The “Tale Of The Iguana”
First a little background: The blue iguana (although not technically as blue as you’d imagine) is the largest native reptile in Cayman. It is found only in the Cayman Islands and is considered an endangered species. Around 2001 it was estimated that less than 30 blue iguanas remained in the wild here. A recovery effort was begun with the goal of releasing 1,000 blue iguanas back into the wild. The 1,000th blue iguana was released in 2018. Since then, the focus has shifted to a conservation effort. I saw a rather large one a few years ago at the botanical garden (pic below). It turns out that they can grow as large as 5′ in length. Not something you’d want to hit with a car!
The green iguana, on the other hand, is an invasive iguana that arrived on the island as pets about 25 years ago. These iguanas can also grow to be about 5′ long. Mike tells stories of being on the golf course, where there were hundreds of them of all sizes, sunbathing mostly. If he hit a ball that landed near one of the big ones -that was an instant “lost ball”. There was no way he was going to go nudge a giant iguana out of the way! They aren’t particularly aggressive creatures; for the most part they tend to scurry away when people get near. A few years ago, when we would take our breakfast bike ride we would spot hundreds of them along the side of the road, usually running for cover when they saw us heading their way. For awhile at our condo complex there were several of them that liked to live on our unit’s windowsills because we get a lot of sun on that side of the building. We often had one on every window. I found an old picture I took a few years ago:
Although the iguanas do have some natural predators, they mostly aren’t on Grand Cayman, so the iguanas kept multiplying like…well…bunnies. It seemed like one of the most common ways to reduce the population was running over them with cars. Local restaurants tried to develop iguana recipes. I’ve heard the phrase “tree chicken” more than once. (I guess that’s what they’re supposed to taste like?)
In 2018, when the green iguana population had grown to an estimated 1.3 million on an island that is about 75 square miles, the Cayman government decided to create an eradication program. A program was developed which included a bounty on the iguanas’ heads and encouraged citizens to become iguana hunters. Anyone hunting iguanas had to register with the government, but once they did -the newly licensed hunters could collect $6 per iguana. That brought out a veritable army of iguana hunters. We saw so many men out hunting iguanas on bikes -steering with one hand while holding a long fishing pole/noose type device in the other (to snag them from trees). I joked with Mike that whatever network filmed Swamp People was missing out on a great opportunity for a new reality TV show. I thought maybe the catch-phrase for Iguana Hunters could be “Noose ’em! Noose ’em!” In January of 2021 the government announced that bounties had been paid for 1.25 million iguanas! There aren’t as many hunters out there now that the iguanas are so thinned out, but the effort still continues in 2021.
The point of explaining all that is so that what happened the other day has a bit of context and you’ll know why I found it so funny. Mike often heads out to the pool before me. Our condo complex has three buildings. We’re in the first. The pool is between the second and third buildings. The quickest way to get there is through pass-throughs -also known as “the tunnels”- that each building has. The middle tunnel opens out directly next to the pool. So, that’s the way he usually gets to the pool. One day, he left for the pool first and I went to join him but went to the recycling/garbage dumpsters on my way.
When I got there, Mike said, “Did you see the huge iguana in our tunnel?” I told him I’d just been at the garbage dumpster so I didn’t see it. I was really surprised that he’d even seen one because since we’ve been here I haven’t seen ONE iguana anywhere. I’ve even commented about that to Mike a couple of times. At one point, I had to leave the pool to go get something at the condo and when I got back, Mike said, “Did you see it?” I said…”No, it must have gone away.” Later, when we were both headed back to the condo and were approaching our tunnel, Mike was explaining it all and said, “I saw it right…. HEY! There it is!! It is on that paddle board on the upper shelf!!” So I looked and yep…I’m seeing an iguana! Wow…a pretty large one too. I got my phone out for a picture…and as I got closer…it didn’t move. That was good because I often fumble around when taking pictures. I was moving slow and being careful not to startle it. I held the phone up and was looking at the screen to make sure my shot was centered…etc..etc.. and I thought, to myself, this iguana doesn’t look real. So I took the picture…and the thing still hadn’t moved…so I said to Mike, “This is a fake iguana!” He goes, “No it’s not!” And so we both crept a bit closer and then he goes, “Oh man! It IS a fake iguana!” And we were rolling our eyes at each other. HA HA HA… Here he is!
