PUERTO VALLARTA GETS CLOSER TO CREATING THE MUNICIPAL CLIMATE CHANGE PLAN

PUERTO VALLARTA GETS CLOSER TO CREATING THE MUNICIPAL CLIMATE CHANGE PLAN

Puerto Vallarta took another step towards the creation of a Municipal Climate Change Plan (PMCC), which allows it, from the local level, to face this global phenomenon that threatens settlements located along the coasts.

On April 10 and 11, the Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change Design Workshop was held, which is part of the Puerto Vallarta’s PMCC development process.

This process is being supported by the Ministry of Environment and Territorial Development (SEMADET) of the State of Jalisco and the German Cooperation for Sustainable Development in Mexico (GIZ), through the programs of Vertically Integrated Climate Policies (VICLIM) and Adaptation to the climate change based on ecosystems with the private sector in Mexico (ADAPTUR).

During the work session, key individuals were informed about the conditions of the municipality in the face of climate change, the sectors that most emit Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), as well as which are the most vulnerable for the future.

The group worked on the construction of a long-term strategic vision for the PMCC of Puerto Vallarta, developed in a participatory manner that meets the needs of each sector.

The actions proposed in this workshop will be an initial input for the design and implementation of future policies and instruments that promote sectoral articulation for decision-making, in the face of the global challenge posed by climate change.

The exercise counted on the participation of strategic actors of diverse scopes, among them of the public, social sector, academia and private sector, who from their perspectives and taking care of their interests, contributed quality inputs for the development of the PMCC.

The fact that Puerto Vallarta has a PMCC, provides a comparative advantage over other tourist destinations, being in a better position to reduce the risks of this global climatic phenomenon, as well as its impacts on the community.

Beyond this workshop, society and key stakeholders can continue to be involved in each of the stages of the development of the PMCC, through the PMCC Blog (https://energypedia.info/wiki/Portal:PMCC), a online space designed to promote the exchange of experiences, successes and challenges, as well as sharing documents, studies, videos, events, among other materials that are of common interest.

Grass-roots glass crushing reduces impact of recycled bottles in Baja Sur

Claire Donahue, the “glass lady,Claire Donahue, the “glass lady,” spearheaded a glass-crushing initiative.

Grass-roots glass crushing reduces impact of recycled bottles in Baja Sur

Citizens step in to deal with waste management problems

Like many Mexican communities, the twin towns of La Ventana and El Sargento in Baja California Sur suffer from serious waste management problems. The community’s single garbage truck breaks down regularly and its inadequate landfill is reaching capacity.

The two contiguous towns sit at the apex of pristine La Ventana Bay on the Gulf of California. They are blessed with scenic beauty, good weather and El Norte, the steady wind blowing across the Bay in winter that makes for perfect kiteboarding and windsurfing.

In fact, La Ventana Bay is regularly listed as either the No. 1 or No. 2 destination in the world for practitioners of these sports.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the area is suffering from rapid growth. Its infrastructure, including waste management, simply isn’t up to dealing with the increasing population and business activity.

Five years ago, this led a group of residents to found the non-profit No Más Basura (NMB), or No More Garbage, to develop a program to remove recyclables from the waste stream. Not only does it offer a popular weekly recycling event for the community, it’s actively engaged in educational programs K-12 to help raise a new generation of recyclers and to train local businesses in recycling methods. The group also organizes several annual community-wide clean-up days.

glass crusher quickly reduces a weekly bottle collection to crushed glass.

Though quiet as a kitchen blender, the crusher quickly reduces a weekly bottle collection to crushed glass.

One major focus is minimizing the impact of Easter Week on local beaches as some 5,000 people, many from nearby La Paz, gather to party for three or four days. In addition to organizing trash removal and recycling, NMB fields ambassadors from local schools who patrol the beaches to ask campers to take home as much of their trash as possible and to dispose properly of the rest in provided receptacles.

NMB is confronting the two major problems that dog virtually all recycling efforts — raising money to fund the operation and what to do with the recyclables once collected. Recyclers might think: “Good for me. I’ve gotten rid of that stuff in the right way.” But it’s doubtful that too much thought is given to where “that stuff” is going and how.

Most recyclable material is of little, if any, value. So, creative ways must often be found to make use of it. Fortunately, plastics, aluminum and metals are marketable. NMB gives all the plastic to the local schools for them to sell in La Paz. The aluminum and mixed metals are sold to a recycler and the proceeds help buy gas for transportation.

