Wild Iguana Hunting in Hopkins, Belize
“Dude! You gotta see this video!” She shoves her camera in front of my face and hits Play. I watch an iguana head, recently separated from its body, open and close his mouth several times before going still.
It was a lot to take in 2.5 seconds post-nap.
The next day we head down to the beach for a lazy day of soaking up the Vit D and having a couple beers.
“You eating any iguana today?” my friend asks the bartender. So this is where she found the iguana head.
He laughs. “Not unless you wanna try it.”
“How much does a plate of iguana cost?” she asks, half joking.
“Twenty-five Belize a plate. Comes with two sides.”
I’m dying. I really like to try new things in general, but I’m not really an adventurous eater. Sushi is as wild as it gets for me. And we’re talking California roll-type sushi, not even the weird stuff.
“Just let me know by 2:00 if you want to try it.”
“Why do we have to let you know by 2:00?”
“That will give us time to catch the iguana.”
We’re full of questions now. “How do you catch an iguana?”
“You just climb the tree and shake it. Then someone catches it or the dogs will get it.”
“You have iguana hunting dogs?!”
Things were quickly spiraling out of control.
“If we get the meal, will you take us with you??!” my friend blurts out.
The man chuckled. “You girls want to go iguana hunting?”
Honestly I didn’t know if I wanted to go iguana hunting. I didn’t even know if I could stomach eating it. This was all happening so fast.
Amused by our curiosity, he agreed to take us hunting. We had officially signed up for the iguana dinner and our 25 Belize dollars would now include a guided iguana hunting excursion through the jungles of Belize. You won’t find this shit in Lonely Planet.
After a few hours on the beach, we make our way back to the hostel. We have a couple hours to prepare for iguana hunting, though of course, we have no idea what to prepare for.
There is a new girl in the dorm when we arrive and we introduce ourselves. She overhears our iguana banter and before you know it, we tell her about our afternoon plans.
“You want to come iguana hunting with us?”
And then there were four.
We head back to the beach bar at 1:30 to meet up with the iguana hunting crew.
And what a crew they are.
There are four humans and three iguana hunting dogs already in the car. The two teenage boys move to the back with the dogs to make room for the four girls. We all squish in: eight humans and three dogs.
We pull over after about 20 minutes. We slowly walk up and down a path, but no one spots any iguanas. We drive to a second location near a banana plantation. We (okay, the guys) spot two iguanas, but they are on the other side of a creek, so we move on. We’ve been iguana hunting for almost two hours now and the novelty is starting to wear off.
We’re driving down another road, and from the back of the car, one of the teenage boys yells out that he sees one. Jackpot! The car is popped into reverse and we pull over. There. Up high in a tree, is dinner.
The guys head into the bushes. We see the tree shake a bit, but our little friend clings tightly to his branch. One of the boys climbs a bit higher and gives it a good shake. The iguana falls and is presumably (I can’t see from my viewpoint) caught by the other kid. Success is ours!*
Sort of. It’s a male iguana. We can eat it, but the females are full of tasty eggs this time of year. We need to catch a female. Obviously.
We take him with us and start to drive again. We are not done yet.
A minute down the road, we run into a group of boys catching iguanas. They have tons. Each kid has a backpack full of iguanas. It’s the strangest sight. We end up buying a female off them in case we don’t catch our own. It seems, however, that this might be a hot spot.
And sure enough, as soon as we buy an iguana off the kids and hit the road again, the guy in the passenger seats lets out a yell. Another iguana sighting.
We all pile out of the car. “Right there,” he points into the greenery.
Uh huh. We can’t see a thing.
“She’s more brown. You can only see the head.”
Eventually we see the iguana too. But how the hell he was able to see that from a moving vehicle is incomprehensible to us. Again, they disappear into the bushes and come out with an iguana: this time, a female.
They actually decide to let the male go at this point because now, just like the kids, we have too many iguanas. We have two plump females and our iguana outing has officially been a success.
Here is a ridiculous iguana hunting video that I made for your viewing pleasure… if you like that sort of thing.
WARNING: Video contains blood, guts, and yes, a not-connected-to-its-body, moving iguana head. :-O
After watching them slaughter the gals and rip the skin from their still-writhing bodies, we headed back to the hostel. We needed to change into warmer clothes, and I don’t know about anyone else, but I needed a minute to process all that I had just seen.
We came back an hour later and our lovely iguana-hunting host assured us that dinner was almost ready. We all ordered a beer and picked our two sides (garlic potatoes and seasonal veggies for me) and voila! a stewed-for-hours, seasoned-to-perfection, delicious iguana dinner.
* Me taking credit for things I didn’t actually do.
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