Viva Natura Field Guide

The Viva Natura: Field Guide to the Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals of Western Mexico

is the first publication of its kind written about the fauna of this region. The purpose of the field guide is to introduce the reader to the wealth of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals of Western Mexico and help identify them in the field. This guide contains the vast majority of the conspicuous animals of the region.

  • 230 species
  • 440 color photos
  • bilingual – English/ Spanish
  • easy to use
  • companion mobile APP

In this second edition there are 230 species in this guide and a total of 440 full-color photos. The guide is extremely easy to use. The book is completely bilingual (English and Spanish). The book commences with a brief introduction to the study area, its geography, climate and ecosystems. Chapters dedicated to the four groups of fauna (amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) follow. Each chapter begins with an introduction followed by photographic plates that depict conspicuous species of the study area.

All photos were taken by the author himself and with few exceptions, show animals in their natural habitat under completely natural conditions. Each species is described by both its common and scientific names and also by a set of icons that illustrate the species characteristics, such as its habits, diet, preferred habitat, protection status, ect.

Color bands on the outer edge of each species plate indicate one of the three principal habitat types (Ocean, Coast and Islands, Freshwater, Forest and Gardens) where this particular species can be observed most frequently. Silhouette thumbs on the plates edges portray a typical member of each group of fauna, making browsing the guide more efficient. The final chapter of the book is dedicated to the conservation issues inside the study area.

The book is supported by a companion mobile app where additional texts, photos and also sounds and distribution maps can be found.

[blockquote text=”Viva Natura, field guide to the Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals of Western Mexico” show_quote_icon=”yes”]


Note: First edition review (2009)

Very nice, rounded reference to 160 species to Puerto Vallarta, This review is from: Viva Natura: Field Guide to the Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals of Western Mexico (English and Spanish Edition) (Perfect Paperback) Basics: 2007, 248pp, softcover; 325 very good color photos of 85 birds, 17 mammals, 39 reptiles, and 18 amphibians; no text other than the species name; 23 types of icons used to denote the species diet, habits, and activities; chapters on climate, conservation, and habitats This is a great local photo guide that focuses on the Puerto Vallarta area of western Mexico. In all, about 160 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians are shown in 325 very nice color photographs. These photos make up the bulk of the book and offer the visiting naturalist a solid visual resource to the local fauna. Each of the four categories of animals provide a very nice selection of species. The breakdown of each category is the following: Birds: 150 photos of 85 species (of the 300 in the area) Mammals: 35 photos of 17 species (of the 100 in the area) Reptiles: 77 photos of 39 species (of about 120) Amphibians: 40 photos of 18 species (of the 40-50) All of the photos are of top quality and show the animal very well. There are typically two photos per page, meaning each subject takes up a half-page. This produces nice sized photographs. Some of the subjects are even shown in a full page. Many of the species are shown with multiple photographs that help display the variations between races, ages, or genders. One particular attribute about this book that is appealing (to me) is the presence of good photos of bird and reptile species that are not easily found published elsewhere. Examples that caught my attention where the Colima Pygmy-Owl, Elegant Quail (3 photos), and Stripe-headed Sparrow as well as the Many-lined Whiptail. There is very little text to go with the photographs which consists of the English, Spanish, and scientific names, the animal s length in cm, and a large assortment of symbols. These symbols represent 23 different types of diet, habits, and activities for the species. Some examples would be arboreal, lowland, venomous, diurnal, egg diet, fruit diet, migratory, resident, etc. To better understand these symbols, you ll need to review the page that precedes each of the four animal groups. Accompanying the legend for the symbols are 1-2 pages that generally discuss the natural history of the groups. This includes a range of habitat types that are occupied and the number of species in the area. A nice touch is providing a list of specific localities to explore for various species. Anyone who s an outdoor enthusiast and naturalist will like this book for its excellent photos and for the broader scope of the book. Taking a hike through the Puerto Vallarta area will be more enjoyable and informed with this book.  —written by Jack at Avian Review / Avian Books, December 2009

Note: First edition review (2009)

This is an amazing photographic guide of the most common fauna of Western Mexico. It is very useful for tourists visiting Puerto Vallarta, Mexico during vacations. A great part of the species mentioned in this book can be observed just by opening the window of your hotel. That’s because Puerto Vallarta is surrounded by the beautiful Tropical forest. The guide give some interesting information of fauna seeing places in Western Mexico and some facts about the species. This book gives a great visual pleasure.  —written by Fabio Cupul Magana (2007)

Current points of sale:

La Tovara ride

La Tovara is an excellent boat ride through the well preserved mangrove stands of coastal Nayarit, close to San Blas. My advice is: take the last boat of the day and ask for a knowledgable guide.

