Check your shoes for scorpions… and while you’re at it, check your hat, too!

Everyone tells you this, and most of us do it at least a couple of times before we become lazy, having not found or seen a scorpion, so we quit looking and stopped banging our footwear.

Well let me tell you that it is good advice that should be religiously followed and expanded to include a couple of other suggestions as well, for example:

One morning, when I was living in Guayabitos I went to the Super Pop-In to pick up a few groceries. I grabbed my sun hat (which I always leave hanging on a hook on the outside patio), and off I went on my bicycle to pick up some milk, bananas, juice and bread. While cycling it felt like it I had something on my head. I thought it might be the string from my hat or perhaps the elastic which held my hair in a ponytail. I rubbed my head irritably a couple of times, and soon forgot about it.

While shopping at the Super Pop-In, I took my hat off, as I still felt like something was in my hair! Nothing! I collected and paid for the groceries, and rode home quickly; thoroughly enjoying the breeze riding a bicycle creates. Upon arriving home I unloaded the groceries and proceeded to the front door of the house. I opened the door, set the groceries on the island in the kitchen, took off my hat and let out an ear splitting squeal. Why? A frog actually jumped off of my head and onto the floor! I could not believe it. The frog must have been in my hat from the time I left the house, and apparently it stayed there, quite comfortable on my head while I cycled and shopped. I wonder if the frog was sitting on my head when I paid for my groceries, and if the grocery clerk noticed it, but decided it was best not to say anything.

By the way my good friend, the frog may still be somewhere in that house in Guayabitos as after it leaped to the floor, even though I searched high and low I could not find it anywhere.

The Land Crab Incident

While staying at the same house in Guayabitos, as I was trying to exit the front door I encountered a bright red and blue land crab trying to get into our house. The feisty crab was almost the size of a dinner plate and his pincers were humongous. I let out a vociferous howl before slamming the door shut and calling Robert, my husband, to handle the situation. I had heard about these critters before. How they burrow under the ground for winter and spring, emerge during the first rain to mate and head down to the sea to lay their eggs on the second rain, repeating the process throughout the season. If your heart is set on a beachfront home in Jaltemba Bay you should know that these land crabs are part of the package during the rainy season.

Robert came running thinking that perhaps I had been bitten by a scorpion and laughed when I told him that there was a giant crab just outside our door. Imagine my glee when he opened the door and spotted the giant crab trying to get into our house and he promptly slammed the door shut again! He ran to get a broom and dustpan, thinking that he would simply sweep up the errant creature and carry it outside to dispose of it in the empty field across the street. He quickly learned that these crabs are extremely hard to catch, because they run fast and sideways. Furthermore they are almost impossible to pick up with your hands, without being the victim of their pincers, and this crabs pincers were humongous! By this time, I was helping him catch the crab, and with much comical effort we managed to get him into the dustpan, hold him with the broom and let him loose in the field. However, in the panicked crab catching process, we had locked ourselves out of the house and had to borrow a ladder from our neighbor who was thoroughly amused by our antics.

Turtles walk the streets of Guayabitos

One morning while walking my dog Tippy along the lateral that parallels the highway, a good sized green turtle, about as big as of a roast pan, crossed my path heading across the road. Fortunately I had Tippy on a leash. This was about seven blocks from any water that I was aware of, so I am not sure what the turtle was doing out so far and I am also happy to say, that no turtles ever showed up at the front door of our house.

La Peñita has ants and crocodiles

Prior to the above encounters, we had spent a month living in enchanting La Peñita… where the extent of my wildlife encounters were limited to small armies of teensy weensy ants, beautiful stray horses and the amiable pelicans that hang out on the beach. I had been warned that there were crocodiles in the estuary there, but I never saw one. It was years later when I came across this big beauty in a neighboring town.

It’s a jungle in Los Ayala

Since then I have moved to Los Ayala, primarily because of that frog that tried to take up permanent residence in my hair, I have had even more wildlife encounters!

We moved into the home we purchased in Los Ayala, smack in the middle of the rainy season. I quickly learned that living in Los Ayala is like living in a jungle! The rainy season brings abundance and a huge variety of insects. Some of the insects are quite beautiful, like the saucer sized white butterflies. Some like the rhinoceros style beetles are downright ugly but interesting, and amazing to see… as long as they do not enter my house.

