Highway 175 runs south all the way to the sea. The Mexico coast road, Highway 200, runs east and west a few miles inland from the ocean and will be the route we take to carry on east toward the Yucatan. In the meantime we want to ride out on the small loop that 175 takes to the water after it crosses south of Highway 200. So as we come in from Highway 175 we cross over 200 and head south a few more miles to the small fishing town of Puerto Angel.
We ride through the town and around the cove and its lovely sand beach which is covered with blue and white fishing boats. There is a small cemetery on the west side of the cove called the Pantheon and we turn in from the highway to a dead end street and stay for the night. It’s a strange little corner of the world with some unique locals eager to cater to the tourists. Maybe its just a slow time for them right now, but we get some high-pressure sales for boat tours for the next day which we will pass on as we already have plans. I enjoy a lovely sunrise on the beach watching the fishermen get geared up and head out for the day.
A little further west on the loop is the small beach and community of Zipolite and just past that is the community of Mazunte. There is a sea turtle sanctuary in Mazunte that we have come to see. I was told by some new friends (who run the Overlander Oasis) in Oaxaca that this place helps to rehabilitate and care for injured turtles and then helps hatches and releases baby turtles after they have hatched.
We find a cabana for the night which overlooks the whole of Mazunte beach and get settled before heading out to the Turtle Sanctuary. We get our tickets just ahead of a group of schoolchildren, perfect. We walk through the indoor aquarium and its many tanks. We see several species of turtles and some injured one as well.
There are a couple of outdoor tanks, one large enough that there are big turtles swimming with a volunteer and being fed. And there are smaller enclosures with shallow pools for the smaller turtles. Sailcloth provides shade overhead.
I get an up close look at a few of the little guys.
And then we move to the nursery, and this is what I’ve been most excited to see. There are tiny baby turtles, about 6-8 in each tank, that are swimming like corks on top of the water of blue tubs.
They have the sweetest little faces and when I walk near they swim to the corner near me and try to use their little flippers to paddle up to me. I’m guessing they get fed and are excited to see people come by in hopes one has lunch to serve.
The sanctuary has been here for more than 20 years and is located on 10 acres right on the beach. You can witness turtle releases on some evenings, the best of time day for improving chances of survival. Tiny cute babies. I hope they live long and happy lives, every one.
After the turtle morning we grab a bite of lunch at a local vegetarian place and its incredible – perfectly cooked basmati, a salad with cilantro, tomatoes, romaine, onions and chiles with a light splash of lime of the top, a flatbread filled with black beans and topped with avocado, tomatoes and crème fraiche and cheese, accompanied with a guava juice. Then we grab a collectivo (small vans or trucks that run a shuttle service between local towns for a small fee, usually 10 pesos or so each way) to the next town to the west, La Ventanilla. The town has been named for a small window (Ventana) in the rock face on the beach.
We walk in from the highway about a mile to the ticket office located not far from the lagoon where you can have a guide take you in small boats to see the trees, lagoon and crocs.
We are told we will see several of them today, and find one waiting at the shore by her nest of eggs before we even get in the boat.
The lagoon is fed by the Tonameca River and for the most part cut off from the open ocean. Two types of mangroves live here, red and white. And the tannins from the red mangroves leach back into the lagoon water turning it a dark red. In deeper waters the tannins make the water look black, giving it a strange and creepy look, especially as it reflects dead trees above the waterline.
In 1997 two hurricanes destroyed the majority of the mangroves here and locals have formed a cooperative community in an effort to help it recover. They have replanted more than 30,000 trees in an effort to help the lagoon recover more quickly than it would on its own which helps the wildlife here too.
Birds build nests up high in both live and dead clusters of mangroves.
Our guide, Hernan, navigates our small boat with a single paddle and shows us all the secrets of this lagoon. We see a termite colony, crocodiles, turtles, dragonflies, many species of birds and plants, and he stops to feed watermelon to the green iguanas that rattle their way through the branches to feeding platforms.
We have the option of stopping to see a group of monkeys, but I will pass on that. I’m not a monkey fan. Too much poop throwing and genital displaying for me, thank you very much. We see a few more crocs on the way back to the launch, some swimming and some smiling from the banks.
La Ventanilla was one of the most peaceful and beautiful parts of all my travels in Mexico. I would recommend it to everyone.