I did both. I was lucky to have procured the recommendation from a friend and got hold of “Pelas” local guide and pretty good bird watcher. He not only spotted birds, which I totally missed, but also could well imitate the bird calls.

[blockquote text=’Learn more about La Tobara‘ text_color=’000000’ quote_color=” width=” line_height=” background_color=” border_color=”]

Leaping Mantas of Banderas Bay

A boat ride along the coast of Banderas Bay can bring many surprises. You can spot whales, dolphins, green macaws overflying the tropical coastal forest, large ball ups of fish… Here, I met a large schools of the Munk’s devil ray (Mobula munkiana). Occasionally they leap clear out of the water. Sometimes you are lucky enough to freeze the action in a photo.

[blockquote text=’How to take an action shot of leaping mantas’ text_color=” quote_color=” width=” line_height=” background_color=” border_color=”]

My reasoning behind setting up my camera for a shot like this is:
“I will need a lot of speed and I will also need some decent depth of field. This is because I do not know where exactly the animal will jump and if I miss with my focus a bit, bigger depth of field will help. Besides, since I love my manual Nikon 80-200 f4 (n0 autofocus) too much for its amazing optics, I will be focusing manually. Fortunately,  there are always many animals jumping and if you follow the school without spooking it, you will have multiple opportunities for a shot.


  1. The word “action” is crucial here. Things happen fast. You need to be fast, too. Also your object of interest moves and you are shooting from a moving platform. This is always tricky.
  2. I know my camera handles high ISO well in bright light so I go ahead and set it to ISO 1,000.
  3. I set my aperture to f11.
  4. With ISO 1,000 and aperture f11, the camera gives me a shutter of 1/4,000 s = wonderful! Plenty of speed then.
  5. Now you need to align the boat with the school and its speed and keep a pertinent distance = not too far, but not too close either, unless you can spook them. You want to, after all, photograph their natural behaviour.
  6. Find a comfortable position in the boat and assume a posture that allows you a clean sweep with your camera to a wide angle of views.
  7. Use your leading eye to look always through the camera’s finder and the other eye simultaneously to monitor the action. If your camera set up doesn’t allow for that you can keep peeking over the rim of the camera to follow the action, but do not stray too far from the finder with your leading eye.
  8. Shoot, shoot, shoot … try keeping your framing decent and the horizon level. You can use burst function to take multiple images with one shutter press.
  9. If you can, include another object in the frame to give your scene a sense of proportion. I was lucky since another boat came in to have a look at the spectacle. I used the moment when a leaping manta jumped in between us to snap this photo.


[blockquote text=’My camera setting for this shot’ text_color=” quote_color=” width=” line_height=” background_color=” border_color=”]

  • Nikon D600, Nikon 80-200 f4
  • 1/4000 s, f11, ISO 1,000

Version Español

Un paseo en la lancha por la costa sur de la Bahía de Banderas puede traer muchas sorpresas. Uno se puede topar con ballenas, delfines, observar guacamayas sobrevolando el bosque tropical, admirar grandes cardúmenes de peces… A mi me toco ver un grupo grande de la Manta de Monk (Mobula munkiana). Estas mantas ocasionalmente brincan fuera del agua, y con un poco de suerte, uno puede tomar foto de esta acción.

[blockquote text=’Como tomar una foto de acción de las mantas saltadoras’ text_color=” quote_color=” width=” line_height=” background_color=” border_color=”]

Para ajustar mi cámara mi razonamiento avanza mas o menos así:
“Necesitare mucha velocidad y buena profundidad de campo. Esto porque no sé con exactitud donde brincará el siguiente animal y si fallo con mi enfoque on poco, mayor profundidad de campo pueda salvarme. Además, como adoro mi viejo Nikon 80-200 f4 por su estupenda óptica, estaré enfocando de manera manual. Afortunadamente, no brinca solo una manta, pero muchas, así que tendré multiples oportunidades para sacar una buena foto.


