Less than 2 hours from Merida is Celestun, a relatively untouched part of the Yucatan. There are no high-rises, no glitzy restaurants and no nightclubs. It is an area to come and chill out with nature and spend a bit of time wandering the long beach or doing a few excursions in the surrounding territory.
Getting up early is not necessarily my husband and my thing, but if something intriguing is happening we heed the call and get ourselves out of bed and on our way in record time.
In this case we had decided to book a mangrove tour of the Ria (not Rio) Celestun Biosphere Reserve. Making arrangements through our hotel, we then we found out we had to be at the dock before sunrise. Gulp, and nodding to each other we thought, sure we could do this. We ended up being very happy we chose this tour because it turned out to be a really wonderful way to spend the morning.
We chose to do a punting boat, which means no loud motor to startle birds or anything else that could be found in the water. We just went gliding along with our guide and poler through the supremely quiet and stunning mangroves that edge Celestun. This is eco-tourism at its best. And we ask anyone visiting to use this mode of transportation.
When we first started out from the dock we slid into a canopy and it was like gliding through a picturesque green tinged tunnel. Birds were calmly wandering or flitting through and we spent time trying to spot an alligator on the “shore” to no avail. We saw lovely Cormorants, Egrets and even a Kingfisher. And the quiet was a background for the call of the birds.
We spent about an hour in the mangroves and then docked on another side and went by foot to a small lake with one of our favorite birds, the flamingoes. They are so graceful that we could have sat for another hour just watching them move about in an aimless way. It would seem that all they ever do is feed themselves, but that is always enough to capture our attention for a while.
There are a few signs mentioning how the mangroves are now being cared for and what they looked like in disrepair about 10 years ago when a hurricane came through. The people of Celestun are determined to take care of the region surrounding the town and have found a wonderful way to do so and make a bit of money at the same time. Their main goal though remains preservation.
Returning to the boat we made our way back to the main dock and went off by car to another area with, yes, more flamingoes, and much closer this time. On the way, we passed through a harbor with fishermen removing from their nets the small fish used as bait for the evenings catch.
Flamingo season in Celestun is November to April with the best time to visit December – February. If you travel Celestun, don’t miss an opportunity for visiting the Mangroves.
If staying for a night or two, or perhaps even longer, consider staying at the very welcoming Playa 55 Beach Escape. See our post Playa 55, A Little Slice Of Heaven In Celestun for a glowing review.