Puerto Rico and El Yunque Rainforest
The very blue waters of Aruba
The final island that we visited on our Caribbean cruise was Aruba. Like Bonaire, Aruba is a flat, arid island, however it’s much more developed than Bonaire. There is a high-rise hotel district and a large downtown shopping district. We did a package tour that included sailing on a wooden boat and snorkeling. I don’t really feel like I got much of the flavor of that island. But the water was some of the most gorgeous blue that we encountered on the trip.
El Yunque Rainforest
Following Aruba, we had a full day at sea, returning to Puerto Rico early the morning after that. There had been talk of doing some touring together on Puerto Rico, however UrSpo was not feeling well by then, so we bid our companions goodbye at the airport and grabbed our rental car. By late morning we were at El Yunque rainforest.
The stream near the start of our hike
El Yunque is very readily accessible from San Juan. We toured the visitor center and then headed off on a jungle hike to La Mina waterfall. I’ve not been to the Greater Antilles before. I was immediately struck with how much greater the biodiversity is on these larger islands. Our walk took us along a tropical stream through very different kinds of rainforest. We got to see lots of endemic plants and birds. A single fallen branch covered with an array of bromeliads and orchids hinted at the species richness high above our heads in the canopy.
I had been hoping to see a Callisto satyr butterfly. This genus is endemic to the Greater Antilles, and includes species on Puerto Rico. Although I would not see one, I was treated to another Caribbean endemic, Dismorpha spio. This is actually an unusual species of sulphur butterfly. I sow several- but always out of reach in the ravine that the stream flowed through. This picture is from the collections where I work. The individuals were collected in the Dominican Republic.
Habitat of Dismorpha spio
The weather was quite changeable at El Yunque. As we walked through the rainforest, we encountered- surprise- periodic rainfall, some heavier than just a passing shower. The paths and foliage were quite wet for much of the walk. The waterfall was lovely, though I was a bit disappointed by the number of people there.
Rain in the rainforest
La Mina WaterfallWe had lunch at a little concession in the park, then decided to go to a beach on the south shore of the island. Leon knows me well enough to know my ulterior motives. I wanted to see tiger beetles. Remember my shopping list? I got to see (and photograph) two species on the list. They were very active, so photography was difficult. Cicindela trifasciata did not come out really well, but I’m pleased with my image of C. suturalis, which is a Caribbean endemic. Leon was very patient waiting for me while I was having my entomological fun.
Sandpipers along the beach
I really enjoyed Puerto Rico. I’d love to go back and explore the island a bit more. I also enjoyed the cruise experience. I’d probably do a few things differently next time, mainly more independent travel by bicycle or motor scooter. Still, the food, the scenery, and especially the company were without parallel.