Every morning in Mazunte, I would go outside to wait for the sun and greet it as it rose from behind sea cliffs in the distance. I’d lay in my hammock and soak in that special mist and magic that is reserved for dawn. Being up at sunrise is so natural in Middle of Nowhere, Tropical Location.
As I watched the sun on my first morning, I was approached by a man who worked at the hotel. He asked me if I wanted to go on a boat tour with some fisherman at 8am. Why not? I gave him some pesos and he returned with a small piece of a paper he’d ripped off a document and told me to write my name on it. That was my ticket.
The young French-Canadian couple who was staying at my hotel also went on the tour, and we were joined by a German woman in her late twenties. There were large rings of circles in the sand and I asked the German woman about them. We spoke back and forth in broken English until I understood what she was saying, it was a hippie from the village who came on the beach at night and made those circles. I’d heard Mazunte had a hippie population, and tried to decipher the looks on people’s faces when they talked about them. I’d later explore what was behind those looks, after exploring the ocean.
When the boat was ready to head onto the water, it seemed like a sizable chunk of the men in the village were on the beach with us. It wasn’t clear who was who and how many people would be heading out with us. One of them told us to get into the boat and they all began to push us. Once the boat was on the ocean, a fisherman and two boys quickly hopped in, and we were off.
Along the way, the fisherman and the boys pointed out the different beaches. One of them was Zipolite. It was completely empty at that time and shoots of water sprayed up vertically into the air where waves and shore collided. The water was so beautifully harsh in the early morning light, as long as it was viewed from a distance. On the coast of Oaxaca, the current is strong, and not all coastlines are meant to be explored up close.
More than once, we saw sea turtles in the middle of the ocean. On our second sea turtle run-in, we discovered firsthand that it was mating season.
And then there were dolphins, a whole school of them. I could tell that the fisherman knew dolphins. With expertise, he zigzagged and followed them and pointed in the direction where they would pop up in next. I don’t know how to describe the magnitude of those graceful minutes of watching the dolphins, and I have no pictures of them. It wasn’t a moment for fumbling with a camera; it was a moment for fully absorbing before it passed.
It seems so often that human observation of wild animal life involves some sort of containment or contrived set up. I understand that this creates accessibility, but at what cost? Do people really need to swim with dolphins and watch them do tricks at the prompt of a fish? Do dolphins want to swim with us? And what long term effects do these planned encounters have on the way people interact with animals in the wild?
Those are all questions I want to answer at some point. Right now, what I can say with full confidence is that to simply see a school of dolphins being dolphins in their natural habitat of vast sea is more than enough for me.
Later, we stopped and they let us out to snorkel. It was deep and murky in the spot where they dropped us off, so there was hardly anything to see. But we continued to swim and poke around for awhile because the fisherman and the boys seemed eager for us to do so.
As we returned to Mazunte, we were dropped off a little bit short of the shore. As I swam and then walked toward the beach, waves pelted my back, trying to knock me down and drag me by my feet back to the sea. The ocean was so strong and tempting, so prime, but I pushed forward onto the beach. I headed up the stairs to my hotel to drink coffee and wash the sand out of my bathing suit.
But the fisherman didn’t resist the sea like we did; he and the boys never got out of the boat. The instant we were safely back on land, they were already heading back out onto the ocean to resume their daily work and their lives.