Hurricane Willa

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Sunset over the malecón pre-Willa

Mazatlán proved itself ready; it was encouraging to see. Businesses and homes boarded themselves up and put sandbags in place. Most everyone taped over windows to try and prevent flying shards of broken glass.

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The morning after Hurricane Willa

We lived here during Hurricane Lane (Cat 3, 2006) and Tropical Storm Rick (2009), and remember what I felt was a lack of safety precautions then: people not taking down billboards or boarding up windows, surfers pursuing their passion even during the storm, people unsure of flood areas and where to take shelter. This time around there were maps of potential flood areas and shelters, lists of items to have at the ready, and regular updates regarding the weather and evacuations. We’ve come a long way. Commercial activity was ordered stopped at 2:00 pm on Tuesday (so people could get home to their families), and public transportation to stop at 3:00 pm. Protección Civil evacuated some tourists and residents from flood zones to the Convention Center. Most importantly to me, people took the threat seriously. Of course, Willa quickly became a Cat 5 hurricane, which was extremely intimidating.

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Fortunately we in Mazatlán were spared Willa’s wrath; those south of us, in Escuinapa, Teacapán and Agua Verde, were not so lucky and need our aid. And today they are evacuating El Rosario and other places due to potential river flooding. Here we experienced very high tides and incredible beach erosion. There was very little rain or wind, fortunately. Most of the damage I have observed is with the palapas on the beach, and with the beaches themselves. Even without a hurricane our sandy beaches regularly move, so most mazatlecos consider ourselves incredibly blessed. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

 

The day before Willa was scheduled to arrive, there was a double rainbow over Mazatlán. The photo below doesn’t show the second one that well, as I did a panoramic of the full rainbow. Of course all the memes circulating said this was God’s way of telling Mazatlán it would be safe.

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The evening before Willa’s arrival we had one of the most incredible sunsets I’ve seen in my 11 years living here full time. The sky and the ocean were orange for as far as the eye could see. The huge waves crashing with their orange color was a sight to behold!

 

Then, the day Willa was supposed to arrive, Tuesday, there was a second double rainbow. God wanted to be really sure we felt safe. We in Mazatlán are blessed with a bay sheltered both by the Baja Peninsula and by our three islands. There is a legend about how the three islands were formed after the death of three indigenous sisters, and another legend about how we are protected by “Our Lady of the Port.” So, once we dodged the bullet, so to speak, everyone thanked the Virgin of the Port—you can find her in the parking lot of La Puntilla restaurant in Playa Sur, if you’d like to pay your respects.

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Thank you, God of the seas and the skies. Thank you, Virgen de la Puntilla. Thank you, three sisters in our bay. Let us use our gratitude to share drinking water, food, toilet paper, moist towels, diapers, toothpaste, flashlights and batteries for our friends to the south. You can drop off your donations at one of the many Centros de Acopio around town, including the Soriana Híper on Rafael Buelna today. And you can also join in a peregrinación of thanksgiving to the virgin today (Wednesday) starting at Hogar San Pablo at 4:00 pm, concluding with a Mass at 5:00. The virgin has already been showered with flowers, as you can see in this photo by my friend Jessica Aviles.

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La Virgen de la Puntilla hoy, miércoles, foto tomada por Jessica Aviles

Fun and Discovery Just Outside the City!

Map annotated.pngVisitors and residents alike love all that Mazatlán has to offer: beaches, architecture, music, dancing, art, incredible ocean views and sunsets par none. Looking away from the Pacific to the east, however, we are also blessed with the Sierra Madres. And in the Sierras are a whole lot of historic mining towns that offer a tranquil feast for the eyes and heart. Plus, we have gorgeous coastal towns near us to the south and north, as well. If you tire of city life or are just looking for something different to do for a day trip or the weekend, you are in luck!

The Sierras have historic mining towns offering a tranquil feast for the eyes and the heart. We also have gorgeous coastal towns near us to the south and north.

