The Yucatán is famous for its bird watching. With great bird watching all year long because we are in the tropics, you will find more species in the winter because of the birds that migrate from the north to our warmer climates. For those who like numbers, take a look at these: there are 1,080 bird species registered in Mexico, 543 on the Yucatán Peninsula (the states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo and Campeche), 443 in the state of Yucatán with 233 permanent resident species and 11 that are endemic – those just found in the state of Yucatán. The photo at the beginning of this article, submitted by Lynn Girard, is of a nest of the nearly-endangered Shear Tailed Hummingbird, photographed in Chicxulub in Feb. 2013.
Places that are known for bird watching include Río Lagartos , Celestún, San Felipe, Sisal, and the Hacienda Chichén area. There is now a newer kid on the block at Sihunchen, which in Maya means Bird Observation. This private eco-archaeological park located southwest of Mérida near Hunucma, about 30 minutes from Mérida, has just opened to the public recently.
With four kilometers of paths that meander in the jungle among untouched huge Mayan mounds, Sihunchen is the dream child of Mr. Alberto Mezquita who with the help of the Secretary of Tourism is working on making his hacienda a sustainable tourism area, meaning he is working on bringing ecology-minded tourism to the area and thus providing work for the people of the village and hacienda. The park also offers archaeology, cycling, camping, cenote, pool, and gastronomy.
Bird watching is best between 5:30 am and 9:30 am and then in the afternoon between 5 pm and 7:30 pm, with the morning being better. Transportation is offered from Merida for 600 pesos one way or roundtrip (1 to 4 persons) or 1200 pesos one way or roundtrip (5 to 10 persons).
Services offered at Sihunchen include a bird watching tour at a cost of 800 pesos per person, from 6 am to 11 am (in Spanish). The same tour in English is 1200 pesos per person. Nighttime astronomy tour (from 8 pm to 1 am) ranges from 1400 to 1700 pesos per person.
If you would like to have a Mayan experience, you can plan on having a regional breakfast when you are finished with your bird watching. The Mayan breakfast, held under a thatched roof shade area, prepared and served by local Mayan people, consists of traditional chaya (Mayan spinach and oh, so delicious!) and eggs, refried beans, handmade tortillas, fresh fruit drink, coffee and ix-ni-pec, a salsa made of onions, tomatoes and cilantro with lemon juice. For breakfast, add $120 pesos to your budget. Double room including breakfast, park entrance, and use of pool and cenote: 700 pesos. Camping: 70 pesos per person.
If you are organizing a larger event (convention, congress or field trip) Sihunchen is prepared to attend up to 100 people. For these events, they offer a traditional Mayan lunch that is prepared and baked underground – a unique experience to view and help with. And there are local people from the hacienda that will present typical jarana dancing in their typical dress to typical music if you so desire. This is all part of the sustainable tourism plan – to have the locals work in tourism showing their customs and traditions, thus helping their economy in doing so.
To plan a bird watching excursion, we suggest you make reservations at least 24 hours in advance by calling: cel. 9999 55 70 58 or cel. 9889 66 02 20 or 9992-66-23-37. E-mail [email protected] Web: www.parquesihunchen.com Facebook: Parque Sihunchen y Olimpo Travel.
Alberto Mezquita is working on a new project called the Route of the Birds – La Ruta de las Aves. For more information on Birds of the Yucatan, visit the resident naturalist, Jim Conrad at his website backyardnature.net
For information on the Yucatan Bird Festival, visit the official website: www.yucatanbirds.org.mx or email them directly at [email protected]
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