I chose it because the beach was of a clothing-optional variety, and coming from a fairly purist Southern family, I’d not seen a lot of that sort of thing: strangers’ boobs set free in nature and whatnot. I couldn’t very well tell my girlfriend at the time (in the coming year my wife-to-be) that we were going to Zipolite for the excess of exposed skin. There had to be a better reason. So, I scoured the guidebooks for one and discovered Byron.
Byron, according to Lonely Planet, was something of a aquatic mammal whisperer, able to summon giant lung-laden swimmers at will. And Zipolite is on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, famed for its migrating whales. Emma, the aforementioned romantically-tied travel companion, just so happens to be a tremendous animal-spotting enthusiast. She is the kind of person who changes her “favorite animal” with each new one she sees. She’s also the sort of animal lover who will not go to zoos or aquariums because the animals are “in cages”.
She had never seen a dolphin, she’d never seen a whale, and her desire to do so was my ticket in. We were going to Zipolite for the wildlife, not the wild life.
In Your Bucket Because…
- Truthfully, this is one of the most stunning beaches I’ve visited and still barely a dot on Mexico’s map. It’s far enough away from the resorts but accommodating enough to have an easy-going time.
- Bare skin and wildlife—it’s not the classic combo I’d usually promote, but let’s just say that Zipolite and the surrounding beaches supply some unique experiences, like turtles, giant unclothed mammals of all descriptions, and undertows.
- Great for nature lovers, animal lovers, yogis and that sort, beach bums, exhibitionists, good swimmers (the tide is perilous), and those ready for a real getaway-from-it-all type thing. Maybe not the place for wholesomely modest families or televangelists.
The beach in front of our hotel, Lo Cosmico, was littered with rocky outcrops and less so with people. The tide rolled in powerfully, erupting into massive sprays that would come crashing back down on the rocks with a wet slap. We sat in the little hilltop hotel café—three tables next to an open kitchen—in the morning, looking down passed the thatch-roofed bamboo huts speckled along the stone staircase. We waited for orca and humpbacks to breach the gold-dusted water. We’d stayed nearly a week with no sightings and no sign of Byron.
There had been only a few unclothed people, mostly male. There was a guy in a pretty impressive sombrero who walked up and down the maybe mile-stretch of coastline all day, giving a little wave-smile-wag as he strutted by, only to return a few minutes later. Mostly, the beach was empty. It was off-season and some days there were less than a dozen of us toeing the surf and baking ourselves. Neither Emma nor I had dared to don nada while doing so. We cringed at the thought of the sunburn possibilities.
We’d planned on staying two or three days, but it was until our fortuitous seventh evening (we kept telling the hotel owner “one more night”), sat on rocks at sunset with fresh Coronas in hand, that the reason for coming—Byron—appeared like a mirage. We booked a tour for the next day.
Whales and Dolphins and Orca, Oh My: A Special Day at Sea
Byron’s “tour company” basically boiled down to his boat, and as we skidded across the little inlet where he kept it, he dropped in a baited line to drag behind us, smiling our way: “Lunch.” The boat headed west for about thirty minutes into what can only be described as the vast ocean. Land became a shadowy figure in the horizon then disappeared all together. We stopped in a place that looked no different than anything around us. “This is where they like to come,” he said, reeling in his fishing line—nothing.
We sat for a while, a long while. Then, we skidded off to another spot they liked to come and sat again, but nothing came. I scanned the water yearning for a fin, a flipper, and big fat whale tail, all the while sinking a little deeper into despair: We’d come for the wild life, and gotten an old guy in a sombrero; we’d come for the wildlife, and not even a dolphin had shown. Finally, Byron the Mammal Whisper looked at us, shrugged, and said, “They are wild animals. There is no guarantee.”
On the way back to the mainland, we stopped at secluded snorkel spot where we spotted an abundance of puffer fish, rays, trumpet fish, and all sorts of colorful fishes that I couldn’t begin to list. And, without a doubt, the snorkeling itself warranted the twenty-dollar fee we’d paid for the tour. Still, I couldn’t help but check behind me every time I came up. No whales ever spouted a geyser, no dolphins ever sprung into great leaps, and no orcas came sliding in to eat us.
As we boarded the shuttle back to Lo Cosmico, I apologized to Emma that we’d not seen any dolphins. I noticed she, who had never seen a dolphin, was much more upbeat about it than I, who had seen them several times. Then, she confessed: She’d made a deal with the gods of fish and mammals that, if Byron didn’t catch his lunch, she could go without a sighting that day. And, as agreed, Byron had returned empty-handed.
The next morning, the sun still hidden low behind the jungle-y palms around the village of Zipolite, the beach largely vacant, not even a naked guy in sombrero stirring, I slipped out of my trunks and into the water. Sometimes you have to make your own sightings, even if no one else—especially if no else—is around to see. At least, Emma had the chance to spot a water-bound mammal au naturel.
- Our trip with Byron was still pretty amazing, and he was a great host. We recommended him to another couple we met, and on the next day, they got to video a pod of about sixteen dolphins swimming around the boat. Every day is different. Every hotel in Zipolite knows him so just ask them to get you in touch.
- Zipolite is not a super swimming beach because of it horrendous riptide. We did so at our own peril, but it’s possible to visit calmer beaches like Mazunte, just north, which is home to a sea turtle hatchery that you can visit.
- Buses don’t go all the way to Zipolite. They stop in Puerto Angel, not actually on the coast, and you catch a shuttle the rest of the way. Once there, it’s easy to hop rides up and down the coastal road to visit the other beaches.