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West to Celestun

Wednesday we headed west out of Merida to the Gulf of Mexico and the tiny fishing village of Celestun.  It’s only about 80 kilometres from Merida, but the lack of a high speed road, and the number of Mayan towns you have to travel through on the way turn that 80 kilometer trip into a 1.5 hour drive.

Celestun is known for its biosphere on the Rio Grande, and the birds (including Flamingos) which you can see there.  When we got there, we chartered a couple of  boats in town, and then headed out for a 2.5 hour boat trip down the river, and through the mangroves.

First stop was at Bird Island, a sanctuary for pelicans and cormorants.  Its shoreline jammed with birds, the island is quite a sight to see.

Next stop, the petrified forest.  This isn’t a fossilized forest, but rather a forest that has been preserved for 180 years after sea water flooded an existing forest.  The tree strunks are heavily salinated, and the ground hardened with salt.

The boats were tied up to some of the living mangroves, and we walked into the forest.

Peter chose to leap a puddle of seawater, not realizing that the ground on the other side was considerably less hardened than what he had leapt from.  What vacation would be complete without mud up to your knees?

After the petrified forest, our boat driver headed out in search of flamingos.  On the way, I snapped this photo of a white egret in flight.

The flamingos can be found in shallow water on the river.  Interesting flamingo facts:

  • Female flamingos are bigger than male flamingoes.
  • The pink color comes from the shrimp that they feed upon.  They need to eat for 12 hours per day
  • Every evening at 8 PM, the flamingos finish feeding for the day, and then fly away in order to avoid the crocodiles that emerge from the mangroves at about that time to… feed on flamingos.

Here are three flamingos and an egret hidden in the mangrove.

There are hundreds of flamingos in the shallows of the river.  There were flocks all around us. 

Flamingos sure look funny when they take flight, running along the surface of the water, and flapping their wings until the are aloft.

Unlike the flamingos which feed in the open, egrets look for food in the shallows, amongst the mangroves.  I caught this fellow perched on a branch, just above water level. 

There are also osprey, which take fish from the river.  This particular bird in flight has a fish in its claws.

Next we took a trip through a tunnel in the mangroves.  It was quite a different from the experience of having been on the open river.  The mangroves completely enclose the boat.

There are crocodiles which live among the mangroves, but the only living thing we saw was this duck.

Next our driver pulled up to a dock at the mangrove edge.  A shor
t board walk led into the forest.

We all had a swim in the cenote that the boardwalk led to.

On the way back, I snapped this photo of a couple of men crabbing. 

And then we arrived back at the beach for dinner, drinks and the sunset.  The house specialty was fresh caught grouper filet stuffed with… fresh caught crab and shrimp.  Yum!

Down the beach, in fact, there were a couple of fisherman cleaning their catch, and attracting a huge flock of birds wanting to help.

Following dinner we headed back to Merida.  We got lost several times on the way, but ultimately made it about an hour late.

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