7. Merida, Mexico…November.2021

Day 7 11.5
We had one more big day left before Bridget & I headed back home. We had another tour set up by Tours by Locals.  Our guides name is Gabriel & he was great.  He spoke English easily & was super on board to answer questions.  Like Raul, he’d been raised Merida & lived here his whole life. He picked us up at 8:30 & we were off to visit the beach at Celustun. It was about one hour & 45 minutes to get to the Gulf.  Along the way he pulled over & showed us what a typical Sisal/Agave/Henequen field looked like.  

It takes 7 years for then plant to grow before you can make it into fibers.

We were in Celustun before too long & had signed up for a boat tour to see the Pink Flamingos & a tour through the mangroves.

Wildlife was there to greet us…not wild at all.

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This was our little tour boat.  We shared it with a couple from France.

We took down the estuary but in about 15 minutes pulled towards the land.  There was no ramp where we got out of the boat, so we had to wade through the water.  The bottom was an oozy-gooey thick concrete type muck…not that fun, but you do what you do to get where to want to be.

This area is known for the Pink Flamingoes.  They are just coming back from nesting in another part of the Yucatan.  Don’t know if you see it or not from my photos, but waaaayyyyy in the back of the photo, you can see like a small white mound.  Look to the left of that, & there are probably a couple of hundred flamingoes.  The people over there got to see many more than we did & probably closer, but they wouldn’t get to go through the mangroves.  You can’t see everything on a trip…I learned that lesson a long time ago.

This is one of Sherry’s photos…this is why she’s a professional & I am not.

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It was super cool to see the flamingos, but what’s not pictured in the photo, is the 1 million mosquitoes surrounding & ferociously biting all of us.  Guess who was in charge of the bug spray?  Me.  And, I’d left it in my pack in the boat.  This was my first time walking through mangroves & I had no idea of the pesky little biting wildlife there.  Once back at the boat I passed on the duty of bug spray carrier to Sherry, since she always took her pack.  While everyone was a little welted, the bites calmed down after a bit & we could all still enjoy the day.  Lesson learned through—walk through mangroves; take bug juice!

Gabriel told us there are three types of mangrove trees in this estuary…a white one, a black one & a red one.  At a certain time of year, the red ‘ink’ from the red mangrove, seeps into the water, turning it the color of red wine.  We’re coming at the end of that time, so the water is turning from red to amber.  The next & last color of the water, it will turn back to green.  I was so fascinated by this…I couldn’t quit staring at the color of the water.  You could see all the way to bottom; the estuary is not deep, but the colors were just fantastic.  You can see in the photo below, how the water nearer to the mangroves is still red.

An Osprey in the tree.

We saw many different birds along the way.

Then it was time to turn off from the big open estuary & take a tiny narrow waterway back into the mangroves.  This would become everyones favorite part of the trip…we all wished we could have spent more time touring these magical places.

A huge termite nest in the tree.

It briefly rained while we went through here…that just added to this jungle-like atmosphere.

Before we headed into the Mangroves, Gabriel told us to be on the look out for certain birds.  One was the pigmy Kingfisher…the smallest Kingfisher in the world.  And sure enough, there it was!

Once out of the mangrove, we pulled over & docked (yes, no slimy feet this time—mine still have bits of slime on them!) & followed a boardwalk back into the mangroves (no mosquitoes here either!)

And there we spotted the endangered Tiger Heron….it was beautiful!

The freshwater spring we walked to. (And, yes I did dip my feet in the waters to wash off the remnants of the slime.)

We spotted a juvenile male Tiger Heron next to the freshwater spring.

The color of this water was mesmerizing.

After our boat trip was over, Gabriel recommended a lunch spot right on the beach.  We were all hungry & ready for food & a drink. 

After we got out of the van, we saw this street vendor selling this fruit.  Sherry told us it is called Rambutan.  We didn’t try any, but it looks super interesting.

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The streets of the small village of Celustun.

The decor inside the restaurant.

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We chose to sit outside, even though the it was pretty windy…but the view was great!  We were staring at the Gulf of Mexico & it’s beautiful green waters.

We all toasted to another good day!  Look at that view!

My fresh-caught-that-morning shrimp was fantastic!! Yikes it was great!

A wall of shells at the restaurant & smiling Bethany to make it look even better!

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Right as we finished eating, the wind picked up to gale force.  Everyone still eating hurried inside.  It didn’t appear to be a good day to hang out & walk the beach now, so we headed back towards the van.  But not before,  Bethany & I ran down the beach, I dipped my feet in the warm waters of the Gulf & made our way down to this sign.

You know I never pass up a swing when there’s one around!

We had one more stop to make today.  We all wanted to swim in another Cenote.  Gabriel took us to St Ignatius Centoe in the town of Chochola.  This one was very different than the one we swam in before.  It’s owned by the family that owns the property & it was much more commercial, costs more than double, had rules about life jackets (which we all ignored after a brief time), need to rent a locker, needed to shower ahead of time but it was in a cave…no sunlight on this one.  That makes the water crystal clear.  They had fixed lights in the cave so we could see.  Horrible for photography, but after a few shots, I just put my camera away & played in the water.

It was tiny but there was only one other couple there when we arrived.  They left after about 15 minutes for about 30 minutes we had the place to ourselves.

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Bethany had a Go-Pro which became a source of tons of fun.  She made a bunch of videos of all of us under water doing all kinds of silly things.  We’d come up to the surface & bust out laughing.  There was a lot of laughter going on in this Cenote.  We thought at one point we all might get in trouble for removing our life jackets (there were cameras everywhere), but no one said anything to us.

We all had fun & this was cool to see.  But I loved the first one so much more.  The dirt road we took to get there, the simplicity of the whole place & that its owned & run by the locals that live there & it just seemed so natural with all the birds & the sunlight streaming in & the greenery surrounding it.

We’d packed another full day in & Gabriel had been a wonderful tour guide.  It was dark by the time we arrived back at the Villa & everyone was too tired to go out for another drink…except me.  But, our alarm to leave the next morning would come super early.  So, I settled for a little bit of my fresh squeezed OJ I still had left.  The three of them played games while I finished packing & got ready to leave the next morning.

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