Balandra Playa, often voted as one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico is closed following a fire on a tourist boat which has led to the beach being covered in fuel and oil.
The accident occurred on Saturday, involving a fire and subsequent sinking of a tourist boat near to the Balandra Natural Protected Area.
Environmental agencies reported that an temporary environmental emergency was declared In the area due to the spill of hydrocarbons on the beach. The area affected hasn’t yet been confirmed but images show at least a few hundred metres of beach covered in oil.
The two environmental agencies, SEMARNAT and CONANP announced that they visited the area with the Port Authority and local NGO Red de Observadores, where they discovered traces of oil, diesel, ash and soot in the area of Balandra commonly known as ‘Mushroom Beach’.
They also found the burnt remains of the sunken yacht. The amount of hydrocarbons on the beach is considerable, so they have chosen to close the beach until further notice. This will allow the relevant teams to carry out cleaning work, and also to safeguard visitors to the area.
Little is known about the sunken yacht at this point, such as whether they paid for a ticket with CONANP to access they area, or whether the yacht was sailing or anchored at the time of the fire.
According to sources at the Port Authority, the tourist vessel, which was called Fortius, left Marina Cortés on Thursday August 18th at around 7:30pm, heading for the islands. There were 8 passengers and 4 crew members on board.
The fire apparently occurred on Saturday August 20th at around 11:30pm, two days after the excursion began.
This is not the first unfortunate incident involving tourists at Balandra. On July 12th a tourist tragically drowned off the beach here. By the time paramedics arrived on the scene the person no longer had vital signs and had passed away from asphyxiation.
The tourist boat fire and subsequent oil spill has been widely talked about on social media. Many people are not only condemning the party for the huge environmental impact caused by the fire, but are questioning the lack of surveillance in this Protected Natural Area, where there is an entrance fee with limited hours of entry.
For the past two years, locals have been virtually unable to take advantage of visiting beautiful areas such as this due to the restrictions imposed by CONANP, so many have complained of the unfairness that tourists had such easy access.
A few months ago, many environmentalists in the region led a protest movement against tourist cruises to areas of natural beauty, however they have been silent on this matter of environmental destruction.
A group of tour operators from La Paz organised to meet in the early hours of yesterday morning (August 23rd), in order to join in and carry out their own cleaning work on the beach.
Accidents involving tourists are not common in the region, however this year that have been a few incidents highlighting both dangers to tourists and the need for tourists to be respectful of the local area.
In May, a tourist boat ran aground near Socorro Island which left 14 tourists and 11 crew members stranded. All passengers had to be taken to shore by a search and rescue team.
Before that, March saw two tourists rescued from a burning boat just off the coast of Cabo San Lucas.
The authorities have urged tourists to be careful when out on the water for many reasons, including the presence of strong tides during monsoon season and the possible scamming of tourists by ‘coyotes’ who may provide expensive boat trips with any certifications or safety licences.