Isla 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. For tour information
contact: Sociedad Cooperativa "Isla Mujeres", Pier north
of ferry docks, Tel: 987-70500. For general information contact
the Isla Mujeres Tourist Office, Plaza Isla Mujeres. Tel: 987-70316.
Open weekdays 9 AM to 2 PM and from 7 to 9 PM.
Reserva Ecologica El Eden Reserva
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. Prices include transportation
back and forth from Cancun, accommodations, meals and guided tours.
Contact: APDO Postal 308, Postal 770, 77500, Cancun. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Located 48 km (30 miles) northwest of Cancun.
Río Lagartos Wildlife Refuge Río
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
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. Contact the Flamingo Reserve Office,
Calle 47, Mo 415a x 52 y 54. Tel: 986-2854. 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.
Parque Nizuc A 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. Tel:
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