It is hard to imagine lizards vying for cookies or even chunks of cooked chicken off a kebab, but that’s what a sign at Southern Cross commands. Perhaps someone has already been caught spoiling them.
The resort provides bicycles for its guests, and if you ride the main road back past the grocery store and down along the edge of the airfield and into the scrubby forest of the island's west end, you'll begin to encounter iguanas of serious size. It’s our last afternoon on Little Cayman, so my mother and I decide to do just that.
They sun on the blacktop and crash off into the undergrowth upon approach. The largest are larger than Pomeranians. Males have a tendency to fight one another in bursts of movement couched by ponderous stillness, much like sumo wrestlers. Their dry scaly sides swell and subside as they breathe, each intake/outtake seeming to require monumental effort. The sad truth is that the Lesser Caymans iguana is not, in fact, getting spoiled in any good way. Predation by feral dogs and cats, reckless driving, and competition by invasive species have pushed their numbers precipitously low. The largest population is here on Little Cayman at less than 2,000.
We turn onto a thin road leading north into a real estate development that shows absolutely no signs of development - only one house amid the brush, looking as if it has been there forever with its tin roof and a man and a woman drinking beer on the shaded stoop. We wave, they wave; it's too hot to be more social.
Where the road ends we stop and lean into our handlebars. I'm dripping and dizzy. An iguana smashes its way through the undergrowth and is silent. There are wild fig trees here. Little Cayman is the kind of place that one must take in carefully, watchfully. But the iguana, for all our watching now, does not reappear.
On our way back, the sky above the Booby Nature Reserve stirs, boobies and frigate birds wheeling and overlapping one other in flight. Both species tend to occupy the same turf, their lives symbiotic in some way. Both are clumsy on land and powerful in the air. When they dive to pick something off the water, it is with spectacular, Olympic accuracy.
And now our last afternoon has somehow become our last evening.
We’re sitting on our beach chairs in the dusk and I’ve got the juniper taste of gin at the back of my mouth. The cooling sky is thick with swallows. There must be a hundred small black bodies with the trademark tails and rounded heads, tucking and swooping in an area along the edge of the water. Never do we see two collide. Watching them is like watching life on the reef - it suspends all restless need. They quickly catch their fill of bugs and flicker away. Then a bat comes through. And there’s the dinner bell.
Already it’s time to go.