Critters of Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic

Iguana mural in Las Terrenas

Critters! Critters! Critters! I really love all kinds of animals. While staying in the city of Playa del Carmen, México, I missed out on a lot of the wildlife that disappears when concrete takes over. On the flip side of that, there were fewer cockroaches and millipedes making their way into my domicile. I’m willing to put up with some of the less savory critters to see more of the fun kind.

So many birds!

I love all kinds of birds and have actually gone on one of those bird-watching tours where everyone has a list of birds and binoculars. It was completely unplanned as I just showed up alone to a cactus museum and got invited along the tour for free, and even loaned a set of binoculars when someone noticed I had “forgotten” mine. I had a fantastic time. Now when I spot unusual birds, I’m quite thrilled and also disappointed that I don’t have a checklist… or binoculars!

Rails in lagoon
Finally got a good picture of these rails. They scream like nobody’s business!

My favorite so far here is the rail. It’s this strange duck-looking creature with long legs and sandpiper feet. They float around in the brackish water of the apartment complex’s lagoon, making these strange screaming noises. It looks like it’s all pretty and wants its picture taken, but the second you pull out a phone, it books it under cover. I keep trying!

The skies around here have the usual Caribbean flying critters such as the magnificent frigatebird, the black vulture, swarms of sandpipers, so so many colorful butterflies in all kinds of colors, dragonflies, woodpeckers, egrets, ospreys, swallows, giant flying beetles, and the occasional bat at dusk. It’s amazing here. I especially love the bats! Eat all the disease-carrying mosquitos! That’s the problem with trying to view bats… they only come out when the mozzies do.

Steet dog living on the beach
This doggo living her best life.

All the ants… again

Ants are just ridiculous (and slightly annoying) creatures. The tiny sugar ants here fascinate me to no end. When I first got here, I had about four different colonies in the apartment. The very best way to get rid of ants is to stop feeding them. That means mopping up spills, doing the dishes, putting trash in the fridge or freezer until it goes outside, all the cleaning. I managed to get rid of all the ants in my last apartment, so I’m totally up for the challenge!

These ants are weird. I have table ants that literally live in the space between my wooden table boards. They are only interested in water and meat. You can leave bananas or bread right in front of them and they don’t care. The second you turn your back on a glass of water… it’s on! You will have a line of ants up the glass and into the drink. Must deprive them of water so they move to the neighbors’ place!

Sugar ants on a rum bottle
I used this rum bottle to hold drinking water and my table ants found it! They are very small.

The ants that live by the sink care nothing about water. All they want is meat. You are meat. These bite your delicate fleshy bits. Especially if they have spotted a misplaced piece of chicken and you try to clean it up. I’m not a fan. When I first arrived, I had a colony of ants all over my suitcase. I think someone spilled soda or something on the outside because the ants were gone once they had carried the substance to wherever they live. I haven’t seen them since.

The weirdest of all my ants is the lock-box ants. I spotted these crazy buggers moving their eggs from inside the wood of my dresser to my lock-box. Why? Well, it looks like one bolt that attaches the lock-box to the wall might… just might… head into the neighbors’ unit. They were packing up and heading out. Sorry, neighbors! They stopped by for a quick peek into my first-aid kit before they left. Maybe for the adhesive on the bandages? Silly ants.


I have a love/hate relationship with the street dogs and cats. Okay, I have a hate relationship with the cats because they kill things (like birds) for the fun of it and should be inside at all times. But they are still cute… sigh. As far as the dogs, they are an invasive species, so they should be in a human home. But who wants to be stuck inside when you can live on the beach with all your friends and eat discarded pizza crusts?

I’m glad that most of the street dogs appear healthy and well fed, and some are even spayed/neutered. I have a special place in my heart for dogs, but I no longer want or can own one. However, I am very grateful to all the skritches I’m able to give to the super friendly dogs who live around here. It makes me happy to see more dogs on the beach than children… ‘cause kids are gross.

Street crab
Street crab. The dogs don’t mess with these guys!

There are loads of people here who adopt the dogs. The occasional visitor even arranges a flight back home for their newly adopted friend. I’ve seen people walking all kinds of doggies on leashes. Some even pick up the poop that is produced. I’m slightly worried about hookworm, as you can get it from walking barefoot on soiled soil/sand. Just another one of the many tropical diseases to watch out for.

