How To Survive An Iguana Bite

As Told By Logan Roberts

Photos by Greg Dini, Austin Coit, Lawson Builder


First thing’s first. If you follow the number one rule to surviving an Iguana bite, you can skip all the other steps.


It’s that easy.

After a big day chasing permit we retired to the dock for a few cold ones and some fresh fruit. We were warned what would happen next. Our guide, Alex, told us that everyday at 3:30 on the dot, a few rather large iguanas would venture down from their hideaways in the mangrove trees to see what all the fuss was about and try to scrounge up a few stray pieces of watermelon.

The Culprit. Photo by Greg Dini.

The alpha of this reptilian crew had his eye on Josh’s chunk of watermelon and was creeping ever closer. Of course, being the older and slower version of myself, Josh wanted to give it to him on a stick. Now me, being the kind-hearted and lizard-embracing guy that I am — plus the ever-present heckling of the crowd behind me — I said I’d feed him by hand. And that, friends, is where it went down hill…

Rule #1: NEVER succumb to your friends' heckling and never feed the locals.

And by locals, I mean the 4 foot long lizard dragons they're calling iguanas. I underestimated the speed and lunge capabilities of this old iguana as I reached down to share my ripe bounty from the boat cooler. Before I could yank my right hand away, it was farther down the lizard’s mouth than anticipated!  I immediately jerked my hand back and quickly realized my finger tip was hanging on by a thread and two other fingers had deep cuts as well.

Rule #2: If you do get bit, you better be near a coconut tree.

As I bled profusely, our local driver and all around cool dude, dashed into the trees and came back with the fibers from a coconut tree leaf sheath (the fibrous, stringy part near the top — yes we looked that up). He packed the wounds with this material which helped stop the bleeding quickly.

Rule #3: Go to the Hospital

So, the coconut sheath trick is great when a group of iguanas attack you on a desert island. But, if you’re anywhere near civilization, it’s probably best just to go ahead and go to the hospital. We loaded up into the Lodge’s modified Toyota Land Cruisers and sped through town like we were in a makeshift, open-air ambulance.

Pro Tip: Don’t take the rabies shot. It hurts. and they don't have rabies.

Rule #4: Don’t tell the locals you were bit by an Iguana

This isn’t necessarily a firm “rule”, but you’re guaranteed to get laughed at. A lot. By the doctors, the nurses administering your shots, the security guards, or in our case, an expat explorer with a thirst for Belekin beer and a hankering for conversation. On the flip side, I did get a machete from him to gain my retribution on King Iguana. Unfortunately, barbecued iguana wasn’t going to be on the menu this trip.

Josh holds our prized possession from the trip.

The man who gave us the machete.

Rule #5: Pour a strong drink.

Back at the lodge, the barkeep recommended his special pina colada with a heavy floater to lift my spirits after a rough afternoon. And a shot of “Jaguar Piz” to boot.

Greg Dini and Josh Boyles cheers to my quick recovery or imminent demise. One of the two.

Rule #6: Get rid of those bad stitches.

Now this one really depends on location. For example, if you get bit by an iguana in the Florida Keys then by all means go get those stitches. But, if you get bit by an iguana in Punta Gorda, Belize, maybe the stitches at the day clinic aren’t the right move. Hindsight is 20/20, but big and nasty blue stitches in your finger aren’t conducive to easy fly rod casting. Lucky for me, Dr. Josh Boyles was with us. After just a few too many Piña Coladas for me and a few Makers Marks for Josh, we sat up the mobile clinic and removed those pesky stitches.

Better safe than sorry...

The ever-present professional.

From here on out it was more fishing and much, much less iguanas for me. And while I never did get that Iguana back, at least there’s a mighty fine machete hanging in the office to commemorate the experience.