Our time in Southern Jalisco feels like ages ago now… now that we are resettled in our Northern California home, with the kids in school, Dakota safely docked in the Bay Area and the weather slightly starting to cool (very slightly, albeit). But the feelings Southern Jalisco invokes in me are sweet and remind me of the unique adventures we experienced there. Looking back at our pictures and reading back over the sections of our “Pacific Mexico” cruiser’s guidebook is like jumping in a time machine and putting myself back there . . . Back when our biggest concerns were potable water, sufficient power supplies and getting to shore uneventfully from our anchorage. Tenacatita Bay (or more properly, Bahia Tenacatita) is a very special place. Fairly untouched and not remotely close to the typical overrun Mexican resort town, this sleepy bay is where some of our most fond memories are. In addition to our river estuary tour in Perula, we went ashore and took a taxi to the nearby town of La Manzanilla for a field trip of sorts to visit the crocodile sanctuary.
Going ashore was always an adventure and this excursion was no exception. Getting the Dakota crew ready for a day on land, then loading everyone up into the dinghy and getting the dinghy to shore for a beach landing required a bit more preparation. And this day, we had put the boys’ duvet out on the boom to air dry (read: blatant foreshadowing). Once we beach landed the dinghy and “secured” it (i.e., brought it up high enough to avoid any tidal issues and “parked” near other cruiser dinghys), we walked around the bluff on the beach to meet our taxi–whom we had called from the boat to arrange for a ride to town. We were pleasantly surprised on the ride to La Manzanilla as we drove through a seemingly upscale Mexican resort, up and over the hill with sweeping views of Perula Bay where Dakota was anchored and for the first time in a while felt the unfamiliar movement of car over land. During the half-hour drive to La Manzanilla I recall thinking, “Damn, we are lucky. This is an amazing spot” and at the same time felt excited to explore a new town with restaurants, a lovely beach and the famed crocodile preserve. Getting out of the taxi, we arranged with our driver for a pick up in the same spot later that afternoon and set about exploring. First up, we needed to feed our crew, so we meandered down the main road and found a restaurant that appeared to begin opening for lunch. The open-air cafe meant we could sit outside and take in our surroundings, listen to local conversations between locals and English-speaking tourists alike and fill our bellies with our typical fare. For me, chilaquiles, whenever on the menu, was my go-to choice for breakfast or midday meals. The boys, excited to see hamburgers on the menu, and recalling all of the amazing Mexican hamburgers they devoured in Mazatlan, gravitated to them (seriously, they are the best burgers we’ve ever had! I think they mix bacon or some other horribly caloric protein to the meat mix to delicious results), and Ryan got his standard fish tacos.
Bellies full and ready to walk some off, we set about trying to find the crocodile sanctuary. We didn’t have a clear idea of where they might be, but being a small Mexican town, we wandered south for a bit, found a colorful and quiet public square:
When we reached the end of town on the south end, we headed back North hoping to find a sign of some sort that would lead us to the crocodiles. Sure enough, ten minutes later we reached the other end of town and encountered a rickety-looking fence with street vendors at the entrance of the crocodile sanctuary. A *very large* male crocodile was just at the entrance where we paid for our tickets and after getting assurances from the man at the ticket counter that as long as we walked and did not jump, run or make loud noises, we would be fine, we began walking the boardwalk over the crocodile’s habitat.
Certainly one of the more blatantly risky adventures we encountered in Mexico, we felt pretty nervous walking the boards and taking our two young boys along, perfect crocodile bite-sized appetizers. The “sanctuary” was an enclosed natural habitat with 2 by 4 boards constructed roughly 1-2 feet above the crocodile themselves and the boardwalk path meandered gently through their habitat with occasional treehouse-like structures we could climb up for vistas of the sanctuary. I recall thinking, “This would never exist in the U.S.,” allowing visitors to be merely a few feet away from these massive and unpredictable creatures is wrought with liability and it simply would never happen in the U.S. But, when in Rome! So here is a little snapshot of the obvious fear we felt at the beginning of our walk through the sanctuary (I’m pretty sure that is me whining in fear):
And another one….
And after walking a bit and not seeing anything more scary, we decided it was probably ok to go up into the treehouse-like structure for a view. Finley, at this point already freaked out by the proximity of the alligators, and understandably so, had no interest in going up for a look-see. But Elliott and I took in the great view:
The final bit of the sanctuary was a jiggly suspension bridge over what we assumed were more crocs, although we thankfully didn’t see anymore.
By now, we felt we had used up our “narrowly escaping death by croc” points for the day and decided to head to the beach for some surf, sand and cervezas. But not before this beauty gave us an “adios” while we were *not running* out of the exit:
Perhaps our near-death experience explains Finley’s expression (below)…. nonetheless, we will always remember La Manzanilla as the time we seriously questioned our parenting choices but came out the other side feeling thrilled to be alive, with all of our limbs intact and our toes in the sands of Playa La Manzanilla with no more crocs in sight.
Oh and that duvet we put up on the bow for a sushiney-air dry? Yea . . . We found that in a large wet clumpy pile on our stern upon dinghying back to the boat that evening. (never a dull moment living aboard!) We’re guessing the winds kicked up while we were gone and blew it into the water. We don’t know which amazing cruiser did us that favor, but to the cruiser who was in Perula Bay with us this past February, thank you for saving the boys’ duvet! I can only imagine dragging that queen-sized, water-laden moppy mess out of the water was not easy or fun (more likely akin to dragging a limp, wet human out of the water)..and I can only assume you did so from your kayak or paddleboard–also no small feat. So a biiggg thank you!