After our failed attempt at finding the perfect swimming beach we pack up and head east to try our luck at La Manzanilla, a small town on the other side of the Bay of Tenacatita.
Our time here is spent like many of the other beach stops along the coast, lying in hammocks, exploring the town, eating at the oceanside restaurants, and strolling on the beach with Malta. The sandy shore has become her favorite place to run...mostly after birds. Still, there's not much swimming because the water and undertow are unseasonably rough.
The area is home to over 300 American Crocodiles who used to have free rein of the area until Canadian and American expats began to move here and their dogs started to disappear. They then fenced them into a sanctuary. I use the word “fence” loosely, because large crocodile-sized gaps could be found every few meters. One evening while walking back to camp, Jenna and Josh had a late night stand off with two sets of large reptilian eyes that just happened to be on the wrong side of the fence.
One afternoon we decide to visit the sanctuary. Two inch gaps between the wooden slats of rickety foot bridges allow us to watch these massive creatures swimming just feet below, probably willing us to fall over the edge. Prehistoric hissing sounds can be heard from all directions making me feel like I'm on a Jurassic Park movie set. The foliage is dense, and large birds and lizards eye us from above. The animals seem to be thriving.
I'm having a blissful time until we reach the end where we find a ginormous croc in a tiny pen with what seems to be an oozing fly-covered abscess on his back, and two others crammed together in another tiny pool who are fighting with one another. My empathy for captive animals may be a little irrational and on the extreme side, I don't even like to see fish kept in tanks, so I storm off, racing past the manager giving him a dirty, sideways glance.
Later, when Josh and Jenna return to camp, they tell us they talked to the manager on the way out. He explained that the big croc kept escaping from the sanctuary and was notorious for snacking on pets. They wanted to exterminate him, so to stop this he had to promise to prevent him from escaping again, and that the "abscess" on his back was in fact a piece of fish that had fallen there during a feeding and they hadn't been able to get off. The other two were a different species of crocodile brought to him from another village. He attempted to put them with the others, but they were to territorial and always fighting. He wasn't happy about this forced incarceration, but could do nothing about it with out more funds from the city to improve their living situation.
Hmmm...maybe someday I'll learn not to make assumptions.