Ría Lagartos

Ría Lagartos is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Yucatán, Mexico and is known for it's diverse wildlife and beautiful scenery. We went to Ría Lagartos for a 3 day weekend hoping to catch a glimpse of the flamingos and check out the pink water of Las Coloradas. What I didn't expect to see was the large number of birds (this protected wetland is home to 365 different species of birds), crocodiles and sheer variety of this beautiful estuary. Here are a few of the things we learned and wish we knew before going to Ría Lagartos, so your trip can be more streamlined:) 

Our boat to take us around the reserve

Our boat to take us around the reserve

Best Tips for Ría Lagartos!

  • Bring binoculars! You can't get near the flamingos because they frighten easy--and to not bother them, of course-- so in order to see them in their full splendor, you will need a good pair of binoculars.
  • Bring enough cash! All tours will be paid in cash and there isn't an ATM in town. The closest ATM is in Tizimín which is about an hour away. We took out money in Valladolid on the way there.
  • If you take the normal tour, you will see the flamingos for a bit (maybe 15-20 minutes) before you go onward for other activities (i.e. mayan mud bath, float in high-volume salt water and rinse off at a nearby beach). I definitely recommend planning out a sunrise tour with a local fisherman instead (it doesn't cost much more to do this especially if you are traveling with a group) so you can better tailor your trip. When we went that second morning with a fisherman, we were able to watch the birds for a couple hours while also seeing more of the other wildlife in the area. This time around we felt more like we were living in a National Geographic magazine and got to do exactly what we wanted which was worth the extra money. To clarify, the price of the tour is usually the same so the only reason we paid more is because it was just two of us going vs. going with a group. 
  • As you can see from the pictures of the flamingos here, it is best to take a camera with a good zoom if that is a possibility. Although I love my camera, it just doesn't cut it for faraway wildlife shots. Bring in the big guns if you can! For reference, my camera has a 3.1 x zoom, 24-75mm, 35mm equivalent.
  • If you do take the standard tour, you may also check out "Las Coloradas" (depending on the security guards that day) where you can float like never before due to the high volume of salt, similar to the Dead Sea. I literally felt like a buoy. Though it was fun, I was a bit confused because I thought the water was going to be bright pink (it was more of a muddled orange). It turns out, in order to get to the more photographed part of Las Coloradas, you need to drive yourself or take the local bus as taxis won't take you in fear of ruining their car.
  • To get to Las Coloradas, take the bus in the morning/early afternoon which runs every half hour (ask your hotel how to get there) and be sure to check what time it stops making returns. When we went, it stopped doing the loop back to town in the early afternoon.
  • Since many of the tours start early, try to find a waterfront hotel to stay at. We stayed at Hotel Villa de Pescadores which was across the street from the water and made waking up for sunset tours a bit easier. 
  • If you are also going to watch the birds, be sure to plan your trip during the right season! Though you can technically see flamingos year round, you will be able to see the biggest number of flamingos (and other species of birds) during the winter months. The flamingos shy away more in May when they head off to mate.

Here are some photos from our first tour and our trip to the more popular side of Las Coloradas...Did you know that a group of flamingos are called a "flamboyance"?!

Las Coloradas

Las Coloradas

Happy as a clam to see the pink waters.

Happy as a clam to see the pink waters.

After our tour, we needed some food and wanted to check out the town. Here are some photos from the town itself and shots from the restaurant we ate at, Macumba, which has a great rooftop worth checking out.

Boss bird at Macumba restaurant

Boss bird at Macumba restaurant

Rooftop treasures at Macumba restaurant

Rooftop treasures at Macumba restaurant

Rooftop views

Rooftop views

Views of Ría Lagartos from Macumba rooftop

Views of Ría Lagartos from Macumba rooftop

Boat party

Boat party

Sunset at the end of our first day.

Sunset at the end of our first day.

The photos below were taken from our second tour with the fisherman. We had much more time to spend looking at the flamingos and we got to see way more wildlife. Definitely recommend you do the same!

View of our hotel (Villa de Pescadores) from the water

View of our hotel (Villa de Pescadores) from the water

Sunrise over Ría Lagartos

Sunrise over Ría Lagartos

Tons of pelicans scattered across the estuary

Tons of pelicans scattered across the estuary

First crocodile spotting!

First crocodile spotting!

Don't forget your binoculars!

Don't forget your binoculars!

First flamingo sighting of the day. Can you spot the baby?

First flamingo sighting of the day. Can you spot the baby?

This was a hungry group

This was a hungry group

Always with the binocs

Always with the binocs

Binoculars are not only good for helping you see the flamingos but they double as a better zoom lens if your camera just doesn't cut it!

Binoculars are not only good for helping you see the flamingos but they double as a better zoom lens if your camera just doesn't cut it!

Away they go, the goofiest birds in flight.

Away they go, the goofiest birds in flight.

Goodbye Ría Lagartos!

Goodbye Ría Lagartos!

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