By: Pamy Rojas
Some people compare it to the Galapagos Islands for its unspoiled natural surroundings. The pristine beaches, the species of amphibians, birds and reptiles (some are endemic), the caves with taíno petroglyphs, and the reefs that encircle the coastal lagoons contribute to the fact that this island in the Puerto Rican archipelago is recognized as the Galapagos of the Caribbean.
Others humorously relate it to the movie Jurassic Park, for the enormous iguanas that live there. While encountering this huge reptile, it seems like one has been transported to prehistoric times. Likewise, after looking at the big, shore-dwelling winkles, one might even expect the sudden appearance of a dinosaur.
HATCHING OF THE LEATHERBACK SEA TURTLE
What impressed us the most during our visit to the island was the hatching of the small sea turtles in Sardineras beach. We saw how dozens of leatherback turtles emerged from their nests in the sand. These tiny creatures get out of the hollow where their mother laid and covered them with a lot of sand. It’s impressive to see how the newborn turtles can get out by uncovering a sand sheet of about two or three feet in depth. They start coming out little by little, making their way out in the sand. After fighting against the weight of the sand that buried them, the turtles continue their path on to the sea.
Many of these newborn turtles never reach their destination because they get lost on their way or island predators, such as pigs, cats or marine birds, eat them. The turtles that get to reach the shore are swept by the waves and start swimming inwards. However, in the ocean, the newborns can also encounter many predators. This means that, out of hundreds of eggs that a mother turtle lays, 80% of them hatch and 70% reach the sea. It is estimated that, out of those that reach the sea, one in a thousand survives up to adulthood and returns to the same beach where it was born, to lay its eggs.
BEACHES AND SANCTUARIES
In addition to the fascinating spectacle of nature that the newborn turtles gave us, the fact of just admiring the paradisiacal surroundings of the island is a unique exhibition. All of the isolated beaches, with crystalline waters and gleaming sand, are of shocking beauty. The silence, its stillness and beauty, made us believe that we were in a sacred temple.
The beaches preferred the most by tourists, for their accessibility (and where only camping is permitted) are Pájaros and Sardineras . The latter has restrooms, showers, and picnic tables. Other beaches on the island are: Brava, Uvero, and Mujeres .
ABYSMS AND DITCHES
The eerie cliffs of more than a hundred feet are a hallucinating display. Seeing them from below made us feel insignificant, against the magnitude of their height and the exquisiteness of their forms. However, the perspective from above the abyss gave us a feel of greatness and freedom, but after seeing down below, an internal, bone-chilling feeling overcame us.
The caves are another great attraction of the island, as they are found everywhere. Some of them are: La esperanza, Del norte, Ataúd, Nuevos Lirios, and La Negra. The latter is one of the most accessible ones, but in spite, it is not recommended to go wander into the caves without a tour guide.
There are many walking routes that you can follow in this island of 10.9 kilometers in length by 6.8 of width. It’s also important to have a guide with you. One can walk from Sardineras beach to Pájaros beach. Another route that could take a few hours is from Sardineras beach to the old lighthouse.
There have been identified, in the reefs of the island, about twenty-five species of corals, soft and hard. These ecosystems not only protect the southern coast from the waves, but also are a colorful sanctuary to the hundreds of marine species. Diving aficionados agree that it is the best place to dive in Puerto Rico. Visibility reaches down to 180 feet. Thanks to the fact that Mona Island has no erosion problems and it’s in such a natural state, one can appreciate healthy reefs that contain many endemic species.
MORE FAUNA OF THE ISLAND
In addition to the aquatic species, the island has a great variety of marine birds. The frigate bird, the osprey, and the brown pelican are only a few of the birds that fly over the cliffs.
The now-famous Mona Island iguana is protected specie that is not found in any other place of the world. Other species that live on the island, that are hunted when in season, are pigs and male goats. These live in the wild, since they were left there in an attempt to populate the area with domestic animals.
CRABS AND SNAILS
In Mona Island there are more than a dozen types of marine crabs and more than forty types of marine snails. Many were curious and left their nests to observe us attentively. Then they went back to their den without much further ado, purposely showing that the territory was theirs and that we were only visitors of that place.
After absorbing all of its charm, we were convinced that Mona Island is a divine sanctuary. Besides being a natural place so exquisite, it’s a reserve that is scarcely visited. It could be, for this same reason, that this paradise has been kept so unspoiled, as it has limited contact with humans. The watchmen of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources of Puerto Rico are the only ones who have the privilege of living in this paradise, since this reserve is administered by this division. As such, they are the only ones who can reach the island by plane. Tourists can only do so by motorboat. There are various concessionaires that reach the island from Boquerón, Joyuda or Rincón.
CONSCIOUS TRAVEL PRACTICES:
1. Visit a natural reserve.
2. Learn about the flora and the fauna of the place.
3. Enjoy an unspoiled natural sanctuary.
4. Discover species you can not find in any other place.