I Am an Avatar: Down the Laguna de Manialtepec, Mexico

Puerto Escondido, translated as ‘hidden port’, is nestled in the south of Mexico—a sleepy surfing village located on the southern edge of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Its English translation indicates that this picturesque, enclosed aquatic town is off the beaten path to most tourists. However, because of its lush flora and fauna, ideal waves and easygoing attitude among its inhabitants, Puerto Escondido has recently been evolving into a go-to spot for relaxation.

Before embarking on my month-and-a-half long backpacking adventure throughout Mexico, I envisioned myself exploring all it had to offer and immersing myself into its bustling social scene: fiestaing, cloobbing and such. However, even though I originally intended to waste only two precious traveling days, I ended up spending one week in Puerto Escondido. Inevitably, the ever-constant crash of the waves soothed me into staying in a town ungoverned by the clock, time rolling away with the surf.

My days consisted of surfing waves suitable for champions, snorkeling untouched reefs, and boating the Laguna de Manialtepec. I booked a tour with Manialtepec Lagoons for $44, and spent three hours during the day gazing through binoculars at its wildlife – the entwined mangroves give home to over 130 species. While Puerto Escondido may be burgeoning as a tourist destination spot, the small surf-town quality still remains. Case in point, I was the only person on my tour. My motorboat chugged to the end of the lagoon, eventually meeting the greenish river that collides with the deep blue Pacific Ocean. The river colliding with the sea produces a wall of water, which gave the illusion I was at the end of the world. The unique array of birds was breathtaking; cormorant, anhinga, and heron flew within arm’s reach. The trip down the lagoon: tranquilo.

Night had fallen as the guided tour came to an end. The motorboat sped through the then-black lagoon and the waves sparkled as they lapped up against the boat. As if the guide, Rafa, knew I was about to ask why the water glimmers when it’s disrupted, he stopped the boat and told me to jump in. As I have learned with travel, saying ‘yes’, or in this case, ‘sí ‘, must be a way of life. I dove into the pitch black lagoon, and with the splash of my person, a luminous electric-blue glow traced the outline of my body. I joked with Rafa that I was an Avatar. He didn’t understand the pop culture reference, and told me that Laguna de Manialtepec is home to dinoflagelletes. At night, the water glistens when disturbed, as these microscopic organisms reflect the outlines of other fish and objects in the water, producing an eerie glow.

The tour down Laguna de Manialtepec was a highlight of my trip. Perhaps it came at the perfect time, after a visit to Oaxaca, Oaxaca, which is known for its turbulent political strikes and omnipresent police force, a hotbed for violence. It seemed almost impossible that Oaxaca could be in the same state as Puerto Escondido, with its intimate nature and gentle citizens.

I often dream about returning; I ache to swim in the lagoon, drink with the local surfers, and glow blue one more time. My mind easily conjures up images of the electric current visibly flowing through me, recapturing the magnificent feeling of other-worldliness.

About the author

Adventura is Jackie’s second middle name. Originally a farm girl from the great state of Kansas, after traveling throughout Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador, one could say she’s caught the Spanish influenza. Currently residing in Madrid working as an English Professor and taking clown classes at night, Jackie’s expertise in intellect remains to be heard, but her experience in travel is extremely diverse. Watch out Europe and Africa. Jackie plans to reverse colonize you.

Jackie graduated with a BA in Theatre Peformance and a BA in Spanish from the University of Kansas. She's road tripped across half of the United States by herself to live in Washington D.C. and Chicago, where she worked for several theatres and casting agencies. In her spare time, Jackie's favorite thing to do is eat jamón (ham). #jamon

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