Manialtepec In Broad Daylight
In recent years tour organizers on the Manialtepec Lagoon have shifted their focus from leisurely early morning bird watching tours to night trips to experience the bioluminescence. We believe, however, that Manialtepec deserves to be seen in the light of day.
The beauty and serenity of the lagoon — the mangroves and clouds reflected in the clear, still water, the hills framing the north side, the fisherman in their canoes. This is the true paradise of the coast, so far removed from all the activity that is Puerto Escondido and yet only 16 km from town.
From December to March, you can go bird watching in a launch or kayak with the Canadian ornithologist Michael Malone — there are hundreds of species including parrots, parakeets and vultures, not to mention our favorite, the frigate, which attacks other birds mid-air and steals the fish from their beaks.
Or you can take a launch and go directly to Puerto Suelo, the narrow strip of beach that separates the lagoon from the ocean. There you will be greeted by the Santos family who have an ocean-side restaurant and cabins, Julio provides the catch of the day which is prepared and served by his wife Juana and daughter-in-law Magui. Javier, his son, can arrange transport and will guide you on a walk to the river through the palm groves. There is no electricity or running water, but the bathrooms are very clean. The cell phone service is good. The beer is cold, because ice for the cooler is brought in from San José Manialtepec. Lunch in Puerto Suelo is also a feature of Michael Malone’s Hidden Voyages Ecotours trips.
The lagoon is fed by the Manialtepec River, but during the summer the two sand bars that separate it from the ocean are breached allowing the saltwater to enter. This is the ecosystem of the mangrove forests and the saltwater and freshwater fish that are abundant in the lagoon at different times of the year. When the barrier beach opens the giant shrimp go into the ocean to spawn. Snook (roblado) and red snapper (pargo) are coastal fish that also live in the lagoon during the rainy season. In the winter, the catch is mostly small fish like mullet (lisa), white mojarra, black axillary mojarra (malacapa) and catfish (cuatete).
The number of fishermen permitted in the lagoon is regulated by the National Commission of Aquaculture and Fishing (Conapesca). Manialtepec extends over the townships (municipios) of San Pedro Mixtepec and Tututepec, and fishermen from one municipio are not allowed to enter their neighbor’s side of the water.
Protecting the lagoon appears to be an ongoing battle. Some years the problem is the encroachment of cattle farmers along the Manialtepec River. Now the issue is of the river basin being channeled into the sea to allow for the construction of a large house, keeping the water from flowing into the lagoon. This has caused a rise in the salinity of the water and a drop in the oxygen levels. The situation is being monitored by don Julio and marine biologists from UMAR.
Michael Malone, Hidden Voyages Ecotours, (954) 582 2962,
Dimar Travel Agency, Zicatela, (954) 582 2305, Adoquín, (954) 582 1551
Restaurant, Cabins, Camping Ribera del Río, Puerto Suelo, (954) 107 0900
Javier Santos, guide, firstname.lastname@example.org (954) 135 0188