In Tropical Riviera Nayarit
Curtains of foliage drape the sides of narrow waterways deep in the mangrove forest. Our small boat manoeuvres past the bulging roots which hold these amazing trees upright in the brackish water’s silt base. Crocodiles appear as drifting logs, until they swish their powerful tails. Large swamp turtles laze in the sun on the protruding roots. A pitch-black bird is oddly perched on a branch; its motionless wings spread like a fan. Our guide Richardo says, “That Anhinga is drying his feathers after diving for his lunch.” A White Ibis, then a Tiger Heron makes an appearance in this coastal wildlife refuse of La Tovara. This was the first outing my husband Rick and I undertook in a rental car up the 180km coast of Riviera Nayarit from our grand hotel in Nuevo Vallarta (just north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico). Our goal was to take in as many of nature’s wonders and drowsy fishing villages as we could fit into a week’s stay.
Our stop at the port of San Blas awarded us a glimpse of its past glory. Milling about the hilltop colonial-era tax collection offices and fort built in 1770, I imagined the activity when this was the seat of Spain’s Pacific navel command – the original great cannons like aging sentinels wait for long dead adversaries.
The massive stone shell of Our Lady of the Rosary Church at the foot of this hill was the subject of The Bells of San Blas by renowned poet Henry Longfellow (1807-1882). He laments the bells’silence when the port closed to foreign trade in 1872.
The villagers of Bucerias brought a constant smile to my face, from the engaging shop-owners along the cobblestone streets, to our attempts at Spanish with the side-walk café staff. As we whiled away the afternoon in the warm sunshine, fisherman delivered their fresh catch to restaurants, old timers on benches gazed at the sea, and children dashed about while their folks caught up on news with friends.
Between villages, we habitually stopped at highway fruit stands to munch on tart tamarind candy, slivered coconut,or slices of the mysterious jackfruit. Ask 10 people to describe the taste of jackfruit, and you will get half a dozen different renditions – to me it is a cross between a banana and a cantaloupe.
In the town of San Francisco (commonly called San Poncho) we learned humans are not the only esteemed visitors. From mid-June to the end of November the beach is frequented by endangered Olive Ridley and Leatherback Turtles that are so intent on egg-laying, they barely notice members and volunteers of a local conservation group protecting them during their mission, then collecting and transporting the eggs to a hatchery. I would love to be here in September and October to watch the hatchlings being released and see them scurry to their briny home.
The main street of the tiny Rincon de Guayabitos curves lazily for a few kilometres parallel to the beach. Chances of rubbing elbows with fellow citizens from the US and Canada are high in this moderately priced snowbird retreat.
Evidence of the phenomenal growth of Riviera Nayarit is apparent, especially at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle where a 400-slip luxury marina is being built. Thirty new hotels along the coast are slated for the next four years, although there are plenty of options now with every possible amenity.
As our vacation time dwindled, we could barely believe our good fortune on our second last day while at the Vallarta Adventures Centre. Being slightly past the winter season when Humpback whales come to breed and give birth to one ton calves, news spread like wildfire of a few stragglers spotted off the coast. We were still soggy from our enthralling swim with the dolphins, but within minutes we were in an APEX (rigid inflatable boat), squinting over the horizon for a sign of these huge cetaceans.
I gasped as suddenly a gigantic grey body of a lone Humpback surfaced about 100 metres away, making our vessel seem like a toy. A blast of water sprayed from its blowhole and a huge eye looked back at us before submerging with a tail slap that rocked our small craft – how huge a tail-end to our Riviera Nayarit visit is that!