La Tovara Jungle River tour sign

Jungle River Tour

A collectivo bus conveyed us from San Blas to the Rio Tovara near playa Matanchén. On the way, we passed a wetland area with some pink flamingo-like birds that I think were roseate spoonbills. Of course the bus kept rolling so we didn't get a good look. At La Tovara we hopped aboard a panga for a trip upriver.

Movie of Ride through mangrove - 21s

Video of ride through mangrove (20 s, 8 MB)

Initially we travelled through tall mangroves, some roots reaching above our heads, but soon the waterway and landscape opened up to reveal a much greater diversity of plants. We saw many pretty white flowers with dangly petals, and large fig trees. I was struck by the versatility of these trees - we see them on the Baja peninsula, their roots winding through crevices on cliff sides, surviving in a desert climate, yet here they were with roots immersed in water.

Crocodrilo swimming in the river

Keep feet and hands inside the boat!

We learned what a green heron looked like, saw termite nests, a few turtles and got a glimpse of a crocodile, which smoothly dipped out of sight as we motored by at a regrettably brisk pace.

White flowers

A lily?

Termite nest in tree

Termite Nest

Green Heron

Garceta Verde (Green Heron)

Ornate Slider Turtle

Tortuga de oreja amarilla (Ornate Slider Turtle)

The tour visits a refuge for crocodiles (in spanish, cocodrilos) which one can enter for an extra 20 pesos. The crocs here are apparently older or injured, or are babies, which get released when big enough. Here we got a better look at these fearsome reptiles. Some lay on the grass with their mouths wide open, not moving except to blink. Are they waiting for something to walk in or just airing things out? Athough at times the cocodrilos move ponderously on land, they can also be incredibly fast as we discovered when one lunged and snapped at Bjarne. We barely saw it move! Likin' that fence!

Cocodrilo de rio

Cocodrilo de rio

video of  Crocodile climbing out of pond

Video of crocodile climbing out of pond (22 s, 11 MB)

closeup of crocodile eye

I see you

view inside the mouth of a crocodile

Walk right in...

baby crocodiles

Babies, about half a metre long

To our surprise, the refuge also had other animals: a small type of deer; coati, which look a bit like racoons but with much pointier snouts; a type of pig; a bobcat; a jaguar; and colourful tropical birds.

green parrot with red and white trim on head



Jaguar peering between bars

Jaguar - I also see you

Fig Tree on riverbank

Fig Tree

Two pigs feeding

Feeding time! A bucket of dried corn was on the menu.

Guacamaya Verde (Military Macaw)

Guacamaya Verde (Military Macaw) - which we had only known as a hot-sauce brand name before

White-nosed Coati

Coati de nariz blanca (White-nosed Coati)

Coati de nariz blanca

Coati de nariz blanca (White-nosed Coati)

Swimming hole up Rio Tovara

We had a dip in the fresh spring-fed swimming hole that was fenced off from the river and, more importantly, the crocodiles!

Bjarne swimming

Some kind of mammal

Great-tailed Grackle

Great-tailed Grackle

Playa Matanchén

Playa Matanchén

Down the road from the jungle river tour was Playa Matanchén. To get to the beach one passes many roadside vendors hawking souvenirs, beach accessories, and baked goods. Banana bread was especially prevalent. Who are we to disdain a local epicurian specialty? We selected a loaf with an extra stuffing of bananas and nuts.

One section of the beach was chock-a-block with large palapas. Some were restaurants and some just provided sunshade, the latter with tables and chairs for rent. We gravitated to the less developed section although there were few people out yet. By afternoon, the beaches are usually full of happy people playing in the waves. Never fear - although the river leads to the ocean, it seems the crocodiles aren't fans of the open water. At least we think so....

Bee or bee-like fly


Ibis walking on power line

A tightrope-walking Ibis

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