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Gliding on Air:
Ameca River Adventure is the Newest Thrill in Vallarta

Vallarta Tribune, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
26 Apr.-2 May 2009
by Mike Ricketts

They say there’s nothing new under the sun, but that’s not the case here in Vallarta. This year a new tour operation was started that’s taking the tourist industry by storm; a wind storm, actually. Banderas Bay Hover Tours is now offering hovercraft tours up the Ameca River where guests can experience a close encounter with nature and the local fishing community.

Banderas Bay Hovercraft Tours
The tour begins with a briefing on the beach, where guests learn about the area and some of its inhabitants.
Wildlife photo environmental hovercraft tour
Hover Tour guests might even get to meet one of the “locals”!

The tour begins at the beach at Boca de Tomates, just north of the airport, where we are greeted by the warm and friendly host. After a short briefing on local history and ecology, we don our life jackets and board the hovercraft.

A hovercraft is unlike other vehicles. Part boat and part flying machine, a spinning fan on the back of the craft provides airflow that lifts the 16-foot craft with its pilot and five passengers about 8 inches off the ground.

As we soon learn, hovercraft don't move like regular boats, and part of the excitement is gliding over water, sand and mudflats. The machine kicks up some spray and, in seconds, we're sliding sideways as our pilot coaxes the craft up the river. Suddenly the air is filled with birds that seem bent on escorting us on our way. We're greeted by gulls, cajoled by cormorants, and elated by egrets, ibises, and flocks of black-necked stilts. While I usually need binoculars for bird watching, this experience is more like flying with the birds.

We're so close we can almost touch them! Along the way we see scurrying iguanas, and fishermen casting their nets. Further up the river we're treated to the sight of two crocs basking on a mudflat. Thirty minutes later our pilot lands us safely on the beach again, but the tour is far from over.

The next phase of the tour is one that sets it apart from many others offered in the area: the interaction with the local fishing community. As our guide reminds us, "This isn't Disney. This is an authentic fishing village where people actually live and work in close association with their natural surroundings." After our hovercraft ride, we met up with a local fisherman who showed us how to cast a fishing net. He makes it look easy but, as I soon learned, casting one of those nets takes a lot of skill and practice. If my experience was any indication, I would likely starve before I got the hang of it.

As if gliding up the river on a cushion of air weren't enough, BBHT adds an ecological twist to the final phase of their tour. Following a short briefing on the mangrove ecology, we take a roughly thirty-minute hike through the mangroves where we learn of their ecological importance.

Along the way, we view a surprising spectacle of plants and wildlife. For those who are brazen enough, there's even an opportunity to taste a local delicacy: termites! My wife tried one or two, and said they were "nutty." No, she didn't get sick, but I have noticed that since then she's been chewing on pencils. Maybe she's the one who's nutty .

The tour goes a long way to cultivate an appreciation for the local environment. The folks at BBHT work closely with the local community to remove trash that is tossed into the bay and gets carried onto shore with the tides. They are also taking steps and working with conservation groups and the local authorities to conserve this most important element of the local environment.

If you're looking for something new, BBHT's Ameca River Adventure should top your list. Almost anyone, regardless of age or physical condition, can easily board the hovercraft and experience a thrilling encounter with nature. And while the ride itself is a thrill, the entire experience leaves me with a feeling of wonder, and a new appreciation for the natural environment to which we are all so closely tied.

There may be nothing new under the sun, but there's a whole new way to see it! For more information, visit Bandera Bay Hover Tours at www.hover-tours.com.

Photo Neoteric hovercraft six passenger
BBHT’s fleet of Neoteric Hovertrek™ hovercraft are unique vehicles that bring the freedom of flying down to earth. Part boat and part flying machine, this environmentally-friendly hovercraft rides on a 9-inch air cushion, gliding safely over the surface, leaving no tracks and causing no damage to the environment.
Mangrove ecology hovercraft tour
A guided nature walk through the mangroves reveals some of its mysteries.
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Telephone: 1-812-234-1120 / 1-800-285-3761 Fax: 877-640-8507

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