Meet the Neighborhood Alligator

I’ve been around Panama for about 6 years now, living here and working as a real estate broker. I’ve seen all manner of creatures in all sorts of places — capibaras in the jungle near Colon, coyotes prancing through fields, hummingbirds on my front porch, dolphins in the ocean, howler monkeys everywhere, an anteater crossing a coutnry road, even an ocelot dashing across the street in front of our house.

I’ve also seen things you really don’t want to see, like poisonous snakes and scorpions. (Warning to Panama visitors: always wear long pants and closed shoes when walking in fields and tall grass. That’s where snakes like to hang out.)

What I wasn’t prepared for was my encounter with a certain reptile a couple of months ago. I was showing an American couple some properties on the coast near Boca Chica. They were from New Jersey and were a bit nervous about being in the wilds of Panama. It was getting dark when I drove past my house on the ocean while I was taking them to see another property. Right there, in the middle of my driveway, at the top of a hill a few hundred meters from the ocean, was a strange looking thing standing on short stumpy legs, with eyes glinting in the near-darkness. Damned if it wasn’t a four foot caiman (small alligator).  Here I was trying to reassure the American visitors that Panama was a nice, safe place to live, when right in front of us was the first alligator I had ever seen in Panama. 

What on earth was he doing in the middle of my driveway, on the top of a hill, hundreds of meters from the ocean? Aren’t these guys supposed to live in swamps and mangroves, or at least near water? 

 He wasn’t moving, so I picked up a stick and (gently) poked him on the snout. Sure enough, he lunged at the stick. He wasn’t very big and didn’t look too dangerous. In fact, he was sort of cute — for an alligator. 

The Americans weren’t so charmed with the neighborhood reptile, but they bought a property in the area anyway. I assured them that it was only a small alligator, who probably wouldn’t eat anything larger than a 5 year old child,  and this was the first one I had seen in Panama.

Surely, I said with confidence, this would be their one and only encounter with an alligator around Boca Chica!

Well, a few weeks later, after they bought their new home, they called to say they had just seen another alligator (the same one?) on their lovely, private beach. They also told me that their 5 year old grand-daughter would be coming for a visit soon. 

Allen Rosen

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