I have put together a map of some of the most scenic and interesting nearby towns. However, on the way to and in between each of the places I’ve marked on the map are loads of other pueblos and farming communities that would welcome your visit. Sinaloans are famously friendly and welcoming; once you’ve reached your destination, be sure to speak with the locals and they’ll show you things you never would have learned about otherwise.

Most every small town has a central plaza, on which you’ll find the church and the municipal building. It’s worth visiting the local bakery and tortillería as well as the cemetery. Most pueblos have cobblestone streets, so wear your walking shoes. The towns I list lie in gorgeous natural surroundings, be it rivers, estuaries, mountains, hills or forests. The drive there (or you can take a bus or charter a tour van) will be scenic, as Sinaloa is the “breadbasket” of Mexico, with loads of farms (vegetables, fruit, seafood). Most of the mining towns in the Sierras were at one time very wealthy, so you will see outstanding architecture and the juxtaposition of former opulence with decay and lack of maintenance, along with tiled roofs and adobe dwellings.

mazatlan-villa-union1204The closest town to us and the one most everyone knows because it’s just past the exit to the airport is Villa Unión. This was actually the first location of Mazatlán when it was established by royal decree in 1596 and called El Presidio de San Juan Bautista. It wasn’t until 1831 that our current name and location were established. A quick 30-minute drive or longer bus ride will get you to Villa Unión, where you can enjoy the historic textile factory, wander around scenic streets where they sell homemade tamales, tortillas and other savories, or visit the famous Cuchupeta’s seafood restaurant.

_DSC7646©Driving up into the hills from Villa Unión you will find Mesillas and Concordia, two woodworking villages popular with locals and tourists. Mesillas is about a 45-minute drive and Concordia is just beyond it. Concordia was founded in 1565 and its San Sebastian church was built in 1785. yYu can eat the renowned raspados or shaved ice, sit in the giant chair in the plaza for a photo op, eat at any of several restaurants, climb to the top of the federal palace, visit several handicrafts galleries, the hot springs, or visit the nearby Mayo (indigenous) town of Jacobo. Take highway 15 south to Villa Unión and switch to the highway 40 free road.

Sinaloans are famously friendly; be sure to speak with locals and they’ll show you things you would never have learned about otherwise.

copalaPast Concordia and about an hour and a half from Mazatlán is Copala, one of my personal favorites. Also founded in 1565 and lying at 2000 feet above sea level, there is not a lot to do here: since the new highway to Durango was built not many tourists stop by, but the combination of old mining riches and modern-day decay are incredibly charming, and the town is really peaceful! I love the church, built in 1748, which is very ornate. The people of the town have gotten together to restore it and the surrounding cobblestone streets. Copala is the home of this region’s famous banana cream pie, which I figure is a Midwestern USA tradition learned by Daniel, the restaurant owner’s, first wife. He is no longer with us, but you can find the pie, or knockoffs, most places. There is a mining museum, the town’s children carve wood to sell to the tourists, there is a restaurant and a couple of places to spend the night, including Casa de Piedra.

Picachos_DSC7441©North of Concordia and north of Mazatlan on a dirt road is the infamous place where so many people were displaced by the flooding from the new dam: Presa (Dam) Picachos. The 25,000-acre lake is at 550 feet above sea level and has quickly become an international bass and fishing haven. But even if you don’t fish it’s well worth the drive, as the water glistens clear blue and with the mountains hovering over the lake the views are gorgeous. It’s about an 80-minute drive from Mazatlán. There are two ways to get there. If you are coming from Concordia, take highway 5-17 which is a little on the rustic side. A more comfortable drive is to take 510 or 512 out of Villa Union. This route has the advantage of bringing you through the lovely farming town of Siqueros with its terrific riverside play area, and the famous El Recodo, for which our internationally famous hometown band is named.

