First thing this morning, we go on a trip to the Cuyutlan Tortugas Sanctuary. Some of us have been to this area before, but it is so amazing that we could probably go every time. Our driver is Honofrio, who speaks extremely good English and is eager to teach us. En route we stop at the salt flats. Honofrio talks about the recent rain storms and how the unusual weather has caused such devastation for these salt farmers. The process is simple but very hard work. Ocean water is pumped into large containers and allowed to evaporate. When it is fairly concentrated, it is dumped out onto pens lined with black plastic and smoothed out to cover the area. Evaporation again does its magic. Later, the farmers sweep the salt up into piles and eventually onto trucks. It is very hot, back-straining labour. When the rains came, the deluge brought sand and wind and wiped out all of the salt that had been so painstakingly collected. The owners are now forced to start all over again. Honofrio tells us the rain was a very unusual occurrence. In the summer, Manzanillo gets its rain, but it’s usually soft; I am imagine similar to other tropical rains I’ve experienced. When we get back into the van, I marvel at the scenery. The rains have their benefits too: the hills are lush and verdant; the crops are plentiful.
We pass banana, mango, lime, chili, papaya and agave fields, all beautifully ripened or green with growth. When we reach the area of the sanctuary, we are mesmerized by the black sand (volcanic) beach and the crashing waves. These are even bigger than kahunas! This is Cuyutlan. The turtle farm is fascinating. The people who run this place are saving the various kinds of tortuga by protecting the eggs. The females will always come out of the sea to the spot where they were born to lay their eggs. Now that many of these females were born in the sanctuary, they return here. They are now protected with simple tools: baskets turned upside down to prevent any predators from getting into the nests as well as plastic roofing to keep out the birds. When the babies are born, they are nurtured until they are strong and then placed in the sea. This happens a couple of times a year. Families gather and can pay to name their turtle and give them a blessing as they swim out into the Pacific. A neat way to help pay for their care. Next, we get into a motor boat and chug through the mangrove. Shrubs and trees have adapted to the saline conditions in these small waterways, where the water is very shallow and therefore very concentrated with salt. There are all different species of trees and shrubs; some have grown straight up toward the sun, others send their roots in among the others; some spread luxuriously in the salty estuary. It feels as though we are entering a tunnel of light and shade, surrounded by plants and trees. We see blue and grey herons, two of which majestically take flight immediately in front of us. Our driver, Omar, is young and strong and has an excellent eye. He shows us a baby boa constrictor, which at first looks like the branch he is stretched out on. A water snake blends black as the stick it lies on. A huge crocodile, which resembles a corrugated rock, rests just under the surface of the water. A baby crocodile floats for us a bit and then, startled by our oohs and ahhs, dives under. Omar shows us a tijone – a mangrove raccoon. It looks like a small bear, with a slightly pointed snout, splayed high up on a tree branch, asleep. He looks up when we call, but then curls back into slumber. Omar says he is beautiful and I agree! A beautiful white butterfly leads us through the channel. Later, we have a fabulous lunch of red snapper and mounds of delicious vegetables at Lo Guerto Restaurant in El Paraiso, a little town right near the roaring waves. When we get back to Las Flores, the whales play in the bay for us again. An incredible day!