We mentioned previously that we wanted to spend some time being ‘a bit of a tourist’, and tourists we were! There were a few boxes we wanted to tick off the checklist whilst here in Puerto Vallarta, so we looked online and found that a company called ‘Vallarta Adventures’ was the highest rated with excellent recommendations, so away we went. With a ‘3 for 2’ offer, we arranged to go whale watching, experience an outdoor adventure day, and lastly we’d be shuttled across via water taxi to a secluded beach hideaway.
#1 – Whale Photo Safari
When looking for things to do in PV, whale watching always comes up high on the list. Humpback whales come to Banderas Bay to mate and have their young in the warm, sheltered waters before migrating up to the artic once the babies are old enough to travel.
The various companies offer a guaranteed sighting up until the start of March – we were only a few days past this and had been informed that the previous rides were very successful. Having seen some photos that other people had taken of jumping humpbacks, we began to get very excited.
The previous day we’d been sat on Playa Los Muertos, and despite the nice beach and fantastic cocktails, we were being bombarded by people hawking various items, literally every 30 seconds, and then had the worst food since arriving. My lukewarm and tasteless fish tacos were causing strange, guttural sounds to emanate from my torso, and I didn’t feel like eating the rest of the day – worried that the forthcoming whale safari might end up with … well, there’s a distinct lack of toilets while on a small jet-boat in the middle of the pacific ocean, and it wouldn’t have just been the whales making weird high pitched noises.
Ahem. Anyway, morning came and thankfully, despite the local ‘mozzies’ having found their new sweet shop in the form of our limbs, we both felt better, if not very tired having still not quite adapted to the time difference. We stepped outside, grabbed some food and drink for the ride to the marina, and then realised that we couldn’t actually see anything behind the immediate buildings at roadside – a fog had descended that would’ve made Stephen King proud! As happy as he may have been, this wasn’t boding well for us being able to spot some cuddly humpbacks.
Usually, the company arranges for a small plane to circle the area to locate the whales, so that optimal time can be spent observing the them. As we pulled away from the harbour in the boat, we were quickly blanketed in a fog so thick that it was obvious the plane wasn’t even going to be allowed to set off and we would have to find these majestic creatures ourselves, and that we did! Well, eventually…
The first two hours of this ‘safari’, involved us all being very cold, very tired and unable to see literally 50 yards ahead of us at certain points, and all we had to tell home about was a brief sighting of a renegade dolphin, who’d apparently decided to go solo into the horizon. We started to head back to PV, by this point ready to just cut our losses and rebook for a different day, as per the company policy if you do not see any whales. As the fog began to lift however, we found ourselves in an area with some other previously unseen boats, all swarming to the same area off the coast to see a reported mother and calf.
We began to warm up as the sun had broken through, and saw the curious eyes of a young 4 month old humpback pop up to spy what we were up to. We were informed that the calf appeared to be resting at the moment, and the mother would be swimming underneath to protect her young, with another potential ‘escort’ underneath her. We caught a few nice, close up glances of mother and her young, but unfortunately, we seemed to be quite unlucky with coinciding our trip with the first mist of the season, and then finding only a tired and protective mother with her young. Still, it was a thrilling trip even if the photo opportunities were a bit limited.
#2 – Outdoor Adventure Day
(action shot photos credit to Vallarta Adventures – we couldnt take our cameras on this one so you’ll have to take our word for it)
We saw whales! Not while zip-lining, obviously…
To rewind a touch, today was our outdoor adventure tour, and we were excited! We knew there were some zip-lines and abseiling, but weren’t too sure what else to expect; when researching the trip, this tour had incredible ratings and rave reviews, so we had high expectations leading in.
We arrived once more at the marina in the morning, and jumped in a water taxi which took us past some whales and sea turtles (typical!), to a gorgeous little fishing beach called Boca de Tomatlan. We were hustled in to the back of a truck and headed uphill towards our starting point. Once we arrived, we were given our necessary equipment, changed into the provided clothing and were taken around the corner to meet our first task, I guess challenge #0.5 if you will.
Now, I’ve never ridden anything that has a brain. I’m quite happy on a motorbike but horses, and in this case mules, terrify me. It’s not so much the animal itself as the unpredictability factor. Predictably enough, I couldn’t control this donkey for love nor money. If it wanted to eat, it stopped and ate. I stayed towards the back of the group, though how much of this was my choice and how much was the donkey is disputable, and Anthea kindly stayed beside me in case I started flailing around. It wasn’t too bad apart from a couple of moments; firstly, when a couple of people had apparently less control than I and their donkeys started sprinting up the trail. Secondly, when we were going up a bend, on quite a narrow part of the track, and the track was crumbling at the edges heading straight down to about 50ft of steep hill. Obviously, my donkey wanted to walk right near the edge…
Anyway, we finally got to the top where everyone was waiting for us, and were introduced to our first actual task – a nice, 1000ft zip-line, 200ft above the top of the jungle! Yee-haw! Ahem.
