I had always heard a lot about a place in the Yucatan called “Rio Lagartos” and the stunning landscapes and nature that can be found there. After looking at hundreds of photos and reading about this spectacular place my experiences of this day was nothing compared to how I imagined it to be.
The ancient Maya knew this place as Holkobén and used it as a rest stop on their way to the nearby lagoons from which they extracted salt to sell. (Salt continues to be extracted, on a much vaster scale now.) Many years later in 1979, Mexico established Rio Lagartos Bio-Reserve in the state of Yucatan and is now internationally known as the land of the flamingos.
The day began with a brief introduction with our tour guide and the captain of the boat, and then it was time to depart. As we made our way to the flamingos our guide showed us many different types of birds including Great Blue Herons, Tiger herons, Roseate Spoonbills, Kingfishers, Anhingas, Frigates, Common Black Hawks, Ospreys, Wood storks, Snowy Egrets, and White Ibis. Some of these birds I had only seen in zoos and in photos, so this was a real treat to see them in their natural habitat.
Before we departed we were told that if we were lucky we would see one of the largest crocodiles in the river, and I guess we were lucky. The crocodile must have been around 10 or 12 feet long and its teeth a few inches long, it came close enough so that we could get some excellent photos, however we kept our distance. In fact during our trip we saw 2 other junior crocodiles tucked away in the mangroves.
Our next stop was to see the famous flamingos. On the way we passed what looked to be snow – a long line of white, we were soon told that this was salt (we would get to have a magical experience a little later on). On getting closer to where the flamingos were, it was just breathtaking, hundreds of flamingos all in a few centimeters of water. The closer we moved they would run on the surface of the water and then take off! A truly amazing sight. For those who are quick enough, you can get some great photos here.
After taking some amazing photos in was time for a swim, but not in the ocean nor in the river nor in ´normal’ water. This water was pink! The pink colored water is the result of the tiny marine micro organisms. As the water in the salt ponds evaporates, their concentration increases and the water becomes redder.
They are the main food source for flamingos. These micro-organisms contain beta carotene which is the reason for the flamingos’ color. The water looks so inviting and so different, and it felt very different too – almost thicker. Once we were all in the water, we were told to lie back.
The strangest thing happened; we all floated on the water. Almost like the sensation that the people in space feel. Completely fascinating. It was then time to have a “Baño Maya” (Mayan Bath) with the white colored mud that was at the bottom of this lake to cover ourselves in. The mud is very rich in minerals and left the skin and hair very soft. Under the Mexican sun this soon dried and then it was time to jump in the river water and wash all the mud off.
After all of this excitement is was time to head back to shore and to enjoy a few ice cold beers and some freshly caught fish, this gave us all a good chance to share photos and feelings of our spectacular trip. 110% recommendable and I will be back very soon to relive all of these magical experiences at this fantastic part of the World: Rio Lagartos.
From the Riviera Maya, Tulum and Costa Maya; it is easiest to take the Coba road and continue on the road to Chemax and Valladolid and continue to Rio Lagartos
From Cancun and Puerto Morelos; By ways of Valladollid-Tizimin- Rio Lagartos. This may seem like a long way round but this way you can make a stop at the ruins in Ek Balam which are north of Valladolid.
From Merida; take the road to Motul-Tizimin.The highway is connected to the Periferico (beltline) around Merida on the northeast side. You will see sign posts to Rio Lagartos
Price: 900 pesos for a guided tour for 2-6 people | Opening hours: They will work to your schedule (minimum 2 hours)
- When taking the “Baño Maya” do not get the water in your eyes, as its very satly
- There’s no bank or ATM in town, so bring lots of cash (pesos or USD`s)
- Most residents aren’t sure of the town’s street names, and signs are few. The road into town is the north–south Calle 10, which ends at the waterfront Calle 13
- Combine your trip to Rio Lagartos with a trip to Valladolid or the Mayan ruins at Ek Balam
- As of September 2012, 43,000 flamingos have been recorded in the Yucatan, the majority of which nest and feed in the Rio Lagartos area.
- A total of 388 species of birds have been counted in Rio Lagartos and also 59 species of Mammals, and 80 species of Reptiles 99 species of Fish.
- The flamingos have few predators, one of the biggest one is the jaguars, however very few adult flamingos are caught by the jaguars, this is because as soon as the flamingos feel under treat they expand their wings (which are black inside) this makes them out to larger than they are and usually scares the jaguars away).
- There are 18 archeological sites in the Bio-Reserve.