Costalegre: Coral reefs, Pelicans and Crocodiles



Story & photos by editor
There's a small tour operation called Ray y Eva Tours that I walked by one day while walking the beach in Melaque. They were doing a trip to Tenacatita the next day and I decided to join them.


The Costalegre is rugged country, much like coastal British Columbia, with winding roads up and over jungle covered mountains and hills. Driving along Highway 200 you can glimpse golden beaches through the trees and bush, and occasionally the jagged rocks, which separate the long beaches, as they fall into the sea like prehistoric giants.tenacbeach


The beaches at Tenacatita are amazing. There's three within walking distance of the small village, made up primarily of restaurants, some lodgings and open-air bars. The beach in the bay a few hundred metres north called Playa Mora has a significant coral reef, with hundreds of pelicans perched on the rocks. As I watch, a couple of them take to the air, glide over the shallow waters of the beach and then, fold their wings, drop freefalling, and hit the water like kamikaze pilots.


Ray leads us to a sheltered hut where an old Mexican with long white hair is carving intricate figures out of hard wood. His name is Chui, the caretaker of the playa. He is the man who advises tourists not to step on the coral. He is short, but strong, like someone from an older world, one of the ancients from Mu, perhaps. Ray instructs us in the use of the snorkeling gear, and then we head down to the beach, put on our flippers and aim for the reefs that Ray has pointed out to us.


As I approach the first reef I immediately wish I had an under-water camera, as below I watch an abundance of marine life. I find out later that 25 percent of marine life live and nurture around coral reefs. That is why there are hundreds of brown pelicans hanging around and hovering overhead. The reefs here are not as colourful as the ones I've seen in Fiji, but they are captivating, and I spend the next hour swimming over them watching fish I've never seen hustle around the shallow waters.


Playa Tentacatita is a longer, sandier beach just south, where the village lies. There are young people skim boarding, and older people sitting outside in restaurants having lunch.


Again, I am fascinated by the pelicans who dive bomb for small fish or crabs in waters a couple of feet deep - this is a unique custom of the brown pelican, other pelicans favour co-operative fishing from the surface. Occasionally there is an altercation over a meal, and the sea gulls hang very close by hoping to pick up scraps.


Later, at another beach, Boca de Iguanas, where there are both crocodiles and RV camping, we do some board surfing. Along the beach I find one of the strange type of fish I had seen earlier snorkeling, laying on the beach. It is dead, but doesn't look it, so undamaged - its eyes staring up with some vague question.


The regular stand-up surfing can be very good along this coast, even with the moderate winds that we had been getting. Usually, one part of a bay is better, as the waves get more forceful at certain locales. A lot of young people were surfing the day before at a beach south of Tenacatita, and they were getting some fairly long runs.


I watched them from shore, taking snapshots under an umbrella, until a Mexican man asked me for $80 pesos for the use of the chair and shade. I thought he had said $8 pesos, which would have been reasonable at about 80 cents, but no it was ochenta (80) pesos, the retail price of the plastic chair. I politely declined his offer. Fortunately his fee wasn't retroactive.


La Manzanilla is a small town of about a thousand, many of whom work in the fishing industry, so it is a good place to go fishing. Originally the village was a huge privately owned hacienda prior to the Mexican revolution. Adjacent to the village is the Mexican Federal Ecological Zone, which harbours a high-tide mangrove lagoon, home to a wide variety of bird, fish and Caimans, a species of crocodile. I couldn't tell the difference, and was reluctant to get close enough to examine them.


The lagoon is fenced with wire about six feet high, and the crocodiles were watching us from about ten feet away. What was more amazing were the ergots and herons which played a deadly game with the crocks standing on branches a few inches from the reptiles, and even landing on the backs of the carnivores.


While we just did the tourist thing and took our snaps and video, the more adventurous might want to rent a kayak and paddle the several miles of the lagoon. My advice would be to take a local guide. That's definitely a wilderness adventure I'll do on my next visit.


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