NEW DATES: 10-28 January 2018
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*Endemic birds and snorkeling amid healthy reefs at Cozumel Island, Quintana Roo.
*Inspiring forests surrounding ancient Mayan ruins at Coba, Quintana Roo (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
*Visit the world’s largest colony of American Flamingos –up to 45,000–strong by boat at
Ria Lagartos National Park & Biosphere Reserve, Yucatan.
*Rejuvenate in a natural Mayan mud bath at Rio Lagartos.
*Take a swim in the hidden world of the Ridgeway’s Rough-winged Swallow–underground cenotes at Coba Lakes, a unique–and refreshing experience!
*Safari through the remote, nearly unspoiled, Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Quintana Roo.
*Visit Calakmul, heart of the enchanting “Jaguar Forest,” Campeche, Mexico’s
most extensive tropical forest, home to abundant tinamous, toucans, parrots, jacamars,
humingbirds, antbirds, woodcreepers and little-known Mayan ruins, where
perhaps a Jaguar will be encountered, and the chance to witness the emergence
of thousands of Free-tailed Bats leaving their hidden, hitherto unknown roosting cave at dusk.
*Seek out endemic Yucatan and Cozumel specialties, including the Yucatan Wren, Mexican Sheartail, Cozumel Emerald, Cozumel Vireo, the nocturnal Yucatan Nightjar, and other exciting birds.
*Wonderful accommodations and incredibly fresh and delicious Yucateca seafood and local dishes throughout.
[*Seasonally, from May-August), we may run this excursion for clients to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime chance to swim with enormous and gentle whale sharks at Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo. Please inquire]
*Inspiring tropical rainforests surrounding ancient Mayan ruins at Palenque, Yaxchilan & Bonampak ruins, Chiapas (all three are UNESCO World Heritage Sites).
- Enjoy boating excursions on both the Rio Usimacinta (which is the only way to reach Yaxchilan) which separates Mexico from Guatemala, and the remote Rio Lacandon, which bound’s the Reserva Biosfera Montes Azules, sometimes known as Mexico’s little-known “Amazonia”.
*Lodging at an unexpectedly fine luxury lodge at Ara Macao, Las Guacamayas, which is the site of several Scarlet Macaw nesting sites, and the best place to see this amazing species in Mexico!
*Glass exciting neotropical birds such as Great Tinamou, Crested Guan, Great Curassow, Keel-billed Toucan, Scarlet Macaw, Mealy Parrot, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, White-necked Jacobin, Great Antshrike, Dusky Antbird, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, White-necked Puffbird, Lovely Cotinga… and a plethora of colorful wintering birds—warblers, hummingbirds, tanagers, vireos, grosbeaks and buntings, etc.—during the excursion.
*Spot Yucatan Black Howler-Monkeys and listen to their primordial vocalizations reverberating through the rainforest during dusk and dawn.
*Chances to see Jaguar, Agoutis, Red Brocket Deer, Central American Spider Monkeys and other exciting mammals of the Mexico’s tropical rainforest.
*Interface with the Lacandonia’s indigenous Lacandon tribe and more!
WELCOME TO MEXICO!
Day 1 INTERNATIONAL ARRIVAL TO COZUMEL ISLAND: Arrive Cozumel and transfer to your nearby, lovely beachside hotel, where you can enjoy the beach and look forward to two weeks of exploration of Mexico’s beautiful Yucatan Peninsula and the historic Mayan World of Chiapas to the south
Day 2 COZUMEL ISLAND, DAY 1: Full day exploration of Cozumel Island, birding the Cozumel Biosphere Reserve and visiting the Mayan Ruins of San Gervasi or El Cidral or both
Day 3 COZUMEL ISLAND, DAY 2: Second full exploration of Cozumel Island, with snorkeling at Chankanab Lagoon, reef and underwater national park
Day 4 TRANSFER COZUMEL TO RIO LAGARTOS NATIONAL PARK & FLAMINGO RESERVE VIA COBA ALONG THE RUTA DE CENOTES: Board Cozumel’s morning vehicle ferry (food service, comfortable seating, inside and out, beautiful approach to the coast of the Yucatan) as we traverse 25 kilometers of the shimmering, calm Caribbean sea to access the Yucatan Peninsula proper, at Puerto Calica, to embark on our scenic transfer to Rio Lagartos National Park, with a stop at Coba Ruins for lunch and a refreshing swim at one of two local cenotes, before arriving at our main destination on or before sunset (280 km; 4:35).
Coba and Coba Archaeological Reserve protects not only significant ruins of the same name—where pyramids rise above extensive tropical broadleaf forest, providing good above the canopy views, where it’s possible to glass flocks of endemic Yucatan Jays and widespread neotropical migrants, such as Magnolia Warblers, in season on their wintering grounds. There are even extensive aquatic habitats at adjacent Coba Lakes (Lagos Coba), home to Limpkin, Snail Kite, Northern Jacana and even the Yucatan endemic Morelet’s Crocodile.