  1. La palabra “acción” es la crítica. Todo pasa rápido, tendrás que ser rápido también. Ademas, el objeto de tu interés se mueve y tu plataforma (lancha) también.
  2. Se que mi cámara trabaja bien en ISO alto bajo buenas condiciones de luz. La pondré al ISO 1,000.
  3. Ajusto mi diafragma al f11.
  4. Con ISO 1,000 y diafragma f11, me da mi cámara un tiempo de obturación de 1/4000 s = excelente! Mucha velocidad.
  5. Ahora necesitarás alinear tu lancha y ajustar su velocidad para poder seguir el grupo de mantas de una distancia prudente = no muy lejos, pero tampoco demasiado cerca para no alterar su comportamiento.
  6. Encuentra una posición cómoda y una que te permita un amplio rango de acción con la cámara.
  7. Usa un ojo para observar la escena a través del visor y el otro simultaneamente para observar el panorama. Si tu cámara no permite tal manejo, puedes observar el panorama por encima del equipo con un ojo, pero mantán el otro siempre cerca del visor para poder reaccionar rápidamente.
  8. Toma muchas fotos. Intenta de mantener el horizonte y buen encuadre. Si tu cámara tiene la funcción de “burst”, puedes usarla para tomar multiples imagenes con un pulso del obturador.
  9. De ser posible, incluye en alguna de tus tomas otro objeto para darle a tu escena un sentido de proporción. En mi caso tuve suerte ya que se acerco otra lancha para admirar las mantas. Aproveche del momento cuando una manta salto entre nosotros y la otra embrcación para tomar esta foto.


[blockquote text=’Mis ajustes para esta foto’ text_color=” quote_color=” width=” line_height=” background_color=” border_color=”]

  • Nikon D600, Nikon 80-200 f4
  • 1/4000 s, f11, ISO 1,000

Viva Natura App for iOS and Android

Viva Natura Field Guide App Mexico

Viva Natura Field Guide App Mexico

The Viva Natura Mobile App – 49 pesos MXN (2.59 USD)

Is the first application of its kind in Mexico. It is designed to allow its users identify animals in the field and learn basic information on their natural history, consult species distribution maps, listen to their voices and even report a sighting of the identified animal to iNaturalist database.

– Category: Education
– Released: 28 March 2014
– Version: 1.0.0
– Size: 167 MB
– Language: English
– Developed by Hilda Camacho (SITI systems) & Petr Myska (Viva Natura)
– Rated 4+

Compatibility: Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.

The first edition includes:

  • 240 species of local fauna

  • Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds, Mammals

  • Over 450 color photographs

  • There are 1-5 photographs per species

  • Natural history in form of icons

  • Distribution map for each species

  • In selected cases an audio file

  • Chapters on regional ecosystems

  • Intro chapters for each animal group

Viva Natura Field Guide for Kindle

Viva Natura field guide is now available on Kindle

  • complete content as in the printed version
  • bookmark feature
  • search feature
  • handy thumbnail preview – ideal for ID comparison

No more excuses, you can download the Viva Natura field guide right now on Amazon. Available on all of these devices:

Free Kindle Reading Apps:
Kindle for PC
Kindle for Android Phones
Kindle for Android Tablets
Kindle for iPhone
Kindle for iPad
Kindle for iPod Touch
Kindle for Mac

Fire Tablets:
Kindle Fire HDX 8.9”
Kindle Fire HDX
Kindle Fire HD(2nd Generation)
Kindle Fire HD 8.9″
Kindle Fire HD(1st Generation)
Kindle Fire(2nd Generation)
Kindle Fire(1st Generation)

Touch of the Blue Crocodile

Touch of the Blue Crocodile

My most complex project to- date. A 93 minute feature documentary on interrelation of wild crocodiles and local people on Mexican Pacific coast. Filmed in a period of 4 years, put together in a crew of 2, myself and the director Petr Tomaides.


