CHASING THE MAP

The Magical Ceiba Tree On Vieques Island

When I first came to Vieques Island nearly 18 years ago, I visited the centuries old Ceiba tree. Everyone that you speak to here will suggest that its a must see at least once while you’re visiting.

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Well, I’ve been to the island 3 additional times since that first trip, and I’ve visited that beloved ancient Ceiba tree every time I’ve been here.

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You can find the Ceiba tree by traveling west along Route 200, past the airport and the Isla Nena Cafe. Keep going, and you’ll reach a curve and see the large Ceiba along with a sign on the right hand side. It’s before you reach Mosquito Pier.

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What’s the allure? The tree, plain and simple, is majestic. The exposed roots and the gigantic trunk pale in comparison to most trees that I’ve seen back home in New Hampshire. You feel incredibly small when you stand next to something so majestic.

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The Ceiba tree is a celebrity of sorts. It’s old, approximately 300-400 years old currently. Nobody is 100% sure. The tree has lots of history, often being referenced in legends and myths. The indigenous people, known as the Tianos, often utilized the wood of the Ceiba tree. They would hollow out the soft wood of the Ceiba to make canoes to use for transportation and fishing.

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There’s a small pavilion located near the tree, with informational posters about both the Ceiba tree and other ecological issues. It’s worth taking a look and doing some reading.

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Watch out for both the huge piles of horse poo (hard to miss, really) and the large ant mounds. You don’t want to step on either one of them, trust me. Let’s just say this time around I had to do some flip flop cleaning!

On this last visit to the Ceiba tree, I stood quietly and admired how truly grand it is. There was nobody else around. It’s the slow season right now (April-October), so the island is pretty quiet. It’s clear to see how this tree has been revered for so long, and thought of by many locals as sacred. I actually felt like I was experiencing something spiritual as I stood before it. I was glad to have come back to see it once again.

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As with anything in nature (I’m standing on my soapbox now), please respect the Ceiba Tree. Don’t climb on it. It’s not a jungle gym. Don’t carve “I love Bob” or “Suzy was here” into it with your pen knife. It’s a true gift and should be respected and revered. I’d like to see it around for many more centuries to come, even though we’ll all be long gone by then.

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