Below ground, the overlying limestone substrate houses several subterranean cenotes (limestone sink holes), some of which are partially filled with pools of refreshing, pure fresh water, creating, in effect, underground swimming pools that were until relatively recently, only known to endemic Ridgeway’s Rough-winged Swallows, Turquoise-browed Motmots and the original Maya.
Today the entrances of some of these hitherto hidden cenotes have been modified by the Maya who own the land, to allow easy access to visitors such as ourselves, such that it’s now possible to combine birding and a refreshing swim, en route during our overland transit between Cozumel Island and Rio Lagartos National Park…. We will definitely partake!
Day 5 FULL DAY AT RIO LAGARTOS NATIONAL PARK: Full day of flamingos and Yucatan endemics at Rio Lagartos, located within Ria Lagartos National Park and Biosphere Reserve, including a nocturnal, waterborne spotlighting safari to view American Crocodiles, Boat-billed Herons, Common Pauraques and Yucatan Nightjars, etc.
RIO LAGARTOS OVERVIEW: Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve and National Park is one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s best birding destinations. Located on the northern tip of the peninsula, we will be staying at the friendly village of Rio Lagartos, with an economy centered around ecotourism and fishing.
Encompassed within the Reserve’s 233 square miles lie both mangrove forest and dry tropical forest, with transitional ecotones between. A number of threatened or endangered species make their home or nest here, including Jaguar, Margay, Northern Tamandua and four species of marine turtles.
Friendly residents of the town of Rio Lagartos have come to appreciate the uniqueness of its natural heritage and strategic location within the reserve of the same name, and the economy has been transforming from fishing to ecotourism. In recent years Rio Lagartos has hosted several birding and flamingo festivals, and protected within the town’s boundaries there is even an active heronry where Boat-billed, Green, and Tricolored herons, Snowy Egret, Great Egret and White Ibis seasonally nest in plain sight!
Our hotel enjoys a colloquial location near the town’s zocalo (town square) and our second story (top story) rooms overlook the lovely waterfront, which is actually a bird-rich lagoon that is protected by a sandy barrier island, beyond which is the blue Gulf of Mexico. Nearby Yucateca restaurants provide freshly-caught Yucatan seafood dishes and wonderful ceviches—the best your guide has ever tasted!
Ria Lagartos (also known as “Rio Lagartos”) offers closeup viewing of one of the world’s greatest concentration of American Flamingos and an assortment of Yucatan endemic (Orange Oriole, Yucatan Wren, Mexican Sheartail), aquatic (Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Boat-billed Heron, White Ibis, etc.) and marine (Magnificent Frigatebird, Laughing Gull, Sandwich and Royal terns, etc.) birds, which can all be seen closely with the aid of our excellent boatman, Alberth Rosado Tabasco!
During our exciting stay on the reserve, we’ll partake in at least two boating excursions to explore the mangrove forest surrounding the town of Rio Lagartos, both diurnal and nocturnal.
During our diurnal excursion, we’ll have excellent opportunities to view—up close—resident American Flamingos feeding side by side with constellations of water and marsh-dwelling specialties, including Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis, Tricolored Herons, Boat Billed Herons, and Bare-throated Tiger-Herons. At night our skilled, knowledgeable and bilingual boatman will take us out to see American Crocodiles, in addition to nocturnal mammals and birds, such as Northern Raccoon, Common Pauraque and endemic Yucatan Nightjar. We may also see diurnal birds on their nighttime roosts in the reserve’s impressive Red Mangrove forests.
Complimenting the brackish reserve are several sweetwater cenotes (limestone sinkholes) where boardwalks provides excellent access to birds inhabiting the mangrove forest interior, including the dainty American Pygmy-Kingfisher, Russet-naped Wood-Rail, Boat-billed Heron, and sometimes even rare Rufous-necked Wood-Rail.
Just inland from the reserve, on bird-rich Rancho San Salvador, we will seek out more Yucatan endemics of the tropical thorn forest, including Yucatan Flycatcher, Yucatan Wren, Mexican Sheartail and Black-throated (Yucatan) Bobwhite, among gorgeous Turquoise-browed Motmot, Lesser Roadrunner, and a good variety of neotropical raptors such as Great Black-Hawk, Crane Hawk, White-tailed Hawk and Laughing Falcon.
Occasionally even Jabiru, King Vulture and other rarities are seen on this exciting excursion.
Day 6 RIO LAGARTOS & TULUM: Morning birding at Rio Lagartos National Park, then transfer to Tulum for the night (205 km; 2:39).
