Rio Lagartos is a tiny (teeny tiny) little village that sits on a natural reserve. The town faces a lagoon surrounded by mangroves. This pristine natural environment is ideal for a vast variety of birds. And also crocs! We saw freshwater crocs and salt water crocs. It is most known for the flamingos.
First we will give you the “field trip” part of the trip with a little background about the biome. Ginger Kitty will help us with this…
Biome is a fancy word for enviornment. This biome is an ESTUARY. An estuary is where salt water and fresh water get all mixed together. Lots of different birds like estuaries and live in the mangroves.
This is a natural refuge for flamingos and crocodiles. But there is so much more that thrives here also.
Here is how nature works in this area… the foundation is sedimentary rock with a high salt content. The soil on top makes for different levels of salinity and nutrients. The freshwater springs that come up mix with the salty seawater. The climate here is drier than the tropical area it surrounds so there are no rivers or rainfall. This unique recipe makes a happy location for mangroves and related plant life.
Mangroves are a kind of tree. Between choking mud and high salt levels, they grow where nothing else can. They are interesting because they support a wealth of wildlife. Birds nest in the canopy on top. Small fish live in the roots. Snakes and crocodiles come to feast on the buffet. The nectar is a tasty treat for bats and honeybees. Every part of this ecosystem was deigned for perfect harmony.
The diversity of wildlife here includes over 300 species of birds. While I am not an expert bird watcher (my knowledge goes as far as saying, “Oh look at the black bird with the yellow beak and claws.” Or, “what a long neck on that white bird.” You get the idea.) I did see hummingbirds, flamingos, herons, hawks, pelicans, seagulls, and seagulls with red beaks that are apparently called black skimmer.
We have a very experienced friend traveling with us that can identify Mexican Sheartail, Yucatan Wren, Night Heron, Cormorant, Yucatan Bobwhite, Zenaida Dove, Black-throated Green Warbler, Swallows, Ruddy Turnstone, Caspian Tern, and so many more. She knows so much about the culture and nature of the area and has an admirable love for the indigenous cultures here in this diverse country. In fact, she is moving to another part of Mexico to learn the indigenous language of Tzotzil . There are more than 400 indigenous languages in Mexico and in one of those alone 40 different dialects. She will be spending her time as a volunteer to help people improve their lives now and in the future.
There is not a lot of tourism here and that explains why the environment has remained intact. More people requires roads that alter the landscape and prevent the natural exchange between salty and freshwater environment. This, in turn, interrupts the supply of nutrients crucial to the survival of the mangroves. Large amounts of tourists also bring in issues of building and sewer and services that disrupt the nesting sites of endangered birds, turtles and crocodiles. It is purposely out of the way to get to this little spot and the accommodations and food are simple and rustic and not fancy.
Years ago we heard about an area that is a nesting ground for flamingos.
I always have wanted to see this. Just imagine the looking at the large amount of these amazing iridescent birds in their own natural environment and not just as a decoration in a zoo.
We ended up with a larger travel group than we expected but it was fun. The drive is about 4 hours through the middle jungle area to this reserve at the very top of the Yucatan peninsula.
Diego is the owner of RIO LAGARTOS NATURE TOURS and their tours respect nature and are the most highly recommended. It is a family business that also provides food and lodging in their own posada. (a posada is a little inn that is simple but usually clean and adequate)
We brought our backpacks to our rooms and then found a playground for Ginger Kitty. Our group loosely ended up together to watch the sun set over the waterway that leads to the Gulf of Mexico. After enjoying a delicious dinner served up family style to our group we made our way into boats, each equipped with a tour guide. This began our night time crocodile search in the dark under a sky of stars that were literally beyond comparison or counting.
There are no pictures or words to describe the magnitude and ‘take your breath away’ beauty of that starry night, so I will not even try. I will say this: I could live for eternity and still remember that celestial marvel.
We saw one of the largest crocodiles in the lagoon. He was about 7 meters or 23 feet. Having just recently enjoyed a nice meal himself, he was not real hungry or interested in us.
The next morning we were ready to enjoy our breakfast and head back out. This time were in bathing suits instead of the jeans and fleece jackets from the night before.
Riding through the mangroves is fun. Lots to see. Plus, I just love the wind on my face. While looking for more crocs and birds our destination was the flamingos. They spend their days in a protected water area that is so salty the water appears pink and purple. The salt content is so high that you just float. The guides kept making sure we understood to not put our faces near the water and to only stay in the water a couple minutes because it would burn like crazy.
Our next stop is a mud bath. You know that was a lot of fun as everyone covered themselves. Just walking though this little area was fun as the mud under the water is slick and there are holes so you end up slipping and sliding all over the place and then up to your knee in some weird hole.
Of course we had lots of photos to take as we assumed new identities with the white mud. There was time for it to dry as our boats then took us to a salt water beach just at the Gulf of Mexico to rinse off and swim.
Just a note: this trip is focused on the beauty of a natural environment while maintaining a low impact so it is unsophisticated and does not have the bells and whistles of luxury. I mention this not as a negative but rather so you are not disappointed or distracted by the lack of fancy and lose sight of the remarkable experience this is.
It was a super fun trip. We loved having Ana and Katie part of the Enos tribe for it. I liked that my kiddos experienced a wide open classroom to actually be in an eco-system instead of just reading about one.
While in Mexico, we have had some “field trip” adventures that are memorable and amazing. Thank you for organizing this trip Lorraine.