Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Touring Puerto Vallarta - Marietas Islands

Just offshore at the north end of Banderas Bay rests a group of small, volcanic islands known as the Marietas Islands. These islands were made famous by oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and are now a protected national park, or the Mexican equivalent.  Because of this protected status, no one is allowed to land on the islands (and there doesn't appear to be many places where one could do that anyway), but tons of boats stop offshore, allowing people to experience the natural beauty, bird and marine life.

There is one cinder-cone island where the roof has collapsedand there is a little beach inside.  They call this the hole in the ocean or hidden beach, and it was one of the main reasons I chose this tour.

Unfortunately, it was not completely clear to me that the only way to reach this island and little beach was by snorkeling or swimming, neither of which I do well. There were some pictures showing paddleboards, so I thought perhaps I could paddle there, but no.  And the length of the swim required differed.  Some said 75 feet, or perhaps 75 meters.  When we got there, the tide was high, so no snorkeling was allowed since the entrance to the cave was very high compared to the top of the arch one had to swim through (one guy spent the rest of the day with an ice bag on his head from misjudging the opening and a wave).  And the distance was more like ...well, too far for me.  This was the melee of people swimming toward some indistinguishable cave opening.

The other unfortunate aspect is that I didn't realize this was the hole in the ocean part of the trip.  I thought people were just going snorkeling, which I don't like.  Even if it had been clear, I probably would have been too afraid to do this.  The ocean was a little rough and quite cold, and even with life vest and fins, I might have been too scared.  There were life boats patrolling, but anyway, I didn't do it. Tod was brave (although he admitted it probably would have been too much for me) and was rewarded with goofy pictures inside the cave.

While most of the people did make this swim to the hole, there were about a dozen of us left on board, some too sea sick to do anything but hold plastic bags in their laps. Although it was not "smooth sailing", it was not a bad ride for me, so I rather enjoyed the quiet.  I did decide to lay off the alc for this trip.  Meanwhile, the captain tooled around a little so we could get a closer glimpse of the islands and the birds, particularly the blue-footed boobies.

This is a photo from the internet, as I didn't have a camera to get a shot like this, but this is exactly what they looked like, and there were hundreds of them on the islands, along with brown pelicans, frigate birds and of course sea gulls.

After the "hole" we drove to another island where we went kayaking and paddleboarding.  Since we couldn't land anywhere, the boards and kayaks had to be unloaded from the boat (once again, hats off to the crew who worked like dogs to unload the gear and make sure people had what they needed, and help people into the water from the back of the boat).  This was a little tedious, but finally I got out onto the water.  It was once again rougher than the water I like to paddle in, but manageable.

Of course, there was the challenge of maneuvering around a lot of other people.

On the way back to port, we were rewarded with dolphin sightings...

and a ridiculously entertaining show by the fabulous crew.

While this was not my favorite tour, it was a nice sail with beautiful scenery and perfect for those a little more adventurous than I.

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