Cuban Iguana, Cyclura nubila

Christine DeMerchant's Photographs of Cuban Iguanas

Cuban iguana at Bucanero

I was staying at the Bucanero resort near Santiago da Cuba and took photos of the fabulous iguanas that live there. This is a quiet resort that is located near the Maestra mountains in a nature preserve.

The Iguanas live in the countless caves that back the resort. They forage on various plants. I saw them eat leaves, the fruit of a tree, grass, and of course hand outs from the tourists. They showed a marked preference for french fries and bread. Fruit and salad was tasted with a long pink tongue and often refused. They also ate flies and bees (there was a hive in the hills).

Its hard not to imagine that you are facing a dinosaur or a small dragon. They are strangely dignified and engaging. I've seen them move extremely quickly. In particular in the afternoon when they had warmed up they were lightning fast. These Iguanas are excellent climbers and can be spotted scrambling up and down the cliffs, or foraging in the trees. I did not hear any particular noise from them except a sort of hiss. They have a funny bobbing of the head. It might be communication or something to do with their eyesight. My grandchildren have bearded dragons that sort of wave around as a dominance related gesture. They seem to see quite well but not directly in front of their nose. When they are looking at you they usually do so from the side.

I touched one of the big ones while he was busy with some treat. He closed his eyes and stretched his neck while I scratched behind his ears and along his neck. He felt like sandpaper except that the spines along his back are rubbery and not hard at all. Also I got bitten offering a french fry. They have a powerful bite and skin was broken on both side of my finger. He wanted the fry faster than I could toss it to him. They are good at catching handouts on the fly! I don't think they are particularly aggressive, just eager for the fries.

Here is a nice article in Wikipedia about the Cuban Iguana, Cyclura nubila

Cuban iguana at Bucanero in tree Iguana tracks

I watched this iguana go up a tree. It took him only a few seconds to get up about 10 feet. He was interested in the berries. I tasted one, it was fairly bland but a bit sweet. He was also snatching flies.

Big pink mouth detail of iguana head

You can see the inside of the mouth. He has a long tongue and the sides of his mouth is very hard and horny. They are said to have a "third eye" on the top of their head. It can perceive light but not an actual image.

Since they can't see very well directly up front, I guess a third eye is useful.

On the beach Iguana has red eye

There is quite a range of colours. Some of the smaller ones were quite green. Others were very grey brown. A couple had very colourful faces with blue green jaws and bright red eyes. The rings on the tails also varied quite alot.

cuban iguana
When they walk or run their claws make a clicky noise. palm fruit

The ear is clearly visible on the bottom Iguana. The larger one is about 3 feet long. They are surprisingly large.