Celestún Beach, Mexico

Entry to beach

Perfect Playa

Doesn’t this look like paradise?  Where are the people? Celestún is famous for the breeding grounds of flamingos and the area is a bio preserve.  This means that Celestún hasn’t developed as much as other places in Yucatan such as Cancun.  It was warm but very breezy as you can see from the waves.

After I walked along the beach, I investigated some of the streets close by.  First I saw a group of elderly ladies in various stages of ill health that had been to the local clinic.  I doubt their medical care was as extensive as mine but they were happily chattering as they walked home.  They had probably known each other from childhood and I looked at them in quiet envy.

Celestun village street

La Palapa Restaurant

There were a few restaurants and one was right on the beach.  I really needed a clean restroom but ordered a local beer and admired the view.  The restrooms were like most in the area – spotlessly clean, smelling of bleach with that fantastic foot pedal to flush the toilet.  There was also a clean wastebasket to put your toilet paper in.  The pipes are too narrow and the paper pollutes the pristine environment.  I thanked my hosts kindly and walked out.

Only in Mexico do you get a crucifix in the bar…

As I rounded the corner, reality struck me in the face.  An old sick dog was seizing in the road.  Her eyes were sunken and she was just hours or days from death.  I immediately went into triage mode.  How could I euthanize this dog, likely a stray?  I had left my tranquillizers at the hotel which I could have crushed into some tuna.  As I stopped and stared, I knew I could do nothing.  My rabies vaccinations are long since out of date.  The dog was not mine and it might not be culturally acceptable for me to be the angel of death.  In Cairo most people disapproved of animal euthanasia as it was God’s decision when we die.

I walked on with the knowledge that as much as I would like to, I couldn’t live in a poor rural country.  In Belize I snuck food out of the hotel to feed the starving dogs because there were no shops.  When I got back to the car, Angel, my driver, asked me what I thought of the village.  I told him truthfully that it was exquisite and charming.  Then I told him about the dog in halting Spanish – to my astonishment he seemed to truly understand my dilemma.  Ah, the yin and yang of life.

Cat Mural Celestun

Shades of blue

I have a busy work week and am traveling soon but after that we will return to Mexico. How many shades of blue can you see in the photograph? The blue green of the Caribbean is so lovely contrasted against the blue sky. This is the pier at Celestun, Mexico on a windy but warm day. There is no one on the beach behind me – a little piece of heaven. Despite my last post, my mood is not blue just reflective.

A snuggle of Fruit Bats

How many cute wee faces can you see?

I always loved the names for groups of animals but the real name for a group of bats is a cauldron of bats. That is just superstitious nonsense – look at those cute little furry faces!   I think there is at least three of them – a mama and two babies, perhaps.  On my very first internship at Chester Zoo in England, I helped edit the zoo magazine which pictured a Dominican Republic fruit bat which the zoo had saved from the edge of extinction. Fruit bats are terribly important to our ecosystem. Their guano or poop fertilizes both the soil and the fruit trees. What would we do without our guavas or bananas or fruit bats?

Just as I was leaving Jaltun Parque near Celestún in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, my guide, Senor Ortega, pointed out the fruit bats nestled in the palm tree. I tried so hard to get a great photograph but this was the best I could process.  When we lived in Cairo, we were woken up by a strange thumping in the back garden.  All we could see in the dark were fallen guavas but then we made out the faint outline of fruit bats knocking the guavas out of the tree and picking them off the ground.  When we lived in our first bought house on an estuary in North Wales, my mum’s cat Tibby came to visit and was terrified by the strange ‘birds’ that flew right at her with their radar.  We have bats in our back yard but go to bed too early to see them…sleepy Teddy and Bunny.

The park also had some orchids

Red Orchid

White Orchid with purple center

The spiny tailed iguana pictured in the last blog lives in hollowed out logs.

Can you see his little face?

Green heron

This is a slightly better shot of my pensive heron with the terracotta water below.  Celestún is an isthmus and just before you reach the beach area you cross over the first body of water.  It looked so tranquil.

What was he fishing for and with what?

 

A real glimpse of the Yucatan jungle

Pensive Green Heron.  I think this is my favorite ever shot

Angel, my driver in Merida, was intuitive about what I was enjoying.  I got very animated about nature ‘naturalis’ and he suggested that we go to Celestun the day after visiting Mayapan and Dzibiltchaltun archeological sites.  Celestun is famous for its large flocks of pink flamingos that live on what is now a nature reserve.  It is a small beach town situated on an isthmus in the Gulf of Mexico, right around the corner from the Caribbean.  The night before I excitedly googled the area and was concerned about the small boats that take you out to see the flamingos (fear of water in small boats).  Additionally, some of the articles mentioned that the influx of tourists was affecting where the flamingos nested.  They keep moving further away from humans.  I knew the beach would be magnificent but noted that there was a small Nature Park, Jaltun Parque Recreativo, just before the town.

This was a common black hawk. Common for the Yucutan… There was a nest close by.

Angel looked at me quizzically, as he had never gone there before, but followed his GPS and we arrived at a scrubby bit of jungle.  I looked at it uncertainly not knowing that this was going to be the cherry on the cake in Mexico.  No one spoke English but the gentleman who guided me had his wildlife book in both Spanish and English.  We excitedly chatted and I discovered that he was an Ortega – my cousin!  It takes me a while to get my eye in, when hunting for critters, but my guide was an expert.  He could identify every bird song, every tree and all the critters. It’s amazing how you don’t really need a common language when you are in tune with nature.  I perfectly understood that he was telling me about the wonders of nature – one tree, very close to another, was very toxic but the other provided the antidote.  Most of the animals were in the jungle but there were a few in small caged areas.

This is an African tree, planted by birds!

One of them was the Yucatan spiny tailed iguana.  I asked Senor Ortega if I could hold it and he explained,with concern, that they were very fast and I would have to hold it firmly behind the neck.  As an expert lizard catcher, I eagerly held out my hands.  It was a chilly winter morning in Celestun and the poor wee thing was cold.  I snuggled it into my sweater for warmth, delighting in the opportunity to be up close to an indigenous critter.

Carpenter Woodpecker Stop tapping so I can get a decent shot!!!

My guide was delighted at my derring-do and we walked into the jungle where he heard a carpenter woodpecker.  We tracked it down and he was more excited than me!  I knew my camera wasn’t up to a good shot because the woodpecker wouldn’t stop tapping but patiently waited for my guide to get just the right shot!  He was terribly impressed by my ability to track quietly and see birds.  Ah, that native DNA comes in handy at times…

Morelet’s Crocadillo

This is a shot of a Morelet Crocadillo  just gently basking in the stream.  I have seen many alligators and crocodiles but that might have been my only opportunity to see this particular crocodile that is found only in Central America.  Just call me Crocodile Kerry…

A special treat was to pop my head inside the boa’s enclosure and take a shot while they were both hissing at me.  When I got back to the car, tired and happy, Angel looked horrified at my shots of serpientes and shuddered!  Off we drove, along the road into Celestun.  It struck me afterwards that I had been cuddling all sorts of critters and it didn’t even cross my mind to wash my hands.  This might be why I got a parasite in Egypt.

More shots to follow of the Yucatan jungle