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Mazunte

The Pacific coast town of Mazunte is famous for its sea turtles and recommended for chilling out. First the turtles. Thousands of Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys) turtles arrive en masse to lay their eggs in nearby Escobilla Bay.

The nesting season usually begins in May and lasts for several months. Although an endangered species, the turtles come to the beach in large numbers (called arribadas) for a few nights after a full moon.

STORY OF A SMALL TOWN

There is nothing particularly fancy here, and Puerto Angel look like a metropolis in comparison. But everyone is eager to share stories of how Mazunte has changed.

Before the 1960s villagers harvested enough eggs to satisfy the local demand for food and aphrodisiacs. But commercial trade raised the price, and the demand rose. The slaughterhouse became the town’s major source of income. A 1990 prohibition against killing sea turtles put the breaks on the town’s economy. But rather than go under, the town shifted the economy from turtle slaughter to promotion.

TURTLE CENTER

The fishing village is now home to the National Mexico Turtle Center (Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga), a laboratory/aquarium dedicated to the study and protection of sea turtles, located on the Avenida Principal.

The number of turtle nests increased from 60,000 in 1988 to nearly 700,000 in 1995 and the number continues to rise. Here is one of Mexico’s conservation success stories — due largely to the work of locals and the support of visitors eager to see responsible tourism in action.

VISITING?

LOCATION — Mazunte is 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) west of Puerto Angel on Highway 200. There is local bus service almost every half hour. Puerto Escondido is 50 kilometers (31 miles) to the West and Pochutla is 22 kilometers (14 miles) away.

Travel!

TRANSPORTATION — Bus service from Oaxaca leaves from the second class terminal and arrives at Pochutla. There is also a van service to Puerto Escondido and Puerto Angel from Servicio Express, Arista #116.

TIPS — The National Mexico Turtle Center is open from Tuesday through Saturday. There is a small admission charge.

WHERE TO EAT — Mazunte has great dining options, including several vegetarian fare. Tasty pizzas at La Termita. Two recommended bars are located on Calle Principal: Conejo en la Luna and Saymarro.

WHERE TO STAY — Tourism accomodation ranges from renting hammock space to modest hotels with air conditioning.

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