The small town of Rio Lagartos is located north of Valladolid, on the Gulf of Mexico. This lagoon is part of the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve and is home to some of the best wildlife viewing in this part of Mexico. We took a day trip from Valladolid and visited the reserve, stopping first at Las Coloradas (where the famous pink lakes are) and in the late afternoon we took a boat tour of the lagoon. We were able to get up close and personal with some of these incredible animals, including a full-sized female crocodile we spotted sitting in the mangrove.
While being neither a river (Rio) or full of alligators (Lagartos), the small town of Rio Lagartos was poorly named by the Spanish explorers who “discovered” this lagoon. Today the town is still a fishing village (most of the boats we saw were set up for octopus) but there is also a thriving ecotourism business, with many boats ready to take you out to explore the reserve. We saw many flamingos and crocodiles – including a tiny 2-year old crocodile in the mangrove – and many other great bird species like pelicans and heron.
This incredible destination is about 2 hours drive north (maybe 3/4 hours by bus) from Valladolid. Las Coloradas – the pink lakes – is about 30 minutes east of Rio Lagartos, and should be included with your trip to this area.
The town of Rio Lagartos is the best place to begin your exploration of the Ria Lagartos Nature Reserve. There was an abundance of amazing wildlife everywhere, and its pretty much guaranteed that you will see a lot of birds (and the right time of year, flamingos). It was easy to just show up at the dock, negotiate a price, and head straight out to the lagoon. We did our tour in the late afternoon, and as we came back to port the sun was setting over the town.
The Flamingos of the Yucatan Peninsula migrate from Rio Lagartos to Celestun, on the other side of the Gulf of Mexico, and we were here right before they were going to leave. We saw several groups of flamingos during our visit, standing in the shallow water, dipping their heads in for a snack.
The highlight for the day was seeing 2 crocodiles (a full-sized female and very small 2-year old crocodile) that our amazing tour guide spotted for us on our boat tour. We got pretty close to the full sized crocodile, and with the help of a nice lens attached to the SLR, got some really unique pictures.
Rio Lagartos is one of the best wildlife destinations in Mexico that we have been to and there were so many different bird species that we got to see. It is definitely one of our highlights of the Yucatan Peninsula.