It was only by accident that we heard about the Mangrove Tour. We were swimming in a cenote at some Mayan Ruins in the Yucatan, Mexico, when a woman was telling other people about this amazing tour that no one knows about because it originates in a little village far from the madding crowds. We were immediately intrigued and joined the conversation. Where, how much, and when we asked.
A few weeks later, along with my visiting cousin, H, we set out to find this tour. We found the little village of San Crisanto just fifteen minutes up the road from Telchac Puerto where we were staying. Who knew? We never would have known there was anything there if we hadn’t been told.
We starting asking around for the “Tour Mongrovia”, but every person we asked sent us somewhere else. Back and forth from the main street to side streets in this tiny village. It seemed like we were just going in circles. T was about to give up, but H and I were determined. Each person seemed to get us a little closer. Finally, after being sent to a little house across from the baseball field, the owner pointed to a rather sophisticated new building on the edge of the water.
We drove over and a few locals visiting outside told us to go inside the building. No one else was around. It seemed a bit eerie. At the ticket booth we bought our tickets for a mere $3.50. Outside a young man about 15 years old hopped on a bicycle, but a discussion in Spanish ensued where we understood that we could let him ride in the car with us if we would like. Sure.
He directed us across a field and down a narrow winding road through the jungle.
A few minutes later we arrived at a dock on the mangrove swamp. Our driver seemed to understand a little English, but had difficulty speaking English, so he mostly answered questions in Spanish.
As we wobbled our way into the canoe, and settled in, we felt the odd sensation of being back in the bayou in New Orleans. A dead quiet, half-black trees, murky yellow-brown water, silence, no birds, only the sound of the dark water lapping against the boat as the boy pushed off with nothing more than a long skinny pole.
I was at the front of the boat which tipped into the water with barely an inch showing above the water. I asked if there were crocodiles in the water. “Oh si.” he said. I removed my hands from near the sides and front of the canoe, not that it would do much good. I was so close to the water that a croc had only lift his head out of the water to take off an arm.
The passage was narrow, and several times the young man bumped the bank trying to maneuver around a curve in the tributary. We imagined being dumped into the mucky water, crocodiles swimming silently underneath…
You had to duck if you didn’t want to get hit with the low hanging trees and branches.
Spellbinding reflections had us thinking this was beautiful in many ways.
Once our boat “poler” dropped his pole in the water. With a look of instant panic, eyes popping, I watched him swiftly reach down and grab it before the others noticed. His look said, “Oh My God!”. I saw, and he knew I saw, and we shared that little moment with an arched eyebrow, a sigh of relief and a knowing smile.
Big fat nests alongside the mangrove proved to be termite nests. They were huge.
Suddenly the murky black water started to become more clear. As we turned down this passage and that, the water became progressively more blue and crystal clear. Colourful fish were visible in the water on all sides of the boat.
After about half an hour, we arrived at a cenote, where we took a refreshing little swim with five gigantic fish, 3-4 feet long, and many little ones. The little ones nibbled at my toes and tickled my ankles as I squealed half-repulsed and half-amazed. This was my second experience with those little nibblers and it wasn’t any less surprising and annoying than the first time. Swimming with the big fish was a little unnerving but as it turned out, they were more afraid than we were – after a few minutes they disappeared under a lower passage. Can you spot them in the photos below?
As is always the case, the water of the cenote was a hypnotizing crystal-clear turquoise blue.
Sliding through the mangrove swamp feels like you’re in another world; it would make a good setting for a scary movie. Hauntingly beautiful.
Here is a quick video of our mangrove tour:
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