The Tarantula

That first summer here I found a small tarantula in our swimming pool one morning. It was black, hairy and about two inches wide, and definitely a tarantula. Robert scooped it out of the pool and tossed it over the side of our house. Problem solved? Not! It proceeded to crawl up the outside wall to our house no doubt in an attempt to resume its refreshing dip in our pool. I was having none of this, so I went outside to chase it away. I began by throwing pebbles near it, with the hopes that it would run away as quickly as it could on its long black hairy legs. It refused to budge, so I took a branch, upon to which it cooperatively climbed. Then I tossed the stick adorned by the tarantula, as far away from our house as I could, and I’m happy to say that I have not seen it since then.

At that time, I was quite surprised to see a tarantula here in Jaltemba Bay. I looked up tarantulas on the internet and found the following: Tarantulas are large hairy spiders that live in warm areas around the world and one of their favorite habitats is tropical rain forest. Since we live in a tropical rain forest; I guess I should not have been surprised.

Tarantulas are carnivores and they eat insects, like grasshoppers and beetles, and other arachnids, small reptiles (like lizards and snakes), amphibians (like frogs), and some even eat small birds. All of which abound where we live! Tarantulas kill their prey using venomous fangs; they also inject a chemical into the prey that dissolves the flesh. Tarantulas can crush their prey using powerful mouthparts. Apparently they are nocturnal, and I’m diurnal which would explain why I have never seen one.

Fact: No person has ever died of a tarantula bite and though we have not seen one since, to this day I always look in the pool before jumping in!

The local Iguanas

In Los Ayala, quite a few iguanas hang about the neighborhood. Our neighbor has a large grey iguana, about four feet in length hanging about his house. It hides most of the day, but it comes out every morning to bask in the sun. It looks like a crocodile to me. One day I ventured into our garage to get some paint and had the dickens scared out of me by an iguana which made our garage its new home. I think my shriek scared the iguana, too. One year a rather elusive large, plate sized frog also took up residence in our garage. Now when I need to fetch an item from the garage, I do so with great reluctance. Since moving to Mexico I seem to holler a lot more!

We also have a green iguana which lives in the tree beside our house, and on occasion he likes to hang around on our patio. It is only about a foot and a half long, but full-grown Green Iguanas are typically between four and six feet in length, and they have been known to grow up to seven feet long. This includes the tail, however, which can make up about half the body length and, in addition to its green color, it has black stripes. Green Iguanas, not surprisingly, are green in color, but can be found in many different shades ranging from bright green to a dull grayish-green. Their skin is rough with a set of pointy scales along the iguana’s back. Green Iguanas have long fingers and claws to help them climb and grasp. On occasion, I can see them climbing up the walls of our neighbor’s house or hiding in the treetops. I later learned that Iguanas spend most of their time high in the jungle canopy, about forty to fifty feet above the ground. If you are in the area and do not see any, you just need to go to Sayulita and there you will find a small refuge containing at least thirty Iguanas of various sizes and colors, although you will need to look very carefully, as they are masters of disguise!

The Boa Constrictor

One fine day, some of the kids in the neighborhood who know I love to photograph wildlife called me to grab my camera and come see something. I did not understand what I was going to see and photograph but they were pretty excited and so was I. Since living here I have become a lot less skittish about insects and such, probably because I have come to love capturing their unique beauty in my photography. Imagine my surprise when they led me to a snake, a boa constrictor, just one block from my house. The boa was about twelve feet long and twelve inches around, and casually sauntering up Madre Perla, seemingly oblivious to the commotion it was causing in the neighborhood. At the time I did not know it was a boa and I thought it may be a poisonous snake so I kept my distance while taking photos. The snake took an interest in a goat peering out of a doorway and slithered up to say hello. They sniffed each other and then the snake went its merry way.

Since that time my neighbor has called me out in the middle of the evening to take photos of rattlesnake. This one was in a bad mood as seen by its hissy fits, and my nervousness is seen in the quality of the photo, but hey I have photo of a rattlesnake!

What else is out there?

A friend told me that there are boas and wild boars, and even black panthers, Black widow spiders and badgers in the rain forest around us, too. She tells me that there are lots of wild boars living in the jungle on the south side of the fence that surrounds the mountain in Punta Raza territory, and since these guys can be dangerous, I plan to avoid this area in future.

Since living here I have seen a grey fox, flying squirrels so-called because they hop from tree to tree, rabbits (go figure!), armadillos, crocodiles and coatimundi, and I have been introduced to a rich new world of insects and birds. I’ve also learned to appreciate the spectacular beauty of living in a rain forest. Jaltemba Bay is truly one of nature’s wonders!

P.S. There is no need to visit San Blas for the jungle tour; it’s a jungle out there, right here in Jaltemba Bay!

by Christina Stobbs

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