Cardboard is another matter. Since the Chinese banned imports of waste cardboard, the market has collapsed. Prices are so low in La Paz that it’s not worth the gas to take it there. However, NMB is looking into ways to get the commodity to the recycler without making a special trip. Another solution is providing cardboard to Rancho Cacachilas, a local sustainable resort, where it is used as mulch for its extensive organic gardening.

Styrofoam is another significant problem for recyclers. NMB does not accept Styrofoam items such as plates, cups and food containers, but a significant amount in the form of packing materials is provided to a local manufacturer of “eco blocks,” some 80% of which are polystyrene. Eco blocks are used in construction, replacing standard concrete blocks.

Unique to this area, because of unusually high kiteboarding and windsurfing activity, is the presence of discarded sails made of virtually indestructible ripstop polyester. To take sails out of the waste stream, NMB offers them to a local seamstress who manufactures colorful, strong, reusable shopping bags and purses. This also helps keep plastic bags out of the landfill.

Samples of crushed glass.

Samples of crushed glass.

But one the biggest headaches facing recyclers is what to do with glass bottles. Each week NMB collects as many as 3,000 bottles — primarily beer, wine and liquor. There is, however, no market for the commodity.

Recycling processors are increasingly reluctant to crush glass for reuse by bottle manufacturers because so much of the glass they receive is contaminated. The cost for removing labels, eliminating contaminates and cleaning glass prior to crushing is prohibitive.

Enter the NMB “glass lady.”

Claire Donahue, a diminutive seasonal resident of La Ventana and NMB member, met with program manager Javier Ponce about two years ago to discuss the glass issue. Claire had some experience in creating art glass and was intrigued by the challenge of dealing with the huge weekly bottle collection. She and Javier decided NMB should crush its own bottles and find local uses for the product.

After doing the necessary research, she located and purchased a glass crusher for NMB to use. It sits in a palapa on her beachfront property where she crushes bottles from each weekly collection.

“Meanwhile, we are moving ahead with plans to build a bodega for the glass crusher on 1.65 hectares on the outskirts of town.”

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La Ventana/El Sargento

Label removal was the first hurdle. Claire discovered that labels from most beverage companies are not easily removed. Many are virtually impossible. These “dirty” bottles are crushed to be used by local builders and homeowners for drainage fields or construction footers as a partial replacement for the sand or gravel.

But even if this dirty crushed glass goes to the landfill, it’s still a win since it takes significantly less space than uncrushed glass.

Claire has discovered about a dozen manufacturer’s bottles whose labels are easily removed after soaking. They are washed and turned into clean glass for use in concrete countertops, floors and walls. For countertops, for example, various combinations of colored glass are added to the concrete and ground smooth. Local builder Édgar Ramírez is offering this alternative to customers and experimenting with other uses.

Clean crushed glass is also suitable for decorating pavers, benches, water features and other landscaping applications including mulch. The commodity may also be used as a filler in concrete and road paving.

From an environmental perspective, Claire notes that glass bottles, despite being overtaken by plastic containers, are a better choice. It takes twice as much fossil fuel to make a plastic bottle than a comparable glass container and, in the process, plastic bottle manufacturing releases five times the greenhouse gases and requires 17 times as much water compared with plastic. And they help decrease the plague of plastic going into the oceans.

As soon as practical, she would like to turn the operation over to a third party, either a local entrepreneur or an educator interested in creating an internship program for local high school kids.

Interns would provide part of the labor and proceeds from the sale of the glass and products they’d create could go to a charity of their choosing, a scholarship fund or even back into the program. The internship would also teach many general skills important to anyone entering the workforce.

“There is a lot of excitement about the potential for raw crushed glass as well as the products that can be made locally with it. We hope that a successful project will inspire others in their creative treatment of ‘waste’ for the betterment of our community.

“A community like La Ventana/El Sargento is a great place to be involved in a project of this sort since you really feel like you can make a difference.”

The writer is a newspaper and magazine journalist, photojournalist and the author of two books.

Michoacán plant’s nopal biogas will power half of municipality’s vehicles

Nopalimex plant in Michoacán.Nopalimex plant in Michoacán.

Michoacán plant’s nopal biogas will power half of municipality’s vehicles

Nopalimex’s product is 40% cheaper than gasoline

A new chapter in a decade-long history of a Michoacán business commenced yesterday in Zitácuaro when the first industrial plant in Mexico dedicated to obtaining biogas and generating electricity from nopal, or prickly pear cactus, began operations.

The Nopalimex plant is expected to produce three million liters of biogas every year, enough to meet 50% of the fuel needs of the vehicle fleet operated by the municipality of Zitácuaro.

