Discover a ‘mini archipelago’ off the coast of Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit!
Susshhh! There’s a secret being kept in Puerto Vallarta. No, it’s not the warm, charming Mexican ambiance you feel strolling along cobblestone streets on a Saturday evening or the fact that this wonderful vacation destination was once voted the friendliest city in the world. It’s an adventure to a few, tiny, uninhabited. protected islands jutting out of Bandaras Bay that practically no one knew about until 2005. It’s called: Marietas Eco Discovery.
In the beginning
The Marietas Islands were formed by underwater volcanic eruptions 60,000 years ago. Over the millennia, the landmasses evolved and a layer of soil developed. It supported a variety of plant species and the islands’ flora flourished. Many species of seabirds now use the remote location for feeding and breeding grounds. These include Blue-footed Boobies named after, of course, their distinctive bright blue feet. Below the surface, the seabed surrounding the islands morphed into living reefs as several varieties of coral began forming, developing into havens for many species of tropical fish. The incredible ecosystem that was created began to attract dolphins, manta rays, and eels. As well as several species of sea turtles that can also be found foraging on the submerged coral formations and in the caves that dot the coastline of the islands. During the winter months, majestic humpback whales and their calves arrive at the islands and can be observed all through winter.
Protecting the environment was not a top priority
The islands were not always a protected national treasure. Since they were uninhabited and thought of as just volcanic ‘blips’ in the ocean, they were considered an ideal spot by the Mexican government for military testing conducted in the early 1900s. The extensive testing damaged the flora and chased away almost all animal life on the islands for decades. Test bombs actually created many of the caves and rock formations on the islands today and possibly helped form ‘Hidden Beach,’ an exotic location often inaccessible because of the tides.
The world’s most famous oceanographer joins the fight
In 1960, the famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau led a protest against harmful human activity on and around the islands. His efforts were eventually successful with the beautiful archipelago finally being recognized and named – Marietas Islands National Park. The designation allowed for swimming, kayaking, sunbathing, and other recreational activities but prohibited hunting and fishing. These protective measures helped with the regrowth of the islands’ fauna and flora, cleaning and replenishing the pristine waters, and the return of a flourishing underwater world. in 2008, this natural treasure was named a United Nations-MAB Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO-MAP), a designation whose mandate endeavors to improve the relationship between humans and the environment.
Conservation efforts for Marietas Islands are gaining traction
Because the islands have become increasingly popular over the years, causing damage to the ecosystem, the Mexican government has in the recent past, closed the islands to the public. Although the Marietas Islands are currently open, since 2012, efforts have been put in place to prevent future damage in a variety of ways. This includes limiting the number of days allowed per week for recreational and commercial visits to the biosphere. Restricting the actual landing on the islands to a specific number of visitors per day, and ensuring that only bio-degradable sunscreen be used for snorkeling or scuba sessions.
Have we piqued your interest in experiencing a Marietas Eco Discovery tour?
The adventure begins as you board a catamaran cruiser and meets your energetic boat crew and bilingual guides. You’ll enjoy a sail to the islands as you take in stunning panoramic vistas of the bay. Take in the Vallarta coastline while sipping a cold drink from the open bar. As you approach the biosphere keep your eyes peeled for those Blue-footed Boobies we talked about earlier!
Once arriving to the island’s waters, the order of the day is fun, fun, fun! Test your balancing skills paddle boarding, kayak through the caverns and archways formed by volcanic sculptures. And splash into the crystal clear water for some snorkeling in this stunningly gorgeous ecosystem.
Back on board, you’ll satisfy the appetite you’ve worked up with a Deli lunch. Accompanied by refreshing beverages as you sail on to your next stop, Majahuitas Beach.
The small isolated cove with a golden sand beach is located at the southern edges of Bandaras Bay. It is accessible only by water. Beach chairs and hammocks are available to relax and soak up the sun. If you’re still full of energy, you can grab a kayak or swim in the emerald green water of the cove before returning to the catamaran for the return trip to Vallarta.
Remember, if your vacation plans have you visiting Puerto Vallarta in the winter you’ll be able to add an out-of-this-world bonus experience to this adventure. During the winter season (from December to March), you’ll most likely witness the return of humpback whales. Returning from a summer of feeding along the coast of Alaska to the warm waters of Banderas Bay. Imagine seeing these peaceful giants soaring in the air as they play during their own ‘summer vacation!’
Will you go on a tour to the Marietas Islands when you next visit Puerto Vallarta?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!
Follow the conversation on our Social Media Channels