The lagoon

The apartment in which I am staying is on this gorgeous track of land, which also contains a large lagoon. There are so many critters within and around the lagoon that I can’t even name. It’s such a fascinating place for lizards, fishes, turtles, birds. My companion finally identified at least one of the fish as a flathead mullet. How cool is that!?! These fish jump at shadows and bugs and scare the crap out of me as I walk past. Shark! Tarpon! Crocodile! Nope.

Lagoon turtle
My turtle!

The grounds near the lagoon are covered with all kinds of holes. You walk past these holes and you will spot creatures quickly vanish from within. Crabs? Iguanas? Weird land fish I’ve never heard of? I’m pretty sure they are crabs. I’ve only managed to get a few pictures of land crabs out for a stroll. The street dogs surely leave them alone… beware the pinchers!

All kinds of lizards also make this lagoon their home. Plus, there is this fabulous river-turtle who suns itself on some logs in the middle of one pond. Every day, I do a long exaggerated search for ‘my’ turtle. Stop! I need a picture of my turtle. Unfortunately, that sucker is really hard to photograph as it blends with the wood it’s sitting on. And the grounds near the lagoon are unstable because of the aforementioned holes, so it’s hard to get very close. But… for my blog!

Cows and goats and horses

There I was… walking along the only road that connects my apartment complex with the city of Las Terrenas, when I came upon some cows. What? It looked like they had escaped from somewhere and busted down a fence to get to the pasture within. One calf had wandered away from the rest and was thoroughly enjoying a pasture one fence over. Do I need to let someone know about this?

I continued on my trek. Then, while walking in town back from the grocery store, I notice a bunch of goats chilling in what must have been a planned development that didn’t make it to the concrete pouring stage. Nature will take over. Looks like they are using the goats to re-clear the land for future development. Baby goats are the cutest!

Cows in pasture

I haven’t seen any horses yet, but I’ve heard they’re around. And I’ve seen… evidence of them. They use horses to herd cattle and to shepherd tourists to the fancy waterfalls around here. Unfortunately, I don’t hear good things about how these horses get treated, so I would avoid the tours if I were you. I’m not a fan of using horses for anything but being horses, but what do I know? Be free, my friends!

Click here for other adventures with critters.

Sailor’s eyeballs

Yup. You heard me. Sailor’s eyeballs, a.k.a. bubble algae or sea grape. These rare marble-looking algae wash up on shore after storms in a variety of sizes and colors. They are one of the largest single-celled organisms, possibly the largest, and are so cool to find. To maintain a good walking posture, you are not supposed to look down while hiking. Nope. I’m not stepping on one of these critters. Don’t want that on my conscience. Also, there is the occasional jelly. I don’t want to step on one of those either.

Sailor's eyeboll
Sailor’s eyeball next to my toes. P.S. I did not cut off my pinky toe… that’s called ‘Queen’s Feet’ and I’m beautiful just the way I am!

What I want on my conscience is ecotourism! Whale watching! I came here during humpback whale calving season and I’m determined to go on a tour. They travel all the way here to the warm Caribbean waters to have some babies. Whale babies! Yes, please. They aren’t here yet, but I’ve heard reported sightings as they travel down the Florida coast. I’m hoping to see some soon.

Whales aren’t the only things migrating… my apartment has this large hole in the front door on the bottom. When I got here, I would seal it off for the night to avoid the occasional millipede who would wander in. Then I spotted one of my house geckos (I love house geckos!) using this hole to leave for the night. Must keep clear for house geckos! However, now I also get millipedes. I can’t win.

Butterfly in Las Terrenas
Check out this butterfly! Just one of many.

Last… and certainly least in my list of tropical critters in Las Terrenas are the cockroaches. I feel like they have become accustomed to my midnight pee schedule because if I differ by even an hour… there they are in the middle of my bathroom, giving me the stink-eye. We do a little standoff. I pretend not to notice them. They pretend not to notice me. We all slink back to where we belong for the night. It’s all good.

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1 Comment

  1. You are going to miss wild life here, we have seagulls, doves, starfish, cats and dogs, horses and goats and sheep, but not a lot else that you’ll see. The good side is we also don’t have a lot of bugs.

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