The company says that a cubic meter of the biogas it produces is equivalent to a liter of gasoline, but is 40% cheaper.

While the main focus of the new plant will be to obtain biogas and electricity, some byproducts will include ethanol, nopal for human consumption, humus and nitrogen-rich water that can be used as a fertilizer.

Governor Silvano Aureoles Conejo said at the plant’s opening ceremony that more municipalities and producers will be encouraged to participate in the innovative energy production initiative.

“I have been promoting this great idea, that we can create a green park from Cuitzeo Lake to Lázaro Cárdenas where we can grow nopal and install several biogas plants along the Siglo XXI highway, boosting the use of this resource,” he said.

The governor’s intention is to have all public transportation vehicles in the state convert to biogas engines, a process that costs between 25,000 and 30,000 pesos (US $1,300 and 1,500) per vehicle.

Source: El Financiero (sp)

The town of Tequila’s best-kept secret: the elusive Blue Falls

The pool at the foot of the second waterfall at Blue Falls.The pool at the foot of the second waterfall at Blue Falls.

The town of Tequila’s best-kept secret: the elusive Blue Falls

It was a waterfall you’d expect to find in the Garden of Eden, wide and wispy, with a sunlit blue-green pool at its foot

Besides being the home of Mexico’s most famous drink, the town of Tequila was added to the list of the country’s Pueblos Mágicos, or magical towns, in 2003.

Although Tequila’s streets are not exactly quaint, it is surrounded by extraordinary natural beauty. On one side of town you have the massive Volcán de Tequila rising to 2,920 meters (9,580 feet) above sea level, while directly on the other side of the city lie the sheer walls of a great canyon 600 meters deep.

While cold — if not icy — winds blow at the top of the volcano, exuberant tropical vegetation flourishes on the hot and humid floor of Barranca La Toma.

Many years ago I managed to climb to the top of the far wall of La Toma canyon. Dripping with sweat and covered with dust, I gazed across the lush valley filled with the kind of jungle you’d only expect on the shores of the Amazon, and there on the opposite side, directly below the town of Tequila, I could just barely make out a tall, wispy waterfall.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to be standing at the bottom of that!” I told my friends, and thus began my 20-year search for that distant, beckoning cascade.

The trail to the falls, through fields of blue agaves.

The trail to the falls through fields of blue agaves.

We soon learned that we what we were looking for was called Los Azules, the Blue Falls, but nobody seemed to know exactly how to get to them.

Fifteen years later, we got a clue. “You know that waterfall you’re always talking about — Los Azules? Well, I heard that the people down at Santo Toribio know how to reach it.”

I talked my wife into joining me and off we went down a very steep road to a tiny settlement at the bottom of Barranca La Toma, which boasts a grandiose church in the middle of the jungle. This is the shrine of Santo Toribio, a martyr killed in the Cristeros War.

After visiting the saint’s spartan lodgings, we mentioned Los Azules to some local children. Their eyes lit up. “We know the way — vámonos!” they said, practically dragging us on to a narrow path through an exotic landscape. Well, the path got steeper and steeper, the humidity got higher and higher, the mud got slipperier and slipperier and all of a sudden we were overlooking a chocolate-colored roaring river.

“Now what?” we asked our little guides.

“We have two choices,” they replied. “We can swim or we can try to cross the bridge.”

Canyoneer Luis Medina checks out the view atop fall No. 2.

Canyoneer Luis Medina checks out the view atop fall No. 2.

Well, the “bridge” was a precariously balanced tree trunk spanning the river which, by the way, smelled anything but inviting. Admitting that our adventurous spirit was was not quite up to the standards of those little country kids, we gave up.

That 20-year search for an easy way to reach Los Azules ended quite by accident when I bumped into canyoneering guide Luis Medina.

“John, that waterfall you’ve been calling ‘elusive’ is only a half-hour walk from Tequila — and, guess what, it’s not one waterfall but three — and all of them very impressive. I’ll show you the trail this coming Friday.”

A few days later, Luis picked me up and off we drove to Tequila. We parked only one kilometer from the highway and began walking through gorgeous fields of blue-green agaves, along a road dotted with chunks of high-quality black obsidian.

At the end of the road we had been following we started down a narrow, steep trail surrounded by jungly growth. Suddenly we came to a clearing and there, far below us in all its splendor, lay the huge valley of La Toma, framed by high, red canyon walls.

“Welcome to the Machu Pichu of Tequila,” announced Luis.

