We were blown away by the salt lakes of Las Coloradas and were then on to another adventure at Rio Lagartos. Jerome had been looking forward to seeing the flamingos since we told him that we might be able to but as we drove back we glimpsed something that also excited him – a group of raccoons crossed the road in front of us setting the wildlife focused tone for the next part of our day.
I had read in the guide books that most restaurants in the port would offer boat rides through the estuary to see the flamingoes, other birds and even crocodiles, and we had in mind one such place marked on the map. When we got to the port we spotted the long rods on the fisher boats, sticking up into the air.
A man on a motorbike followed us on our drive along the port road. We stopped the car near the end of the port, and he asked if we would like him to take us out on his boat for a guided tour. He offered us a short one hour tour for 700 pesos or a longer tour lasting 2 hours for 1200 pesos. The longer tour included the crocodiles, which were up the estuary, nearly back at Las Coloradas so would have involved a long motor. With only a couple of hours to dark we decided for the shorter one, as our main aim was to see flamingoes. Apparently some guides will wait for other tourists to join to fill the boat, but we were happy to pay him the 700 pesos for the premium of having the boat to ourselves. His English was fairly good and he knew all the bird names in English and some other languages too.
First our guide steered the boat left, downriver, close to an island, which the locals use as a boat graveyard. We passed fishing boats, with long rods on the front, which he explained were for fishing squid, and that the other smaller boats took lobsters from traps in the lagoon. Soon enough we could spot some pink flamingoes in the distance. Our guide told us that it was not the best time of year to come and see flamingoes in Rio Lagartos as the larger flocks were else where along the coast spread out feeding and would return in Spring for mating season. Outside the mating time they tend to be more in small groups trawling the muddy bottom for the pink crayfish and shrimps that give them the colour. In mating season we should have been able to see thousands of them together but we were quite content to see just a few. The water in the estuary is very shallow, the flamingoes legs long enough for them to still be above the seawater with their bodies. The guide told us that they have to eat all day long to fulfill their needs.
Jerome was very excited, he has always had a keen interest in birds, as his grandfather is a big bird watcher and has taught him about them from an early age. Besides flamingoes we spotted other birds, there were grey pelicans with their sagging beaks, egrets, cormorants, osprey, storks and many other species. Most we had never seen before in the wild, some only at the zoo.
Our boat steered towards a narrow passage, barely wide enough for the boat to get through. Here the guide put his hand into the water and fished an upside down jellyfish from the bottom of the sea. They do not sting and looked like jelly with funny tentacles when he showed one to us. When we looked closer at the brown murky water we could see hundreds of them lining the sea bottom. These jellyfish are unusual in that they float upside down filter feeding from the nutrient rich water in the estuary.
Moving on we navigated between other islands into another narrow channel, where our guide explained to us the three different types of mangrove that can be found in the mangrove swamps around the river mouth. There was a red, white and black mangrove trees. Each mangrove has their own distinguishing feature to tell them apart. Black mangroves have their roots growing upwards and out of the water, whereas the red mangrove has tangled reddish prop roots. White mangroves do not have distinguishing roots like the black and red mangrove but they excrete salt through glands on their the leaves and we could see the tiny salt crystals on the leave’s surface. All fascinating facts to learn about, while the real trees brushed the boat.
When we got towards the end of our tour our guide steered the boat towards the river mouth, where the water flows into the Caribbean Sea. Here we saw blue herons, plus large flocks of grey pelicans and cormorants sitting on the jetty and sea defense walls. We even watched a racoon trying to steal eggs from the nesting sea birds.
On the way back our guide made a brief stop on the beach to let us collect some shells and stretch our legs before the motor back to port. On the way into the port we could see grey clouds gathered above the peninsular and the wind picked up in strength. If we had arrived at the port any later than we did it would have become a bumpy ride.
We would have loved to stay in town for a night, there were some interesting buildings, plus a number of basic hotels and cafes. It appeared to be our kind of place, quiet, not very touristy and very authentic, maybe one for another trip to the Yucatan peninsular.
We stopped at the cemetery on our way out of town, as I always find them fascinating. I have to say, it was a world away compared to the grey, boring graves we get to see in Central Europe. The graves were very colourful, some looked like little Mayan huts, covered with tiles and beautiful Holy Mary statues. Some local people were already cleaning the graves of their loved ones and putting flowers out for the Dia de Los Muertos on the first of November.
All in all a very interesting day, full of colour and excitement. Definitely worth the day trip from Valladolid and there were lots of gems to see for children. Jerome’s highlight was the climb of the pyramid at Ek Balam and seeing the flamingoes.