Getting Friendly with the Iguanas of Roatán
For a variety of reasons, I'm usually the first person to turn the other way when it comes to tourist attractions that involve animals. However, a visit to Arch’s Iguana Farm and Marine Park on the little Caribbean island of Roatán offers a completely different experience from any animal sanctuary or zoo I’ve ever seen.
The park provides a home for thousands of free-roaming iguanas, a species that is now protected after almost being hunted to extinction on Roatán, where you can see them in their natural habitat, lazily hanging from tree branches and basking in the sunshine. A visit here will allow you to observe the iguanas up close (just be careful not to step on any!) and there are certain times throughout the day where you can hand feed the iguanas some large, leafy greens and gently touch their tough scaly backs - if you dare.
Arch’s Iguana Farm began over 20 years ago as a way to protect the iguanas, whose numbers were dwindling due to over hunting (iguana meat is the main ingredient in a popular stew cooked on the island). The owners of the farm began to collect and feed the iguanas, and provided them with a safe haven to reproduce and live freely without being hunted or confined to cages.
Each year, Arch’s reintroduces some of the iguanas back into the wild, in an effort to help keep Roatán’s ecosystem in balance.
The iguanas are the real stars of the place, but visitors can also view the other inhabitants of the property: a few curious monkeys, as well as some tarpon fish and lobsters that can be seen from the docks at the water’s edge.
Today, this family run business has morphed into one of the key tourist attractions on the island with plenty of visitors and cruise ship passengers stopping by daily (where else can you see and walk among 2000+ iguanas in one place?).
If you find yourself on the island of Roatán, whether you’re enjoying the beaches or discovering the diverse underwater world, I would recommend you take the time to visit the iguanas. It is neither a zoo nor a farm, and the family who runs the place continues to care for and feed the growing population of iguanas, relying on the price of admission to keep this iguana sanctuary going.
Important info: Arch’s Iguana Farm and Marine Park is located along the main road in French Key, just west of French Harbor. Admission is $8 USD per person. Open daily from 8 am to 4 pm.
English is the official language spoken on Roatán.