Journey to Isla Cabritos,
Where crocodiles and people are
It's a 20-minute ride to Isla Cabritos (Goat Island). which gives me the opportunity to appreciate how the lake represents just one of the region's many micro-climates. The Dominican southwest is the driest part of the country, but some sections along the coast do receive a fair amount of rain.
Precipitation at Lake Enriquillo is not common, and the lake has its own separate weather system. At the moment a line of cloud puffs is hanging over the lake well below mountain level. The cloud band, with the dark mass of the mountains behind them, reminds me of an approaching storm front.
Isla Cabritos, like much of the Barahona region, consists mostly of acacia trees and tall cactus. It's hard to believe there once was a cattle ranch in this desolate, dry spot, though the location would certainly keep rustlers away.
The ranger tells us that the crocodiles have moved to the other side of the island, a distance of 2.5 kilometers. We walk quickly across the island but find the beach deserted. A single solitary crocodile floats on the surface a few yards from shore. One look at us and the creature becomes a submarine. We never see it again.
Newly hatched baby crocodiles still practicing their swimming technique float everywhere in the shallows. The ranger splashes into the water to retrieve one.
I wait for Mama to come charging to the rescue but it's now every crocodile for itself. The ranger opens the baby croc's mouth to display its teeth, a nasty bunch of sharp needles. After being man-handled, will this be the one to start putting the bite on people?
This baby croc is lucky to be alive. After the ranger releases it, he uncovers two nests loaded with eggs. However, all the eggs are dead, apparently damaged by a recent rain; I'm told the eggs won't hatch properly unless they stay completely dry.
Reaching into the egg pile, the ranger gently removes a baby croc that almost survived. It is almost completely out of its shell and appears perfectly formed. Its eyes are closed, as if sleeping. Despite all its sharp teeth, the animal is unexpectedly appealing, but then all babies are cute.
On the walk back to the boat, I discover how brutal life on Isla Cabritos can be. Temperatures feel like they've reached a hundred degrees and I've already slurped down my only water.
The walk back is incredibly tiring, so bad that I consider joining the boatman for a swim when he wades out to retrieve our anchor.
But in the dark water I fear a crocodile might regard my white skin as a neon “Dine Here.” I'm content to let the spray of the waves cool me off.