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Lost in Time: Hovercraft and Crocs on the Ameca

PV Mirror, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
December 5-11, 2009
by Pat Allan

Photo Neoteric hovercraft six passenger

You might say that Boca de Tomates is a land lost in time. Located on a forgotten stretch of beach north of the PV airport, it stands in stark contrast to the rest of Vallarta’s shimmering skyline. Years ago, a rail line carried crops of bananas to the mouth of the Ameca River here, where they were loaded on ships for transport abroad. Now, all that remains is a tiny fishing village nestled against the mangroves, and a row of ramada-style restaurants serving fresh fish and cervezas to the locals. But earlier this year, a small band of eco-minded entrepreneurs launched a unique tour that departs from this lazy locale. Banderas Bay Hover Tours, with their bright, banana-yellow six-seat hovercraft, take small groups of tourists from these very beaches from whence the bananas departed in a time long ago.

These hovercraft, that float on an eight-inch cushion of air, are the perfect vehicles to traverse the beaches, water and mudflats, and explore the forgotten reaches of the Ameca River. An eco-sensitive mode of transport, they leave no tracks and cause no damage. Soon after our safety briefing, decked out with the requisite life jackets, we step aboard the craft and settle in for what promises to be a new sensation. The engine comes to life, and we shoot across the beach and head up river. Birds flock around us, as if showing us the way to go.

Ten minutes into the ride, we come to a shallow bend in the river where three crocs sun themselves on the mudflats. The pilot slows, and we watch in wonder as two of the crocs slide off the mudflat and swim in our direction. Then with a thrash of their tails, they slip below the surface. Further along, we’re treated to the sight of a flock of Roseate Spoonbills. The magnificent birds with their pink plumage and spoon-shaped bills probe the shallows in search of sustenance. Throughout the tour we are joined by various types of birds, from cormorants and pelicans to frigates and black-neck stilts. At times, the swarming flocks are enough to cause vertigo.

The end of the hover trek is by no means the end of the tour. Back on the beach, we’re met by a local fisherman who shows us how to cast a native net. He makes it look simple; the net explodes from his folded arms and blossoms into a full circle. Our attempts are not so pretty, but such skills are not learned in a single afternoon. Sadly, his generation might be the last to ply this trade here at the edge of the Ameca. Pressures from development threaten to devour what is left of this scenic mangrove swamp.

Leaving the fishing village, our guide takes us on a walking trail that winds its way right into the heart of the mangroves. Stopping on what seems a simple path of sand, our guide stoops to show us the tracks of a raccoon-like animal called a quadimundi who just a few hours ago, under the cover of darkness, feasted on a salad of seeds and berries. He then points out the traps set by sand lions to catch unwary ants. Further along, we come upon a marshy area riddled by crab holes and the scattered shoots of new mangrove trees. Everywhere we turn, there is something new, and mystery revealed.

After the two-and-a-half hour tour, we settle in under the palapa at nearby Eduardo’s restaurant, where we sip cold cervezas and watch the waves crash on the shore. We take in the aroma of fresh red snapper sizzling over a wood fire, and ponder this latest experience. Perhaps we really are in a time warp, clearly apart from the bustle of that modern Vallarta we view just across the bay, cast upon the backdrop of the majestic Sierra Madre. It seems unreal, but getting lost in time like this is just part of the magical experience of Vallarta.

Tours depart Monday through Saturday at 9:30 a.m., 12 noon, and 3 p.m. from the beach at Boca de Tomates, just north of the PV airport.
For more information, please visit BBHT online at:
www.Hover-Tours.com, or call 044 (322) 103-7144

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1649 Tippecanoe Street Terre Haute, Indiana USA 47807-2394
Telephone: 1-812-234-1120 / 1-800-285-3761 Fax: 877-640-8507

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