Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Forgotten Garden

A small river runs into the ocean from the forest.  By night, the ocean covers this beach and invites creatures like saltwater crocs to enter the smaller island.
I sit today on the smaller island known as Coibitas off the main and larger Coiba Island.  I'm enjoying the breeze because as of late, we've been hiking nonstop into the muddy and sometimes dangerous paths of the Coiba forests. It's fun!  We've had to watch for saltwater crocs, keep our camelpacks full of water, and dry out our sweaty clothes which weren't usually dry due to a random rain event or the constant humidity that just hung in the air.  When I look from where I'm sitting, there's nothing but islands covered in emerald green rain forest which goes as far as the eye can see.  These islands harbor large areas of pristine coral reefs and are protected by the fragile mangrove forests that line the island coasts. This area is a protected corridor and of huge importance to marine life that are teeming with fish, whales, turtles, sharks, and many other sea creatures.
A guide and boat are essential to appreciate the large expanse of Coiba National Park.
I keep a lookout for a croc as we had found tracks on the beach near where I am sitting.  These huge reptiles are sneaky and blend in with their surroundings.  It's when you least expect it that they appear from out of nowhere.  Yesterday, during my mangrove shoot, my heart almost stopped when I saw one of these animals.  He was only a couple meters from me and I won't forget that experience anytime soon.  I'm glad our guide, Javier was with us on these treks.  To fully appreciate this trip, you'll need a guide and boat to get to some of these places which are difficult to reach. So today I keep my eyes open as I begin my story about the Shah and his forgotten garden.
The ladder to cross the stream into the forgotten garden. Scary!
Almost every island has an interesting history with it.  Coibitas is no exception.  Our story takes place in the 1970's.  The last of the Iranian Shahs purchased this island for his tropical getaway. Most of Coibita(then called La Ranchería) was untouched except for the place where the Shah built his home and created his fruit garden.  He grew peaches, cashews, water apples, and citrus trees. Some of these trees have a difficult time standing the tropical onslaught of ocean air.  The garden was tucked away beyond the palm groves past a creek with a sketchy ladder connecting us to the garden.
Old fruit trees covered with moss and bromeliads
The Shah loved his peach trees and today several of them can be seen growing around the island in random areas.  Eventually, the Shah became sick and died.  His garden forgotten and left to the demise of Mother Nature.  His belongings were passed onto his daughter who then sold the island for one dollar to the Smithsonian Institute. Or so the story was told.  Today the island is protected by UNESCO.  The Shah's home is now a research station for scientists from all over the world to stay.  Today's guest was a researcher from Germany studying sharks around the reef area. Two men are working to keep several areas tidy. Several buildings have fallen apart and are reminders that there were others who once lived here.
The Jesus Christ lizard.  Why this name?  Because when it flees for safety, it will run across water on two legs. If you haven't seen this, you should youtube it.  It's really cool.
The fruit trees are overgrown with bromeliads and moss.  Many of them look terrible....especially the citrus trees. Mosquitos are everywhere. I stand among the trees and watch all the birds flying around the branches.  Several water apples are ready to pick, but no one is there to harvest the fruit. The owner dead.  And the image is eery giving me a moment's pause. What will our gardens look like after we're gone and no one is there to tend them?  More tomorrow......


  1. The ladder looks beautiful where it is but at the same time scary too since you mentioned crocodiles lurking around. I would worry about them if I were there.

  2. Hoping there will be someone though...


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