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Day 16 |
Sep 16, 2008

Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

By Brent Stephenson, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: 15 degrees 47’N; 096 degrees 16’ W

Weather: Warm and humid, beautiful clear skies and calm sailing in the afternoon

Having traveled along the coast of Mexico and having heard from our Expedition Leader Suzanna that Huatulco would have several fine beaches with several major resorts, or hotels, we expected to find an overpopulated and crowded resort/port. Nothing prepared us for the sight of this lovely secluded and seemingly uncluttered little bay.

A pier jutted out from the golden, sandy beach; a tent was being set up to give guests and officials some shade; and a small “shuttle” waited to take guests to the entrance of the pier (or shopping center – depending on which way you looked). Vans were awaiting the birders or those who had chosen to go into the interior. Since this was going to be the last shopping possibility before leaving the ship, many guests stayed behind – missing an opportunity to see interesting birds, or to find out about the life of the local population outside the cities or towns.

The group of eleven heading into the interior to see small villages had to travel on the main highway before taking a dirt road that, after 15 minutes of jungle and small plantations, brought us to the first of three “villages”. The word “village” was not quite accurate, as there were only a few houses, but very neat and clean. We were invited to enter the kitchen of Dona Maria to see how tortillas were being prepared, and every member of the group tasted them. The same applied to all other stops – being it to sample nopales (edible cactus, whose leaves are used raw and barbecued), bananas, or the local fruit juices. Here was clearly a good example of how tourism could – and did – help local communities to maintain their traditional ways, and profit from it! This had been an excellent tour, giving a good insight into the life of the average Mexican.

Meanwhile, the birders headed towards the nearby Botanical Gardens, situated close to the coast. With such a small group and an excellent local guide we were able to see almost 55 species of birds, many of which were only found in Mexico. The walk through the deciduous forest was along an easy path, and before even leaving the carpark area we were seeing hummingbirds (Doubleday’s and cinnamon) and orange-breasted buntings. Our guide Cornelio also managed to call in several tiny ferruginous pygmy owls and we got great views of these through the scope. The walk arrived at a beautiful vantage point overlooking the Pacific Ocean and a small river mouth, and there were yellow-crowned night-herons, snowy egrets, sanderling, and even several roseate spoonbills.  Heading back along the same path, we saw quite a long runner snake cross the path, and continued with more good birds, including citreolline trogon.  Back at the carpark we had some fresh fruit and then headed back to the ship.

At noon it was time for us to leave – Acapulco had to be reached on time for all the different flights to be taken home – and the view back into this little bay when we left was one of a little hidden paradise.

During the afternoon, Christian presented his final edition of “The International Enquirer and Central American Post” with close to 80 pictures, bringing home the not so serious (yet still enlightening) events of our voyage, before it was time to see Val’s 20-minute recap of the voyage. One could also order as a DVD, helping the Prince Albert II Foundation through the purchase.

Also our afternoon at sea gave us the opportunity to see brown boobies, wedge-rumped storm-petrel, Galapagos shearwater and Galapagos petrel, plus red-billed tropicbird and Sabine’s gull.  The day finished with a beautiful sunset and of course another fine dinner, our last onboard.

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