Octopus Sanctuary Trip Report


We spent this morning at the Laguna Negra octopus sanctuary, hacking through the jungle behind our local guide. The Laguna Negra villagers looked toward octopus tourism in the late 1960’s when the market for chicle gum was drying out. The central Yucatan jungle is home to twelve subspecies of octopus arboris, all of them now endangered or threatened. Four of the subspecies have been found within the sanctuary itself, and all village adults take shifts on armed patrol, discouraging poachers seeking meat and leather.

Our guide told us a (wonderful, possibly apocryphal) story of a school of octopodes imitating a sleeping adult spider monkey and then swarming and devouring the hapless ocelot who tried to prey on the monkey.

We had just about given up hope of seeing the elusive creatures when our guide motioned for us to stop. We stood breathless and listened to the cracking of branches and then caught a fleeting glimpse of something before whatever it was disappeared in a blurry cloud of diffracting ink.

Photo: Me, uneasily trying on black-market octopus-leather cap at one of the ubiquitous folkloric-craft stands on the road to Valladolid.

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