At Playa Linda, just north of the town of Ixtapa, Mexico, in the forest beside the dock, hidden away in the tangle of trees is the unexpected gem of a crocodile sanctuary. The area of Ixtapa was once home to many crocodiles. Before the government established the tourist town of Ixtapa, these ancient reptiles roamed the land in vast numbers. When people first started living there, trucks and vehicles were constantly running over them on the highways … some say the ghosts of all the highway fatalities still rise in the mist when a large rain covers the roads. Eventually a sanctuary was built to maintain the crocodile population in their natural habitat. Thousands now live there.
The upshot of an undisturbed lagoon-like habitat is the settlement of many bird species within the protected area, including the very exotic spoonbill. A large population of iguanas reside near the area just off the beach, where the proprietor of the nearby restaurant feeds them cabbage one or twice a day, providing great photo opportunities for the handful of tourists who might be around. I’ve been there on several days in which I was the only visitor. There is no admission price. There is a wooden viewing platform just off the highway that runs out of Ixtapa, near a little hub of tourist trinket shops – a place where taxi cabs often gather and the occasional tourist bus stops. You can follow the fence-line of the reserve from there down to the beach.
Occasionally you may see a crocodile catch an egret or a large fish in the water. I was amused by an intrepid black cat who was missing a foot, yet hobbling through the sanctuary a stone’s throw from the crocodiles, apparently unconcerned with the possibility of losing another foot.
What I found most entertaining is that occasionally a crocodile escapes the reserve and ambles down the beach. Sometimes, I’m told, they will go for a swim in the ocean. The locals are used to this, but it can scare the daylights and more out of a tourist who never expected to see a crocodile approach their sandcastle while sunbathing, nor slide through the salty sea beside them, sinister eyes just above the surface, while taking an afternoon dip in the serene waters of Playa Linda.
BIO: Shara Johnson plots her travels from her home base in Nederland, Colorado, where she scrapes up travel money hosting other travelers in her B&B studio. You can follow her adventures on SKJtravel.net, and be her friend on Facebook or Twitter.