I’ve done a couple of long zip-lines previously, including a 2550ft one at the scenic caves in Ontario, Canada, so I had an idea of what to expect; many in the queue were looking quite nervous though, and Anthea and I ended up being the last two to cross. Although Anthea had a few nerves, she quickly got harnessed and flew across the sky… until she started braking too hard and stopped before the end of the line! Temporarily stranded,, they reeled her in and I followed quickly behind. With Anthea’s adrenaline kicking in, we moved quickly onto the second, similarly long zip line. No problems this time, and once we unclipped and walked around the corner, we suddenly saw the end of path, which in turn became a beautiful waterfall. Obviously, with there being no more path, the only way was down! I can’t type Anthea’s exact reaction to seeing this scenario unfold, but let’s pretend she said, “Oh, what luck!”. It rhymes, close enough.
We hitched up to the abseiling equipment and away we went! I went first this time, and loved the feeling of abseiling once more. It made me miss rock climbing that I used to enjoy (even though I wasn’t very good). The hardest bit for many people is that first moment you lean back off the top, as it’s such an unnatural sensation. Again, Anthea was feeling out of her comfort zone (despite proclaiming how lucky we were to find ourselves in this spot. Heh) but didn’t show it as she whistled down the side of and into the waterfall. Another zip-line into a chilly splash-pool was followed by a waterslide we went down together. We were drenched, the water was cold, but it was a gorgeous day and we dried quickly. Well, Anthea did. After the water-slide there was a construction about 20ft up you could jump off of into another pool of water, so obviously I ran off the edge of that with glee. Glee, I might add, that was slightly cut short when I found out the water was a lot deeper than I realised, very cold, and all of the climbing gear strapped to my harness made it a tad difficult to swim to the side. Hey ho, live and learn.
The next part was probably the most terrifying for most people there. We climbed across a small rope bridge, and onto a tiny metal overhang. I can’t call it a bridge as it didn’t connect to anything, but it didn’t feel particularly stable as we walked past a sign announcing our impending 50ft rappel free-fall. Huh. There wasn’t any alternative way down, and I felt a little uneasy as I got hitched up, as this was the first thing in which we really don’t have any control over, and were relying on the person below who was belaying us. This part is what Anthea described as the hardest thing she’s ever had to do, and she was visibly trembling after being hooked up and standing on the edge. She looked at me as I was being connected, ashen faced, absolutely petrified. I told the instructor waiting for me to go that I needed to wait until Anthea was down, as I wasn’t going to leave her, but then as I turned back around to speak more words of encouragement, she’d vanished! I quickly followed suit, and as we landed in the water below I went to find her. I was so proud! She was still shaking, but she had overcome a very real fear while standing on that edge.
Following that, we scaled over a few wobbly, rope/wood bridges and a couple more zip lines, before arriving at a twin zip line that could be done side by side. Obviously, when given the option to do the zip-line upside-down I immediately accepted (Anthea declined). We then came across an intriguing set up, in which instead of the traditional ‘sit-down’ in the harness zip-line, we were now going to be stood back to back on a wooden plank. Getting on board was a tad harrowing, but once on and going across, Anthea joined me in a rendition of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ by Guns ‘n’ Roses. I think the adrenaline had sent her a bit mad.
Our final ‘obstacle’, so to speak, was a large water slide. It’s a bit unnerving when they essentially give you a helmet akin to that of an ice hockey goalkeeper to wear for a water slide along with elbow pads; Anthea immediately passed on this option, having had enough for one day and decided to just take the leisurely stroll to the bottom with some of the others in the group. Morbidly curious as ever, I padded up and set off. The slide was actually not too bad at all, and we were met at the bottom with fresh fruit juice and watermelon. Result!
We dried off, got changed, and had a cocktail while waiting for our truck back to the port. I have to say, all of the crew were absolutely amazing at their job. They were so supportive, good humoured and encouraging, helping people to overcome what for some would be their worst nightmare. Obviously, we couldn’t take a camera with us, but there was an amazing photographer following us around at all points taking shots; he commented to Anthea how brave she had been throughout the trip, as he could see how scared she had been at points, and she should be so proud to have overcome her fears. We saw other peoples’ photos, but decided not to look at ours at the end as they would cost around $80, and if we saw them we’d want to buy them! If we were here just on holiday for a week or two, we’d definitely spend the money but, unfortunately, we need to budget.
All in all, an amazing day, with an incredible crew – although I must say, the truck ride back down the moutain was terrifying, and I’m sure the driver turned his radio up loud to muffle our screams of terror as he whizzed around the corners. He was playing the Rolling Stones though, so I’ll let him off a little bit.