Vacation. A journey into the unknown. A change of scenery to awaken the senses. You’ve checked your bags and your obligations at the airline ticket counter. Expectations for a relaxing, uninterrupted, glorious time are high. You arrive and instantly you go Aaaaahhhhh…
(Small print on your glorious vacation:) Aaaahhhhh… can turn into Aaaackkk! in a nanosecond. Why? BUGS! and our colorful tropical fauna. Whether you are staying at a luxury villa or a local hostel, be aware of critters that you may encounter on the road, beach, or even, in your four star resort. Here onVieques we live hand in hand and cheek by jowl with nature in all her glory – and on a grand scale! And speaking of scales: Do expect a close encounter of a bi-pedal (2-legged), quadrupedal (4-legged) or hexapedal (6-legged) kind, but don’t let this hinder your vacation in any way.
- Ants. Constantly searching for water and food, ants will find the tiniest crumb (or a microscopic drop of sugar based nectar).
Example: On a recent vacation, I managed to forget my own advice and common knowledge. Having been invited to a villa on a neighboring island, I jumped a plane and left my cares behind. In vacation mode, I also left the caps off my toiletries and my toothbrush on the counter… uncovered. In the morning, ants were…everywhere. Mind you, this was a villa high in the mountains with an even higher price tag, but even at the height of the luxury …ants still exist. Advice: Put anything remotely edible away inside the refrigerator or in sealed containers. Store toiletries in ziplock plastic bags.
Be on the lookout for fire ants. They sting and bite enthusiastically leaving tiny painful blisters behind. Learn to recognize their nests as treading on one is an apocalyptic nightmare! They are brown, rounded mounds on the ground that look like fine compost. If bitten, simply apply dabs of rubbing alcohol.
- Reptiles. These abound here but are totally harmless. You may see them scurrying and scuttling about outdoors and in. Remember how important they are as they feast on insects for nourishment. Outdoors you will encounter several species of anoles and ground lizards as well as the main herpetological attraction: the green iguana. At night, (indoors or outdoors,) you may notice the Puerto Rican Upland gecko. Due to the mangoose, Vieques harbors no snake species.
- Roosters: Roaming free range all over Vieques, roosters crow and crow and crow. I don’t simply mean at 3:00 am, but all night long. It is one thing to be awakened at 3 am by a crowing rooster, but quite another if that rooster crows with a cadence of a particular song. I swear I used to have a rooster roaming my yard that would crow the theme song to The Odd Couple. Try going to sleep with that stuck in your head!
- No-see-ums: Also called sand flies, noseeums are infinitesimal biting cousins of the common house fly. Advice: don’t sweat the small stuff but don’t be on the beach at dusk when these little pests come out.
- Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes are one insect to always prepare for. Employ insect repellent containing DEET or citronella oil and wear long sleeve clothing at night.
- Cockroaches: These are a simple fact of island life. Rest assured that a cockroach sighting is not a sign of uncleanliness. Tropical living requires some compromising between ourselves and the insects. But no matter what war we wage against them – the strongest pesticide money can buy – when it comes to cockroaches, there’s always “more where that one came from.”
Gorgeous beaches, cooling trade winds, swaying palm trees accented by multicolored bougainvillea –
Vieques is a true tropical paradise. However, with the tropics come guests courtesy of Mother Nature.
Advice: Arrive prepared and with an open mind to not let a critter encounter
get between you and your unforgettable vacation.