LaNoria DSC_0104©When you’re done at Presa Picachos, take a quick drive to La Noria, founded in 1565 and another of my favorite towns. Here you’ll find leather workshops (great to buy belts and sandals) and fresh cheese makers, the guy who makes the barrels for the tequila distillery, a machete maker and pottery. Nearby is Los Osuna distillery, the Huana Coa zip line, El Habal Ranch, and a fun country-style restaurant with a petting zoo and outdoor play area for kids and adults called La Vaca Lupe. They hold occasional rodeos and the adobe homes are really picturesque. La Noria is about 45 minutes northeast of Mazatlán. To get there directly from Mazatlan, take highway 15 north to El Habal and turn right, following the signs.chara pintaIf you head up to the Concordia area, you might want to visit the Tufted Jay Preserve (Reserva Chara Pinta). It’s about 90 minutes from Mazatlán, and is absolutely gorgeous for bird watching, hiking and star gazing. The reserve has cabins you can rent, though you need to plan for your own meals (groups of ten or more can reserve the cook). Take highway 40 (free road) and exit before El Palmito—best to map this ahead of time.

El Quelite DSC_0557©A bit farther to the north of Mazatlan is everyone’s go-to town, El Quelite, full of colorful, picturesque homes and buildings. Here you’ll see tiled roofs with cacti growing out of them and loads of gorgeous gardens. The Doc’s Mesón de los Laureanos is a favorite restaurant and there are a couple of other good ones as well, plus a cock-fighting farm, a bakery, a famed local ice cream shop, a couple of crafts galleries, a boutique and homemade candies. Once in a while they play the ancient indigenous game of ulama here. El Quelite is about a 40-minute drive; head northwest on highway 15 (free road) and watch for the turnoff.

Rancho Palomas DSC_0095©Just before the turnoff to El Quelite you will pass by the inland part of Meseta de Cacaxtla, a 125,000-acre nature preserve and home to our state’s best ecotourism. Just off highway 15, you can make reservations to visit Rancho Las Palomas. Here they have several blinds for observing wildlife, and the really great thing is they have automatic cameras installed, so the animals are accustomed to flash at night. If you want to take night photos of the animals it’s best to spend the night. Accommodations are rustic but comfortable (bring a sleeping bag; they have cots and running water).

DSC_0107Labradas©Heading out to the coast north of Mazatlán is Las Labradas, the National Cultural Heritage site with over 640 pre-Colombian oceanside petroglyphs on 1200 feet of shoreline, dating back 4500 years! You’ll find a wonderful museum there plus an archeologist from INAH (National Institute of Archeology and History) to answer questions, and the nearby town of Chicayota has some basic services. Las Labradas is about an hour’s drive, and the road out to it is now, thankfully, paved. Take highway 15 (toll road) to highway 20 north, and you’ll see the exit just before Dimas.

Piaxtla DSC_0055©Near Las Labradas on another, unpaved road to the coast is Barras de Piaxtla, a quaint fishing village where you can dine on lobster till your heart’s content, stay at Gail’s gorgeous La Rosa de las Barras cabins, enjoy spectacular views, pristine beaches, cliffs and a natural stone arch.

San IgnacioFinishing out north of Mazatlán, we have the very interesting small town of San Ignacio. It takes about an hour and 10 minutes to get there, was founded in 1633, and has a mission founded in 1748. San Ignacio is famous for its gigantic statue of Jesus. It has two churches, my personal favorite—hot springs, a river for picnicking and playing, and several restaurants including the delightfully rustic Cuata’s on the left as you enter town. There is also the Hotel Anjolin. Head north on highway 15 (free road) and turn off at Coyotitán.