I told Mike that I’d shade the story on the blog to make it sound like he knew it was fake and he was only trying to see if I’d fall for it, but he said… “No, I totally fell for it. Tell it the way it happened -I have to own it!” We were telling another couple here about it to make fun of ourselves and they said… “Oh we’re glad we’re not the only ones that got fooled by that fake iguana!”
For some reason, we’d not gotten around to diving yet -something we vowed to remedy ASAP last week. We said we’d go diving “on Monday.” At about 4:30AM Monday my eyes popped open and I asked myself, “Where are the dive cards?” OH NO! When you take SCUBA training, you are issued a card that identifies you and your level of training. No dive shop will allow anyone to dive without that card. Fortunately, I thought to visit PADI’s (our certification organization) website and found out that we could get an electronic version of our cards (for a small fee, of course). WHEW! While I was at it, I ordered replacement cards to be sent to our home address which gave me a chance to update our photos. The pictures on the original cards are from 1986 !! It was always good for a laugh when we showed them to the people in the dive shack.
The first dive is always a bit of a shake-down dive. The equipment (and us) hasn’t been in the water for a year. Everything worked and it was a nice dive. We went to Eden Rock, which is very close to downtown Georgetown.
As we got ready to get in the water, we realized we had camera issues. This won’t be a surprise to those of you who’ve traveled with me before -there’s ALWAYS camera issues. I normally use a still camera and Mike uses one of the Go-Pros for video. The still camera’s battery needed charging that morning, so we packed the 2nd Go Pro for me. When we went to turn the Go Pros on to check them, I realized that one didn’t have a SD card in it. Mike handed me the working Go-Pro and said – “Go for it”. We didn’t really see very many fish, but I managed to splice together a very short “best of” video. The opening selfie of me is included for laughs…it’s what I see on almost every clip when I download dive video. I’m always looking at the front of the camera to see if it is on or off because the display screens are on the front. The one time I thought I’d turned it off on this dive and didn’t double-check, I ended up with 18 minutes of video dizzily swirling every which way because I didn’t know the camera was on.
On our way home from the dive, we stopped at the Government building because we needed to change our address with the Land Registry Department. The Land Registry department maintains the official records for all land ownership on the three islands. The department also maintains a detailed map showing all the boundaries of each parcel of land. Basically this system defines the property lines and ownership of every square inch of the islands. The address on our land registry record was beyond out of date, so I thought we should fix that while we’re here.
The experience of officially updating our address was silly enough to have been a Monty Python sketch. I’d already been there once, only to realize that both Mike and I had to sign the form involved. So on this day, we both went in and I got in line for the Land Registry window to present our completed request form. The man there looked the form over and then wrote the fee ($62 US for a change of address!) on a form he added to the paperwork stack and told me to go to the next window over (the cashier) to pay. Miraculously, there wasn’t a line and I quickly paid our fee. The cashier printed a receipt and added it to the growing stack of papers. She paper-clipped everything together and handed it back. She instructed us to go to the Customer Service window a few windows down. It was a short line -YAY! The woman at that window took the papers from me and said. “Thank you”. That’s it? I was thinking, I can’t believe I made it through this process in less than 10 minutes! That NEVER happens! And then I just HAD to ask how we could get a copy of the updated “land registry form” for the property. She said, “Oh that’s an extra fee of $16 US and you needed to request that at the first window. So I was sent back to the Land Registry window -where the gentleman took my paperwork and wrote on it that I was paying $16 for the copy. Then he sent me to the cashier’s window -except now I was 5th in line. Once new fee was finally paid and a second receipt paper-clipped to the pile of documents, I was sent…you guessed it… back to the Customer Service window…where, once again, a nice lady accepted my paperwork and said “Thank you”. I didn’t dare ask another question for fear I’d have to go through all that again.