Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Beach (Puerto Angel, Huatulco, Mazunte)

 Last week, we took a quick three-day trip out to the coast. Oaxaca city is not on the coast, it is on a high plateau inside a giant ring of mountains in the middle of the state. To get to the coast, you have to drive about 250 kilometers through those mountains. The road, while a lot better paved than it was fifteen years ago, is still just as twisty as ever. The drive takes about six hours, and somebody usually throws up. Every time I make that drive, I wonder anew how much it would cost to fly.

Even so, the beach is worth the trip. On this trip, we visited a few old favorite places and a few places we had never seen before. Especially, the short stretch of beachfront road between Puerto Angel and Mazunte was wonderful. Mazunte is home to the Sea Turtle museum, which we arrived at a few minutes after closing time. Homero bribed the guard to let us take a quick run through. A couple miles further up the coast, we went to see the crocodile hatchery.

 In fact it's much more than a crocodile hatchery - it's a small animal sanctuary built and organized by the local villagers without government assistance. We took a rowboat through a mangrove swamp, where there were many crocodiles (actually I believe they are American Alligators, but I'm not sure.) and many colorful iguanas in the trees. On a small island in the swamp the locals have built a little zoo - here they bring injured wildlife, or animals confiscated from the illegal pet trade and nurse them back to health and rerelease them into the wild. A few animals cannot be rehabilitated and are on the island for life, like a very mischievous spider monkey. Other animals we saw here were a river otter, a coati (looks like a cross between a raccoon and an anteater), and several small, short haired deer. They call them white-tailed deer but they are actually a different, tropical species.

Whenever the locals come across a sea-turtle nest, they move it to the sanctuary to hatch in safety. There are still plenty of people in Mexico who hunt nests to eat the eggs, and of course there are the dangers of other predators, extreme high tides, and vehicles driving over the nests. We were lucky enough to arrive on a day that a nest had hatched. In the evening, an old man brought a milk crate full of 92 newborn baby gulf turtles down to the beach, and invited us all (about twelve tourists from four different countries) to take a handful of turtles and set them down facing the waves. Over the next hour, the little things made their way slowly into the water, repeatedly getting washed back up onto the beach, often upside down. It was heart-stopping. I couldn't stand the suspense - I wanted to pick them all up and chuck them into the water. As the sun went down, that's what we eventually did wuith the dozen or so who didn't make it on their own. 

Sunset on the beach near Mazunte. 

Ivory enjoys the sand.

On our last day, we went to our favorite beach for snorkeling, La Entrega in Hualtulco. The waters are clear and there is plenty of coral and many many colorful fish. The coral looks to have been through a pretty severe bleaching event since the last time I was there, though. I hope it recovers. Huatulco is the quintessential Mexican beach town, and offers all the things you expect to find on the beach, including strolling ladies who will braid your hair (or your children's hair) for 100 pesos. Paloma and Hope took advantage of this service. I did not. 

I hope we go back to the coast again while we are here. There is so much more to see than I was aware of. There are ruins, caves, jungle tours on horses, waterfalls, and much more. 


  1. Wonderful pictures. I send waves of friendly envy your way from southern New England.

  2. Wow! The girls look beautiful, the turtles are awesome, and thank god you brought a native who knew to bribe the guard! Love to you all!

  3. A week early for the Mazunte Jazz Festival. We saw Lila Downs on Sunday - great!