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Swimming with turtles in Mexico

Mazunte, Oaxaca

Part 2 - The Pacific Ocean and its creatures

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One of the highlights of our holiday was getting up close to some of the wildlife that inhabits this area...

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We got up early on Easter Sunday morning, just as the sun was rising and drove to Mazunte to take a boat trip to see dolphins, turtles and other creatures. Thank goodness the sea was calm, not like yesterday!

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An empty beach with the boats waiting for us.

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Just enough time to get a quick breakfast at the only place open... hot chocolate croissants and juice.

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Time to don our life-jackets and help launch the boat. This meant us all physically pushing it through the sand down to the water line, waiting for the right moment in between the waves, launching it into the sea and then clambering into it as best we could. My small camera had to be confined to a waterproof case until we were out of danger of being doused by the waves.

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There were seven of us in our boat, plus the "captain" and his helper. Two of the tourists came down very early from Puerto Escondido to join the excursion.

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The weather conditions were perfect!

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The other boat which set off with us at the same time.

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As we passed by Mazunte, the guide told us that in the 1970s, these very beaches were the largest centre for catching sea turtles in Mexico and where the slaughterhouses were located.

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At the slaughterhouse in San Agustin, which opened in 1968 and closed in 1990, more than 30,000 turtles were killed each year, leading to a serious depletion in their numbers. Some of the early European "tourists" took photos and the turtles' plight became known around the world. Pressure was put on the Mexican Government to put a stop to this practice and in 1990, a ban on turtle meant and eggs was established. (Well done, photographers!!)

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Our captain and guide told us that because of the ban, many local families were deprived of their main source of income. In a bid to provide jobs and help the locals change their ideas, they started promoting the conservation and protection of turtles here, setting up the Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga, and also the production of natural cosmetics.

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One of the many frigates flying overhead.

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One of our first "stops" was to see the "white rock" where thousands of birds come to nest.

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The rock has turned white from all the bird droppings.

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A brown pelican flies past us.

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As we chugged away from the coast, we saw the first sea turtles which from time to time come to the surface.

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A close encounter with a school of dolphins

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Dolphins swimming around the boats for a while.

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At certain times of the year, you can also see whales.

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Cristina filming the dolphins.

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A turtle close to our boat... the boy jumped into the water to show us what it was like.

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Much bigger than I had imagined!

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Cristina and Marc swam with the turtle for a few minutes... an incredible experience, they said.

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Another of the spectacular sights - the flying manta rays. These incredible creatures can jump 3 metres out of the water, flapping their fins like wings for a few seconds before landing back in the water.

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After our 3-hour boat trip, it was time to beach the boat. Had to put cameras away, then we sped at full throttle towards the beach, hitting the sand and sliding up as far as possible on some wooden bars!

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Back to El Copal for a rest and something to eat.

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Delicious beef kebabs for lunch

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A happy bunch of ladies in the kitchen!

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In the afternoon, we visited the Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga, which has seven of the eight species of sea turtles in the world as well as some freshwater and land ones.

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The centre has tanks and pools and aquariums where they breed some of the species which are endangered.

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A rare baby albino turtle

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A manta ray

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Young turtle swimming in a tank

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Poster showing the seven species of turtles found in Mexican waters

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Some of the turtles swimming in the aquarium tanks

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Are they playing tag?

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This one has a sharp beak-like mouth

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They look like they're flying underwater!

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An unusual palm tree

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View over the coast with the white rock in the distance

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Some buildings in Mazunte

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Buying some cold drinks at the local shop

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Man with his donkey

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A show with acrobatics and jugglers being held in the square

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Doing acrobatics

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A lot of locals turned up to watch...

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... as did the tourists and resident hippies!

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Turtle-shaped soap - produced locally by the natural cosmetics community project.

An amazing day out seeing some of the incredible creatures which co-exist peacefully with our species along this coast. Thanks to all who did their bit to put an end to the massive slaughter of turtles in Oaxaca!

Posted by margaretm 12:19 Archived in Mexico Tagged boats sea turtles coast dolphins

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