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    Taking a shower at the foot of fall No. 3, 70 meters high.
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Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the kind of waterfall I would expect to find in the Garden of Eden. It was 40 meters tall, wide and wispy, with a sunlit blue-green pool at its foot that beckoned us to jump right in for a swim — which, of course, we wasted no time in doing. The water, by the way, comes from springs near the top of the canyon and is perfectly clean.

To our surprise, the pool temperature was neither hot nor cold, but pleasantly cool. As we swam and played in the water, dozens of blue and red dragonflies danced in the air above us, exactly like the birds and butterflies in a Walt Disney movie.

In fact, the whole scene was more like a dream than reality and to top it off, we had this paradise all to ourselves the whole time we were there, which was most of the day.

“Luis,” I said, “this is heaven! In the U.S.A. this would be a national park with no-swimming signs and hundreds of tourists filing by just to get a glimpse of paradise.”

“You know,” replied Luis, “that’s just what my clients tell me when I bring them here — these falls are even more enticing when you’re rappelling down them.”

Luis mentioned that the flow of water in Los Azules is more or less the same all year round and also during storms. This means you don’t have to worry about flash floods in this canyon, as you must in many others.

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I have been describing waterfall No. 2, which is very attractive and relatively easy to reach. There are, of course, a grand total of three, which explains why the name of the place is Los Azules and not El Azul.

The first fall is around 60 meters high but only operates right after a storm while the third is 70 meters tall and, like the second, runs all year round.

My Los Azules Falls trail aims to get you to the bottom of the second waterfall, but GPS coverage is poor in this part of La Toma canyon and you might end up at any one of the three falls. Don’t worry: each of them is an adventure!

If you’d like to have Los Azules all to yourself, visit this site on a workday, not on the weekend (especially Sunday), when a lot of people from Tequila hike down to take a dip. Whatever you do, don’t forget your swimsuit and a camera!

The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, for more than 30 years and is the author of A Guide to West Mexico’s Guachimontones and Surrounding Area and co-author of Outdoors in Western Mexico. More of his writing can be found on his website.

A week on the Sea of Cortez, ‘the world’s aquarium’.

The tiny island of San Francisquito.The tiny island of San Francisquito. CHRIS LLOYD

A week on the Sea of Cortez, ‘the world’s aquarium’

Myriad species of marine life, from sea lions to needlefish

Day 1, Los Islotes Island, Baja California Sur

We are anchored at the sea lion rookery of Los Islotes, 1,300 kilometers northwest of Mexico City. I am a guest of my friend Richard Gresham aboard his 51-foot sloop, the good ship God’s Way.

We set out from La Paz for this point early this morning, passing Steven Spielberg’s huge yacht, Seven Seas, along the way. The other two crew members are geologist Chris Lloyd and tarantula expert Rodrigo Orozco.

At the moment, I am the only person on board, as the other three are 29 meters away, hobnobbing with a bunch of very curious sea lion pups they found in a tiny inlet, a hopefully safe distance away from the enormous males sprawled over nearby rocks and creating a great stir with their loud, raucous calls.

“The babies kept nibbling at my fins . . . they nibble at everything, just to see what it is,” Rodrigo Orozco told me later. “They seemed to be having a lot of fun.”

Heading for shore in a kayak to explore the beach.

Heading for shore in a kayak to explore the beach.

Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez “the world’s aquarium,” and no wonder. During just a few hours we have spotted parrotfish, butterflyfish, triggerfish, billfish, surgeonfish, groupers, mackerel and sardines. As for birds, we have seen pelicans, cormorants, boobies, sandpipers, great blue herons, ravens and, of course, seagulls.

With reluctance we raise anchor and head for our next destination, La Partida.

“It’s a nice, quiet place with a high, sloping wall that blocks the wind,” says the captain. “You’ll enjoy walking along the shore: it’s just teeming with marine life.”

Although our destination is nice and quiet, getting there is something else because the sea is choppy today. As soon as the engine is turned on, the boat begins to crash over the waves: Bang! Bang! Bang!

Everything inside the cockpit begins first to swing, then to rise and fall. Anything that wasn’t properly stored then slides off whatever surface it was on and crashes to the floor, rolling, bouncing, shattering or splashing in every direction.

Bang! Bang! Bang! As the spray washes over the deck, every window in the boat begins to leak, including the one above my bed.

Pelican at Los Islotes.

Pelican at Los Islotes. CHRIS LLOYD

“Captain! The windows are leaking!”

The reply is barely audible over the commotion of a ship under way: “John, in a boat, everything leaks. Better get used to it.”

