Mona Island known as The Galápagos of the Caribbean



Iguana at Mona Island by Jerry Valentín
Iguana from Mona Island
by Jerry Valentin

 Sailing through canoes that were built by the Indian Taínos, they navigated the Caribbean and the Atlantic sea, finding a home in La Mona over 2,000 years before Columbus discovered America. They fell in love with the exotic island for its unique flora and fauna; giving thanks to Mother Nature for giving them such an enchanted sanctuary. They named it amona, meaning “what is in the middle” because they thought the key was an excellent place to trade goods with other Taínos that were coming from adjacent islands.

At Mona Island, they were able to live for over 200 years, surviving the Spanish colonization longer than in anywhere else. Rich in ancient history, three ceremonial sites have been found in the small peninsula, as well as several caves with significant hieroglyphs. Numerous scientists have mapped 58 caves; however, many more are still left to be discovered. Archeologists, historians and scientists from all over the world consider this piece of land a haven for ecological preservation.

Located only 41 miles off the west coast of Puerto Rico, 30 miles southwest of Isla Desecheo, and 38 miles off the eastern coast of Dominican Republic, Mona Island was an excellent place for the Spanish sailors to rest when Columbus discovered it in 1493. Because of its sufficient number of caves, our puertorrican pirate, Roberto Cofresí used this place as a hide-out, following other pirates. A legend claims that valuable treasures from the pirates are still hidden in some of those secluded caves.

Considered the most important ecosystem of the Caribbean, La Mona is also known as The Galápagos of the Caribbean. Famous for its endemic species; the 6.77 miles long and 4.24 miles is a natural reserve of 13,000 acres. The only population is the staff of the Department of the Natural Resources; continuously visiting adventurers who love to scuba dive, fish or even explore the island. A permit must be obtained to go camping, and the staying is restricted to no more than three days.

Regardless of its ongoing visits by geologists, biologists, ecologists and even astrologers; La Mona is a very dangerous place. Not only its waves and turbulent currents are dangerous, but its venomous fruits and plants, lethal scorpions and original vegetation can be very hazardous. Getting lost is a high risk; therefore, it is required to visit the caverns with a guide and camping is only allowed on the three beaches on the south and southwest of the island.

Since the Spanish colonization, a fertilizer called guano became a very lucrative business, importing to different parts of the world big productions of this compost, made of excrement of bats, birds, and minerals. When United Sates took possession of Puerto Rico in 1898, other miners of guano from other countries were able to make and sell them at a lower price, deciding the government of Puerto Rico in 1917 to protect the island from being exploited.

In the secluded and wild peninsula that some people call the Jurassic Park of Puerto Rico, nature becomes alive in different forms and sounds. During the twilight, the sun is transformed into a glittering, glowing ball that raves in the horizon of the island with the melody of the fauna. At night, the sky launches the most incredible stellar show, beaming each star with more intensity than anywhere else.

The melody of the coquí from La Mona, sounding like a raindrop, is in the background, twirling with the echoes of rare birds. A biosphere of marine life visits the shoreline. Cliffs with a depth of over 1,000 feet shelter hundreds of unusual species of fish and seaweed. While dolphins blissfully soar through the ocean waves, giant iguanas gathered with endemic lizards and endangered Carey turtles to welcome the whales into the bizarre world of wonder and awe.

Mona Island
Mona Island

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