Rio Lagartos meaning Alligator River is a small fishing village that is home to the densest concentration of flamingos in Mexico. Here it is believed that there is 2 - 3 flamingos per Mexican! This mangrove lined estuary also shelters 334 other species of resident and migratory birds, including snowy egrets, red egrets, tiger herons and snowy white ibis along with a small number of once numerous crocodiles that gave the town its name.
To the Maya this area was known as Holkobén. The Maya used Holkobén as a rest stop on their travels to Las Coloradas a vast and shallow salty estuary where the Maya extracted the precious salts stretching east to the border of Quintana Roo. Spanish explorers mistook the narrowing of the ría, estuary for a río, river and the crocs for alligators and so renamed the are Rio Lagartos!
It was a fairly direct ride from Chichen Itza located inland out to the coastal town of Rio Lagartos. The peeling and patchy turquoise painted town was a pleasant surprise. This sleepy, salty fishing village has a somewhat retro Miami feel to it. I think that the turquoise paint and flamingos have something to do with it! Fishing boats constantly zip up and down the waterfront transporting their catch of the day or other catch of the day…tourists that are enjoying the abundant birdlife. It takes no effort at all to sit in a waterfront cafe and watch the waterways. Gazing out across the shimmering waters I felt so privileged to see flamingos in flight. They are quite a sight and a stunning bird! Examining these birds as they fly is definitely a joy! Their long pink necks stiffly stretch out from their soft, pink feathered, puffed bodies, and are pointing intently in their direction of flight. Their lanky, twiggy, legs extend rigidly from their vivid pink bodies like a stiff leather whip. And with every long and gracious sweep from their impressive wing span, you will view the pitch black feathers that underline their striking pink wings…It is stunningly beautiful!! And just as you are marveling in this wonderful sight a horrifying, spooky, mud covered tourist who has indulged in a Bano Maya wiz by in a boat on their way to the fresh water hole. Ha ha ha!
Kev and I hired a boat to take us out to a flock of flamingos. They are even more impressive in a group. We ventured so close in the shallows that at times the fishing boat bottomed out on sand. Hmmmm…Getting stuck on sandbars brought back very cumbersome memories of a dramatic childhood boat adventure to Cannons Creek, but that is another story! We floated in the "Mexican Dead Sea", watched baby Tiger Herons act grown-up in their nest, and alligators sunning their bodies on logs. I now understand why people stick those plastic flamingos in their lawn. Once you have seen these wondrous birds in their natural environment, you just get this uncanny urge to buy a plastic one…hoping to savor the memory. Unfortunately I could not find a small one to place on the bike, but one day when I stop long enough for the grass to grow you can bet your pa-doo-dee, that I'll have a flamingo in it!