Contoy is a rare delight for bird and animal lovers. This
diminutive, pristine island is only 6.5 km long and less
than 1 km wide. It is home to more than 70 species of birds
including gulls, egrets, flamingos, pelicans, petrels, cormorants,
cranes, ducks, herons, frigates, sea swallows, doves, quail,
spoonbills, and hawks who come its shore to breed.
Dramatic sand dunes with black rocks
and coral reefs fringe the east coast while the west coast
is covered with shrubs and coconut trees providing shelter
to the iguanas, lizards, turtles, hermit crabs and snakes
who also make Contoy their home. Make sure to visit the
outdoor museum and science center and climb the nearby observation
tower for a bird's-eye view. You almost touch the magnificent
frigate birds as they soar by. There is also excellent snorkeling
just off the shore. The local pet manta ray may join you
while you swim.
The number of visitors to Isla Contoy
is carefully regulated in order to safeguard the flora and
fauna; everyone must buy an authorization ticket to land
on this protected zone. It takes about 45 minutes to reach
the island depending on the boat and weather and its best
to take one of the guided tours.
Ecologica El Eden offers the real thing – a rugged
jungle tour on a reserve dedicated to research and preservation
of the ecosystem in the Yucatán. The 500,000-acre
refuge was established in 1990 by one of Mexico’s
leading naturalists, Arturo Gómez-Pompa and his nephew,
Marco Lazcano-Barrerro. It offers excursions into the wetlands,
mangroves, sand dunes and tropical forests where people
can experience the plants and animals firsthand; reptiles,
birds, orchids, butterflies, spider monkeys, jaguars, cougars,
deer, ocelots, iguanas and peccary are all part of the general
population. Eco-scientific tours include animal tracking,
stargazing, crocodile ecology and exploring cenotes. This
is not for the luxury-seeker.
Lagartos is home to the biggest flamingo population in North
America and a visit here is a feast for the eyes: blue sky,
white sand, turquoise waters and fuchsia birds. This National
Wildlife Refuge, established in 1979, is also home to the
snowy egret, red egret, white ibis, blue heron, cormorant,
brown pelican and a number of other bird species. Originally
named for the crocodiles that used to inhabit this long
estuary, Río Lagartos has 116,000 acres of mangroves,
salt marshes and coastal lagoons. You can wander on foot
through the waters that circle through small inlets and
sandbars watching the birds or hire a boat to go through
the mangroves to the flamingos feeding grounds. However,
during nesting season (April to June) no one is allowed
near the flamingos since they become ultra sensitive to
intruders and if disturbed often panic, destroying their
Nearby are the picturesque villages of Rio Lagartos and
San Felipe where you can walk along the waterfront. Both
have distinct maritime flavor with the many fishing boats
moored along the shore and the fishermen repairing nets
on the docks. Many of the houses are decorated with a flamingo
motif. With three days advance warning, the Reserve office
in Tizimín (the closest city) will arrange for a
bilingual tour guide of the reserve. Open weekdays 9 AM
– 2 PM and 6 – 9 PM. You can also hire a boat
at the park office located ¼ mile from the entrance.
Look for the Estacion sign. Río Lagartos is located
3 ½ hours northwest of Cancun.
fresh water theme park with three separate attractions.
You can slip and slide at the Wet ‘n Wild rides and
pools, swim with manta rays and tropical fish at the Baxal
há snorkel park or have a dolphin experience at the
Atlantida dolphin aquarium. Located 5 minutes south of the
Cancun Hotel Zone. Open daily 10 AM – 5:30 PM. Blvd.
Kukulcán, Km 25.