t see them until it’s too late. Last week a scorpion was dangling on the inside of a clean towel, hanging outside the shower. Unknowingly I wrapped the towel around me and wore it for about 10 minutes as I dried off. When I grabbed the end of the towel to take it off, the scorpion stung me with its nasty stinger. Even though I didn’t see it, I knew right away what had happened, and I screamed for Mark to come and check under the towel. There he was, ready to strike again. Mark caught him and kept him just in case I had a reaction to the sting. The sting hurt like hell for three hours, part of my arm was tingly and my mouth and tongue went numb, but eventually the pain subsided and I don’t even have a mark now. Guess that means I’m not allergic to scorpion stings, which is good.
So, probably some of you are wondering, why the heck do they live in a place where there are scorpions running around? Well, the jungle and the sea bring more than just scorpions. We have seen some other critters that make it all worthwhile. A couple nights after the scorpion sting, we heard some noise out on the patio. Often there are hermit crabs crawling around at night, and they sometimes bang against the window with their shells, so we figured that’s all it was. Then we saw the security guard on our patio, stooping down to pick something up. We thought, “Why would he be picking up hermit crabs?” And then we looked in his hand and he had a couple of baby turtles! They had just hatched from their nest right in the sand in front of the condo, and instead of running towards the sea they were attracted to our lights. We jumped up, turned out the lights and then scurried around the patio and the rest of the beach collecting baby turtles with the security guard. We placed them in a bucket and after a half an hour we had about 17. A typical nest yields about 100 babies, but rest had made their way safely into the sea. So we took the bucket back to the water and released them one by one into the waves. It was a completely moonless, cloudy night, so we could barely see them enter the water, and then they were gone. I wish I could have taken photos but the flash would have blinded them. But here’s an old photo and clip of our first turtle hatching experience in Akumal five years ago.
But that’s not it! Last night about 1:45 am Pancha woke us up, barking. She often barks at the guard walking by or a passing raccoon, but this time her bark was different. She didn’t go charge at the window like usual; she just made short little barks every few minutes. I looked out the window but couldn’t see anything, and I didn’t really want to go wander around by myself outside because we had just come home from seeing Savages at the movie theater and I was paranoid that drug cartel kidnappers were outside. So I tried to shut her up but she kept on barking for two hours. Mark was irritated, too and neither of us slept much. Around 4am we finally started hearing a noise outside. It was the sound of bushes moving and then the banging of hard plastic. Clearly something was out there. Finally we spotted movement next to the plastic chaise lounge right on the sand next to our patio. Whatever it was, it was huge! At first I thought it might be a large cat (rumors are there are jaguars still living in the jungle), but it was actually bigger than that. Then it lifted its spotted head and I thought, “Of course!” It was a giant green sea turtle digging her nest right next to our patio. She was huge–probably six feet long and three feet wide, and the hole she was digging was three feet deep. She was using her flippers to dig in the sand, and had sort of wedged herself under one of the lounge chairs. She happened to have chosen a spot in the sand right under our red light (the red light apparently doesn’t disturb turtles, and now we know for sure!) so we could see her perfectly. Mark crept out there and helped move away the chair so that she had more room to dig. She looked exhausted, but kept digging, taking breaks to rest and breathe deeply. After awhile she stopped and crawled away, without laying her eggs. Apparently that wasn’t the right spot. We watched her crawl around the beach for a little while longer, considering other nest sites, but eventually she went back into the water and swam away. When she left we saw why she was so tired. She had dug four different holes while she was there–you could see her path in the sand–but she didn’t leave eggs in any of them. She must have been out there for hours, which explains Pancha’s unsettled barking all night!
This morning, even though I had only a few hours of sleep, I was still energized by the magical visit by the mama turtle last night. My next wild animal sighting, I hope, will be a monkey. My Spanish tutor says that there is family of spider monkeys living in Puerto Aventuras, so I will try to find them!