In the winter months, that special breed known as “Snowbirds”
fly south to enjoy the “Bahias de Huatulco” – the numerous bays that make up this Pacific coast of Oaxaca. Some stay for months, others arrive on the many large cruise ships that dock there and explore for the day.
Huatulco is well-known for diving and snorkelling, for surfing and other water sports. Fewer visitors think to venture inland to the mountains.
But a short drive north of the town of Santa Maria de Huatulco, there is a lush and exotic eco-agriculture project called Hagia Sofia, a labour of love by one man, Armando Canavati Nader, who recognized the potential of the region to grow exotic fruits that, while not native to the region, are well suited and are sought after on the export market, much due to their “superfood” potential.
Fruits native to Southeast Asia, like mangosteen, and the noni, sought after for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory , anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties (basically, keeping all ill health at bay..) and used as a super-juice ingredient and as a supplement – both may have commercial viability. in my conversation with Armando, he spoke of these fruits known for their value in traditional medicine as having potential to create employment for the impoverished local indigenous communities surrounding Hagia Sofia.
As we wander through this lush agro-ecological plantation carambola (starfruit) glistens in the sunlight.
Other exotics too, like poma rosa (rose apple), marañon (cashew apple)along with different types of maracuya (passionfruit) and vanilla, their vines wrapping around branches and trunks and sprawling along the ground. Let’s also not forget cacao – I had no idea how it grew from the tree! – and coffee. As native trees are cleared throughout Mexico to make way for commercial orchards, the work of people like Armando to preserve and protect native fruit-bearing trees and plants is all the more important. Different species of mango; trees of chicosapote, with its heavenly sweet fruit and the latex sap which is the origin of “chicle” : natural chewing gum, and other zapotes – negro and blanco.
Aside from fruits trees… oh, the exotic flowers! With all its lush growth, Hagia Sofia is a natural sanctuary for butterflies and birds.
As the sun climbs high in the sky and you’re sweating from a bit of an uphill climb (nothing treacherous), there’s an opportunity to cool off either in, or beside, the spray of the Magdalena river. It’s both refreshing and well-timed.
To top off the day, a lovely simple lunch is served from an open kitchen with wood-fired comal. The ingredients come, in part from the property, and the rest from the local community depending on what’s in season.
In words I have taken from their own website – because it can’t be said better: “Hagia Sofía is a paradise to return to nature and spiritual peace”.
“www.hagiasofia.mx” for all information and reservations can be made on email via “firstname.lastname@example.org” Right in town, near the surf shops by the docks, you can also go directly to the office of Hagia Sofia to book your visit.