Bosque Estatal De Guánica – Dry forests of Puerto Rico
After spending time in El Yunque rainforest we decided to head off to Guanica nature preserve. We wanted to visit Guanica because it was the opposite of El Yunque. While the later was a rainforest flush with water this place is dry like a desert. This is kind of our strategy always since we want to see different species as well as different type of species. I.e. we would like to see a cactus as well as a climbing fig. We rather see this combination than see two types of figs.
This is what made Guanica a must go for us. The place is far from El Yunque literally on the other end of the island and it took 5 hours to reach there. Enroute, we were looking at the different sights of the island and we found many similarities between India and Puerto Rico. From stray dogs to beggars it seemed like a western version of India. We started the drive very early in the morning hoping to reach the place before sunrise but our GPS seemed to be at a loss to get the right directions. Adding to confusion most of the road signs are in Spanish. After circling the same area again and again we finally found the route and headed in the right direction. But there is always something you get in return for the pains endured . Because we got lost, we ventured into areas of Puerto Rico that possibly no Indian would have gone before. From streets littered with potholes to bullets, we saw the other side of Puerto Rico. In the end though we ended up on a sea side road just in time for the sunrise.
Once we reached the place we were scratching our heads whether we have reached the right place. The place is managed by US forest service and generally they have basic infrastructure like trail maps, toilets etc but this place seems like it was deserted. After peeping around a bit we found a small shed like we have for our apartment security in a corner. As we went closer we saw a man sitting there. We asked about the place and all he said was he does not speak English.
Well, we should have expected this considering the fact that Spanish is the main language of Puerto Rico. We simply exchanged smiles and got a trail map from him and as we turned our heads it was our target bird for the place….the Pearly Eyed Thrasher. Quickly we took pictures and started walking.
The place was dry but with some bird activity. We were surprisingly greeted by Tody which was our premiere attraction in the rain forest but they seemed to have adapted well here. There was bird activity all along the trail and some interesting butterfly activity too, like the tailed skipper which was a pleasant addition to our list. After about an hour the trail split in two and after little confusion we decided a take a loop path and just after turning we had another surprise. Right in the middle of the trail was the Greater Antillean pewee.
The cute bird was very surprised to see us after all we were the only visitors to park in two months as per the register maintained by the guard. As we continued on the trail we came across interesting plants and one plant caught the attention of us more than the rest. The flowers of Krameria ixine were really cute and reminded us of orchids but we knew it was not. We took our time taking pictures of the flower.
We went on and found a very interesting shaped flower. We took time to take pictures and by this time it was getting hot. Since it was also very dry, we felt a little dehydrated but before it could get worse we reached the starting point. Since Guanica was on the coast we decided to take the vehicle and reach the outer rim of the park which is dotted with beautiful beaches. The road was dotted with cactus plants indicating the dryness of the place. We got at a spot where mangroves were growing and in between the mangroves was a group of ruddy turnstones hiding from the sun.
Nearby the mangroves there was a beautiful isolated beach with not even one person on it. When we came to Puerto rico , tropical beaches was high on the agenda but the previous day the beaches near San Juan turned out to be a disappointment because of the crowds. This beach right in front our eyes was what we were looking for in the first place. So we took time to relax in the cool water and had a nice bath too.
Though this place was not as rich in diversity like el Yunque, it was a place with unique species and that is what we ultimately seek in the first place.