A mangrove is the best place to search for crocodiles. It is their natural habitat and I knew I had a good chance of spotting one or two. While roaming around the town called La Ceiba I met two college girls who told me about a secret place that tourists don´t know about called Leather and Salted, about 20 minutes by car outside La Ceiba and I immediately knew where I was going on the next day.
Leather and Salted is a 3.2 million acre natural reserve consisting of mangroves around two main rivers. Fresh water runs through Leather and Salty, obviously, is made of salt water. If having two rivers converging to the ocean is not appealing enough then imagine when I heard 15 ft crocodiles (5 meters) swim those waters.
I couldn´t wait to adventure there. I had no idea how to get there or how much would it cost me but I was determined to hunt crocodiles. Well, not literally hunting but for me, finding one and engaging it is more than enough. I already had an experience with a croc in the wild in Mexico.
The last time I went crocodile hunting it was a great experience, a four hour odyssey over the wild part of Caye Caulker in Belize but I wasn´t lucky enough to find a scaled friend, only Iguanas and deserted nests and resting spots. This time I was certain my luck was going to be different, I could feel it, I was going to see big lizards today.
Getting to Leather and Salted
I can´t tell you how much of an understatement it is to say this natural reserve is only twenty minutes away from La Ceiba. I had to take a local bus (no more hitching rides for me for a while) that took me some 40 minutes to reach the town La Unión (Th
e Union) and from there I had to take a train.
Delete that mental image you have of the train, it is like nothing you expect. It is a very small and very old train, I don´t think you can even call it train, it more of a wagon with a motor. Here it is:
This train had space for twenty people and every seat was taken. There are a few small towns – really small towns of 50 people – between La Unión and Leather and Salty so we did some stops along this thirty minute ride. For locals, the two way ride costs 30 Lempiras which is no more than $1.5 USD but for tourists it is around $5; obviously I went with the two girls I met and they got me the local fare – I couldn´t speak the whole ride or my accent would have betrayed us but that´s ok, I saved some green ones.
It was nice to see how the path evolved. When it starts you can still see some houses and a somewhat paved road to the ride. Then that road becomes a dirt trail. After that, you can see how the wild starts to take over and finally on the last photo you can see how the rail is mainly wood and nature has completely overtaken the rails.
We got to the end of the ride. It was literally just where the track ends. No signs or bumps for the train, they just stop the wagon in time in order to not get derailed. The wagon goes both ways so no need to take turns or anything. I am still deciding if it is genius or borderline stupid but either way, it worked perfectly.
A small motor boat and one camera
I had two options: Renting a canoe for 200 Lempiras per hour or hire a local guy, that knows perfectly the terrain, to take us for 3 hours on a motorboat to the all of the special spots for 200 Lempiras each.
If I had been there by myself I would have taken the first option but as I was with Melissa and Daniela we met halfway and hired the local guy but gave him a few extra bucks to go by ourselves and go deeper through the salt water river where there are more and bigger crocodiles thus increasing my chances to finally encounter one of these guys in Central America.
We started to drive – is it called drive when it is a boat? – through the river. The views were beautiful but I´ve seen mangroves before. This is not like a Florida mangrove, this is a jungle mangrove so it is a bit different. Let me show you:
I was so eager to spot a croc. I have some experience, not much, at spoting their heads or backs right on the surface protruding so my mind was focused on that. At some point I was so silent and concentrated, searching for one that the girls had to shout at me because I was ignoring them. They took this candid photo, I really like it, it seems very natural.
The mangroves are not all about searching for big butt lizards. Inside this Natural reserve there are more than 240 bird species! We were able to spot a few. You can also find manatees on these rivers but I was resigned to even search for them. They are only spotted very early in the morning and far away from our route so I didn´t even waste my breath to try looking for them.
The Fauna in the Salted River
This bird is called the Jacana, the female lays the eggs and the male takes care of them while the female goes out and has some fun with other males, usually four or five other males. The locals call this species the prostitute bird and it couldn´t be more accurater – or funnier. I have a strong feeling that on this video I captured the male and the chicks.
Step by step I am getting better at taking photos! Of course, I am no expert but I think I am starting to get the hang of it. I caught some birds at mid flying.
We kept going through the river when the guide stopped the motor completely and took his binoculars and I immediately knew he saw something. My heart started to beat faste and I turned on my camera – I know, rookie mistake to have it turned off – and while the boat was going forward just by momentum, I saw it. A baby croc, no more than a feet long.
Can you see it? It is right there, take a closer look.
I wish I had better pictures to show you but my camera lens is the one that comes with the camera thus it is not the best one. I am starting to think the first thing I will buy with my steemit earnings is going to be a decent lens with a good zoom-in function.
Well, it was a good start, we still had like one hour to explore and a spotting a baby means the mom has to be around right? We just have to keep searching.
I knew it was going to be like this, for me this was already a win. so many birds, beautiful landscapes, some good pictures and a baby croc. And we still have some time to left! Let´s keep going deeper!
The cherry on top.
I knew there were monkeys on the reserve but I didn´t think they would be so close to the river. I thought they only came to drink some water and then left to the deeper jungle part. I was mistaken. So mistaken I can practically put a doofus label on my forehead and I would be ok with it. Ahh, they say ignorance is bliss huh?
Again, I am sorry for the quality of the pictures but I refuse to get pictures from the web. If I am writing about my experience I am only going to use my own visual aids. People can do whatever they want with their posts, I prefer to use my low quality pics than some random image from a random website. for me that would be cheating.
Here is a spider monkey chilling in the tree tops. It is right in the center of the picture. Laying down on a tree with its tail and arms hanging from the branch.
In here you can see a whitefaced monkey. We got so close my pictures have better quality! You can see it perfectly! I told you, my photographic skills are getting better, at least now I am centering correctly the picture and getting what I want to photograph right in the middle 😀
Finally we stumbled with some howling monkeys above us. I could only take one nitid picture but I recorded some form of communication between Daniela and the monkeys.
I feel so happy I got this photographs! My day was complete. I couldn´t be more convinced I want a better camera lens in the future. But my day was already completed. I can go home now and I won´t have a problem sleeping thinking I could have done something else.
Here is Melissa and Daniela on very Shallow water:
We were running out of time and we decided to stop searching for crocodiles and head to were the river meets the ocean. The guide told me there was a spot where you can swim and search for clams. There has only been two croc attacks in that place so I went for it. I love diving with or without equipment and this was just a 6 ft deep zone – it can get to 25 in some parts – and I got a good loot which I ended up throwing to the river. I just got a picture as trophy, I dont need them and they are alive, why kill them?
We reached the end of the river. It was getting late but we convinced the local guide to stay there for a few minutes. I was able to get this picture.
In the end and for the second time in a row I wasn´t able to see a full size crocodile in its natural habitat. Maybe it is not meant to be. Maybe that experience I had in Sian Ka´an, Souteastern Mexico, was one in a lifetime… Here it is in case you are wondering how it was… This was taken with my GoPro around 1 year ago.