Posted by: Sailing Camelot | December 30, 2011

Dec 19th– Rio Tovara Jungle Tour

There’s quite a lot to do and see in the deceivingly sleepy town of San Blas! We decide to start our day with a thorough exploration of the jungle.

No trip to San Blas would be complete without a jungle tour and a stop at La Tovara Springs!

Along with four other cruisers, we board our very own Panga; the boat’s name is Chiki and our Tour Guide today is Paco, a 15 year old really nice kid.

Our valiant vessel Chiki with expert guide Paco


Down the Rio Tovara

We start winding up the lush river, Rio Tovara. The first thing I notice is the “river smell” in the air, faint but unmistakably musky. Paco guides his Panga to the left, entering a mysterious and intricate mess of channels and waterways. Soon the light is dimmed by a canopy of vegetation. 

The mysterious waterways leading into the jungle

Disturbing the peace and startling the birds

At first we rely solely on Paco to point out the half-hidden fauna; it takes us maybe 20 minutes to develop “the sight” and start seeing mud-colored crocodiles spread out on mud-colored tree trunks sunning themselves. 

I assure you, this is NOT a rubber toy!


Puppy Crocodile taking a Siesta in the sun


A Youngster guarding the Mangroves

It’s amazingly quiet in here; the only noise is the gentle sloshing of the murky waters against the hull of the boat. Occasionally a startled bird crosses our path. It’s a little eerie, I feel like someone is watching us… 

I'm watching you!

Paco does a great job; in his limited English he tells us the names of every animal or plant we see, slowing down or stopping to allow us to take pictures. This kid knows his jungle inside out! I almost want to call him Mowgli, like the fictional character of The Jungle Book stories by Rudyard Kipling…

Meet Paco, our Guide

There are over 300 species of birds found in the area, and I believe we’ve seen most of them during the tour: boat-billed herons, tiger herons, egrets, falcons, and so many more I’ve never seen before. 

Tiger Heron, just hanging

A very watchful Falcon

Landing gear deployed...

I’m particularly enjoying the front-bench seat on the boat that I’m sharing with Nico (from Holland), another cruiser and avid photographer. Totally oblivious to the quiet chatter on the boat, we keep taking pictures like maniacs, frantically changing lenses every few seconds, pointing out to each other birds in flight and hidden turtles, the gist of our own conversation being pretty much “Did you get that? Did you get that?” Oh, a kindred and equally possessed spirit!

Such grateful creatures

No idea who this busybody is... but he's cute!

Within a couple of hours my neck is killing me, craning this way and that, looking up and down. Toughen up, girl! There’s a lot more to see…

These are Boat-billed Herons

We arrive at what looks like a Y intersection in the river, and I wonder what lies beyond each little estuary. It’s so disorienting here, between all the vegetation and the tiny rivulets I could get lost in here within 30 seconds.

Paco hangs a right and the river opens up; we’re in the clear again, no vegetation overhang for a while… It sure is nice to feel the sun’s warmth on my skin again!

We pass by a few bamboo and palm-leaf buildings sticking out of the water; those were built years ago and are what’s left of a movie set. I can certainly see the potential for movies all around me! 

Some prime Real Estate!


Guest House, complete with Cow Skull Decor

We’ve been out on the river for more than three hours and it’s now lunch time, a break and some food are exactly what we need. Paco proceeds at a little faster speed now towards our first destination, Tovara Springs. I guess he desperately needs a break too, and I don’t blame him! 


Approaching La Tovara Springs


Tom dwarfed by the jungle vegetation


The little Restaurant at La Tovara Springs

We arrive at Tovara Spring and take a one-hour break for lunch. It’s a very small place. There’s a tiny, cute restaurant and the mandatory tourist shop and a nice corner where people can swim in the protected, clear spring waters. 

And finally, the cool waters of La Tovara Springs!

Paco declines our invite to have lunch with us, preferring a little solitude and –I’m sure- some peace and quiet. The rest of us sit down for a simple and tasty meal, exchanging opinions and impressions on the trip so far.

Our companions, the crew from the vessel Mangareva. From left: Elaine, Nico, Mark and Gail

All refreshed and happy after lunch our trip resumes, although most of us are clamoring for a siesta. That’s what a belly full of tacos and beer does to most people…

Paco seems to know that it’s best to hurry the remainder of the trip a little, before we fade altogether. At a good clip he drives the boat down yet another tiny river that opens in to Camalota Spring. 

Camalota Springs

Here a local family operates a crocodile refuge. In all honesty, after seeing so much wildlife out there in the open and more crocodiles than I can count, somehow I don’t quite appreciate this place. However, here I see for the first time a Collared Peccary, also known as “musk pig”. Of course I stuck my hand on the snout of the closest one and sort of made friends with it, naming it Miss Piggy. They’re pretty small and live in herds, and later someone told me they can be pretty aggressive. Not my sweet Miss Piggy!

Miss (or Mr) Piggy - A Collared Peccary

We’re all quite tired by now, barely exchanging a word as we pile in the boat to start our return trip. Paco has a knowing smile on his face, I’m sure he’s seen wiped-out Gringos before…

We retrace our tracks at a more sustained speed, it’s quite fun to actually zoom down the river. The air feels much cooler now and we have quite a long way to go. I wish I brought a sweater… Not something you say often in Mexico! 

Zooming in and out of the Mangroves

To take my mind off the chill in the air, I take the last few pictures when young Paco slows down –he does slow down for Turtles!-. 

River Turtles


Very "Seventies" attire...


Ah, lazying off in the sun

Finally we come full circle, returning to the point where this adventure started just this morning. We’ve been out about 5 intense hours and seen so much of such a different environment. It almost feels like I just visited some other planet!

We gratefully thank Paco (and tip him accordingly) for his excellent service. Everyone in our group is absolutely thrilled and thoroughly satisfied; we all have huge grins on our faces.

This Tutle's satisfied grin resembles our own at the end of the day



  1. Great pix Lori. Happy New your tho the both of you. I know 2012 will bring many great adventures for you both. Be safe. Bill and Bev

  2. HI Tom & Lori, nice pictues 🙂
    Nico has just downloaded his pictures now we are back @home (cold and wet Holland).

    Happy New Year and you’ll never know if we’d see you again near Panama ??

    Nico & Elyn

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