Exploring Southern Banderas Bay

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Exploring Southern Banderas Bay

We left Paradise Village itching to explore someplace new. Our first stop was a small group of islets just off the beach from the village of Mismaloya south of Puerto Vallarta. The islets are known as Los Arcos due to their large “arching” sea caves. The islands are federally protected as one of Mexico’s many national parks. There were many tour boats coming and going throughout the day. The tour boats have moorings already in place on the north side of the islands. There is a designated place for snorkeling and scuba diving near the largest of the caves to keep the boats and the swimmers separated. As we approached the islands we saw all the boat traffic and decided to avoid the commotion. So we anchored just off the village on the opposite side of the largest island. After our anchor was secure we gathered our snorkeling gear, loaded up the dinghy, and headed to the snorkeling area. We tied the dinghy to one of the tour boat moorings and jumped in the water. We all agreed it was great to be in the sea and among marine life again. We snorkeled around and among the reefs and rocks and Victoria and I both explored the largest of the caves. After a few hours a park ranger came up to us and asked if that was our boat anchored off the village. We were the only private boat around so it was pretty obvious that it was us. He told us anchoring was no longer allowed and that if we wanted to visit Los Arcos we needed to use one of the tours. I apologized for not knowing the rules. He explained that it was a fairly new rule and not to worry. I asked him if we could please stay for a while longer and he said no problem. So we each took one more swim around the reef to look at the many fish and then we all headed back to Samadhi. As we were raising the anchor the ranger pasted by again and said thank you for cooperating. Once again the Mexican people showed us how incredibly kind and welcoming they are. We (inadvertently) broke the rules, and yet he still let us finish our visit and enjoy the park. Then he thanked us for not being difficult and for doing as he asked.  

Yelapa- After leaving Los Arcos we headed to an amazing village called Yelapa. Yelapa is located on the southern edge of Banderas Bay. The town itself is a very unique experience but not as much as its history. Yelapa is a part of the Indigenous Community of Chacala, in which the land was legally deeded to the indigenous people who have lived there for centuries. King Phillip II of Spain granted the property of Yelapa to its indigenous inhabitants back in 1581. Today the land in Yelapa is still owned by the community collectively, and no one person or family privately “owns” the piece of land they live on. The town is built into the jungle and on the side of very steep hillsides. It has narrow cobblestone streets and beautiful homes throughout the village. There is a waterfall just on the far side of town that draws many visitors. We walked through the town and then cooled off in the waterfall. The five of us (Ranger came along) meandered through town checking out the small shops. The kids loved seeing the many chickens, baby chicks and roosters. Many local dogs came out to say hi. The dogs were very used to people walking by their home but they all seemed very surprised by the presence of a new dog. It does not surprise me that many visitors do not bring their dogs to Yelapa as the only way to get here is by boat or along a rocky coastal trail usually via mule or horse. In fact electricity did not come to Yelapa until 2001. And the private boats that do visit have to contend with an unprotected and deep anchorage. And if all that does not detour the private visitor then landing your dinghy in the sizable surf might. So if you want to visit Yelapa next time you are in Puerto Vallarta (and we recommend you do) just hire a tour boat. We had a great time there but it took some work to get there.   

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