Growing weary of boat projects and daily school work, we were ready for a break. The Pearl Farm in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico came highly recommended from multiple cruisers so off we went!. Before going to the pearl farm, we looked up its website, (Perlas Del Mar De Cortez). After watching an 11 min video we thought we may have spoiled the visit by knowing too much about the farm. We were pleasantly surprised to find that there was so much more learn, touch, smell, and see. This trip was truly educational and if anyone happens to be in the area they should certainly not miss this… it is one of four naturally regenerating pearl farms in the world.
The pearl farm is located in a great naturally protected bay called, Bahia Bachochibampo. It is protected from the north, east, and south and therefore serves as a great sanctuary for pearl oysters.
Floats in the bay.
Our English speaking guide Daniel gave a wonderfully informative presentation about the farm and its operation.
Palapa where the oysters are painstakingly cared for and sorted.
Where the surgery takes place. The nucleus made of mother of pearl is inserted into the mature oyster.
Nets of various sizes that house the maturing oysters from its gamete state of 1 month to harvesting stage at 4 years.
When we entered the palapa there were a group of workers sorting out oysters to assess how many died from recent Hurricane Newton, which brought large waves into the bay. The oysters are kept at 60 ft below water during the summer months to maintain consistent temperature, but even there, large swells can damage the sensitive oysters.
Daniel tells us that he can handle the oysters and it won’t immediately close because these oysters are accustomed to getting handled by humans from its infanthood. One cannot do this with wild oysters.
Much of the farm work is done here. Daniel explains that the workers are trying to assess how much of the oysters were damaged from Hurricane Newton.
Here is Anna’s journal entry for this visit.
“September 29th, 2016 Our Trip to the Pearl Farm
The road was long, bumpy and the sun was beating down on us when we pulled up to a big building. We got out of our manual Chevrolet Aveo (rented from Sixt, a rental car place), walked up some steps and went in. Inside, a big dolphin skeleton greeted us from the ceiling, though the skeleton seemed out of place. We got a guide who spoke English and he led us outside to a palapa, a palm frond covered structure.
Here are some facts I learned:
- Pearls are not in fact made by grain of sand. A natural pearl is made like this: a worm eats through the oyster shell and then starts eating the flesh, but to defend itself, the oyster coats the worm in nacre (the hard shiny coating on the inside of the shell). The nacre hardens and becomes an attached pearl. The detached pearls are made by the eggs the worm releases. The oyster throws nacre over the eggs and over time it keeps putting more layers on.
- Oysters that are younger than two years are all males. When they become two they are females and reproduce.
- This pearl farm is one of the four in the world that grows the oysters.
- At the age of two, a little ball of mother of pearl is placed in them to take the place of a worm egg.
- One out of 10,000 oysters contain a natural pearl.
- Oysters live up to five years.
- Oysters have to be cleaned of barnacles every two months.
After the palapa we went inside again. We looked at all the jewelry. Our guide told us that the pearls that didn’t meet their standards would be thrown back into the sea. I learned a lot from this trip! The end. ”
This is Pteria Sterna (or rainbow lipped pearl oyster), that creates the beautiful green, blue, pink and black shaded pearls. Its range includes the Sea Of Cortez.
The boat school class diligently listening and writing notes.
Diorama depicting the nets held underwater by the floats.
Pearls of the highest quality are harvested to be made into jewelry. Within this small batch there are quite a bit of differences in shine, shades, and roundness thus varying quality.
This was my favorite but at $77,100 MX (about $4000) it was out of our price range.