Snorkeling or crocodiles?

Santa María Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico
Monday, January 9, 2017

This morning we wake up to find ourselves in Huatulco, Mexico, on the ‘Pacific Riviera.’ (It is pronounced “wha-tool-co”) We’ve never been here before, actually never even heard of the place. It’s official name is “Bahias de Huatulco” or “Bays of Huatulco” because it is famous for having nine beautiful bays. You can reach five of the bays by road but for the other four, you need to have a boat.

Beautiful Huatulco Bay

We get up early this morning for two reasons: 1) Jeff needs to call the dining reservations number for the reservation for the six of us to have dinner together tonight and 2) we are going on a snorkeling excursion! Today we will snorkel in two of the bays reachable by boat.

Jeff successfully makes the reservations and we get ready for our excursion by putting on swimsuits, making sure we have all our gear and slathering ourselves with sunscreen. We rush down to our meeting place on the ship and find a bit of chaos. The wind is very strong so our snorkelling tour has been cancelled – what a bummer! In addition, there was a ‘bay boat and swim’ tour that was also cancelled. We can schedule a different tour but we have to do it immediately. We look at the two offerings that are still available and, on the fly, we choose an eco-tour that includes a crocodile sanctuary. Jeff asks the staff person when the tour is leaving and she tells him RIGHT NOW! We RUN up the four flights of stairs, I change clothes in record time, dump snorkeling stuff, grab hats and cameras and go running back to the disembarkation point. As we hit the pier, a staff person calls to us (We have little green buttons with the number 3 on them) and points to where the group has begun walking.

We make it, and easily because there is a 10 minute walk from the meeting point to our bus. There is a very elderly couple in our group and they bring up the very, very rear long after we’ve reached the bus.

Our guide, Hector, is interesting and tells us a lot about Huatulco.

Our eco-guide, Hecto

For example, the Mexican government plans to make Huatulco another Cancun-style resort destination and there are plans for hotels, roads, infrastructure, etc. We ride the bus for quite a while before arriving at Ventillana (which means “little window).  There is a rock formation in the sea that we can see from the coast and it looks like there is a little window in the rock. (My photo didn’t turn out very well, so use your imaginations!)

In this eco park the first thing we do is walk a little way to get to some large canoes. As we walk through the sand I remember why I don’t usually wear sandals. The sand is getting into my sandals and it is hot!  

We reach the canoes and are split into groups. We are going to be paddled through the mangrove swamp, keeping our eyes peeled for crocodiles, different varieties of birds, crocodiles, iguanas, and did I mention crocodiles!?

It was a nice canoe ride, no one dangles their fingers in the water We see several crocs, one very large one. Our boat guide was great about pointing out animals we might otherwise have missed… like birds.

Cool looking bird
Red-headed woodpecker
Cormorant
Cormorant
Iguana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We see an enormous termite nest (naturally occurring, they don’t rescue termites, I don’t think!) In the bottom of the nest there is a hole, which you can see in the photo below.

Termite nest

I forget what kind of bird is, but a bird species here pecks a hole in the termite nest and lays its eggs inside. When the baby birds hatch, they have a quick and easy food supply – termites! Interesting, isn’t it?

As we walk around, one of our guides says “No need to worry. Everything is all right. We are just taking her to the shady area where we will have our snack.” I look around and see the very elderly lady who had walked sooo slowly. Two of the guides have made a seat with their hands and are trying to convince her to sit in the (literally) handmade chair. She kept insisting she can walk. Finally, I don’t know how, they convinced her to sit, she put her arms around their necks and off they went – good service! One of the men in our group looks at me and says (kidding) “I think I feel faint.” I told him to put his head between his knees. hahaha!

We walk over to an enclosed concrete lagoon type of area with PILES of baby crocodiles.

Baby crocodile piles
Baby crocodile piles

Kind of creepy actually – it looks like piles and mounds of little Jurassic Park creatures. We learn that these crocodiles do not have tongues so they can’t really chew anything large. They may kill people but they don’t eat them. (I don’t know if the tongue thing is a croc thing or if it is this species.)

Friendly croc?

They also regrow any teeth that they might lose. They do eat small mammals, birds, and the eggs of coatis (a raccoon type of animal) We have seen a LOT of coati in Costa Rica during our trips there; and there is one here in the sanctuary. Guess what is one of the things that coati eat? Crocodile eggs!

We see the white tailed deer which are kept in a nice, natural enclosure.
There is a small educational area, open air building, where we can see crocodile heads and preserved dead crocodiles. Did you know that those bumps on the backs of crocodiles are kind of like solar panels?

Solar panel bumps
Solar panel bumps

Those help our friendly little reptiles maintain body temperature.

This sanctuary is very nice and is ecologically minded as you can see from the photo of the bathroom sign.

The conclusion of our tour includes a snack of two homemade corn tortillas with a local cheese – quesadillas. They are served with fresh fruit. Yum!

Then we get back in the canoes, leave the little island and return to our bus. Jeff describes this excursion as 1/3 ride there; 1/3 visit in the park, and 1/3 ride back.
This isn’t a tour we would normally have picked but in a pinch it turned out to be quite nice.

When we get back to the ship, we got cleaned up, changed into some nicer clothes and went up to our cocktail party. Tonight there was chips and salsa, and the salsa was very good with a nice taste and it wasn’t too spicy. The special drink is a mojito. Great!! I really like mojitos! We spent a nice relaxing hour visiting with other (as Jeff calls us) “frequent fliers.” We usually have fun and interesting talks during this time and sometime pick up tips about ports or traveling in general.

Our dinner reservation is for 7:30 and we head for the restaurant to meet everyone. Oh, it was so nice to have dinner with our friends!! We all shared stories from our day and it was so relaxing… I did remember to mention that Jeff had discovered that there IS afternoon tea and we decide to do that tomorrow afternoon. We are at sea tomorrow and that will give some structure to our day.

After dinner we all go our separate ways – including Jeff and I! He is going to the show tonight and I am going to the cabin to write. The show in the Princess Theater is an instrumentalist, a violinist named Chris Watkins, and when Jeff comes back to the cabin, he tells me that the guy was amazing!
Chris Watkins comes from a family of gymnasts, (you thought I was going to musicians, didn’t you?) and sometime in his childhood he had had a trampoline accident and injured his back. So much for the family business. As a kid his parents were insisting that he take French, but he lied and told them how much he loved, loved, loved classical music and signed up for violin lessons instead – anything was better than French!
Now I’m sorry that I missed the show, but you have something to read now!

Come back tomorrow and enjoy our day at sea with us…

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