The American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) was almost exterminated in Mexico in the sixties, due to intensive hunting. Today, only one-tenth of its population survives The loss of natural habitat forces the crocodiles to ever closer contact with humans.

ON THE BACKGROUND OF LEGEND about the blue crocodile, our documentary reveals true stories of crocodiles and people. What is everyday life next to such creatures like? What is it like to touch a crocodile? From crocodile god to crocodiles swim- ming in sewers. On one side people’s lives destroyed by a crocodile bite, on the other those, who put their lives in danger to protect them. Unbelievable for most, but every- day reality on the Mexican Pacific coast. The documentary challenges the simplified perception of crocodiles as cold- blooded assassins and offers a surprising, thought-inspiring ending.


Touch of the Blue Crocodile is a movie that crosses the boundaries of a documentary, or at least the boundaries we are used to. These however are not the only limits it exceeds. Although filmed by professionals, it was created without a large budget. Moreover, this is a movie where the principal character is a crocodile and yet it is more about people than animals.

… The documentary, besides showcasing carefully chosen interviews with perhaps all Mexican crocodile specialists, brings above all a great amount of splendid images. Exaggerating only a little, we could talk about visual insatiability, partly influenced by the music video aesthetics, which is after all where director Tomaides comes from… … On the other hand, thanks to this insatiability, this movie is based more on image than on “speaking heads”. … It also brings a number of funny moments in sync with the audio, the camera doesn’t fear to venture underwater and we are even treated to an animation. .. The American crocodile isn’t any small fry and grows to 18 ft. length. Even so, the specialists know how to overcome and trap him. In such moments precisely, the documentary shows its most unique and strongest side. Thanks to the fact that both authors participate in the situation and have become members of the crocodile rescue team, they manage to draw the viewer into the action and transmit the drama of face to face encounter with a wild predator… … In short, it intentionally strives to be different from the usual Discovery Channel format or from what we imagine under the – a tad sterile – words “nature documentary”…

– Ecolist, December 2012 –

Hunting Crocs with Canon

No worries. I do not shoot with anything but my cameras.

Note the word Canon comes here with the capital C.

As it turns out, I was contacted recently by Juan Carlos Piña, ambassador of this well known brand. His intention was to test the newest DSLR Canon put on the market and was looking for a suitable subject of interest. Crocodiles came to mind and with them, myself. So he gave me a call and a few minutes later we had a plan – to show him some of the local big boys and luck permitting, put them in front of his camera. I was to be a guide that day, but I did bring my gear, too of course.

[blockquote text=’This is one of the shots from that day. And how do you go about taking a shot like this?’ text_color=” quote_color=” width=’100′ line_height=” background_color=” border_color=”]


  1. Know where the animals are (sounds elemental .. and it is, but it is also vital).
  2. Known the animals’ habits. When are they most likely to appear and where? Think about how to go about not spooking them and staying at a safe distance.
  3. Be very patient. It is hot, humid, mosquito ridden place and crocs are very patient animals.
  4. Do not move when lying in ambush.
  5. Prefocus your camera to the spot you assume the animals will most likely appear and take a few trial shots to judge the exposition. Find correct exposition for both sunlit and dark, shaded areas. Set your camera to burst function (multiple images with one shutter press).
  6. Stay very alert and wait.
  7. When the animal appears, stay calm and frame well, giving yourself some margin of error – shoot wider, later you can crop, not to cut off an interesting part of the frame.
  8. Be very careful with focus. The natural habitat will be full of branches and other obstacles. If you are good with manual focus or the frame is too busy with obstacles, use manual focus.
  9. Shoot as many images as you can while the action (crocodile coming out of water) lasts.


[blockquote text=’My settings for this particular shot’ text_color=” quote_color=” width=” line_height=” background_color=” border_color=”]

  • Nikon D600, Nikon 28-300 f/3.5-5.6
  • 1/640s, f8, ISO 800


The 1/640 of the second gives me enough speed to freeze the action, and at the same time allows me a medium aperture of f8, with sufficient depth of field for this shot at ISO 800. No branches in front of the croc, so I went autofocus.