The World of Wonder: Guatemala

It's mostly just spiders

June 28, 2016


Okay, it's not entirely spiders, but when you're as terrified of arachnids as I am, palm-sized spiders laying claim to your jungle hotel room's windows every night makes everything else seem a lot less important. Except the three-inch long scorpions - they definitely stay top of mind, too. 

During the day I've kept my eyes open for the iridescent green of the resplendent quetzal. Spotting one is considered a sign of good luck in Guatemala, which is not very surprising considering the country has named their currency after the bird. I'm currently in Lake Atitlan, a highland region in the country notable for its three volcanoes surrounding a choppy, cold lake, but not so much for its wildlife. Most tropical species find it too cold here to get by, so while they seek warmer climates I'll be content with what I have found hidden away in the jungle.


First, a jaguar! Oh wait no, a duck. This Muscovy duck and his harem to be precise. This adaptable black and white (or just black or just white) domesticated bird is known for its thick red wattle, adaptability to multiple climates, and for looking directly in my lens while I photograph it. It may not be a jaguar, but it certainly is a ham. Look at that face over there. It's like he wanted me to join his already impressive harem. Sorry buddy! Can't be tied down to a duck. 



Next we have the stray dog and cat population which might as well be wild. These animals are accustomed to life outdoors - most of them are not afforded anywhere near the luxuries that western pups and kits get, but manage to get by on table scraps and donated affection. The dogs all share a similar lab-ish/shepherd-ish visage...think of a look that could describe any mutt worldwide. I've seen a pained husky or two attempting to survive the afternoon warmth, grateful when the rains come in the late afternoon. The cats are like cats anywhere: aloof and entitled, albeit a bit skinnier and greasier. 


Did I mention the spiders? Because there are a lot of them and they seem to adore me (not that I blame them). Especially the big ones. I'm assured that their intent is to rid my cabana of mosquitos - which in fairness, do now own a great deal of my blood - but I'm convinced they are more interested in depriving me of sanity. I did take some shaky, headlamp-lit photos, but I'm intentionally neglecting to include them on behalf of others like me who would rather eat a whole fork than get these 8-legged beasts imprinted in their minds. Also, they're not very pretty spiders. Not that beauty is relevant to the work of a naturalist, but it's a great excuse to not look through photos of them. Readers should note that in the future, should I happen across any more photogenic arachnids, I will be overcoming my fears to share them. 

There have been loads of beautiful butterflies, especially monarchs. Little birds with beautiful songs flit about all day, calling to one another in a way that constantly reminds me I'm in the jungle. I even peeped into a small waterfall-fed stream to find a coffee-colored crab the size of a dungeness, but how it got there I have no idea. It didn't respond when I asked.

Fingers crossed a quetzal will make itself known to me before I leave Guatemala, otherwise I might have to share photos of my new spider friends instead.

Over and out,

Ali Wunderman

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