I’m backtracking a bit, as it has proven hard to keep up with blogging about my adventures in the past month. I’ve already written about the flora and the butterflies I encountered in Tikal, but what I really came here to see, apart from the incredible ruins of a long lost Mayan dynasty, of course, was the wildlife.
Tikal is home to a wealth of wildlife, and I was lucky enough to encounter quite a few animals that I had never seen before. Interestingly enough, although I did the sunset and sunrise tours through the park and saw several furry creatures along the way, the majority of my encounters happened when I was wandering about on my own outside the boundaries of the park, or sitting on the deck of my jungle bungalow.
The first chap I encountered the minute I walked out my door, scuffling around looking for food. The white-nosed coati is a member of the racoon family – they call it a Pizote in Tikal.
Tikal is filled with busy little leaf-cutter ants, who risk life and limb scurrying across pathways carrying chunks of leaf so big you often can’t see the ants. It looks like a row of leaves moving with military precision down the tree trunks and across the path, disappearing off into the undergrowth.
All manner of colourful birds swoop by you as you’re walking and, very occasionally, they perch on a branch so you can get a photograph.
Ambling around the outskirts of the park, I heard a rustle in the bushes, and out popped an oscellated turkey, feathers glistening in the sun.
As I reached for my camera, a whole group of them emerged from the undergrowth and started to wander off in the opposite direction, blissfully unaware of my presence.
As I followed them stealthily, taking photos, one poor little turkey who’d been late getting out of the bushes popped out behind me and, startled to death by my presence and terrified of being left behind by his friends, made the brave decision to run frantically by me and catch up with the rest of the gang. He looked so comical I actually laughed out loud.
And then there were the spider monkeys, cartwheeling around the treetops near the Plaza of the Seven Temples.
Back at my bungalow, the air filled with bright orange dragonflies, I caught sight of this cheeky agouti on several occasions, sneaking guiltily across the grass, obviously up to no good. Every time he (or she – I didn’t ask) crossed, he’d glance over at me with a look that said ‘if anyone asks, you saw nothing’. I learned that their genus name, Dasyprocta, is Greek for fuzzy bottom- my first photo shows just how appropriate that is.
I didn’t see jaguars during my short visit to Tikal, but they are apparently notoriously shy – my tour guide Nixon said he’d only ever seen a jaguar once – and I didn’t see a single howler monkey, although I heard them as I sat on the top of Temple 4 and as I drifted off to sleep in my bungalow. No worries, it just means I have a reason to return, as if I needed one. I also didn’t see any crocodiles, although I admit I didn’t try too hard – the signs by the lakes were enough to encourage me to give them a wide berth.