Monthly Archives: March 2015
The Marietas Islands are 21 miles from Puerto Vallarta, yet feel worlds away from the skyscrapers and resorts of the nearby big city. The water is clean and the coral at the islands is well preserved. We even saw two Zebra Moray Eels during our one scuba dive there! We were chased away by a Mexican patrol boat on our second morning at the islands, with Magic tied to a beefy mooring buoy. We were preparing for our second scuba dive on a reef right under the boat when our fun suddenly ended. The area around the islands is designated as a national park, and we unknowingly broke the rules by staying overnight (for two nights, even).
At least we were still above water when the patrol boat approached and gently chastised us for spending the night at the islands. Boats may only visit from 6 am to 6 pm, and a plastic park bracelet must be purchased on the mainland beforehand. Our guidebook didn’t mention these details so we were surprised. In retrospect, I guess it’s good we did not know. We enjoyed a fantastic two days at the islands, unfortunately on the wrong side of the law yet blissfully unaware.
We got to enjoy the place during its most peaceful hours in the morning and evening. The brown and yellow rock of the small scatter of islands had been shaped into wonderful caves, coves and arches. Foamy surge rushed through these features and created fun places to snorkel and get pushed around by the current. Sea kayaking among thousands of sea birds living on the island was also great fun. We saw Manta Rays jump several feet out of the water and flap their wings hopefully alongside the sea birds, only to belly flop right back into the sea.
The scuba diving was great, and very different from other diving we’ve done in the Sea of Cortez. In addition to colorful coral, an occasional green plant swayed gently in the current. It was exciting to see the two Zebra Moray Eels, and now I can check the last check box on my “eels of the Sea of Cortez” list! Now I’ve seen them all, and I think the Zebra is my favorite. It is such a docile and peaceful creature, and only eats mollusks. It’s both the cutest and nicest eel in the sea.
Brian spotted a very strange creature lurking in the sand: a flounder. This was the first we’ve seen in the Sea of Cortez. This fish begins life with one eye on each side of its body, and as it matures both eyes move to one side, allowing it to lay flat in the sand with both eyes watching for prey. Wow!
Several large, loud tour boats from the city visited each day. They dumped 50-75 tourists into one of the bays to snorkel, and then fed them lunch afterward. The tour boat loudspeakers would boom with pop music and crackly announcements. It was comical to see the tourists loudly enjoying themselves, many of them with skin in shades of pink or red.
Late afternoon brought solitude, and we had the islands mostly to ourselves. One other sailboat shared the anchorage, and they were very quiet. These were the best times on the island, where we could go for a short paddle and watch birds or snorkel in absolute quiet and solitude. Brian saw these two Blue Footed Boobies lovingly preening each other as he paddled by in his kayak. One morning, he paddled all the way around the island. The birds were unafraid and accustomed to seeing people. No foot traffic is allowed on the islands to ensure the birds have an undisturbed place to live and breed.
Brad, our friend from Seattle, visited us for a week on the boat and shared this visit to the Marietas. He typically sails near civilization in Puget Sound, so this wilderness anchorage was a rare treat. We are lucky to be cruising around the Sea of Cortez, where quiet anchorages abound and we almost never use marinas.
The patrol boat let us go without a fight. We apologized for breaking the rules and the officers were very forgiving. They sped away to talk to the sailboat next to us as soon as we detached from our mooring and turned to leave the islands. No citations were given, but the encounter with them definitely made our hearts beat a bit faster.