Here’s a day trip idea for your next vacation. Travel through time and see some of the Yucatan’s most colorful wildlife on this one-day adventure from Thomas More Travel. Your first stop is the archaeological site of Ek Balam, 20 minutes to the north of Valladolid, and then it’s on to the Gulf coast and the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, home of the flamingo.
Watch archaeologists restore ancient temples at the Mayan city of Ek Balam and gather clues that will help them understand its history. Ek Balam or “black star jaguar” in Maya (star/black = ek, jaguar = balam) reached its peak between A.D. 600 and 900. During this time, it forged political and trade links with other city states in the Maya World and the mix of architectural and artistic styles on display at the site is a reflection of its regional influence.
To date archaeologists have found five sacbes or ceremonial causeways, three defensive walls, a ball court, chultunes or Mayan wells, several stelae (carved standing stones) and over 60 structures ranging from temples and palaces to tiny shrines. Other important discoveries include a royal tomb, the city’s emblem glyph and the name of the founding father of a powerful dynasty. Ukit Kan Le’k Tok came to power in 770 A.D. and ushered in an extraordinary building and artistic boom.
The highlight at Ek Balam is undoubtedly the 31-meter-high Acropolis with its magnificent stucco façade featuring statues of long-lost rulers, hieroglyphic inscriptions, murals and masks in the form of the gaping jaws of the earth monster.
Are you ready to see one of the Yucatán’s natural wonders, thousands of flamingos feeding or taking flight? That’s what you’ll see in Rio Lagartos. Although this coastal wetland reserve is rich in wildlife, the Caribbean flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) gives its fame. So many of them gather in the shallow lagoons that they literally dye the horizon pink!
Fishermen from the waterfront village of Rio Lagartos offer boat trips along the estuary and through the mangroves to the flamingo feeding grounds. Keep a lookout for crocodiles, osprey, ibis, roseate spoonbills, white pelicans, kingfishers and herons.