We convened at the beach in the early afternoon, on the west end where newbies learned to surf. Dozens of fishing boats laid scattered across the sand, all without trailers. Fishermen here relied on the surf to push their boats to the shore and their pickups to pull them from the water – a simple and effective process.
We were scheduled to leave at one, but in Sayulita that was an estimation at best. Anyway, we’d forgotten a few essentials: beer, space cake, and Sophie (not necessarily in that order). The former arrived by motorcycle courier – three hundred pesos (roughly twenty-five Canadian dollars) for fifty bottles of beer.
With everything finally gathered, we boarded and set out to sea. Aboard the Dumay – a twenty-seven foot boat equipped with plenty of seating including a swivel chairs, a live baitwell, and a canopy for shade – was my sister, LJ and I; Nico and Jen, the French couple we’d made friends with; the captain, Ceasar, with his wife and kids; and the deckhand, for a total of eleven people. Despite the surplus of bodes, the amount of safety gear was limited. Maybe it was the aforementioned consumables, but all of us were feeling pretty carefree anyway – Sophie included.
As the boat sped over the waves, we basked in the hot afternoon sun. We passed luxurious sailboats resting peacefully on the water, colonies of pelicanos sitting on shit-covered rock formations along the coast, and groups of manta rays swimming lackadaisically by, occasionally jumping out of the water. Some miles out, near Punta de Mita, we slowed down to trawl (Ceasar had caught the bait the previous night). In no time, LJ hooked a fish. After about five arduous minutes of tugging he reeled in a massive Red Snapper – our dinner to be. It was in the same area that we spotted several magnificent sea turtles, all several feet in diameter. The incredible, ancient creatures swam gracefully by, unaffected by our presence.
Finally we arrived at las Islas Marietas, one of Mexico’s most famous attractions, and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve to boot. If you travel anywhere near Puerto Vallarta you’ll see countless signs, posters and pamphlets advertising the islands – technically an archipelago made up of two islands and two islets. Marietas Islands are hailed as being a natural paradise, a wondrous destination untouched by man. Stunning as they may be, the advertising is misleading.
In fact, the awesome formations of the islands as you see then today weren’t created solely by volcanic activity, but by military testing. From the early 1900’s to the laste 1960’s the Mexican government conducted many large-scale explosions on the islands. It was only after massive international outcry that they eventually decided to stop and label the islands a national park. After decades free of humans the islands developed impressive marine ecosystems, and became home to thousands of birds.
Today a permit is necessary to visit the islands, and only a few are granted annually. We were among the lucky travellers who got to visit them and, tourist attraction or not, I highly recommend it. Whether you’re exploring the caves, caverns and tunnels; snorkeling with thousands of sea creatures ; or just relaxing on the deserted beaches, it’s well worth the trip – particularly if you travel with Caesar (who provides everything from fishing rods to snorkel gear). While we enjoyed the islands Caesar gutted and cleaned the fish, then prepared the world’s freshest ceviche.
After our delicious dinner we headed back towards Sayulita, exhausted but satisfied. Two humpback whales tagged along, blowing water metres into the air before breaching the water, throwing their massive bodies into the air and splashing down on their backs. We neared the shore as the sun set, exploding with colour and providing the perfect ending to a perfect trip.
To book a fishing, snorkelling or sightseeing trip with Caesar Plascencia Carrillo (Dumay’s Fishing and Snorkeling) call 322-132-8705.