Chasing Whales and Butterflies

Nature Finds Mexico

From the HUGE Humpback Whales of the Pacific to the tiny Monarch Butterflies of eastern Canada – the next stage of our Mexican adventure was set.

I planned my trip specifically so that I could see these incredible animals at the end of their incredible journeys. Of course, nature is unpredictable – there were no guarantees that I would see anything but you just have to try! I’d travelled all the way across Mexico in the hope of seeing my Whales and the famously ‘Attenborough’ documented Butterfly Migration.


The Whales

Every year Humpback Whales visit the Bay of Banderas in order to reproduce and give birth. When we arrived just a few days after Christmas, we saw dozens on an excursion with Vallarta Adventures just off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The tour guides were trained Oceanographers and had studied the movement of these magnificent animals for decades. They knew exactly how to move around them and how to treat them with respect and caution. We were so lucky!

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The GREAT Monarch Butterfly Migration

This really is one of nature’s great events! Watch a clip from David Attenborough’s documentary – Life.

Every year, up to 1 billion Monarch butterflies journey from eastern Canada to the forests of western central Mexico, a journey that spans more than 2,500 miles. The Monarch butterflies spend their winter hibernation clustered in small areas of the Reserva de la Biosfera Mariposa Monarca (Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve), a national protected area and nature preserve that covers more than 200-square-miles.

The Monarch butterflies arrive in Mexico each year in late-October and make their winter homes in the tops of the trees high in the mountains of the reserve. Their arrival coincides with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead); one of Mexico’s most important holidays. During the annual Day of the Dead holiday, deceased relatives are believed to return home where they’re honoured with feasts, celebrations and elaborate ofrendas (offerings).

According to local legend, the Monarch butterflies arriving in Mexico at this time of the year are believed to be the souls of the deceased returning to earth.

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Once within the confines of the reserve, the Monarch butterflies will spend the next five months clustering together and covering the tree trunks and branches in a blanket of orange and black. Each of the individual clusters is made up of thousands of Monarch butterflies and resembles a large swollen beehive. In many instances, the weight of the butterfly clusters is enough to cause tree branches to bend or snap. The habit of clustering together makes it possible for the Monarch butterflies to conserve heat and survive the cool night-time temperatures.

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Unfortunately at the beginning of January, it wasn’t quite warm enough for them to ALL be flying around but the sun did come out, and a few hundred decided to spread their wings and fly around for some time. A month later hundreds of thousands of them would be flying around, but you can’t have it all! It was still so incredible to see – that such tiny wings could manage a flight all the way from Canada!

Go Monarchs!


Check out my highlights and travel tips for everywhere I travelled to in the world: CubaMexicoColombia, Ecuador, The Galapagos IslandsArgentinaLAFijiNew Zealand, Australia, Indonesia and Japan.


 

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