Pink, elegant and graceful, flamingos are seen as a symbol of beauty and femininity. Sanskrit literature considers them auspicious, wise birds. As spiritual messengers, they remind us to connect with our emotions, giving ourselves permission to feel in order to find balance again.
Regardless of their significance, coming across a flamboyance of flamingos in the wild (flamboyance is the technical term for a flock of flamingos because of, you know, their bright color) truly mesmerizes. Such was my experience when visiting Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve off the Yucatán Peninsula, where American flamingos nest in the spring and summer months, joined by many other bird species in the winter to enjoy its warm and shallow waters.
Río Lagartos is a tranquil waterside town located about 3 hours from Playa del Carmen (2.5 hours from Mérida). Renting a boat to explore the nearby protected area was easy, with several boatmen approaching us while having a seafood feast at El Perico Marinero across from the small pier. There's a flat fee per boat regardless of the number of passengers. We paid $1,200 pesos and rode comfortably with three adults, one child, and even our small dog!
Our journey started late in the afternoon, rushing across the ría but stopping along the way to observe some of the local fauna, including gray cranes, cormorants, pink herons, and a family of raccoons on the near shore. No alligators, although we were assured they were lurking around.
Just as the sun started to set, their peculiar shape took over the rose-tinted horizon, perfectly matching their peaceful wading mood. We admired them quietly, wanting to be part of the picture without being noticed, even though they didn't seem to mind us at all.
Boat excursions usually include a Mayan mud bath on the way back from the biosphere. Visitors rub themselves with white clay extracted from the ría, which is supposed to leave the skin smooth and soft. We had to skip that activity due to time constraints, so I'll have to report on that next time!
GOOD TO KNOW
There are only a few places to stay overnight at Rio Lagartos, so book a few weeks in advance if you're planning to spend the night
Bring cash with you to pay for the boat excursion
You can also take a boat trip to nearby San Felipe for additional bird and nature watching opportunities
Flamingos in nature are hard to photograph well -- bring a zoom lens if you can!
Feel free to contact me for more tips and recommendations if you're planning a flamingo watching trip!