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The kayak is such an inspiring catalyst of exploration in my life. A kayak has transported me through numerous once-in-a-lifetime experiences including traversing mesmerizing sea caves off the Isle of Skye in Scotland, paddling with porpoises around Tybee Island in Georgia, and paddling next to an aircraft carrier in Charleston Harbor in South Carolina. I’d like to tell you a story about a recent trip I had on a sit-on-top kayak in Puerto Rico.

While in Puerto Rico for the annual conference of ACA State Directors, I had a wonderful opportunity to explore Lake Loíza with a group of fellow kayakers and SUP paddlers. Prior to the trip, it had been mentioned to me that our group would be doing some “iguana watching” during the trip. Honestly, I understood this comment to be a joke, as I had never heard of anyone “iguana watching” and especially not via kayak. Most wildlife enthusiast kayakers that I knew would pursue bird-watching.

Well….I was wrong. There is such a thing as iguana watching and it provided me with a thrilling memory. As I was paddling along the banks of Lake Loíza, I heard a “Hey! Check this out.” A few sweep strokes and forward strokes later and I was staring at a tall tree. I am not a dendrologist (science of wood plants) and I couldn’t figure out what the hype was all about. Then I saw it. A big it. Perched on a branch of the tree behind some foliage was a very large iguana.

Several photographs later and our group was back on the move. A short moment later, from across the water someone exclaims, “Here! Here!” I was starting to jump to conclusions but I navigated across the water to rendezvous with the excited paddler. I quickly glanced at the tree limbs and gazed at another large iguana in clear view. And a few feet above it was ANOTHER iguana!

Then a special moment happened. I gave into the hype and actively sought to find reptiles lurching in the trees. I honored Principle 6 of Leave No Trace (Respect Wildlife) by doing my best to maintain distance and to not disturb any wildlife. Until a lizard climbed aboard my sit-on-top kayak and perched on my PFD (personal flotation device). This little dude was excited to try out kayaking, so I (hopefully) provided the lizard a thrilling journey from the crow’s nest (my shoulder) and placed him back on dry land, safe and sound.

Kayaking has had such an incredible influence on my life and the way I interact with nature. Iguana watching in Puerto Rico is a memory that I’ll reflect on for years to come. I hope that if any of you find yourself in Puerto Rico, that you’ll hop in a kayak and say hello to my iguana friends.