Time flies – it’s crazy to think we’re already almost halfway through the month of our Mexican manta adventure! We have started to get used to our Mexican lives. Days filled with the ocean, manta rays and whale sharks, sustainability, morning snorkeling and good food.
Isla Mujeres is a small island, with a lovely vibe. It is a décor of sun, colorful murals, white sandy beaches with turquoise waters and rougher rocky coasts. We live outside of downtown, where most of the restaurants and bars are, which provides more of a sneak peak into the feel of the lives of the island inhabitants. The island is full of passionate people. Many of the people we meet who originally came from outside the island say they only came for a week or two and ended up staying for years.
Searching for mantas
We have been out on the ocean a few more times, with the wind in our hair on the waters looking for our graceful manta ray buddies. They gave us such a big welcome the first week, when we were greeted with the sight of around 30 mantas in total. This week we only heard the energizing call of “mantarraya!” once or twice per trip, they were a bit shyer. As always, the whale sharks were there in abundance, feeding on the plankton, with their huge shapes in the water. One time a few dolphins dropped in for a visit when we were on the way back in the boat.
In addition to looking for manta rays on our field trips we are working on other research; tracking all events happening through GPS, deploying the Manta Trawl to gather data on microplastics and the CTD for data on the characteristics of the water. This week we also had the first lift-off of Dory, the manta drone! This drone will be our air support, searching for manta rays and gathering data on their size.
An Island full passion
Involving the local community is an important thought behind MCMRP, as well as being involved with other sustainable initiatives. On the island, many passionate men and women are taking up the reins. In the first week we visited the Tortugranja, Isla Mujeres’ Turtle Farm, who at night guard and collect the eggs that would otherwise be in danger and after hatching, release the little turtles back in the ocean. This week we went back to help them with a beach clean-up. Every little helps, and now there is one less beach with plastic and other garbage which can flow into the ocean.
Another local initiative we collaborated with is “Acción Isla”: established by a group of enthusiasts who believe in the power of community and want give to back to this amazing little island. Among other things, they assist in the organization and implementation of humanitarian, conservation and environmental solutions and movements.
One of their inspiring events is Saturday morning “plogging”. Every Saturday they gather at a new area of the island, cleaning the bottles, plastic and other garbage that has collected and bring back the pristineness of the lagoons and beaches one bit at a time. Of course, we went and assisted, armed with gloves, sticks and garbage bags, cleaned a part of one of the lagoons. Every week they post on Instagram where they will clean that Saturday. If you ever find yourself on the island, come and join!
We also went and helped with another inspiring project. Imagine a beachside hotel, a big plaza with a swimming pool and palm trees, abandoned nine years ago. In all those years nothing has been done with the place, and decay has taken over in some places. They are now turning this abandoned hotel into a vibrant community center. After years of neglect, it will become a meeting place for creatives, locals, education, awareness, volunteers, events, sports and all who are willing, with good ideas! It is a great place full of potential, but with a lot of work along the way. The front of the building is already transformed, with vibrant murals all over, portraying the future vibe of the building.
Meanwhile, we are brainstorming and working on organizing our very own Mantastic Event. A fun manta night, to raise awareness and educate people about these beauties, and to raise funds for the MCMRP. This will be a great way to celebrate our month here!
The rest of our days are spent practicing our snorkeling and diving between the fishes in the morning, enjoying the amazing food (thank god we swim so much, or I would not fit in my airplane seat anymore), ordering everything in bad Spanish ‘sin bobote’ (without straw), watching excellent bad movies at night or going out and enjoying the view from the beach of the sun setting on another fulfilling day.