Tens of thousands of pink and cerise phoenicopterus ruber ruber flamingos throng to the area’s ría (saltwater lagoon), which winds several kilometers east of the town of Río Lagartos. In addition to the flamingos, bird-watchers will spot plover, white egret, heron, cormorant, hawks, and pelican.
Río Lagartos itself is an isolated, rather dumpy community that would not merit a visit were it not for the flamingo and bird-watching tours. The town was pummeled by Hurricane Isadora in 2002, and still seems to be recovering. There are numerous abandoned houses, and the main street wasn’t paved until 2004.
The population is a mix of longtime local families and itinerant workers from as far away as Chiapas and Veracruz who come to fish and work in the salt factory in nearby Las Coloradas; you’ll see the factory’s huge mounds of salt during the flamingo tour. (Salt has been harvested throughout the gulf coast since pre-Hispanic times.) The constant ebb and flow of semipermanent workers may explain why the town exudes so little community spirit.
Noreste has service from Río Lagartos from its terminal a few blocks from Restaurante Isla Contoy—ask for directions there as most of the streets here are not signed. Buses depart there for San Felipe (US$0.50, 15 minutes) and Tizimín (US$2, one hour, seven departures daily) and Mérida (US$10, 4.5 hours, four departures daily).
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition