Our trip to Mexico, to my surprise, had occasionally ventured into the land of action movies settings. Or at least that’s how it seemed to me. We had Indiana Jones kind of film setting at Coba ruins, if Indi ever went on an adventure discovering a historical Mayan abandoned village by going through a jungle on a rented bike. And the day trip we had to Celestun reminded me of the setting of Crocodile Dundee film, because:
See what I mean? The beginning of our boat tour looked like the opening of an action movie, okay okay, judging by the quality of the video I took, perhaps it’s more like a low budget indie movie…
Celestun is a humble fishing village located on the west of Merida, it took us about 90 minutes of driving from Merica. Celestun is an easy day trip destination where you can kick back and just enjoy the backyard nature. The village is home to a biosphere reserve of the same name, Reserva de la Biosfera Ria Celestun, a wildlife sanctuary secluded behind a thick mangrove forest.
Celestun Biosphere welcomes thousands of migrating birds including flamingos and Canada geese every year. In a particular time of the year, this area could be jam-packed by flamingos. Rumour has it, there are up to tens of thousands of flamingos congregate in this area for mating season every year. It’s like their annual outdoor orgy party. Flamingos have a better sex life than most of us.
DEFINITELY. In fact, taking a boat tour to explore the reserve was the main thing to do in Celestun because honestly, there’s not much to do in this village but there’s more than enough to see. And the best way to see Celestun’s rich and diverse ecosystem is by taking a boat tour.
We didn’t pre-book any boat trip because we weren't sure if we should take a group tour or a private one. We went directly to the Celestun dock, south of the bridge between the mainland and Celestun. It was hard to miss because you’ll see boats lining up from the bridge. Once we got to the dock, we saw large signs for the tourist information center. There are bathrooms, small souvenir shops, and simple cafes. The dock also has its own parking lot so parking wasn’t a problem at all for our rented car.
The fee for a boat tour wasn’t that expensive, especially if you take a shared ride. The thing was, you’d need to wait for the boat to be full before the trip starts. We decided to splurge and rented a boat for ourselves for a big 75 USD.
We didn’t visit Celestun specifically during the flamingo orgy party so there’s not as much as flamingos around, but enough to make the trip impressive. We saw A LOT of other birds as well, and although we're not bird enthusiasts, we did enjoy the tour.
While the flamingos are of course the highlight of the boat tour, the surrounding shallow mangroves are worth exploring too. Our boat captain really knows this biosphere like the back of his hand. He helped us to spot the local residents of the mangrove forest, like this sunbathing crocodile. He also said the crocodiles in this biosphere are human friendly. I did not believe him.
We made a short stop at the Ojo de Agua Baldiosera, a freshwater lagoon where you can take a dip (at your own risk, obvi). Normally, I would be dead set to swim in any clean, natural pool of water, but I did not swim at this lagoon because I saw this big guy lurking behind all those branches. I will not voluntarily be in the same pool of water with a crocodile, no matter how friendly they said he was.
We ended up only exploring this part of the mangrove forest from the boardwalk. Honestly, being this close to a crocodile with no barrier was kinda freaky. I could think of thousands of ways how I could be snatched by a crocodile and get dragged deep into the mangrove forest to be its afternoon snack. Nico said I watched too many horror movies and pointed out to the fisherman who was minding his own business, in the water, knowing well there are crocodiles not far.
After the boat tour, we decided to check the village, which led us off the beaten path (read; got lost). It was an unmaintained dirt road leading to a hidden sanctuary for flamingos. We saw more flamingos here than when we were in the biosphere. The path we were on was far enough from the river where the flamingos were, but close enough to hear the flamingos chitty chatty. Just perfect for stalking these flashy pink birds with flimsy neck.
We finally found our way back to civilization and had a great lunch by the beach. Celestun beach is famous for its white sand, but what nobody ever specified was that there were tons of broken shells which made walking barefoot painful. The part of the beach we were at was a public beach. No lounge chairs nor parasol for rent nor guest-only access. It was rather calm, perfect for a lazy afternoon by the beach.
Opening hour : 8AM to 5PM
Boat trip fee: 75$ for the whole boat to yourself. You can get cheaper if you join a group tour
Insect repellent is a must, the mosquitos are hungry!