Rancho Primavera, the birding ranch near El Tuito

Birders are weird. I can say that because I come from a birder family.

Watching bird watchers can be entertaining: Here is an imaginary conversation between my parents, two elderly birders, married for 40 years, trying to argue quietly about whether the bird in the tree just ahead is really a Western Tanager or a Yellow Grosbeak.

“It can’t be a grosbeak! Look at that tiny little beak!” “I’m sure it’s a grosbeak.” “Well you just want it to be a grosbeak because you don’t have it on your Life List yet, like I do – from eight years ago!” By this point the whispers have begun to erupt into a volume level that is uncomfortable for both grosbeaks and tanagers. The two senior birders are suddenly left alone, abandoned by the bird in question. But they are still speaking in that suppressed, penetrating voice that is supposed to be inaudible to birds.

“SSSHHHHH! We just lost the grosbeak!” “That was no grosbeak!” Bonnie Jauregui and her 83-year old mother, Patricia Morrow, run the 90-hectare Rancho Primavera about three kilometers from El Tuito on the road to Yelapa. The principle crop: happy birders (or birdwatchers). The birders are happy because they see a LOT of birds. In fact, a total of 160 species have been recorded on her property.

Serious birders are pleased not only by the number of distinct species to be seen within the ranch boundaries, but also by the ability to see so many other birds within a short, one hour radius of the ranch. If you include species seen on day trips from the ranch, the bird counts can easily double. “It’s because there is such diverse terrain within an hour’s drive from El Tuito,” Bonnie says. “On one day, you can drive to the tropical coastline and the mangroves. The next day you can be in the high mountain areas with very different habitat.”

The ranch offered its first birding tour in 1996. Today, while the ranch remains virtually unknown in Puerto Vallarta, it has been included in itineraries for the prestigious VENT Travel Tours in Austin, TX, the largest company in the world specializing in birding tours. Most Primavera guests stay for a week, dividing their time between birding, hiking and relaxing by the natural lagoons that offer fishing (delicious tilapia) and swimming.

The accommodations are simple but comfortable in either a ranch house room or in a cabin with full kitchen. But guests rooms at the ranch house and the two cabins have grown “organically” over the last ten years and the rates are a bit confusing at first. I will let Bonnie define the accommodations and pricing:

“There are the guest rooms that are minimum stay of 6 px for 3 nights which include breakfast and dinner. Then there are the casitas, the minimum stay is 2 nights at $100 a night or $500 the week. I don’t discourage meals prepared in the casitas but I am very glad when the locals get the guests’ business” at restaurants in El Tuito.

The accommodations at the ranch are deceptively unpretentious: birders actually are one of the most affluent travel segments. Birders in the US and Canada alone spend more than $30 Billion on their hobby each year and they are increasingly drawn to Mexico which has more than a thousand bird species.

However, Bonnie and Patricia are not exactly looking to “cash in” on the birding business. They allow day visitors to enter the ranch to “bird” without charge. “We have a donation box and we don’t allow parties or picnics but we do want people to come and enjoy the birds.”

Conservation is the central theme at Rancho Primavera. Bonnie and Patricia recommend the “Macaws Forever” programs (www.macawforever.org/) to support the dangerously low populations of this gorgeous local bird. This Vallartabased organization is also known as “Unidos por las Guacamayas”. Bonnie supports them because “they are reaching out to the communities to teach locals, especially children, about the predicament that the macaws are facing because of the poaching and loss of habitat. As scientists, they are also monitoring the macaw population in the Bahía de Banderas and Cabo Corrientes.” Bonnie and Patricia had their own tastes of near-extinction during their early years at the ranch before they finally hosted their first birding tour in 1999. “We tried a lot of different ways to make a living up here,” Bonnie said. “But gradually we discovered we were ‘rich in birds’ and that really has worked for us.”

 

Contact information for Rancho Primavera: Bonnie Jauregui, Rancho Primavera, El Tuito,

Tel: (322) 269-0257.

Email: bonniejauregui@gmail.com

Website: www.ranchoprimaveramexico.com

El Tuito: the Center Point for Travel to the Beaches of Cabo Corrientes

It takes about 45 minutes to drive from El Tuito to the closest beach locations such as Mayto, Tehuamixtle or Villa del Mar.

But the time required to reach any of these beautifully desolate beaches will soon be magically shortened. The passable 44 km road from El Tuito to the Mayto coastal area, for example, will be comfortably paved by the end of 2015, according to the Municipal Headquarters in El Tuito. (Before then, caution is advised in the June – October rainy season). The drive to all of the Cabo Corrientes beaches from El Tuito will become shorter, faster, less expensive and safer as pavement takes over from the gravel surface…

From Banderas Bay to Cabo Corrientes

“There are times that Banderas Bay seems like a relatively safe theme park for seafarers who don’t really want to go to sea. Banderas Bay seems to have been artfully designed for vacations and retirement. It seems to have been invented for people who believe they have suffered enough, so bring on the paradise, now, please.

But as you leave the urban confines of Vallarta, the realities of tropical Mexico are always close at hand. If you drive 25 minutes west from Vallarta along coastal Highway 200, you will cross into the Cabo Corrientes municipality just past Boca de Tomatlan.

The road abruptly leaves the coast, swings due south and inland toward the town of El Tuito in the Sierra Madre Mountains. The winding road climbs into the pine and oak forests and you will begin to notice that, by contrast to the dense human landscape of Vallarta, there is just a thin scattering of people in the clustered settlements along the road. You are in Cabo Corrientes.