For a lot of people, spotting a green vine snake on the road, looking for all the world like a length of discarded ribbon, wouldn’t be a big deal. But when you come from a country without snakes, it’s a “Stop the car!” moment.
I was on my way to a town called Chame, about two hours south-west of Panama City, to see a community project which aims to improve livelihoods and preserve mangroves—the kind of win-win scenario that all mangrove-rich developing countries should be seeking.
With me were Rosabel Miro, director of the Panama Audubon Society, and two people from ANAM, the Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente or national environmental authority, who were running the project. We had just driven to the top of a hill with a panoramic overlook of the Chame mangroves. Or at least it would have been panoramic if low cloud hadn’t blocked much of the view.
I had missed seeing the snake on the way up (looking out the wrong window, as usual) but in between us going up and coming back down the obliging reptile returned to the warmth of the asphalt. And then it paused in the roadside grass to which it retreated, allowing me a shot of its elegant head.
Two other photo ops during the Chame journey:
1. A group of environmental volunteers holding banners and giving out posters and pamphlets on the Pan-American highway.
2. Stopping for cheese-filled empanadas and chicheme, a refreshing cold drink which is basically corn kernels floating in sweet, thickened milk.