CosaláA bit farther north and up into those Sierras (1200 feet) you’ll find Cosalá, which was Sinaloa state’s first Pueblo Mágico or Magic Town, so designated in 2005. It was also our state capital in the early 1800s and home to the state’s first newspaper. Another mining town, this one founded in 1550 (as Real de las Minas de Nuestra Señora de las Once Mil Virgenes de Cosalá), here you’ll find winding streets, hotels, two churches and two convents, restaurants including the very good El Pueblito, and several nature sanctuaries: a macaw (guacamaya) preserve—Nuestra Señora Mundo Natural—with cabañas and zip line; Vado Hondo park with three waterfalls and natural pools; San José de las Bocas with hot springs; plus caves and fishing in the reservoir. Cosalá has lots of ghost stories, especially about the Casa Hernández Arragón. Nearby in El Rodeo lives a gentleman famous for making papaya jam (conserva). My favorite time to visit Cosalá is during the Fiesta de la Velas or the Candle Festival on Virgin of Guadalupe Day in early December. Cosalá is where Luis Perez Meza was born. It is a bit over a two-hour drive from Mazatlán; there is a hotel and the cabins at the macaw preserve, so making a weekend of it can also be a lot of fun. To get there take highway 15 (free road) north to Cruz de Elota and turn inland following the signs. Along the way, you will pass the famous El Salto Lodge, home to incredible bass fishing on another lake of the same name. I don’t fish, but I understand this is the place to go.

caimaneroHeading south from Villa Unión along the coast you will go through the darling town of Walamo and then hit the gorgeous beaches of Caimanero. There isn’t much to see or do here unless it’s shrimping/frasca season; then you will eat till you burst and be delighted watching the shrimpers with their handheld tarraya nets. We love a day trip to Caimanero, however, because the drive is so beautiful and the pescado zarandeado / barbecued fish that you eat in one of the restaurants on the beach there is to die for. When you walk in, choose the fish you want and the chef will cook it right up. There are also two huge inland lagunas in Caimanero that are home to over 20,000 shore birds! Caimanero is just over an hour from Mazatlán. The beaches are not good for swimming as the surf is so rough, but you will be glad you went! The restaurants serve every type of seafood.

retablo-rosario-tripticoInland from Caimanero is the well-known town of El Rosario, birthplace of ranchera singer Lola Beltrán and home of both the gold-leaf altar (dating to 1750 it is beautifully maintained) and Sinaloa’s favorite soda, Tonicol. El Rosario is one of the easiest day trips from Mazatlán. Both Lola’s house and the church are worth a visit; the town is charming. El Rosario was founded in 1655 and was the most important mining town in Sinaloa for centuries. There is a family here that makes gourd art, and you might want to ask to see the famous “Tigresa,” a Xoloitzcuintle (famous Mexican dog breed) that has achieved near sacred status as she accompanies the dead to be buried. El Rosario is just under an hour from Mazatlán on highway 15 south past Villa Unión.

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This whole area is one of my favorites, because the mangrove swamps and estuaries have not yet been ruined and they are gorgeous! Nearby Rosario is Chametla, beside the river and among the hills. You can hike up the 365 steps to Devil’s Cave and see a spectacular view, and make an educational visit to the archeology museum there. Chametla is actually the most important archeological site in northwestern Mexico; here the Totorames were living when Hernan Cortés arrived. There are at least 22 pre-Hispanic towns near Chametla and the town itself has two pyramids: one on the site of the church, another at the cemetery. Their town festival is in late January.

Most every small town has a central plaza, on which you’ll find the church and the municipal building. It’s worth visiting the local bakery and tortillería as well as the cemetery. Most pueblos have cobblestone streets, so wear your walking shoes.

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Just south of Chametla lies Escuinapa, another wonderful day or weekend trip. Here you will find those wonderful barcinas, the straw balls to hold and preserve shrimp that are a typical handicraft of our area. Escuinapa has incredible mango plantations that you can arrange to tour, it’s home to a university and a couple of hotels, and it’s close to the Tepehuan (indigenous) town of El Trébol. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Mazatlán.

teacapan©Another few minutes south is Teacapán, home to the Mexican Pacific’s largest coastal mangrove forest, the Marismas Nacionales. The estuary here continues for over 30 miles and is a pristine habitat for herons, spoonbills, storks and cormorants! The views are gorgeous: you look out to a peninsula beyond the estuary before the ocean. You can take a boat ride through the mangroves and see the historic shell mounds, eat at the botanero, go bird watching or kayaking, or visit the migrant worker village. The beaches are outstanding and dolphins are known to come up the river. It is also the gateway to Jacques Cousteau’s famous Isla Isabel National Park and bird preserve. There are several hotels and restaurants, so it’s another great place for a weekend stay.

