the Cuero y Salado
As we paddle the mangrove-lined waterway, I spot a fisherman who looks like he's whirling a sizable silver fish around his tiny dugout--a jumping tarpon of about 10 to 15 pounds on a handline.
He handily lands the fish, rebaits with a small sardine, throws out his line and in a matter of minutes hooks another. Jorge knows the fellow, so we paddle over.
He tells me that tarpon as well as snook teem in the river. The largest known tarpon ever taken was 86 pounds; the largest snook, 35 pounds.
Yet no one but locals seem to be aware of their existence. I'm told no tourists come to fish. They'd be more than welcome; they just don't come.
Hearing about the tarpon and snook and wondering what else might be swimming nearby, my fingers start to twitch. Regrettably, I have no rod and handlining is not for me.
Continuing, we search for the normally common howler and white-faced monkeys, but they prove elusive. Hearing howlers deep in the forest, we attempt canoeing several creeks to find them but never get close.
A primate researcher working at the refuge says the monkey scarcity is because it's late spring: Females have new babies and the males are lying around not doing much of anything.
On the other hand, iridescent blue butterflies flit all along the shoreline, looking like blinking neon signs as they move from sun to shade. This whole coast is a butterfly paradise.
We track two large saltwater crocodiles and spot a host of different birds, even getting close enough in one shallow mangrove channel to photograph a pygmy kingfisher, a bird usually hard to locate.
To Part 4
To Part 2