There’s a romance culture in Central America that you don’t often read about. The landscape is spicy just to look at, and seems to flow like a latin dance. There are signs of beauty and danger in every direction. From the golden black sand beaches, to the incredible Mayan ruins, to the ominous volcanoes and visible reminders of the power they posses. Latin culture screams of passion, strength, and a deep sense of what it means to be alive. But this is no place for the faint of heart, amigos. This is my journey to catch the fastest fish in the ocean. This is Destination: Guatemala.
Antigua Guatemala means “Old Guatemala” and perfectly sets the stage for what was to be our first stop on our expedition. This city has some of the most beautiful Spanish-Baroque influenced architecture that you’ll find anywhere in the world. The churches are radiant, and every detail inside is a clear example of their passion for religion. We were fortunate enough to experience mass while we were here, and although none of us are devout Catholics, it was a profound experience for all of us.
The food in Antigua is equal parts beautiful and delicious. The warnings we had been given about eating in the market kept us from tasting for about 15 minutes before we were diving into all things spicy and savory. Fruits, salsas, and everything in between. None of us stayed taste-free, and none of us got sick. My advice when it comes to the food: be judicious, but as a general rule I’ll eat anything that’s cooked in front of me over an open flame. Fire kills everything as far as I’m concerned.
From Antigua we made our way to the South West. As we weaved through the mountains and volcanoes we came to a place where the damage from the last eruption was still visible. Imagine if you can a ravine carved by lava so deep and wide that it would take months to construct new bridges to cross it. It’s a powerful reminder that the peaks around you are very much alive, and deadly. But with that comes the sights of people working together to restore beauty to that area, and you can’t help but want to get out of your car and help them in any possible. Even if it’s just to help carry some rock.
As we continue to make our way to the Pacific Coast the light continued to slip away into darkness. With little to no light from civilization and dense jungle forest, it’s a darkness that I don’t often get a chance to see. I describe it as being in a tunnel with no lights. So you can imagine how surprised I was when I awoke the next day to find us on the shore. The pink sky shining on the volcanoes display them in a way far more imposing after having seen firsthand the night before how devastating they can be. We’re closer to their base than I thought we would be, and initially that terrifies me. But their beauty cuts through all that and even the plume of the active volcano is eerily calming and it feels amazing to be here.
The resort itself is amazing. There are mango trees all around you, and when they fall to the ground they’re the sweetest you’ll ever taste. Carry them 10 feet to the bar and they’ll make you a refreshing adult beverage that will sweep you away to the pool for the rest of the day. The hospitality you find at Buena Vista is second only to what you find when you fish with them.
The sightseeing has been amazing, but the fishing is on a level that is hard to find anywhere in the world. Guatemala has a Pacific Canyon that boasts some of the bluest water that you will find anywhere in the world. In fact, some days the water is such a deep shade of blue that it almost looks purple. What makes this canyon, known as “The Pocket”, such a unique fishery is the ever changing currents. Water can run east to west one day, and west to eat the next. This sudden, drastic change keeps the baitfish centrally located, thereby holding the billfish.
We made the 55 mile run out to The Pocket and were blown away by what we saw. As far as the eye could see in any direction, were thousands of spinner dolphins flying through the air. Even our captain said he had never witnessed so many at one time. Just when I started to get used to our new friends a rod went off and we were hooked up with our first Pacific Sail. You learn quickly just how fast these fish really are. Being able to swim at speeds of up to 60 mph, the Pacific Sailfish is the fastest fish in the ocean. They just might be the most acrobatic, too.
I worked hard for this fish. I was seasick for the first time in 3 years. I fought it on my off hand (I normally reel left handed, I was reeling right on this boat). And even when they take a break, all they have to do is sit under the surface and raise their sail and suddenly it’s like trying to reel in a parachute. But despite all that, I landed my first of many sails, and was then initiated into the iconic club with the right of passage: I was pushed into the water.
Before we left we went back to the black sand coast where we got to tour a wildlife restoration program. Here we got to experience with our own hands the wildlife of Guatemala. We held baby cayman and got to see how ferocious their teeth are even as babies. In hindsight I’ll admit that holding them in my bare hands was probably not the safest thing I’ve ever done, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.
The baby sea turtle release, however, was by far the coolest thing I have ever done. Out of a thousand, only two will live to see that beach again. But the ones that do, will return 15 years later to that exact same spot. And to know that we released them there was such an amazing feeling. It really was a breathtaking end to an EPIC journey. I know I saw a lot, but I left a couple things unexplored for my return visit to Guatemala in 2020. Stay tuned for that!