Do remember to drive only during daylight hours, and if you have a local friend, ask them to join you! You’ll have a day of delight and discovery, I am sure!

Congratulations to Friends and Launch of a Great New Resource

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Photo courtesy Líderes Mazatlán

When we move to a new place, it naturally takes us a while to settle into a routine, to discover what is going to stoke our passion, and to get comfortable with our “selves” in the new environment. I think sometimes it takes me longer than others, since I work such long hours and in the privacy of our home; it’s hard to get out and about meeting people as often as I’d like and still “bring home the tortillas,” so to speak. One thing I’ve discovered over the past five years is how much diversity there is here in southern Sinaloa, and how much I enjoy its rich traditions, bio-diversity, and friendly people. I absolutely loved attending the frasca, the harvest of fresh shrimp in Agua Verde. I thank goodness we have marine biologists here in town who can take us up close and personal to whales and dolphins while being respectful and mindful. I love meeting people who are good at what they do, and watching them glow as they tell me about it—whether it’s oyster diving, farming in Los Llanitos, open water swimming, giving food to the hungry, or selling meat.

Sandra and Hector, center and right, with their first issue

Sandra and Hector, center and right, with their first issue

Well, a few years ago I discovered kindred spirits online in Sandra Luz Moreno and Hector Lizárraga Vencis. While I didn’t know it at the beginning, they are the people behind Mazatlán Interactivo (MI), a portal that, over the years, I have grown to enjoy and depend on more and more. Through their articles I have learned so much about Mazatlán, the histories, celebrations and unique cultural offerings here and in our nearby towns, and they’ve enabled me to connect with some really interesting people. MI is an important part of my day. (It’s all in Spanish, btw.) While it has taken me a while to connect the dots—I first “met” Sandra via the SIFoto conference and later in groups on Facebook, and didn’t realize her connection to MI—she is kind and funny, and has made me feel welcome and valued in our adopted home. Yesterday she and Hector celebrated the 18th anniversary of their terrific Mazatlán Interactivo—18 years of unflaggingly promoting the diversity, authenticity, and sustainability of Sinaloa (particularly southern Sinaloa), with an anniversary party at the Convention Center. The party included the launch of an exciting new venture: Sinaloa Tour.

It was a wonderful event! We were greeted personally at the door by Sandra and Hector, as well as by beautiful, traditionally dressed folkloric dancers. After a welcome speech, there were introductions by several of the municipios in southern Sinaloa. P1040443We very much enjoyed the presentation by Marcos Osuna, of El Quelite/El Mesón de los Laureanos fame. You no doubt know him and have enjoyed the terrific experience his restaurant provides. We take most all our visitors up that way for an enjoyable day trip. I know Marcos because he helped Danny with his quest to get to World Scout Jamboree. For decades he has been an incredible leader and visionary for El Quelite, working tirelessly for education, for the welfare of the local people, and to promote tourism to the town. While he spoke a bit long for my taste, he is charming, very, very funny, and incredibly inspirational. He admonished everyone in the room (primarily tour providers, artists and crafters, restaurant and hotel owners, plus government leaders and media) to:

  • constantly up their skills and to behave as professionally as possible,
  • to learn cross-cultural communication in order to differentiate the needs and desires of a diverse (national and international) customer base, and, interestingly to me,
  • to dedicate themselves to providing new experiences for tourists: experiences they can’t get at home, and
  • not to compete on price, as people will pay even in down economic times if the experience is unique and memorable,
  • to be honest and AUTHENTIC, reaching into local traditions, customs, flora and fauna, being proud of it, and translating it in an accessible way to our visitors.

