Visiting a Mangrove Paradise near Acapulco, Mexico

When Lesley and I were on our recent mini-vacation to Pie de la Cuesta, we spent one afternoon on a tour with Coyuca 2000, a restaurant/tour operator that offers trips around Laguna Coyuca, a large lagoon situated behind the beach. (See the main photo here — the lagoon is on the left.)

Laguna Coyuca near Acapulco

Amazingly, despite its proximity to sprawling and gritty Acapulco, the lagoon is clean, relatively undeveloped and contains a now-rare protected mangrove forest. All this added up to a tour well worth the $350-peso fee ($27).

We decided to take the tour mostly, I think, out of curiosity — we randomly ate dinner at Coyuca one night, and the menus advertised the boat tour, with amusing, hard-to-resist translations like “take photo with crocodile and iguana,” “visit site where of Tarzan and Rambo 2 was filmed” (true story!) and “see in her the many birds and of migration while in catamaran” (Her being the lagoon, of course.)

Perhaps because it was a Friday and the weekend throng of Mexico City visitors hadn’t arrived yet, but we mostly had the lagoon to ourselves. It reminded me a lot of Lago de Patzcuaro — a big body of freshwater with islands, surrounded by large mountains — but more tropical and hot.

A lone fisherman in Laguna de Coyuca. This looks so much like Patzcuaro, in Michoacan...

...except it's a lot more tropical here

We had little to no expectation for the tour, other than we’d get to ride around in a boat in a tropical lagoon. But it was so much more than that. First, we crossed the lake to circle around an island where there were many pelicans, cormorants and other large birds.

Bird island (a grey heron on the big rock, and a white heron over on the right).

I wish I could tell you what type of bird this was.

Then, we docked at a pier, where we were told we were going to “walk through the mangroves.” I looked down at my flip-flops and hoped they’d suffice.

The dock on this pier required some gymnastics. Over on the end of the pier -- see that lattice-looking structure? You have to climb that, to the top. Over on the right, a mangrove tree.

At the end of the pier, a guide appeared from the eco-tourism company Paraiso de los Manglares, explaining in English  that we’d be doing a half-mile walk through protected “manglares” (mangroves). We followed him to a suspended walkway that looked a lot like those bouncy wooden structures you see in kids’ jungle gym sets. We stepped onto it,  jiggled (and giggled), bouncing down the rickety path.

The guide explained that this area has two types of mangroves — red and white. And how they are incredibly important to regulating the world’s climate, saying they produce more oxygen than most plant species. He took great pains to explain the flora/fauna of the mangrove forest, and I can proudly say I now know what a mangrove seed looks like.

The uphill climb on the suspension bridge

Lesley is dwarfed by the mangroves.

Near the end, the walkway angles upward, leading to a large platform that overlooks an iguana sanctuary. The iguanas live in a very normal setting and there were also other animals living among the iguanas, including an affectionate deer. As I petted him, I realized I had just crossed a mangrove forest and was petting a deer. It was turning into an awesome day (and before I forget, we also saw a whale out in the ocean that morning, while waiting at the beach for the tour to start).

After we left, he stood by the gate, watching us, just like a dog. I was ready to bring him back to Mexico City with me.

After that, we visited the crocodile sanctuary, where a humongous herd of Polish and Mexican tourists were taking photos with injured/recovering crocodiles. I didn’t get photos of the mayhem, though Lesley and I watched, rapt, as tourists got into an enclosure with “Chewy” — a formerly abused crocodile — and took pictures with him. The whole scene seemed seconds away from bloodshed. We chose not to harass Chewy, especially after we learned he spent his first five years of life chained up at a restaurant, with shackles on his back legs growing into his skin, nearly killing him. (The pressure to pet Chewy was the one part of the tour that crossed over from “eco-tourism” to “tacky tourism.”)

Still, the offerings from Pariaso de los Manglares was impressive, considering how low our expectations were. The grounds include a restaurant, spa and jaw-droppingly-gorgeous pool. When we mentioned to the guide how we hadn’t read about any of this in our travel books (Lonely Planet, time for an update, perhaps?), he explained that the union-organized tourism industry in Acapulco has resisted allowing his organization to advertise in the city, so they rely on people who visit Pie de la Cuesta to spread the word.

After that, we got back on the boat, and Paulino took over to Paraiso’s restaurant, with a private beach. We had homemade Pina Coladas and chilled out for an hour or so, before boarding the “catamaran” (a pontoon boat) and heading back to the dock.

15 thoughts on “Visiting a Mangrove Paradise near Acapulco, Mexico

  1. DKN says:

    FABULOUS! Great photos, great fun. Mangroves are very special trees. I believe there is a reforestation attempt happening in the Gulf of Mexico to repair the damage done to them by Katrina. They had a significant role in preserving those sand bar thingies off the coast of Louisiana and now the trees are gone.

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