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Whale Sharks, Pink Lakes And Countless Birds In The Yum Balam Biosphere Reserve

Isla Holbox, Isla Mujeres, Isla Pasión, Río Lagartos, Yum-Balam Biosphere Reserve

Bird
Bird Watching Tour
Nature
Nature Tour
Whale
Whale Watching Tour

Isla Holbox is a little slice of paradise located in the Yum Balam Biosphere Reserve, with white sandy beaches, a soaring bird population and a laid-back atmosphere that lures visitors from all over. Enjoy this natural haven as well as the Rio Lagartos, where hundreds, if not thousands of pink flamingos merge in with pink waterbodies.

DAY 01

Cabo Catoche - Santa Paula

  • Should you visit Holbox from May through mid-September, take advantage of the season by swimming with whale sharks. Book a boat tour, which usually leaves at 7 am, for an ocean safari where you have an opportunity to swim with whale sharks. Dolphins, sea turtles, and stingrays can be encountered along the way.

  • The usual whale shark tour includes a trip to Cabo Catoche and Santa Paula. Cabo Catoche is a great place to swim with turtles and manta rays.

  • After snorkelling, head to Santa Paula from a nice swim in shallow waters. This place is a unique expression of paradise that is not highlighted in tours but does more justice than the photos taken of this area. The boat will enter the calm lagoons of Santa Paula slowly so you can watch the birds pass by. You will pass through mangroves and see its landscape with a mix of shallow and deep water. Beautiful colors welcome you, and the white sands of Santa Paula illuminate through the crystal-clear waters every few meters. You then dock at a spot where you can walk on shallow waters and let the soft white sand tuck in between your toes.

  • Before heading back, ask your boatman to buy a fresh catch, if it is not included in the tour, and treat yourself to a sumptuous ceviche.
    Here’s a tip for you:
    When it is not whale shark season, negotiate a lower rate for these two places with your tour provider since you won’t be doing the swimming with the whale sharks.
    The boat ride is 2 hours per way. A group tour would cost approximately $150 per head.

  • Back in Holbox Island, if the moon is not bright, your tour guide will point out bioluminescent planktons. You will need to run very fast on the water to see them; a magical moment that shouldn’t be missed.

  • Finding dining options in Holbox are easy as it is only 8 blocks wide and 12 blocks long.

DAY 02

Isla Pajaros - Isla Pasión - Cenote Yalahau

  • Today your tour guide will treat you to the classic three islands tour to visit Isla Pajaros, Isla Pasión, and Cenote Yalahau tour. Rich with more than 140 species of birds, Isla Pajaros is a great site for bird watching. Some of the birds one can expect to see are white and gray pelicans, wild ducks, herons, white cranes, and if the season is right, pink flamingos. Isla Pasión has great white sandbars, while the Yalahau cenote is just the right place for a refreshing dip. For the Cenote, the boat will dock on land, and a short walk through a narrow pathway will lead to the cenote. There is a tower next to the cenote which, when climbed reveals a view of the grassland and mangroves.
    Here’s a tip for you:
    There are bubbles in the center of the cenote. Bring snorkels if you would like to see where to bubbles come from. Also, bring money because you will surely find locals who sell fresh fish.

  • To end a beautiful day, watch the sunset from the white sand beach of Holbox Island.

DAY 03

Yum Balam - Rio Lagartos

  • Bike to the southern end of Yum Balam to enjoy a slice of the beach all to yourself. Keep biking on the main road as you pass through all the hotels until you reach the uninhabited area of Holbox.

  • The rest of this day will be spent in transit to Rio Lagartos. Take the boat back to Chiquila and then it’s a 3-hour drive to the west of the peninsula. Hit up the restaurants serving fresh seafood on the Malecon or on the inner streets facing the sea.

DAY 04

Río Lagartos - Los Colorados - Bano Maya

Sign up for a flamingo tour from Río Lagartos for a 40-kilometer ride around the area with a stop at Los Colorados. The best time to see flamingos is in late April, during their nesting season though one can still see them all year around because the flamingos are residents of Yucatan. Try to catch the flamingos early in the morning at 7am or during sunset. Getting a local and experienced guide is crucial because they know where the feeding sites of the flamingos are, for every season.

  • On the way to your first stop to see the pink flamingos, you will pass through mangroves with a chance to see birds such as kingfishers, pelicans, cinnamon hummingbird, eagles, and herons; as well as reptiles such as crocodiles. Your guide will take you to more than one sites where you can see the flamingos. The boats typically dock a few meters away from the flamingos to give them space, preferably at a sandbar if there is one near them. Going down to the sand bars will enable you to oberve from up close, the pink microorganisms that the flamingos eat.

  • The next stop is the salt ponds near Rio Lagartos, Los Colorados. The boat can only reach the outer ponds of the Salinera (salt factory). The color of the water may be pinkish or reddish, depending on the season due to salinity as well as time of day. The best time to see Los Colorados is from 12 pm to 2 pm when the sunlight is directly above the water. With its high salt content, floating on the sea will never have been this easy! Floating here is only allowed for 5 minutes, and you shouldn’t dip your face in the water because the salt can burn your skin. If you are so interested, the reddest salt ponds can be reached by road. The reddest seasons for the ponds are during July-September and January-March. The Salinera plays a crucial role to the flamingos by protecting the barrier between the salt marshes and the Gulf of Mexico. The flamingos need high saline water for their food and nesting, which is why nearly 40,000 flamingos nest there.

  • After floating on Los Colorados, wrap yourself in with natural mud at Baño Maya. Don’t grab just any mud you see on the ground. Rather, the guide will dig down an arm deep from the surface for the healthy mud to place on your skin. This mud is high in sulfur which studies in that area say is good for the skin.

  • The last stop is an uninhabited white sand beach, best visited to watch the sunset before returning to town.

Isla Holbox, Isla Mujeres, Isla Pasión, Río Lagartos, Yum-Balam Biosphere Reserve

Bird
Bird Watching Tour
Nature
Nature Tour
Whale
Whale Watching Tour

Contributed By : Karen Chua

TourHQ Experiences

This itinerary is contributed by Karen, an experienced traveler. If you request this tour, different guides will give you their versions of this itinerary. Be sure to confirm with them on what's included before booking.