Whenever we travel we always seek out free things. To be honest, we love free things when we aren’t traveling as well. It is part of the frugal ethos to love anything with the word free before it. Open Mic for free smoothies? Show me the stage. Today, we found another free experience on the rugged island of Utila.
Utila is the number one place in the world to obtain your PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) license. Everyone comes to Utila to scuba dive. Well, everyone but us. Asher, one day when you are older, we will take you back to Utila so you can take the PADI course and dive next to the second largest reef in the world, with the whale shark, the largest fish in the sea, but for now we are happy snorkeling from our dock. For a small island, Utila attracts a large number of tourists and though it is great for the local economy, the development on the island is highly unsustainable and many ecosystems are at risk.
The Spiny-Tailed Iguana or Swamper Iguana is only found on the Island of Utila. With the rapid tourist expansion, much of the mangrove habitat has been destroyed and the Spiny-Tailed Iguana is now an endangered species. The Iguana Station is a not-for-profit research and breeding facility run mainly by volunteers. They are working to educate the community about sustainable development and protecting the local ecosystems to maintain biodiversity. There have always been natural extinctions. Humans cannot take responsibility for the dinosaurs disappearing act. However, now that humans have spread to all corners of the planet, reaching a population of over 7 billion, the global extinction rate is 1000 times greater than nature’s rate.
The facility has an information room with everything from display boards to preserved species and outside there are large breeding habitats. You found it difficult to locate the large iguanas because they either remained as still as a statue or rapidly scurried away and you are used to the predictable gaits of the dogs, cats and chickens. It was great to see volunteers working their magic to prevent a disappearing act though we wondered how many tourists hike the 2kms outside of the strip to learn of their impact.
It was a beautiful walk home through the windy side streets of Utila, past the concrete soccer stands and our friend Mario who cut the top off a coconut so we could have a fresh drink. With sweat dripping from every crevasse, we dropped off our belongings and jumped right in off the dock. You enjoyed swimming with the backpackers from the hostel and they all commented on what a trooper you are. It is our hope that you will grow up to champion biodiversity so future generations don’t gasp at the climax of this magic show we call “progress.”
to see a documentary click here (our connection is too slow to play…tell us how it is)