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November 29, 2017

Going WILD in Oaxaca

By Serge Dedina

 If there is a more beautiful beach in Mexico than Playa Cacaluta in the 29,383-acre Huatulco National Park, I haven’t seen it. The steep white sand beach is fringed with theme green mangroves and surrounded by tropical forest as far as the eye can see. Sea turtles, humpback whales and giant manta rays swim in the pristine waters offshore. “There are jaguars in the mountains and jaguarondi, anteaters and even deer along the coast,” said Saymi Pineda, our guide who works with Mexico’s National Commission of Protected Areas or CONANP. “It is an incredibly important area for wildlife.”

 I had just taken a tour of the fragile coral reefs of the national park in the company of a group of friends from Southern California and my team at WILDCOAST a conservation organization I co-founded in 2000. We are working with Saymi and her colleagues at CONANP and local dive outfitters to protect the delicate corals from overuse. To date we have installed more than 200 buoys that steer boaters away from the reef system.

 The next 36 hours were a blur of sun, sand, and sea turtles. Immediately after our trip to Cacaluta, we found ourselves driving through the rain forest on our way to raft the Copalita River, a pristine watershed that empties into the ocean just south of Huatulco. Since it was just after the rainy season, the river was full, and the rapids were perfect for our rafts. The combination corals and rapids, made it a perfect day in the wild.

 The next day we released baby sea turtles into the ocean at Playa Morro Ayuta and then woke up again to witness a pre-dawn olive Ridley sea turtle arribada. The sight of more than 10,000 olive Ridley sea turtles laying their eggs on this gorgeous and undeveloped 15km stretch of coastline was as mesmerizing as anything I’ve ever seen. I am thankful to the team at WILDCOAST and CONANP as well as the residents of Rio Seco who protect this beach and the sea turtles who find a safe haven there.

 I was lucky to enjoy a perfect visit to what is arguably one of the most beautiful and culturally and wildlife rich coastal regions of Mexico.

 Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of WILDCOAST and the author of Saving the Gray Whale, Wild Sea, and Surfing the Border.