A cloudless day without a breathe of wind and a calm, mirror-like sea make for perfect conditions to board a yacht and set sail to one of the Mexican Caribbean’s treasures, Contoy, a true desert island and a bird sanctuary.

A two-hour boat ride to the north of Cancun through a stretch of sea in shades of turquoise that defy imagination, the tiny desert island of Contoy is sometimes referred to in Spanish as la isla de los pajaros or “the island of the birds.” When you disembark you’ll understand why. Birds are everywhere: cormorants perch on the wooden pier, frigate birds and gulls circle overhead on the lookout for smaller birds carrying fish, dainty terns swoop low over the waves and the mangroves echo with the raucous cries of nesting pelicans, brown boobies and egrets.

A protected area since 1961, and declared a national park in 1998, Contoy is a refuge for 150 species of native and migrant birds. It has one of the largest populations of brown pelicans in the Caribbean, a 5,000-strong colony of frigate birds and 3,000 double crested cormorants. Other residents include ten members of the heron family such as the great blue heron, great egret and snowy egret, the yellow-crowned night heron and the boat-billed heron. Flamingos can often be spotted and during the winter months the island is a refuge for ducks, plovers, sandpipers and other birds that migrate south to escape the cold of Canada and the United States.

During your voyage to Contoy, you may be lucky enough to spot dolphins, sea turtles, manta rays or even whale sharks in the summer months. Some boats stop for snorkeling at Ixlache Reef near the southern tip of the island or for a spot of fishing en route.

Once you land on Contoy, spend the day watching the birds, exploring the island’s twin nature trails, relaxing on the beach or swimming in the shallow waters of Imaxpoit Bay with friendly and curious rays.

Contoy is uninhabited except for a handful of park wardens and biologists who will gladly answer your questions about the birds and you can also visit the museum beside the pier to find out more about island ecology, flora and fauna. Climb the observation tower for a better view of the island, the birds in their mangrove refuges and the mighty Caribbean. Boat trips through the lagoons are available at additional cost.

Ask at the Thomas More Travel desk for more information about eco trips to Contoy. www.thomasmoretravel.com


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