Mary and I spent the last week visiting our friends, Bob and Glenda in Playas. We had a great time visiting there and did a few things we have not done before while we were there. One thing that I wanted to do was go down to the “Iguana” park and see if I could get some close-up shots of iguanas there.
The city of Playas, Ecuador maintains a small triangular shaped park in the downtown area in front of the city offices. I am not sure what the official name of the park is, but everyone we know calls it the Iguana Park. There is a small band-stand with a domed top on one end of the park and, at any given time, one can generally see three or four iguanas on the roof of that dome basking in the sun.
Every other time we were in Playas near the iguana park, I did not have my camera. This trip, I hoped to be able to take a few minutes to sit in the park and see if I could see some iguanas down on the ground for photos.
We were in luck as we walked up. There were several iguanas up on the dome.
I got some quick pictures, but then I saw a fairly large iguana on the ground.
As I got closer, he started to head for the tree.
And quickly scampered up the tree to a safe haven.
As he scrambled up the tree, I started spotting several other iguanas in the trees and on the ground, so I started snapping pictures.
While I was snapping pictures, a man called out to me to tell me that he had spotted a baby iguana in the bushes behind me. A young boy (perhaps twelve) was also helping me spot iguanas and raced off with me to the bushes to see the baby.
The boy was trying to catch the little guy who proved that he could scamper and jump safely out of reach at will.
The young man finally succeeded and caught the little iguana. He was about six inches long and rested peacefully in his captor’s hand.
My young friend showed us how he could stroke the little iguana’s head and lull him to sleep.
I started packing up my camera and Mary and I started to get ready to head back to Bob and Glenda’s home for dinner when we noticed all of the iguana on the pavilion started perking up and moving toward the back side of the dome.
An older gentleman with a plastic stool sat down near the tree with several heads of lettuce. As he broke up the lettuce and threw it around beneath the tree he sang a little song repeating the words, “Iguana…lechuga…Iguana…lechuga.) Lechuga means lettuce in Spanish and apparently these iguanas understood Spanish and this old man’s voice because they came running for their share of the lettuce.
At one point we counted more than fifteen iguanas racing around the man’s feet and literally taking the lettuce directly from his hands.
I spoke with the man and learned that he brings lettuce to the park everyday and knows all of the iguanas.
The man demonstrated how tame the iguanas were by walking amongst the group offering his hand and petting them.
This one actually shook the man’s hand like a pet dog!
Certainly unusual behavior for iguanas here in Ecuador where many of my neighbors consider these animals a source of food. The iguanas we see here in San Clemente generally run for the trees when people get too near!
Mary and I both enjoyed our little encounter with the iguanas of Playas. I took one last picture before we left to get some Playas Empanadas to bring home for dinner.
I do not have personal experience, but I am certain that the empanadas tasted much better than this wrinkly old critter ever could have!
Life is good in Ecuador!