With the ship in motion, we crew members now have a choice: stay in the cockpit and get seasick or go on deck and get blasted by icy spray that hits you every time the boat crashes into a wave.

Well, on the deck it’s windy, wet and cold, guaranteeing that if you are up there during phase one you won’t be passing those four hours reading or writing, so I opt for the cockpit and, fortunately, my stomach quickly learns how to adjust to the wild thrashing of the boat.

Then the captain shouts, “Land ho!” The engine is shut off and there is a sudden hush as we glide into the sheltered bay. We have arrived.

God’s Way, my floating home for a week, is owned by “semi-retired” mining engineer Richard Gresham, who says he’s always dreamed of sailing and bought God’s Way from a very religious man living in the Bible Belt “who was no good at repairing anything, so I was able to buy the boat for a song because it was in a terrible state when I got it.

Pelicans and sea lion at Los Islotes rookery.

Pelicans and sea lion at Los Islotes rookery.

But then it cost me a fortune to get it up to where it is today. I bought this sloop with the intention of sailing it through the Panama Canal, up through the Caribbean and on to Boston . . . but projects got in the way and, in the meantime, I fell in love with the Sea of Cortez, which I have toured eight times so far and which I expect to tour several times more, as there is so much to see in this wonderful sea . . . life is good!”

Day 3, San Francisco Island

This island is notable for its high, barren, rocky walls “with a trail going up to the top.” Yesterday we had arrived here through a very choppy sea, but this morning the surface is as smooth as glass and I get what I hope will be a magnificent picture of sunrise — dawn, actually — through my porthole.

After breakfast we find our boat totally surrounded by sardines. The schools swirl like clouds of underwater starlings. Among them we can occasionally see needlefish which are truly long, thin and pointy, at least a foot long.

“They are only dangerous if you happen to get in their way,” I am told. Richard and Chris go snorkeling and once again see an astounding variety of exotic fish.

We raise anchor and glide across the mirror-smooth surface a couple of kilometers to Bahía Amortajada — ”Chopped-up Bay.” Now and again a manta ray leaps into the air alongside the boat.

Happy sailors relaxing.

Happy sailors relaxing. RODRIGO OROZCO

We anchor off a shore covered with a forest of giant cardon cacti, said to be the tallest in the world. Here there is a river filled with mangroves leading to a small lake. We spot a turkey vulture, kingfisher, white ibis, night heron, snowy egret and gulls.

Day 4

We are on our way to San José. This is part of the mainland connected by a long, rough road to La Paz. We drop anchor at a place called Nopaló, where there’s a very rocky beach and an isolated house — from which the wind wafts music to us over the waves. It’s Shakira singing! Binoculars reveal a little girl doing cartwheels to the music, on the porch.

To go ashore, we put on swimsuits, stuff clothing into a dry bag, carefully slide on to plastic “kayaks” that resemble no kayak I have ever seen, and paddle ashore.

We stroll down the beach to the home of Señora León, a jolly lady who immediately says, “Sí sí” when we ask whether she might be able to fry us some fish for which we would be happy to pay her.

While waiting for our dinner, we wander along a path paralleling a rough wall of volcanic rock dotted with shelter caves. The trail takes us to the local cemetery where we find only the graves of people named León, some with very large and impressive tombstones. It seems amazing that generations of the same family have lived in this isolated place.

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    Wandering tattler about to land at Los Islotes. (Photo: Chris Lloyd)
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Setting foot on land reveals that we are no longer landlubbers. The salt cedars along the trail all seem to be swaying — but there’s no wind! And later, when we sit down in Señora León’s kitchen we all remark how curiously the walls are dancing and how amazing it is that nothing is rolling across the table.

Our ebullient hostess serves us a delicious meal of rice, broccoli and truly exquisite fried dorado (mahi mahi). We return to the boat stuffed and happy and spend the night anchored in the same bay.

To be continued

The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, for more than 30 years and is the author of A Guide to West Mexico’s Guachimontones and Surrounding Area and co-author of Outdoors in Western Mexico. More of his writing can be found on his website.

PUERTO VALLARTA SIGNS THE INTERNATIONAL COMPACT OF MAYORS CLIMATE CHANGE AGREEMENT

After Puerto Vallarta signed the “Global Compact of Mayors for Climate Change and Energy” with the state government, it is committed to reversing the effects caused by climate change with the international community.

The Ministry of Environment and Territorial Development (Semadet) serves as the state representative of the Global Covenant of Mayors and signs as an honorable witness, which also commits to facilitate accession processes.

