Saturday was our day to explore Isla Caja de Muertos. The island is part of the Puerto Rico Park system, and like any park it has its rules. Like any place aspiring to international cosmopolitanism, your signs can’t have text–someone might not understand them! They have too have pictograms. Most of these make sense to me, but some I look at with what I assume can only be provincial befuddlement. I really think I would come closer to understanding that second one from the left on the second row if it was in Spanish!
The island has a nice beach and a ferry to the main island, so on the weekends it is busy, but not overly crowded. It really can’t get TOO crowded, because there is only one ferry a day (arrives at 9:30, leaves at 3:15) so the island’s population is limited to one ferry load, plus the full time resident caretaker. It is quite a beautiful and interesting place. It’s a shame many boats treat this as an overnight stop and take off without exploring.
The only buildings on the island are some very basic infrastructure for the beach, the caretakers residence, and the Spanish colonial era lighthouse, which is still in operation, although not with the original lamp or mechanicals.
The island is small and in the prevailing wind shadow of the main island, so it gets little in the way of regular rainfall. It has the largest and densest stands of cactus I have ever seen. Some scrub trees, and vines and you have a thick, spiny tangle of vegetation that I can not imagine trying to move through without a trail.
Many of the cactus were covered in very large fresh flower buds, but we saw no open flowers. Karen suggested that they are probably night-blooming and, because of the size of the flowers, that they are pollinated by bats.
We saw a variety of animals. A few large iguanas. Unlike other places we have been, here they are very much scared of people and scurry off at first sight. There were a wide variety of smaller lizards. In one very narrow band of height as we climbed the hill, there were a lot of large hermit crabs. Curious new fact: hermit crabs can make noise. Really! They squeal when disturbed. The only mammals we saw were rats.
Many of the hardwood trees came with their own large and active termite nests.
The climb up the hill to the lighthouse was not too high (250 feet) but quite steep, and completely worth it for the view. Looking south from the top of the island, the next land would be Venezuela on the other side of the Caribbean Sea. The beach to the east (left) side of the island is a protected nesting area for green and hawksbill sea turtles. There are quite a number of turtles to be seen here in the anchorage.
After getting back to Harmonie, we took the dinghy out again to see if we could catch some dinner. It wasn’t long before I landed a small grouper. Pretty, but a bit small for the table. Back into the water he went.
A little later and I brought up a lizard fish. A toothy critter—but also a bit small to eat, so again, back to the water.
The water is quite clear here, so Karen was watching the lizardfish as he dove straight down to his home on the bottom 60 feet or so below… but he didn’t make it. “Something just ate him!” Something very large darted into view and made lunch out of him. Just a few seconds later my jig was dropping down to the bottom pretty much on the same track, and the same thing happened—something very large grabbed it and swam off. I only had it hooked for a few seconds before sharp teeth cut off the line. Almost certainly a large barracuda.
I ended up without catching dinner on Saturday, but on Sunday managed to get both a bigger grouper and a snapper that made quite a tasty fish fry!
Right now we are at anchor back in the Ponce harbor. We have a package waiting for us in the office at the Yacht and Fishing Club, and then we are off on our adventures again.