Jalisco’s famed Río Caliente boils to the surface in the Primavera Forest and flows into La Vega Dam. It then flows back out as the Ameca River and meanders all the way to Puerto Vallarta (230 kilometers away), entering the Pacific Ocean at a place called Boca de Tomates, or “The Mouth of the River, Where the Tomatillos Grow.” (The tomatillo, by the way, is a green-purple member of the tomato family and important for making green salsa in Mexico.)
Through the mouths of rivers, all sorts of organic materials flow into the ocean, bits of debris such as bark or branches, to which a tiny baby sea turtle could attach itself to take advantage of a long, free ride, hopefully unnoticed by predators.
So it is that sea turtles discovered Boca de Tomates long before human beings did, turning it into such a popular spot for laying their eggs that the tiny Boca de Tomates beach is by far the most popular spot on Mexico’s Pacific Coast for mama turtles to lay their eggs. And, of course, it’s also popular with people who want to participate in a release of baby turtles.
To better understand this turtle conservation program, I asked permission to spend a night at Campamento Boca de Tomates, which is located precisely at the southwest tip of the Puerto Vallarta Airport.
That might sound like a busy place, but as my friends and I trudged through the loose sand, carrying our camping gear, it felt like we were marching into the middle of nowhere.