Today we set aside for hiking the Guánica Dry Forest. It is super-hot today, perfect for hiking in desert-like conditions! :^P
We were up and about early, found our trail, and so decided to do some exploring. We drove to the end of our road Rte-333 and found a little secluded beach that is (and Bobby agrees) the most beautiful we've seen yet. The water is about ten different shades of blue and we are bordered to the west by Punta Ballena Natural Reserve, which is lined by palm trees. This is what paradise looks like.
We didn't stay long and headed back to the trail into the dry forest. The dry forest is the second International Biospheric Reserve in PR, the first--of course--being El Yunque. It is said that only 1% of the dry forest that once covered the Earth now remains; the Guánica forest is one of the best examples of it.
We climbed to the top of the hill, which was 4 km round-trip. The dry forest is in layers, with dry scrub at the bottom--cacti, succulents, and low trees--and deciduous at the top. The dry forest receives only 35 inches of rain per year and lies on the leeward side of the mountains of Cordillera Central. To put htis into perspective, the mountains receive 15 feet of rain per year.
The hike was hot and strenuous uphill, but we were rewarded by some unique flowers, cacti, and about a dozen different kinds of butterflies. And uphill hikes are always rewarding because the second half is all downhill from there!
We stopped at a few other forest sites along Ret-333--most notably, an old Spanish lookout fort--then returned to Copamarina to rehydrate and cool off in the pool.
Then, we couldn't resist...and here we sit on our private beach alongside Punta Ballena; it is really like something out of a movie or a travel brochure. Bobby swam and I scavenged for shells. There are about a half-dozen people on the beach with us right now.
|The rocks at our "secret beach" at Punta Ballena.|
|The water splashing and surging over the rocks at the secret beach.|
|The Punta Ballena Reserve from afar; it was lined with literally dozens of palm trees...a true paradise!|
|A cactus in the Guánica Dry Forest.|
|Some sort of crazy-looking succulent tree in the Guánica Dry Forest.|
|Looking from the dry forest and down to the sea--quite a tempting panorama!|
|A little cactus-guy! He wants hugs!|
|More huggable plants in the dry forest.|
|Interestingly, we observed a broader array of flowers and butterflies in the dry forest than we did at El Yunque. Here is one...|
|A very mean-looking cactus, not suitable for use as a couch cushion.|
|This looks like aloe to me, although I'm not sure that aloe is native to the area. My (admittedly brief) research places it in Africa. (Wisdom on this matter is appreciated!)|
|At the top of the mountain. The shadow on the horizon is the sea; I like to imagine how the first explorers must have felt, cresting that hill and seeing the water in the near distance. What relief they must have felt! (Bobby and I felt relief too, though more for reaching the top of the mountain!)|
|The differences between vegetation at the top and bottom of the forest was astounding. These flowery shrubberies were all over the top of the mountain...and the butterflies loved them!|
|The top of the mountain is far more deciduous than the bottom, as you can see....|
|I don't know what these things are, but they were all over the lower part of the dry forest. I called them dry-forest telephone poles!|
|The palm trees of Punta Ballena, viewed from the dry forest. Note the waves breaking out to sea; Guánica is surrounded by a coral reef, which explains the lack of noticeable surf.|
|The sign on the road leading to our resort. Yes, it's a tsunami warning. o.O|
|The view from the road leading to our resort. I love the lonely little island!|
|This was our first sight of the sea, cresting the hill to our resort. The blue water nearly made us veer off the road for excitement!|
It is interesting to note that all of these beautiful views are taken from the Guánica Dry Forest!
|The old Spanish lookout tower in the dry forest.|
|Later, we couldn't resist returning to our secret beach....|