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Rio Lagartos: A Remote River & Pristine Wildlife

Out little boat sat so close to the water that I could easily put my hand in the spray as we skimmed across the flat surface down a remote river wearing mangroves on both shores. Morning was just warming and a great white heron flew up out of the greenery and soared overhead, his wide wings  flapping in flight.


The river is part of Río Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the state of Yucatán, Mexico with a total of more than 230 square miles of protected land.



It is home to more than 2,400 species of wildlife, among them the American crocodile, the American flamingo, and the green sea turtle.


As we left the small jumping off town behind and wound our way into the wetlands, a feeling of both excitement and serenity washed over me. I love so much being out in the wild. The energy was as clear that morning as the bluing dawn-sky and it wasn’t long before the captain slowed the boat because he’d spotted a huge crocodile.


I love crocodiles. They are one of my spirit animals. So powerful and ancient, they seem to ooze self confidence and be oblivious to the cares of the world. This one was aware of us long before we were aware of him, I am sure, and he slipped beneath the water just as we drifted into the small cove that he claimed as home.


But it wasn’t long before the great creature reappeared close to our small vessel. Apparently, he and the captain had a long standing relationship. Both had grown up in the area and they had developed a friendship of sorts, of course of mutual respect. The crocodile slowly circled the boat showing off his grey and brown scales and then dove back under again, retreating into his watery domain.


We navigated the river, stopping occasionally to observe both black and red mangroves with their labyrinthine roots creating a boundary between the river and far away solid land. A tangle of leaves hid green herons, kingfishers, and brown basilisk lizards.


It wasn’t long before we saw our first flamingos taking flight in the distance, their wings glowing pink in the morning light. We slowed to a forward float and drifted up into the shallows until we could go no further because of the sandbank. There in front of us more than a hundred flamingos stepped graciously through the still water, occasionally dipping their massive black and white beaks in looking for a meal or perhaps just enjoying the coolness of a morning wade.


Further on, we spotted a black eagle sitting high in a tree. He was scanning the water, his intense eyes, looking for a fish. I zoomed in on him with my camera and was thrilled when he took off out of the tree, swooped down right in front of me, and caught a silver fish with his powerful talons. The weight of the fish caused him a bit of a struggle to fly as he labored up again out of the liquid green and carried his breakfast into a nearby tree. (Footage in the video!)


There is so much peace in this place, Rio Lagartos. It is so alive, and so exhilarating and yet so grounding all at the same time.


If you go visit, make sure to hire a local guide and head out soon after the morning fog lifts from the warm waters. Bring your camera, water, a hat and sunscreen.


And of course, your sense of adventure.


The wild will have its way with you, changing your perspective and drawing you into it’s reverie. And despite the thrill of seeing nature at its best, you will find, like I did, that everything slows down and each moment is brimming full of life and wonder. You may even find yourself getting so lost in the moment that you forget the outside world exists…at least for a moment.


Returning to this sanctuary soon,

Laura

 

 

 

 

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