The representatives from El Rosario showed us two very terrific, creative ways to learn introduce a place. First, the group Sófocles, directed by Fernando Barraza, acted out with much dramatic flair two legends of the town. What a talented group, and what a terrific way to introduce and communicate the soul of a place! They followed that with the presentation of a gorgeous dress, designed by Sergio Antonio García Peinado, that showed representations of the various locations and claims to fame of the municipality. No boring talking heads today!

P1040464Cosalá was also very enjoyably represented by Gregorio Corrales , who, wearing a large sombrero and a beautiful leather zarape, sang a few traditional songs and corridos of the region for us, to the accompaniment of folkloric dancers. The music got the best of most everyone in the room, as people in the audience as well as on stage paired off to dance.

We were pleased to be able to meet Maestro Faustino Lopez Osuna, composer of our state anthem, and enjoyed the storytelling of Joaquín López Hernández, who recounted some legendary lies from the book, “El Güilo Mentiras”, written by Escuinapan author Dámaso Murúa.

P1040504Sinaloa Tour is something I’ve been looking forward to. Right now it’s only in Spanish with GoogleTranslate in a pull-down menu, but the great thing is that they have put together a bunch of information on the small towns in southern Sinaloa, to make it easier for all of us to explore and get to know them! In addition to the public-service aspect of the site (a partnership with the state), there is a commercial tour side. And again, to me it’s exciting, as they are planning tours that highlight the diversity and rich tradition that Sinaloa has to offer: religious, nature and environmental, cultural, sports, gastronomy, and adventure tourism.

At the time of this writing, the site seems to still have its glitches and typos, as with most any new launch, but I am hopeful that it will become a resource to help all of us enjoy both our gorgeous Mazatlán and the surrounding areas more fully, in the process learning more about what has been here for hundreds of years before we set foot.

Hector and Sandra, and staff, congratulations and thank you!

Teacapan, Sinaloa

Teacapan, Sinaloa

We visited the peaceful fishing village of Teacapán this past weekend, a beautiful place for bird watching, kayaking, fishing or just relaxing that is located a couple of hours south of Mazatlán. The biodiversity of the mangrove forest and estuary were breathtaking.

The area between Escuinapa and Teacapán is scheduled by FONATUR for major development. In a few decades the Mexican government plans for this charming and pristine area, teeming with wildlife, to look a lot like Cancún.

This of course breaks our hearts, but it seemed to be excellently good news to most of the locals with whom we spoke. Development for them means jobs, income, food, and a better quality of life. To us, it means destruction of the incredible mangrove ecosystem, estuary and bird habitat, very similar, no doubt, to how Mazatlán’s Golden Zone looked in the 1950s, before the estuary here was filled in, the mangroves destroyed, and the hotels built. The estuary or lago as those in Teacapán called it, is filled with fish, oysters, crab, and shrimp.

Getting There
The drive from Mazatlán to Teacapán is very easy. You take Highway 15  (toll or free road) south through Villa Unión to Escuinapa (88 km from Mazatlán), then turn onto Highway 1 along the coast to Teacapán (another 40 km). The latter highway has its share of potholes. The vista on the journey is excellent. We made a very quick trip, arriving on Sunday afternoon and returning on Monday evening due to the holiday.

The Town
We were told Teacapán has 6000 inhabitants. It lies right on the border between the states of Sinaloa and Nayarit, though it is part of Sinaloa. It is built around a central plaza which has the traditional band stand and a quaint church.

It is right on the coast, but faces a long peninsula that the locals call “el otro lado.” Yes, that’s usually the term used to refer to the United States, “the other side,” but in Teacapán it refers to the “island” (it’s a peninsula but is called isla by the locals) offshore, covered in mangrove trees, the other side of which is supposedly an incredibly gorgeous beach. Trouble is, you need a lllloooooonnnngg drive to get to that beach! There is also a place on the island called “Texas.”

Looking from town, you can see what looks like an inlet/outlet to the ocean, but mostly you look at the calm lago (which is really a 30 mile long estuary) and beyond that the island. Thus, you don’t hear crashing waves as you would on a more usual bay.