Day 7 SCENIC OVERLAND TRANSFER—TULUM TO PUERTO CALAKMUL—VIA SIAN KA’AN BIOSPHERE RESERVE: Scenic overland transfer from Tulum to Hotel Puerto Calakmul Luxury Lodge, gateway to Calakmul Ruins and World Heritage Site, with, time permitting, a birding drive through the extensive Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (387 km; 4:40)
TULUM, SIAN KA’AN & CALAKMUL OVERVIEW:
Day 8 EXPLORE “MEXICO’S JAGUAR FOREST” AT CALAKMUL RUINS & BIOSPHERE RESERVE, DAY 1: Full day’s exploration and birding at Calakmul Ruins with lunch afield to view deep forest specialties of the Yucatan, including Thicket Tinamou, Ocellated Turkey, Crested Guan, Great Curassow, Bat Falcon, Keel-billed Toucan, Pale-billed Woodpecker, various woodcreepers, Gray-throated Chat, etc.
Day 9 EXPLORE “MEXICO’S JAGUAR FOREST” AT CALAKMUL RUINS & BIOSPHERE RESERVE, DAY 2: Second Full day’s exploration and birding at Calakmul Ruins with lunch afield and a nocturnal drive along the extensive (up to 60 kilometers) access road here, to view Common Pauraques, Mottled Owls, Vermiculated Screech-Owl, and any nocturnal reptiles and mammals (including possibly Jaguar) that cross our path; we may watch the nocturnal emission of Mexican Free-tailed Bats that occurs each evening near the lodge.
Day 10 EXCITING OVERLAND TRANSFER—PUERTO CALAKMUL TO PALENQUE WORLD HERITAGE SITE: Scenic overland transfer Hotel Puerto Calakmul, Campeche, to Palenque, Chiapas (311 km.; 3:55) where we will checkin to our lovely hotel for the night. Free afternoon to refresh, with garden birding and an inviting swimming pool at our hotel.
Day 11 BIRDING & ARCHAEOLOGY AT PALENQUE WORLD HERITAGE SITE: Full day birding, wildlife viewing and archaeology at Palenque Ruins and World Heritage Site, where Yucatan Black Howler-Monkeys, Central American Spider Monkeys, Keel-billed Toucans and neotropical raptors will compete with spectacular Mayan ruins for your attention
Day 12 OVERLAND TRANSFER—PALENQUE TO BONAMPAK RUINS WORLD HERITAGE SITE—AMID THE VERDANT MONTES AZULES BIOSPHERE RESERVE: Morning transfer from Palenque to Bonampak Ruins and World Heritage Site, located amid the remote, less touristed Selva Lacandonia, with lunch and afternoon birding within the surrounding Bonampak Natural Reserve and overnight within the friendly Mayan outpost of Lacanja (146 km; 2:21)
Day 13 A.M. BIRDING AT BONAMPAK, FOLLOWED BY AN OVERLAND TRANSFER FROM LACANJA, TO FRONTERA COROZAL, GATEWAY TO THE RIO USUMACINTA AND YAXCHILAN WORLD HERITAGE SITE: Morning birding and archaeology at Bonampak, followed by lunch in Lacanja, then a scenic transfer ever farther into the remote Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, lodging at our quite nice hotel of choice, Escudo Jaguar, overlooking the Usumacinta River at the friendly, Mayan frontier town of Frontera Corozal (44 km; 1:12)
YAXCHILAN & RIO USUMACINTA OVERVIEW:
Day 14 YAXCHILAN RUINS WORLD HERITAGE SITE & RIO USUMACINTA: Full day exploring the world heritage site of Yaxchilan Ruins, with an after breakfast morning boat transfer (10 kilometers; 45 minutes) to these spectacular, tall ruins, along the placid Usumacinta River, where it’s possible to see numerous raptors, waders, forest birds and sometimes even Scarlet Macaws in both Mexico and Guatemala, from our watercraft-borne viewpoint en route
Day 15 SCENIC TRANSFER—FRONTERA COROZAL TO ARA MACAO, LAS GUACAMAYAS, MONTES AZULES BIOSPHERE RESERVE: After breakfast we’ll make the scenic drive to the phenomenal, unexpectedly fine and lovely wilderness outpost of Centro Ecoturistico Ara Macao, Las Guacamaysa, Chiapas, for our final two days of this excursion, where we will settle in before lunch, with afternoon birding en route (113 km; 2:10)
ARA MACAO & MONTES AZULES OVERVIEW:
Day 16 ARA MACAO & MONTES AZULES BIOSPHERE RESERVE: Full day exciting exploration of Ara Macao’s bird-rich surroundings, including a morning boating excursion on the Rio Lacandon and adjacent tributary to penetrate deeply to the bird and wildlife-rich, unspoiled Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve
Day 17 A.M. BIRDING ARA MACAO THEN OVERNIGHT AT PALENQUE: Final morning of birding at Ara Macao, followed by our scenic, overland transfer back to Palenque for the night (251 km ; 3:51).
Day 18 HOMEWARD BOUND! Homebound flights from either Palenque, Chiapas, or Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico
Thanks for adventure Traveling with
NATURL ENCOUNTERS BIRDING & WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR