Monday, November 10, 2008


Celestún is a beach town on the Gulf of México west of Mérida about 70 kms. This is what the road looks like, other than the few pueblitos you have to pass through. It is a peaceful drive if you own the road, but when the crazy truck or collectivo bus drivers are in sight, extra precautions must be taken. They pass with no regard to the limited visibility on curves, the lack of shoulder, or close proximity of oncoming traffic. The sky is almost always this clear blue when we are heading toward Celestún. But there are several signs that say it is a "zona de niebla", or fog zone. "Fog?" I asked, laughing, one time! And then a rainstorm rapidly appeared out of the gulf and we drove home with about 10 feet visibility through a dense fog and pounding rain. Fog indeed!

This is the serenity we seek when we head to the beach. This photo was taken on an extremely calm day, but the Gulf of México's eastern shore on the Western Yucatan is often calm in the morning and breezy in the afternoons. The beach has that soft white sand you want to sift your toes through. It is also loaded with seashells. It is hard to leave any behind. I have to walk down the beach with a bag or a pareu that I can fill with goodies. Great collecting beach. My friend Noni in Hawaii would enjoy cleaning up the plastics that roll into shore. I prefer seashells, but perhaps one day I will take a bag to collect plastic garbage.

One of the mangrove rivulets that pass through the Celestún Biosphere. This is clear fresh water because it is actually a cenote. Many underground rivers open up into the Ría Celestún, mixing the salt water from the Gulf with the fresh upwelled water. This is the beginning of the food chain for several sea creatures from little shrimps to giant storks and flamingos.

The best way to see the flamingos and several other species of birds is to take one of Celestún's boat trips. There are two or three options. First of all, for first time tourists, I recommend the touristy looking building where lots of buses are parked just at the bridge over the river heading into Celestún pueblo. The boat rides are a little pricier than other options, at about 400 pesos per person, but the convenience is that you are starting from inside the biosphere. The boat ride takes you to the inlets full of flamingos and soaring birds, into the petrified forest, to the swimming hole cenote, etc. The entire two hour trip is inside the biosphere. They also have English speaking guides that are worth the extra money if you want to learn about this place. It is really interesting and the guide we had was knowledgeable and friendly. Well worth the money.
A cheaper way to go is to get a boat on the beach in Celestún pueblo proper. We go to a restaurant there called Los Pampanos for the best conch ceviche, sometimes adding a whole fried fresh fish to that order and a couple of cold beers. We sit there and enjoy the view in the serenity photo above. From there we watch the boat guides hustling the tourists. From the beach it is about 200 pesos a person for the trip into into the Reserve. The disadvantage is that a good portion of your two hour trip is heading down the coast on the Gulf side to enter the delta of the Celestún Ría, at which time you enter the biosphere area. The trip cannot offer as many internal sights because of the long ride down the coast. On the way back the winds have picked up and it is often a bumpy ride up the coast to the loading area. I enjoy bouncing around on a boat so I would do both trips again. We saw some great herons and storks and other more sea-oriented birds on the coastal trip. Again, worth the money.
The third option is one I've yet to check out. Across the road from the pricier boat trips are several boats at a less developed area. I want to stop there and see if they offer the same boat trip as the tourist trap across the street at a cheaper price. If you are headed there, let me know if you check out option three. Otherwise, one day I will get around to doing it and will follow up.
Pablo chillin' out on the beach with a delicious ice cold Negra Modelo.

The water can apppear rather green, but it is a clean and beautiful clear green. This is an afternoon shot from the beach. (I told you there were a lot of seashells!) There is some wind so the water is choppy, but that deep blue sky, the fresh salt air, and the fun of looking for shell treasures is a perfect outing for us after a week of screaming kids in class! Ha ha!

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