Hagia Sofia: A Nature Lover’s Delight

I was browsing online to read other sailors’ experience crossing the gulf of Tehuantepec when I came acros20130314_120405s an article from another travel blogger on Hagia Sofia. It is a sprawling 300-acres of land in the mountains dedicated to ecological tourism and local education. I am not a plant enthusiast but the article describes a tour that includes transportation, meals, a walk along the garden’s path, a relaxing nap on the hammock along the side of the river, and a cool-off swim in the river by the waterfall. I was sold, mainly by the words “nap”, “hammock”, and “waterfall”.

I called the number to make a reservation for the next day. The fee was 500 pesos (~US$ 40), and this includes transportation to and from, as well as organic and freshly-prepared traditional breakfast AND lunch. You bring a towel, bathing suit, walking shoes, sunhat and organic insect repellant (they emphasize organic quite a few times on the phone). We were to be picked up at 9.15 AM the next day.

We waited in the dirt parking lot and a white SUV pulled up promptly. The driver, Marcel, came out to greet us. We got inside the air-conditioned vehicle and met the other 4 passengers for the day’s tour. For 30min we went along the paved road, passing the village of Santa Maria Huatulco. Then it was another 2.5 km strip of bumpy dirt road before we reached the entrance of Hagia Sofia.

20130314_141102Right after we arrived, we were greeted with warm welcome and directed straight to the fresh fruit and juice table. They had cashews, jackfruits, papayas, starfruits, and bananas, all grown on the property. Then we hung out at the tables while the chef prepared quesadillas for us. The owner himself, Armando, was also there greeting every guest at every table. He then personally took us on the tour.

We started off in the flower garden. Being that our exotic flower knowledge is close to none, I wouldn’t even dare to write a review of the flowers in Armando’s garden. We did learn that most of them were heliconias, flowers that frankly neither Jerrad nor I have seen before. They were peculiarly-shaped, beautiful flo20130314_112755wers with bright, waxy colors. After the flower garden, we were treated with a quick break by the river, fresh juice and hammocks awaited.

Once hydrated, we moved on to the fruit orchards. There were pineapples, passion fruit, avocados, noni, mangoes, oranges, hybrid fruits like limomandarina or mango piña (mango that he claims tastes like pineapple), and rambutan. He gave us samples of some of his fruits. It was quite a remarkable feat what this man has accomplished, as I looked around and all I could see were miles and miles of land of fruit trees with the mountains on the background. The view was spectacular.

Eventually we went back down to the seating area for a quick rest before being driven to where the waterfall was. The water was quite refreshing, especially after a walk under the hot sun. The tour was then complete with the serving of a delicious lunch.

20130314_124737While the place itself was quite amazing, especially to a plant enthusiast, something that is noteworthy here and one reason why we decided to visit is that Armando is not only selling this as a business, he is also working with the local villagers to plant some of these fruit instead of growing corn. Armando told us he is trying to get the government to fund a program to give each local family two acres of land to start planting these fruit trees.  Harvesting these fruits could bring them one-hundred fold profit compared to corn, bringing them out of poverty.  Not only that, he is also teaching the locals on sustainable land development. At this day and age where habitat and land destruction is rampant for the sake of profit, people like Armando are quietly and slowly emerging to help local communities build an economically and environmentally sustainable lifestyle, ensuring an inheritable planet to future generations. Surely an effort worth knowing, if not supporting.

You don’t need to be a botanist or a flower connoisseur to appreciate Hagia Sofia nor do you need to be a hard-core environmentalist to appreciate Armando’s vision. His passion and warmth will invite you in and his simple yet profound visionary idea will open your mind. This was truly a visit we enjoyed and would truly recommend to anyone visiting Huatulco.

View more pictures here

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