Vuelta a la Bahía de Banderas: An Odyssey for Whale Conservation

Jorge Chávez
Apr. 30, 2024

In the Banderas Bay, where the states of Jalisco and Nayarit converge, open-water swimmer, Stephanie Montero, is preparing for an unprecedented feat. After completing an impressive 37.5-kilometer swim in 2023, crossing the bay in 14 hours and 30 minutes, Montero is planning an even greater challenge: swimming 127 kilometers along the bay, divided into six stages.

This journey will not only be a sporting challenge; it is a call to action for the conservation of humpback whales and the protection of the marine ecosystem in this region of the Mexican Pacific.

The initiative, named Vuelta a la Bahía de Banderas (Round the Banderas Bay), is part of the Nado por las Ballenas (Swim for the Whales) project, which aims to raise more than one million pesos to fund six crucial actions focused on the conservation of this species and its habitat. These actions include whale-watching surveillance, the retrieval of abandoned fishing nets from the seabed, rescuing entangled whales, coral cultivation and monitoring in the Marietas Islands National Park, the Bahía Cero campaign to reduce single-use plastic, and an environmental education project in elementary schools in Puerto Vallarta and Bahía de Banderas.

Stephanie Montero is not only a distinguished athlete but also a passionate advocate for the environment. As a medical doctor with a master’s degree in Global Health and Development, and with experience in air quality and climate change projects, her commitment to sustainability is reflected in every stroke she takes in the water. During her training, which covered 500 kilometers from January to April 2024, Montero carried her conservation message to every place she swam, organizing beach clean-ups and promoting responsible plastic use.

Her preparation for Vuelta a la Bahía de Banderas has been rigorous. She has trained in various settings, from the beaches of Cancún to semi-Olympic swimming pools in Mexico City, Cuernavaca, and Tepoztlán. Her support team, which includes trainers, physiotherapists, nutritionists, and sports psychologists, has worked tirelessly to ensure she is ready for the 127-kilometer challenge.

Vuelta a la Bahía de Banderas will take place as follows:
May 20 | Puerto Vallarta – La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (22 km)
May 21 | La Cruz de Huanacaxtle – Punta de Mita (20 km)
May 22 | Punta de Mita – Chimo (34 km)
May 23 | Chimo – Yelapa (17 km)
May 24 | Yelapa – Boca de Tomatlán (16 km)
May 25 | Boca de Tomatlán – Puerto Vallarta (18 km)

The swim will be primarily at night, with Stephanie diving into the water at sunset and swimming until early morning. The final day, starting at midnight, will culminate at dawn on May 26, when she completes her feat in Puerto Vallarta.

The Nado por las Ballenas project has had a significant impact since its creation in 2023. During the first event, the Cruce de la Bahía de Banderas (Banderas Bay Crossing), Stephanie Montero raised awareness among more than 1,000 people from 11 countries and raised over half a million pesos to support the research and conservation projects of the Ecología y Conservación de Ballenas A.C. (ECOBAC).

The message from Stephanie Montero and her team is clear: conservation is a collective responsibility. With initiatives like Vuelta a la Bahía de Banderas, they aim to inspire people from around the world to join the fight for a more sustainable planet and a future where humpback whales can thrive in a safe and healthy environment.

Follow this link to join the cause and donate online.

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