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🇬🇧 Isla Contoy, a paradise on Earth by Nora Mercedes

To visit Contoy Island is to have the Caribbean experience. The picture we have in our mind of the perfect beach becomes true when we approach the island from the South and spot the birds flying over the coconut palm trees; the variety of blue tones due to the exceptionally shallow water; the vegetation with its own dance in between the light and the shades; the noisy birds feeding their chicks.

Personally, I have a thing with Contoy Island. I started working to the National Park in 2008 and I was always fascinated by the energy of the place. It feels like paradise. Contoy is kind of an oasis in the middle of the sea. It invites you to rest, enjoy, get your energy back and then leave. It is as beautiful as inhospitable.

The reason is that there is no fresh water in the island. Therefore, there are no people living in Contoy, except for the park keepers and a small military camp in the Northern point of the island, close to the lighthouse. As there is no fresh water, there are no predator mammals in the island and so it is ideal for the reproduction of aquatic birds. The lack of fresh water is not a problem for them because they can drink salt water and eliminate salt through their bills. Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber) are not so efficient dealing with salt, specially the chicks, therefore they do not nest in Contoy.

Mangrove is abundant and it is home to a variety of birds that will nest here specially during the winter. It is possible to spot a hungry crocodile eating a chick that felt into the water, though they are not his favorite dish because they represent a lot of feathers and not a lot of meat.

Situated in a strategic spot in the Yucatan Canal, Contoy is a bird refuge for a lot of migrating birds. During the summer and the hurricane season, it is possible to find birds drifted by the strong winds. They too, find refuge in the island´s mangrove. Both resident and migrating birds are present in important quantities, especially during nesting periods. Among the most abundant we can observe frigate birds (Fregata magnificens), brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis), a variety of egrets: laughing (Larus atricilla), red (Egretta rufescens), cormorants (Phalacrocorax auditus), roseate spoonbills (platalea ajaja) and brown boobies (Sula leucogaster brewsteri).

Contoy is a small island with 8.75 km long from North to South and between 200 m and 700 m width. The Eastern coast is rocky because it gets the waves from the open sea, while the Western coast has peaceful, quiet beaches. During the nesting season, between May and October, there are different sea turtles that nest on the beaches in Contoy: loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), green turtle (Chelonia mydas), leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriácea) and hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). American crocodiles (Crododylus acutus) can also be spotted in the area.

Spending a day in Contoy Island is a unique experience. Along the boat ride, you can enjoy a stop at the beginning of the Mesoamerican Coral Barrier to do some snorkeling. At the island, you can go on a guided tour to the birds´ nesting area, the mirador, the museum and a walk ride to the dunes, which are the highest natural spots in the island with 12 m height over the sea level. You can easily spot Contoy´s lighthouse from there. You can also enjoy the main beach where the dock and the visitors center are. The peacefulness and the beauty of the place make it feel like one day in paradise.

The National Park of Contoy Island is another example of the successful protection policy in Quintana Roo. Therefore, strict protection rules are applied on every visit… We recommend you the following:

  • Bring your own snorkeling gear, especially if you require a prescription one

  • Bathing suit and life jacket (vests are mandatory and available on boats)

  • Towel or pareo and a change of clothes

  • Tennis shoes and sandals or water shoes

  • Sunscreens are not allowed in the park, so wear clothes that cover arms and legs, a hat or cap, bandana to cover face and neck and dry fit to swim

  • Sunglasses, better if you have some polarized available

  • Camera and binoculars

  • Reusable water bottle

  • Money for tips and souvenirs

Nora mercedes

Photos by Nora mercedes

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