Cruising with Crocodiles

San Blas and its surrounding rivers and beaches were on our must see list for mainland Mexico. Just a short walk from the marina is the town’s central park with some great little restaurants. From here, you can see the old cathedral, catch a taxi down to the river for an estuary boat tour, walk up to the 16th century Spanish fort or just relax and enjoy a delicious meal and ice cold beer.

Templo de la Virgen del Rosario church, built in 1769.

Typical lunch on the streets of San Blas.


After checking into the marina and a quick boat clean up we were ready to head out and explore all that San Blas had to offer. Agape and her crew, as well as John and Becca from S/V Halcyon decided to hop on the early morning jungle river tour we had heard so much about. We saw tons of crocodiles, turtles and many different species of tropical birds that just happened to be passing through on their annual migration.

For the first time on our journey it finally felt like we were getting into the tropical Mexico we had been dreaming about. Our panga driver was great, he had eyes like a hawk and saw things that we would have otherwise missed on our own. Every few minutes he’d point out another hidden creature!

One of the many wild, american crocodiles we saw on our river tour.
A colorful iguana sunbathing above us.

Roseate Spoonbills.

The only downside to the river tour was a stop at a small cocodrilario, or crocodile “zoo”. Theoretically the cocodrilario exists to help perpetuate the crocodile in Nayarit, whose habitat is rapidly shrinking due to agricultural and tourist development. We came to believe that they breed and release the crocodiles here, but there was a lack of information available and we left unsure of the complex’s official purpose. The cocodrilario gives more of an appearance of a small, substandard, commercial zoo than it does a wildlife refuge. The large crocodiles we found were kept in shallow concrete ponds, perhaps twice as long as the croc it contained. The toothy residents topping out at around 15 ft, some supposedly are old and unable to fend for themselves in the wild, while others have been deemed dangerous and removed from local areas. Whatever the reason, I can’t imagine it’s a great life for them. They also had two jaguars, a few deer and birds of prey, a coati and wild boars that are all native to the Nayarit region. All the animals seemed highly agitated and unstimulated in their tiny cages. A few animals were even starting to loose some of their fur. It was heart breaking to see and we left as soon as possible trying to make it clear we did not want to support the way the animals were being held.

A friendly coati, anxious for a little attention.

In true Mexican fashion, our tour ended at a restaurant in La Tovara Springs, where though not forced to eat, you would sit for an hour during lunch time. It’s a ploy that gets most people to end up ordering something. At least the restaurant had a rope swing into the springs where you could swim and play while you waited, supposedly gated off underwater from the main estuary and protected from crocodiles.

Festival in the town square celebrating the annual bird migration.

We would end up walking into town most nights to grab dinner and do some people watching. As the temperatures rose and the price to eat out fell, it made sense to keep the boat cool and support the local businesses. Going out night after night gave us the feeling that we kinda knew the place, and one night around 11pm when we heard loud music playing nearby and guessed it was coming from the central plaza. We decided to finish our cocktails and hit the town! A block or two from the marina we found the source of the laughter, shouting, and live music. It was the 40th birthday of the town’s previous mayor and he was having a huge party in the middle of the street, complete with a live band and lots of dancing. We slowly made our way down the street not wanting to intrude on the party, curiously watching for a minute. While passing by, the guy manning the bar had spotted us and sent a kid over to us with a couple beers in hand. Moments later the older boys took turns pulling the ladies out on the dance floor. We were welcomed in with open arms and greeted with huge smiles. It was such a fun experience to be complete strangers, from another country, barely speaking their language and to have been brought into their celebration with out a single question. It’s one of the many reasons why we love Mexico so much, everyone here is so kind and welcoming. How often in the States do you think people would invite foreigners into their homes and parties without a single word or question? The people here are so proud of their country and culture, and always eager to share the beauty of their lives with us. Something they are teaching us to do more of!

The marina in San Blas is nice, but like a lot of places we have seen in Mexico, it has a ton of potential to be better. There is a roof top pool and jacuzzi, though they lack the propane system needed to heat it, which also meant they only had cold showers. Apparently they haven’t had hot water in quite some time, despite what the guide books and their website says.

Relaxing by the “jacuzzi”.

Our favorite thing about the marina was the little restaurant on the corner that served a mean grilled mahi mahi, shrimp and pineapple burger!

San Blas is known for their baked goods, especially their banana breads. Walking down the street it was almost impossible to walk by these stalls without buying a bag full of goodies.

From San Blas we made the short hop down to Mantenchen Bay. It was a short stay as the jejenes, or no-see-um bugs, and mosquitos were quite bad but it was a cute little beach town lined with palapas. Doing short stopovers like this after being in a marina help ease our bodies back into the rhythm of rocking and rolling on our sportier passages.

We saw three baby crocs in this electric green pool on the side of the road! Crocodiles everywhere!
Another roseate spoonbill.

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