It so happened a couple of weeks ago that both my son and my brother Greg's son were able to visit at the same time for an entire week. Greg suggested we do something I'd wanted to do for ever so long: drive up to San Blas and take the "Crocodile Tour". We caravanned northward for two hours to a big parking lot just south of San Blas. From here, launches await to take the curious up a marvelous river through mangrove swamp to see what there is to see.
While most of the rest of us beelined to the baño, Greg did an excellent job choosing our launch driver and guide. Joel speaks English and is both knowledgeable and sincerely fascinated by the wildlife he docents, especially the birds. We climbed aboard with sunscreen and bug repellent and hats and cameras, and off we chugged into this unique local ecosystem.
Someone spotted our first crocodile nearly immediately, a youngster basking on a log.
Next we saw a bright red crab, which seems to me an inauspicious color for something living in the midst of hungry wading birds, but what do I know.
Some of the birds were more difficult to spot than others. This snail kite seemed not at all concerned about her visibility.
There was other showing-off going on too. Although Joel told us this guy was just drying his wings, he went on and on and seemed pretty vain about his display.
Here's some of what we saw: great egret, cattle egret, snowy egret, snail kite, green heron, great blue heron, boat bill heron, green kingfisher, limpkin and white ibis. I'm not sure which photos are which: when our heads weren't whipping around to see a bird Joel or one of us had pointed out, we spent our time peering deep into the mangrove roots looking for another discovery. I didn't really take the time to take notes.
This shy guy is a boat bill heron.
We saw another juvenile croc and a much bigger one that was too submerged to photograph well on our forty-five minute journey upriver. Also some other stuff. Turtles...
...some nifty huts on stilts, built when they filmed a movie in here some years back...
...and bromeliads growing in the mangrove trees.
Then we reached our lunch spot, a restaurant at the end of the river from which one can walk to the crocodile sanctuary if it isn't closed, which it was. Fooey. The lunch spot was lovely, with a big swimming hole bordered by an underwater fence to keep the crocs out. Isn't that considerate of them?
People swam and splashed into the water from a rope swing. We didn't, but you could if you wanted to. Instead, we chose to eat and drink on our one-hour break. I've heard people say the food there is marginal, but we all agreed that it was quite good, especially given the captive audience.
After lunch, we puttered back, Joel still slowing in interesting areas where might lie some creature to inspect. Then we saw him, partially submerged: a ten-foot crocodile, armored and spiky and with a really big mouth. I'm thinking maybe an underwater fence isn't enough to get me into that water.
The trip cost us around ten dollars a person, plus lunch and beers at the restaurant. We didn't need the gentle reminder painted in both Spanish and sort-of-English in the prow of the boat to remember to reward Joel for his friendly and interested commentary along the way.
All photos by R Butler or me