The valley is rimmed with mountains, so it’s a very gorgeous view. One of the main mountaintops is said to look like a man’s face. The locals say it looks like George Washington.

Lodging and Food
Our hotel (María Fernanda) was clean, bright, affordable, had two pools and a restaurant, and the shower had hot water. It was located right on the water with beautiful views. There was wireless internet in the lobby but not in the room.

Teacapan, Sinaloa
The town seemed to have very few formal restaurants. We ate in the hotel; there was another restaurant run by a Canadian right next door (Wayne’s), and a family-owned palapa restaurant was just down the malecón. We saw was a cocina económica on the plaza, and various more informal eateries and botaneros on the main road into town.

We ate a wonderful pescado zarandeado for dinner the day we arrived, and there were crab, prawns, and scallops galore. We bought some fresh prawns and crab meat to bring home with us for dinner; yum!

Mangroves and Wildlife
The mangroves of Teacapán are a famous bird watching area, home to 250 species of birds. The Marismas Nacionales are the largest coastal mangrove area on Mexico’s Pacific coast. We saw great herons, and little blue herons, white herons, cranes, lots of osprey, roseated spoonbills, cormorants, a fairly unusual bird called a boot-billed heron (I believe), flycatchers, and a host of other birds big and small, including the usual gulls, pelicans and frigate birds.

(You bird lovers may like to read my “Crane Convention” blog post, which took place in Mazatlán last year.) 

We found a terrific guide, Victor Méndez Denis (tel 695-954-5386). He told us he is licensed by the federal Department of Tourism as an ecotour guide, the only one in town. He has a very nice, clean, covered boat with a very quiet motor that holds about 15 people. When he told us he could talk to the birds we thought he was joking; we laughed and called him Dr. Doolittle. But, indeed, Victor called quite a few birds, and seems quite adept at calling. I’m confident most birders would be thrilled.

He took us on a cruise out to “the other side,” Bird Island and a few other places, and we found him to be very knowledgeable. He explained to us that four out of the seven kinds of mangroves in the world can be found in Teacapan: black, white, red and button. The red mangroves are especially plentiful, extending their roots down into the water to form a “reef” in a very similar manner to the way in which coral grows. This reef teems with wildlife: birds in the tree branches, crabs and all sorts of aquatic animals among the tree roots. We were told there are cayman in the water, but we did see quite a few people snorkeling, either oystering or spearfishing.

In quite a few areas along the “other side,” the island, there are oyster shell mounds, said to be the remains of oysters harvested by native people over 4000 years ago. Some say they are burial grounds. The mounds are extensive.

Teacapan, Sinaloa

Fishing
There are loads of oysters to be found in the fresh water here. They are easy to harvest, too; not like the rock oysters in the ocean off Mazatlán, which require the divers to hammer and chisel. The Teacapán oyster divers that we saw only used their hands. Our guide, Victor, bought 10 kilos of fresh oysters for 150 pesos. Quite a great deal, we thought. He tells us they are much sweeter and better than the rock oysters.

The fishing tours advertise fishing for snook, red snapper, grouper, sea bass, trigger fish, jack crevalle.


Next Time
Next time we go, we’d like to tour the estuary at low tide. Victor told us many of the islands in the estuary actually become connected at low tide, and the birds come out from the mangroves to eat on the sand bars. Would definitely like to see that!

Teacapan, Sinaloa
Would also like to rent a kayak and glide through the mangroves; it would be gorgeous. I’d like to get out to the beach. Seems to me you should be able to take a boat out around the peninsula and access the beach that way, rather than making the long drive. But, as we didn’t do that, I am not sure.

Isla Isabel is a couple of hours boat ride from Teacapán. We could also go from Mazatlán. I have long wanted to go to this national park to see the blue-footed boobies. People call it a miniature Galapagos, nearby here in the Islas Marias. It is one of the main seabird nesting areas in the Pacific, with 92 bird species recorded. There is also good snorkeling. Due to CONANP protection, a visit means you must be accompanied by a licensed guide, and I believe you have to camp if you want to stay overnight.