By Brooke Gazer
Located just past Santa Maria Huatulco is an amazing agricultural venture that borrows its name from the ancient basilica of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. There is no notable architecture at the “Hagia Sophia” of Huatulco, but the place could be described as monumental. It is the brainchild of Armando Canavati Nadeer, a man with a remarkable vision. Although this is an enormous project, Armando has broken it down into workable sections. Of the 130 hectares, 70 are currently under development; as orchards, vegetable farms, sustainable lumber farms and an ornamental flower garden.
The flower walk is only a tiny portion of the project but it shimmers with vibrant color like the gilded mosaics housed in its namesake. Planting began in 2006 and three year ago the ornamental garden was ready for the public to enjoy. Meandering along the pathway you are constantly serenaded by a babbling brook and symphony of bird songs. Most exotic flowers do best in shade so the entire area is covered with a canopy of foliage making this a comfortable walk even in Huatulco’s tropical climate.
In addition to the original trees, a variety of new ones have been planted. In just seven years, a Ceiba sapling has grown to a majestic height of 20 Meters with a trunk 40 CM in diameter. The hundreds of Mangroves were added help to draw ground water to the surface, allowing the stream to continue flowing even in the dry season. The dense foliage gives one the impression of being in an ancient forest.
Along the 500 meter pathway you will see some 300 species of tropical plants. About 240 are indigenous to the region while 60 are exotic ornamentals from Southern Asia and South America. Armando is constantly improving and expanding his projects and the orchid section is a work in progress. At the moment there are 20 types of orchids which bloom between January and April but this is being expanded to eventually display 200 varieties of orchids.
Many of the imported ornamentals are truly exotic. They beg to be touched to confirm that they are really living breathing plants and not some whimsical concoction made of wax. These fanciful forms make me think of stories by Lewis Caroll. Peculiar forms hang down from above while others perch precariously on top of heavy stalks. Many of the flowers have a sculptural nature; some grow in rows of waxy bulbs others have delicate spiky points and some are shiny variations of giant pinecones. Exotics such as “Jaquint” and “Rostrara” have grown to a height of four to five meters, dwarfing those of us below.
Colors and textures abound. Hot vivid shades of reds, yellows and oranges are interspersed among softer cooler pastels. The “She Kong” flowers are covered with velvety fur. Arbors are draped with delicate mauve colored flowers called “Regina”, and with brilliantly hued “Cups of Gold”, both vines are found abundantly in Oaxaca. In every direction you look there is something new, different and exciting.
An added attraction to Hagia Sofia is that the flowers and other vegetation attract an amazing variety of birds and butterflies. Throughout the year some 400 varieties of butterflies stop to enjoy the ambiance along their migratory journey. Sixty of these spend the entire year. Dotted along the trail are a number of stools and benches so that visitors can rest and drink in the serenity of this incredible tropical paradise. This may feel like a modern day “Garden of Eden” and although the various orchards produce an extensive range of fruit, there is one significant difference… you will not find any apples here.
Brooke Gazer owns a bed and breakfast in Huatulco, Agua Azul la Villa www.bbaguaazul.com
To Book tours to Hagia Sofia
- Office: Mitla 402, local 7 Santa Cruz
- Bahias de Huatulco, Oaxaca
- Tel: (958) 58 7 08 71
- Cel: 958 583 7943