By Minerva Zamora
By now, most of us have seen that picture on social media of a pristine, hidden beach, set underneath a wide naturally formed crater, with white sand and turquoise waters washing up on its shores: la playa del amor. What started out as a picture taken by the son of small-boat tour operator to promote their tours on Facebook, spread like wildfire, not only being shared and liked on the site, but being picked up by important websites, being listed as one of the twenty magical beaches to visit before you die, etc. In an impressive demonstration of what social media, viral marketing (although unintended), and good photography can do, in less than two years, the number of visitors to this idyllic “love beach” increased by over 300%!
Unfortunately, what the image and the websites it is posted and reposted on usually fail to tell their readers, is that this beach and the Marieta Islands on which it is located are part of a National Park. Why is it important to include the full name of the site, Parque Nacional Islas Marietas, you might ask me? Well, because, as a National Park, under the custody of the CONANP since 2005(Mexican National Commission of Natural Protected Areas), it means it has special ecological importance, and therefore, there are important rules and regulations that govern our interaction with it to keep it beautiful, pristine and ecologically sound before the world discovered its magic. It is important and exciting to note that this site is also recognized internationally as a RAMSAR wetland site, a World Heritage site, and a Man & the Biosphere Reserve site by UNESCO; we have a true treasure in our own backyard!
This week, the CONANP is launching an awareness campaign of good behaviors to observe when we visit the Marietas Islands National Park. Please keep an eye out for it on their Facebook (Parque Nacional Islas Marietas), and maybe together we can make it as viral as the original photograph.
Meanwhile, here are some rules we can follow, and make sure our tour operators follow when visiting the various sites of the Marietas Islands (remember, the customer is always right, and we can make a difference in how our guides behave):
Ask for your bracelet!- This is the most important, as it ensures there is a limit to how many people can visit the islands, it also certifies that your tour operator has paid the appropriate fees and taken the workshops on good practices.
Take only photographs, leave only footprints- It is important we don’t take shells, rocks or wildlife from the islands, these are part of the ecosystem here. Likewise, wrappers, bottles and other garbage is not, please take care to take back all your garbage to the mainland.
Protect the coral- The colorful coral underneath you is a grouping of hundreds of living animals. Touching them and standing on them damages them greatly, try to avoid it. These animals are the basis for much of the underwater life at these islands.
Follow navigation and mooring rules- Only tie-up on the designated buoys, don’t throw anchors overboard or tie-up directly to the island.
There are restricted areas were only swimmers are allowed, please respect them.
Finally, if you are visiting on a private boat, take the time to visit the CONANP offices in Plaza Marina to obtain your day-pass. You can call them at 22-13-549 for more information.