November 6 - 11

The coast of Oaxaca State is full of pristine beaches and lagoons teeming with birds and tropical plants.

The water in the lagoons is primarily saline, so the shores are jammed with mangrove trees with their bizarre root systems making it appear that the trees are standing on stilts in the water.

The lagoons are essential to the ecology of the area as they are the nurseries of the ocean, full of baby fish and other sea life.

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We have arrived at the beginning of the migratory season when huge flocks of birds arrive from the colder areas of North America. We chose to explore the Laguna de Manialtepec, an eight-kilometer (nearly five miles) long expanse of water. 

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On the bus to the lagoon, we met Margarito, a local fisherman who offered to take us out on the lagoon in his canoe. Margarito grew up on the shore of the Laguna de Manialtepec and continues to make his home here.

Over the next three hours, we paddled along the mangrove shore as Margarito pointed out the various animals. We saw small boa constrictors on the branches of the mangroves, iguanas on the rocks and so many birds that we couldn’t remember all of their names. There were cormorants, storks, herons, egrets, ospreys, kingfishers and more. Being in a canoe permitted us to glide up very close to the birds.

We had hoped to explore the beach at Playa Escobilla, one of the world’s main nesting grounds for the Olive Ridley sea turtle. However, we found that beach access has been closed and that there are now armed soldiers to protect the turtles from poachers. While we were disappointed, we were pleased that the government has taken steps to protect the turtles.

On another day, we rented a small scooter to give us some mobility and freedom to explore some of the other natural areas nearby. 

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We drove down the coast to the Rio (river) Colotepec. Along its banks, we found a dirt track that we followed to the mouth of the river and the small lagoon which formed behind the beach. We could feel the power of the waves as they pounded the beach.

As we walked along the shore, we came upon a surprising sight. In the water was a small flock of flamingos. This was a very impressive sight, as flamingos are generally only seen along the gulf coast of the Yucatan. We stood and watched them for about half an hour, then they flew away.

When we first arrived on the coast, we heard the distressing news that a tropical storm had developed off the coast. We were very concerned that the storm could increase in size and strength and become a hurricane. Over the course of the next few days, we were able to find an internet café where we could check various weather web sites to keep up on the status of the storm.  Check out CNN Hurricanes.  We had been concerned about the possibility of a hurricane as the coastal area sustained major damage in October 1997 when Hurricane Pauline struck.  In that storm more than 50,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and most of the trees were killed.  

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Fortunately, the storm moved away from us, providing us only a day of rain and some of the largest waves we have ever seen.  We did have some great sunsets as well.

On our return bus trip to Oaxaca city, we were still able to see hurricane damage to the highway and the hillsides.  Many of the landslides were still causing problems, dropping rocks during any rain storm.  Again, we were fortunate not to have any delays on the roads.   This brings to an end a fabulous expedition,  thank you for joining us.



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