This pact is an international alliance of local and regional authorities that share a long-term vision to promote and support voluntary actions to combat climate change based on reducing greenhouse gases. As well as promoting climate resilience and access to energy, harmonize the measurement and reporting approaches of the municipalities and provide a solutions approach, in which local governments are the key actors and the city and municipal networks are essential partners.

Sergio Graf Montero, head of the Semadet, said that you can not plan the use of the territory thinking of the past, “we can not think that we are going to establish a human settlement, a subdivision, a building, in a place where in history, there were floods.”

He added that one has to think about what is going to happen in the future from now on, otherwise, they will lose investment, money and the population will be put at risk.

“That is why it is fundamental that the municipality of Puerto Vallarta not act alone, but contextualize its action on climate change in their region,” he explained.

Work began between Semadet and the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ), through the global projects of “Vertically Integrated Climate Policies”. As well as for the “Adaptation to climate change based on ecosystems with the tourismsector (Adaptur), through the development of the Municipal Climate Change Program (PMCC) in Puerto Vallarta.

With these actions, the municipality is committed to join the global efforts that are made to face the challenges of climate change.

The work for the preparation of the PMCC began with a workshop that aimed to inform and add the participation of institutions from the public, private, academic and civil society sectors for participatory development.

The objective is to achieve a self-diagnosis of vulnerability in the municipality, which includes the relevance of its ecosystems and ecosystem services in a context of climate change, in addition to the capacity for adaptation that is available. These actions are a reflection of the fact that in Jalisco the importance of being coherent among all levels of government regarding the efforts towards the fulfillment of the climatic goals in the country is recognized.

Monarch butterfly numbers best in 12 years but they’re not out of the woods

Monarch butterflies in their Mexican winter habitat.Monarch butterflies in their Mexican winter habitat.

Monarch butterfly numbers best in 12 years but they’re not out of the woods

Scientists warn that favorable weather conditions played a role

A huge increase in the number of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexican forests this year is a welcome event but not likely to happen again next year, some scientists warn.

The Natural Protected Areas Commission announced today that the area occupied by the butterflies is up 144% to 6.05 hectares. Last year the area was just 2.48 hectares.

Commission head Andrew Rhodes told a press conference that it was the largest area since 2006-2007, when it measured 6.87 hectares. The smallest area recorded was 0.67 hectares in 2013-2014.

But scientists say that six hectares should be seen as the minimum necessary for the viability of the insect, which migrates annually to Mexico in the fall from the United States and Canada. A Canadian ecology professor said the butterflies are not out of the woods yet, according to a report by The Associated Press.

“It buys us time, but that’s the best it does,” said Ryan Norris of the University of Guelph in Ontario, who sees little connection between the increase and conservation efforts along the butterflies’ route.

It is more about weather, he said. “It was a Goldilocks year this year,” he said. “Not too hot, not too cold, it was perfect.”

An ecology professor at the University of Kansas agreed. Chip Taylor said it won’t happen again next year, “not even close,” because above-average temperatures in Texas next year will cause problems for monarch production.

He said cold temperatures in the north of Texas kept the insects there to lay their eggs last spring. When it is warmer they go farther north too soon and the population does not grow as well.

The butterflies in this season’s migration have been found in 14 colonies in the forests of Michoacán and México state. One is a new colony, located in the Nevado de Toluca.

The largest, at 2.46 hectares, is in the Sierra Campanario sanctuary in the ejido El Rosario in Michoacán.

Source: The Associated Press (en), Milenio (sp)

7 IDEAS FOR ECOTOURISM IN PUERTO VALLARTA AND RIVIERA NAYARIT

With sustainability being more important for travellers than ever and 2019 set to be the biggest year for ecotourism, you may be amongst those searching for the perfect eco-holiday! Puerto Vallarta, in the state of Jalisco, and Riviera Nayarit, in the state of Nayarit, have long been two beautiful destinations offering sustainable activities that explore the regions’ incredible eco-systems. Read on for 7 eco-friendly ways to discover the beauty of Mexico!

1. Help Baby Sea Turtles
Baby sea turtle releasing in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit has become a major tourist attraction. Turtle protection programs with turtle farms dedicated to the harvesting, hatching and releasing of baby sea turtles have been created by the Mexican government with marine biologists. As well as getting to see the beautiful creatures and enjoying an interactive and educational experience, you can help increase the survival rate of new turtle hatchlings!

