While on holiday, we decided to visit the Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Gardens, nestled in the wilderness of mangrove swamps smack in the middle of Grand Cayman. The gardens also happen to be home to the world's blue iguana population. This population has been in decline for some time, and it was believed that at one point there were only a handful of these impressive creatures remaining. To combat this, a conservation centre was set up in the gardens and a breeding program has significantly increased the population.
As we drove along the drive, we slowed to a gentle roll as the signs warned us to watch out for passing iguanas. Apparently part of the reason for the population's decline is their shrinking environment as more of Grand Cayman is developed. The strongest iguanas get the best territories with the most food, but these tend to be nearest the people. Sadly the iguanas have developed a fondness for basking on the nice, warm, tarmac on the roads, and like to snooze under lovely, warm, recently-parked cars.
So we were slightly wary looking out for them on the way.
We pulled up to the visitor centre to get tickets, and hopped out of the car to find an enormous blue specimen sprawled across the path. It must have been 4 feet long, and not at all perturbed by having us disturb its afternoon nap. I wish now I'd taken a picture, but I assumed this was a promising start and therefore we would be virtually overrun with giant blue iguanas once we stepped inside the gardens.
Sadly, that was not the case as we didn't spot a single one during the whole visit! The conservation area was closed for the season, and peering between tiny gaps in the fence, we could just about make out one or two absorbing the afternoon sunshine. But not a one did we find in the entire expanse of gardens, woods and trails.
On the plus side, the gardens were really quite something, beautiful and bursting with colour and the place was very peaceful and soothing, whilst simultaneously teeming with other varieties of wildlife. Like the tree frog above. And his little lizard friends. (I'm just assuming they're friends and it's the Caribbean equivalent of the Animals of Farthing Wood. Instead of Fox and Badger, it's Treefrog and Lizard. But maybe they aren't friends, and are instead mere acquaintances)
There was a handy Elbow Tree for selfie-of-the-day. And the man scouted out this location, proving that he loves selfie-of-the-day really.
These tiny lizards are lovely and pop up everywhere. This one followed us around and we saw him during the whole holiday. It was definitely always the same one, and here he is teaching us about plants. He brought a sign and everything.
We did find a green iguana in the end... but that's another story.
P.S. Gardens always produce such colourful photos. I need to visit London's Kew Gardens now, as I've never been but I bet it's just as photogenic. With perhaps slightly fewer lizards.
P.P.S. The photo at the very top is of the two of us wandering around the new and shiny orchid garden walkway. However, it turns out that October is definitely not orchid season!