Getting attacked by iguanas – our adventure to a remote Caribbean Island

After getting ripped off throughout Cuba, Dave and I were dubious about taking a boat trip out to a remote island.
Would it be a waste of time? Would the boat be shabby and not the semi-luxurious experience we had forked out for?

Catamaran Iguana Island Cuba Double-Barrelled Travel

Would our boat be this good?

The problem with Cuba is that you hardly ever know what you’re in for. Just one example of this was when we were promised a chauffeur ride to Havana. Realising that it was cheaper than the bus, we jumped at the opportunity to have a private ride.

The next day, our ‘private’ taxi picked us up to take us from Viñales to Havana but then ended up picking up eight different other people along the way, delaying our journey by an hour.

Sailing off into the Cuban sunset

So when we booked our catamaran experience out to a deserted and idyllic island off the coast of Cuba, we wondered whether it was going to be worth our money.

A group of other tourists, who looked as sweaty and nervous as we did, met us on the jetty which was about a 20 minute drive from Trinidad.

The boat looked to be less shabby than I’d predicted, and my nervous energy slipped away in the breeze as we took off our shoes, boarded the boat, and were soon bobbing away on the calm waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Catamaran Cuba Double-Barrelled Travel

A fellow travel companion

Disgruntled tourists surround me

After about half an hour, as the white sandy beaches of the island we’d be visiting drew closer, I realised the cocktails we’d been promised weren’t going to magically appear. Instead, we were handed either a canned beer or warm soft drink. No coke, for coke isn’t to be found in Cuba.

It was hardly the cocktail I’d imagined as I lounged on the decks of the yacht, but with the sky beaming a deep blue above me, and the sea a crystal turquoise below, I couldn’t find it in me to be grumpy.

I couldn’t say the same for the vegetarian Spanish-speaking woman across from me who, after discovering her food wasn’t meat free for lunch, proceeded to have a lengthy argument with the crew at the top of her voice.

I edged away from her, as she was shattering my tranquillity and calm, and focused my eyes on the horizon as the island drew near.

From afar Iguana Island Cuba Double-Barrelled TravelParadise Iguana island

The islands came closer into my vision. I could see the palm trees swaying in the breeze, the blue waters lapping the white shores, and… dark black animals moving slowly along the island. What the?

As the catamaran pulled up alongside the makeshift jetty, which looked like it’d been built in 1901 and never repaired since, I realised the animals were iguanas.

Dave and I had travelled through the Galapagos a few months earlier, and this archipelago was covered in iguanas, so at first I was unfazed.

One of our travel companions, unfortunately, did not feel the same. She prattled away in French, getting more and more agitated, telling her boyfriend how she would not be getting off the boat. (I can speak French so I could understand what she was saying.)

“I am not scared of spiders, nor of snakes, but these reptiles are disgusting! I hate the way they stare at you with their beady eyes…” she ranted.

Eventually, her boyfriend had to piggy back her across the jetty and around the iguanas, to the safety of the wooden hut structure that had been constructed in the middle of the island.

Iguanas Iguana Island Cuba Double-Barrelled Travel

They travel in packs!

Lunch with unwanted company

I’d made my way to the hut myself, with Dave following close behind, and I’d begun to realise that these weren’t regular iguanas. Unlike iguanas in the Galapagos, which were timid and ran away from humans, these followed us everywhere we went.

I soon cottoned on as to why as we sat down for lunch – they were expecting their daily meal from us. And it wasn’t just the iguanas who were hungry. These giant rat-like ferrets, not dissimilar to a quokka from where we’re from, looked friendly enough… until they opened their mouths to reveal giant beaver-like teeth.

Giant rat Iguana Island Cuba Double-Barrelled Travel

Giant teeth!

As we ate our chicken and rice (which was a far cry from the lobster we’d been promised), and as we shovelled in each mouthful we could feel the iguanas and giant rats creeping steadily closer. The French woman was right – the iguanas did have beady eyes. And those rat teeth were looking larger by the second.

All of a sudden, a felt a reptile skin brush against my foot. The woman next to me screamed and we both pulled our legs up on to the wooden seats.

Attacked by iguanas

Hundreds of iguanas and giant ferrets had surrounded us at this stage, and us two weren’t the only ones with our feet up off the floor. No one could relax enough to keep eating, and instead we turned our backs on our food so that we could watch the iguanas and giant rats more closely.

A few of the ferrets plucked up enough courage to come right up close, standing up on its hind legs and allowing his nose, lined with whiskers to sniff the top of the table. I pulled away as his nose got a few inches from my knife and fork.

All of a sudden I heard a kafuffle.

One of the guys threw his bread roll away from the hut. ‘Bad idea,’ I thought to myself as the iguanas and giant rats fought for over the crumbs in a mad scramble. ‘Now they know we’ll feed them.’

Before I’d even have time to ponder these thoughts further, there was a large thump as an iguana launched himself on to the table, sending plates flying and people jumping up and fleeing the table amid screams.

Those iguanas weren’t going to stop until they got their lunch.

Iguanas attack Iguana Island Cuba Double-Barrelled Travel

The men with their feet up!

Calming ourselves off in the ocean

We left our food half eaten and decided to head for the waters instead. Plunging in to the lukewarm waters of the Caribbean Sea, we cooled ourselves down after the excitement of being hunted down by iguanas and giant ferrets.

As the afternoon wore on, we managed to get brave enough to clamber back to shore and pose for this photo.

Paradise island Iguana Island Cuba Double-Barrelled TravelIt looks like a paradise island, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s true what they say – don’t believe everything you see on Facebook as you’re probably not getting the full picture.

Have you ever had a crazy mis-adventure like this? Or been disappointed in a tour you’d booked wasn’t up to scratch?

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About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

8 comments on “Getting attacked by iguanas – our adventure to a remote Caribbean Island”

  1. Linda Reply

    You people are daft!!! It’s a wonderful thing to visit a place that is almost untouched by the modern world. The “rats” are coatis. What do you expect the animals to do other than beg for food when ignorant tourists insist on feeding them? I suppose you would rather see them caged up. Too bad you didn’t get bit! It’s people like you that refuse to see the world and it’s wildlife for the fragile beauty that it is. Disgusting!

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      I think that’s a slight over-reaction. I agree it’s lovely to visit a place that’s untouched by the modern world. I also noted that the tourist shouldn’t have fed the animals, if you read my post again. Of course I wouldn’t want to see them caged up. Saying you hoped I got bitten was malicious of you. I was just a bit spooked by the animals but enjoyed the island regardless.

  2. diana Reply

    I am scared of iguanas and reptiles in general, so I simply do not travel to places where these animals live. People need to inform before planning a journey if they have troubles with some local species.
    I would like to go to mexico, thailand and so on, but I know I could not make it because I am too scared of reptiles and iguanas are friendly to humans, they do not run away like lizards do.
    They are not unwanted, they live there and if you do not like them is your problem.
    Tourists need either to adapt or to stay at home.

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      That’s such a shame that a fear of reptiles would put you off from travelling! They aren’t everywhere – only in certainly places. And sure, they are a little over-friendly for my liking but that wouldn’t stop me from exploring.

  3. Yanelys Marquez Torres Reply

    Im glad you were able to see the place I left as a child and yearn to return one day. I hope to find it still “untouched”. Thank you for the pics.

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