5 Reasons to visit Celestun in the Yucatan Peninsula
What to see in Celestun
Stretching across 146,000 acres, the Celestun Biosphere Reserve is one of the most beautiful natural areas in the whole Yucatán Peninsula, comprising of beach, saltwater reserves, hundreds of animal species and one of the largest areas of mangroves along the Gulf of Mexico.
Just 80km from the city of Merida, the Biosphere Reserve houses a very special ecosystem. The combination of fresh water from the estuary and salt water from the Gulf of Mexico creates a unique habitat teaming with over 300 different species of birds and other animals.
Celestun is a relatively undiscovered wildlife retreat and a must-see destination on any trip taken through the Yucatan.
1. The Flamingos
One of Celstun’s most famous attractions is, without doubt, the flocks of gorgeous pink flamingos that call it home. As many as 35,000 flamingos congregate in the Celestun Biosphere Reserve from November to February each year. The Carotenoid levels in algae bedded in the surrounding salt lakes mean that their diets are rich in organic pigment, creating stark pink feathers that beautifully contrast their natural surroundings.
Local boat tours take you up close allowing you to marvel at the flamingos as they stand gracefully to attention. You’ll see hundreds of the birds spanning the shallow rose-tinted waters, watching them majestically soar through the air, their electric feathers luminant against the pale sky. It’s an absolute must for any naturists out there.
2. The Mangroves of Dizinitun
The Celestun Biosphere Reserve contains one of the largest areas of mangroves in the whole of Mexico. Thriving with biodiversity you’ll find fish, birds, lizards and may even spot a crocodile or two.
You can take either a boat or canoe to help navigate your way through the lofty tunnels of mangroves. Huge termite mounds balance on branches as fish giddily spring out of the water alongside you. You slowly roam its narrow passages as sunlight filters through the shadows. The eerie calm of the mangrove forest presenting a mystical feel. It's a world of pure nature, full of shade and ashen colour.
3. The Petrified Island
Sat directly on the biosphere’s border with the state of Campeche, you’ll find Celestun’s petrified island. Because of rising water levels in years gone by, the island was completely flooded. This sudden deluge of salt water killed off all the vegetation on the island, creating a haunting landscape of lifeless trees that towered above the barren sand.
Now the government has started the process of re-planting on the island, and the contrast of these lush low-lying bushes against the dead and brittle white trees produces a strangely beautiful vista.
4. Celestun’s Natural Mud Spa
Lying not so deep in Celestun’s surrounding seawater is a natural exfoliant full of purifying properties and the promise of radiant looking skin.
Local boat tours drive you into the middle ocean where your instructed to put your trust in them and take the plunge into the water. After jumping off the boat, however, you’ll find yourself walking on a bed of sludgy sea clay rather than carefully treading water. There's certainly something unnerving about being 500 meters from shore and still being able to stand up. Deep out in the ocean with the water only just reaching your waist and silt oozing through your toes. This mud is supposedly rich with a unique combination of minerals that benefit your skin so make sure to lather it on thick.
5. Celestun Beach
Originally a fishing town, Celestun is home to just 6,000 people. This means it has miles of empty white-sand beach stretching far north along the coast. A faraway cry from the crowded shorelines of Cancun and Tulum, Celestun beach has very little in the way of encroaching development, perfect for long walks and relaxing by the sea.
The beach also has a few local restaurants dotted along it serving fresh seafood, Mexican cuisine and ice cold beer. Eating alfresco as you watch the sunset across the ocean is the ideal way to end a busy day of sightseeing.