2. Pay the Crocs a Visit
Riviera Nayarit has some great ecotours where you can visit and learn all about it’s rich ecosystem. If you want to explore it alongside rustic towns and historic ruins, head to the river of La Tovara. For those wanting to combine crocodiles and sea turtle release programs, you can visit El Quelele, a marshy lagoon where American Crocodiles exist in a protected environment.

3. Explore Vallarta Botanical Garden
Vallarta Botanical Garden is a nature reserve with botanical collections of more than 3,000 species and has an orchid nursery of 100 different species. After exploring the beautiful gardens you can swim in the Horcones River, do some bird watching or take a trail through the jungle!

4. Have a Whale of a Time in Banderas Bay
Banderas Bay is a sanctuary with an abundance of marine life. From December to March the majestic humpback whales arrive at the bay to mate and birth their young. You can experience this for yourself with various whale watching tours that are controlled, respectful and adhere to strict environmental and safety standards. You can also swim with the dolphins there!

5. Experience Life Underwater
Many water activities that can be enjoyed all year round! Jalisco and Nayarit are home to natural protected areas, bird sanctuaries and marine parks with impressive hill and rock formations that are great for snorkelling, diving, paddle boarding and kayaking. South of Puerto Vallarta, you’ll find Los Arcos. Along the Riviera Nayarit coast are the Islas Marietas, home of the famous Hidden Beach, Isla del Coral and Isla Isabel.

6. Visit San Blas for Birdwatching
With over 300 bird species and over 80% of migratory birds flocking to San Blas during the winter months, the coastal village is home to some of the world’s best bird watching locations for vacationing birdwatchers, especially during the months of October through to March as the weather is very pleasant. True bird watching enthusiasts visit San Blas during Mexico’s Festival of Migratory Birds at the end of January or San Blas Christmas Bird Count in December.

7. Zoom Across Jungles and Coastal Views
Jungle canopy tours, or zip-line tours, are one of the most popular and eco-friendly options to explore Mexico’s emerald green Pacific Coast rainforests in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains. You can book zip lining anywhere along the 200-mile stretch of the Riviera Nayarit in most major communities like Punta de Mita, Sayulita and Lo de Marcos. Puerto Vallarta also has many opportunities for zip-lining. Thrill-seekers can whizz along Mexico’s longest and fastest “Superman” zip line or get an aerial view of Los Arcos Natural Preserve.

Visit to Vallarta Botanical Garden turns out to be a day to remember

Mexico Life
Vallarta Botanical Garden is 24 kilometers south of Puerto Vallarta.Vallarta Botanical Garden is 24 kilometers south of Puerto Vallarta.

Visit to Vallarta Botanical Garden turns out to be a day to remember

Expat finds a way to make a living in the middle of a jungle

Well, “near here” took six hours to get to, plus six hours back, and I ended up reaching home at midnight, but I must admit the eminent botanist was right: the Vallarta Botanical Garden truly is a must-see, no matter where you find yourself in Mexico. The place is located 24 kilometers south of Puerto Vallarta, along Palms-to-Pines coastal highway 200.

Step out of your car and you’re in the jungle. We were visiting in July and everywhere we went, hundreds of “skippers” fluttered all around us. These, explained a sign in English and Spanish, are Hesperiidae butterflies, smaller than most and given to skipping, flitting, darting and zig-zagging, from which they get their popular name.

Clouds of them danced all around us as we began our tour of the Botanical Gardens, which cover an area of eight hectares, crisscrossed by pathways with exotic names like The Vanilla Trail, Jaguar Trail and Guacamaya Trail, leading to even more exotic-sounding places like The Jungle Overlook, The Swinging Bridge, Tree Fern Grotto, The Garden of Memories and The Giant Strangler Fig Tree.

And everywhere you go, every step of the way, there is lush vegetation: sensuous tropical flowers, bizarre, creeping vines and gargantuan trees which soar to amazing heights in this tropical climate. Here you will find orchids — an amazing multitude of orchids.

There are even orchids that resemble anything but orchids, plus a few that (to our great surprise) exude alluring perfumes. And, of course, there was the tastiest of all orchids, Vanilla planifolia, whose vines grow abundantly there (and you can buy the beans or extract in their store).

One of the 1,901 varieties of Anthurium flowers.

One of the 1,901 varieties of Anthurium flowers.

Here, too, are cocoa pods growing before your very eyes and attached directly to the tree trunk. Each pod holds 20 to 60 seeds, the main ingredient in chocolate. There are also rare cacti of every sort, exotic “Purple Island” waterlilies, red ginger, once exclusively reserved for Hawaiian royalty and such a huge collection of anthuriums that we wondered whether they had found all 1,901 types. Along that line, the gardens have so many thousands of species that no one has even tried to count them.

When you need to take a break in your exploration of the gardens, you can cool off with an exotic drink at the Hacienda de Oro Restaurant, which also houses a most impressive Natural History and Cultural Museum.

This amazing project came into being thanks to Robert Price, founder of the botanical gardens, who kindly took time to chat with me at the restaurant over frosty glasses of incredibly refreshing and delicious drinks. One of these contained chaya and chía, while the other was a combination of iced lemon-grass tea, tapioca and ginger, sweetened with agave nectar.

“Some of our visitors suspect we have spiked these two drinks with frog’s eggs,” quipped the curator of these gardens.

Robert Price, who was born in Savannah, Georgia, told me he came to Puerto Vallarta in 2004, planning to stay for only six months. Fortunately for us and for Mexico, someone knocked on Price’s door one day, selling orchids. “Those orchids were absolutely incredible: gorgeous,” says Price, “and I asked the man where he had found them. ‘In the mountains,’ he told me . . . and eventually he brought me to this very place. I took one look and said to myself, ‘This is where I want to stay!’”

Now all Price needed to do was figure out how to make a living in the middle of a jungle. “Well,” he says, “I noticed there were no botanical gardens along the coast and that seemed surprising to me. But I love nature and the idea of starting my own botanical garden came into my head. So, I researched the internet to find out how to do it. And this is the result. I think this is what I was sent here to do.”

Exotic “Purple Island” water lilies.

Exotic “Purple Island” water lilies.

By chance a friend of mine just returned from a visit to the garden. I asked Susan Street for her impressions.

“It took some doing,” she told me, “to convince my sons, their father and their girlfriends to abandon the beaches of Puerto Vallarta long enough to try something new: a visit to the Vallarta Botanical Garden, which turned out to be a 40-minute drive from Puerto Vallarta’s downtown area. We only spent a few hours there, but boy did we wish we could have gone back the following day!

“There are so many trails to follow, plants and trees to admire and delicious food to devour! Each of us wanted to spend quality time in specific parts of the garden, but instead we stuck together and took it all in as a group. The bougainvillea were gorgeous, the vanilla plants all budding, the variety of cacti mind-boggling!

“We topped everything off, of course, with lunch at the Hacienda de Oro restaurant. We devoured scrumptious fish and shrimp tacos while sipping on vanilla and raspberry mojitos.

Then, wonderful organic coffee topped everything off as we awarded ourselves with more wandering through the gift shop, purchasing bamboo straws, cacao products and vanilla extract, in addition to a free dark-chocolate bar given to us upon presenting a coupon clipped from the visitors’ guide. A day to remember, and a visit I can’t stop recommending to friends.”

Another visitor went on a tour of the place with Leonardo, their botanist, and claimed it was the highlight of her stay in Puerto Vallarta, “the best botanical gardens guided tour we experienced — ever!”

Vallarta Botanical Garden

So I hope by now you will agree with me that this amazing place is well worth a visit, even if it requires a 12-hour detour!

• Vallarta Botanical Garden is a non-profit, charitable organization “dedicated to those who work to preserve the beauty of the Earth, and who labor to teach others the value and wonder of their environment.” According to its website it’s open daily, 10:00 to 6:00, but closed on Mondays from April to October. The entrance fee is 200 pesos per person, kids four and under free. The telephone number is (322) 223-6182.

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    A visitor cools off: “This is where I want to stay!” Photo: Susan Street
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The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, for more than 30 years and is the author of A Guide to West Mexico’s Guachimontones and Surrounding Area and co-author of Outdoors in Western Mexico. More of his writing can be found on his website.

TOURISTS LOCATE A NEST OF SEA TURTLES IN PUERTO VALLARTA

TOURISTS LOCATE A NEST OF SEA TURTLES IN PUERTO VALLARTA

Environmental and Ecology authorities took charge of the offspring, of the olive ridley species, until they were released.

After a report from tourists who were vacationing at Las Glorias beach in Puerto Vallarta, staff from the State Civil Protection and Fire Unit located and secured a nest of sea turtles, which they sheltered, the agency reported.

“We were alerted, we proceeded to verify the report, and indeed we located baby turtles being born”

The area was secured and the Environment and Ecology authorities were called upon to take charge of them until they were released. According to estimated UEPCB personnel, there were about 110 turtles of the olive ridley species.

The authorities recommended to the tourists that when they notice the birth of turtles or locate a nest, they give notice to the authorities in order to ensure the safety of the specimens.