Big Snake!

Location: Cayos Cochinos - Honduras

Day 27
by Wayne & Karen Brown

Today Nantucket Clipper is anchored off a small island, called Cochino Grande.This is Spanish for "big hog". This is one island in a group of islands, called Cayos Cochinos. Cayos Cochinos is Spanish for "hog islands". They got their name for the wild pigs that used to live on these islands. There are 13 small islands in the group of Cayos Cochinos. These islands are located between the island of Roatan and the mainland of Honduras.

Only about 18 people live on this island. The people that live here are called Garifuna. These people were brought to Central America by the British over 200 years ago. We have met Garifuna people in Belize and Guatemala. (The fishermen on the Rio Dulce we saw were Garifuna. - Day 24)

Before we get off the ship to go ashore we see a Garifuna woman who is paddling by in her small dugout canoe. She has her two kids with her. As she paddles by we wave and her kids wave back.

This is a small island, called a "cay" (kee). It is probaby about a mile long and 1/4 mile wide. We have heard that this may be a good place to find boa constrictors! We are going ashore to explore this island and look for boa constrictors.

We land our inflatable boat on a small beach and find a trail that leads into the rainforest. As we hike up the narrow trail we see some of the same rainforest plants that we have talked about on our other rainforest hikes (Day 17, Day 23-Part 1).

There is a breeze so the air does not feel as heavy and sticky as it did when we explored the rainforests on the mainland. We hear birds chirping around us. As we peer deep into the rainforest understory we catch glimpses of small birds flying through the trees.

As we climb higher up the hillside we discover that we are not the only ones climbing up this hill. Crawling over a log is a soldier hermit crab. It is about as big as your fist. This crab looks well protected with its armor-like exoskeleton. Actually only the front of this crab has a hard exoskeleton. The main part of the crab's body is soft, so it needs a shell for protection. The shell is not its own, but an empty snail shell it has found and moved into.

Besides protection this hermit crab's shell works like the scuba air tank that we use to breathe from underwater. This crab uses gills to breathe. The gills have to be wet to work or the crab would not be able to breathe. The shell holds water to keep the crab's gills wet so it can breathe out of the water.

We watch the crab slowly continue its climb up the hill. It is probably looking for food. It eats different kinds of plants, other hermit crabs and even animal poop!

Further up the trail something is moving on the forest floor. It is a big boa constrictor! This boa must be over six feet long! Boa constrictors can grow to 12 feet long. Even though boas are not poisonous they do have very large curved teeth and their bite can be painful. Fortunately boas don't attack people. Boas like to eat small mammals, birds and other reptiles.

The boa has seen us and is slithering fast over the trail. It is not trying to attack us. It is trying to get away from us. The boa moves quickly up a small tree. It coils itself around the branches and looks like a bird's nest. It is trying to hide from us. We let the boa think we can't see it and walk on by.

The trail is now going down. We carefully work our way down the trail which has now become very steep. Finally the trail levels out. We are at the bottom of the hill and we can see we are near the sea.

As we come out of the jungle we see that we have entered the Garifuna village. There are about a dozen small huts here. The huts are all made out of cohune (ca-HOON) palm fronds. The sides of the huts are all covered with the red mud. One Garifuna family shows us their house. It is only one room. This one room is the kitchen, dining room, living room, and bedroom. The bathroom is outside. There is no electricity, no telephone, no radio, and no TV.

The Garifuna men are all fishermen. Their fishing boats are dugout canoes. To make a dugout canoe they cut down a big tree in the rainforest. Then they hollow out the middle of the tree and cut off the ends. They make the ends pointy and now they have their canoe. The big canoes are over 12 feet long and will last for many, many years.

Unfortunately it is getting late and we have a long hike along the shore back to the beach where we left our inflatable boats. We wave good-bye to the Garifunas and leave their village.

Back on the ship we are starting to pack up all our equipment, because tomorrow we get off the ship and fly home. We will interview our student explorers tomorrow and tell you about what they liked about our expedition.

Best fishes,
Wayne & Karen



Cayos Cochinos, Honduras

Position: 16º 10' N / 86º 24' W
Air Temp: 86ºF
Weather: light breeze, sunny with scattered clouds.

Nantucket Clipper is anchored near Cochino Grande. We use the inflatable boats to go ashore and explore this island.

Paddling by is a Garifuna mother and her two kids in their dugout canoe.

We found this soldier hermit crab climbing up the hill.

Hiding in a tree we found a boa constrictor over 6 feet long! (Its body is wrapped around the branches. Its head is along on top of the branch and pointing to the left.)

A Garifuna fisherman walks by his big dugout canoe in front of his house. His wife has hung out their clothes on a line to dry.


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