Ecotourism tours and pink flamingos: live the experience in the Celestun’s mangroves

Photo: El País

The regeneration of the Dzinitun marshes offers the inhabitants of this small community in southern Mexico new economic alternatives.

The regeneration of the Dzinitun mangroves in Celestún was the pioneering project on the northern coast of Yucatán. Started in 2007, the initiative succeeded in recovering much of the mangrove cover in this area. As a result, many of the community’s residents, who were traditionally dedicated to fishing, have switched to ecotourism.

The regeneration work began with the support of the Japanese cooperation agency Jica. But according to the president of the Dzinintún mangrove cooperative, Mauricio Dzul, it did not work at first because they were given plants for reforestation that had been raised in nurseries and died when they were transplanted into the swamp. “2,000 matitas, 3,000 or 4,000 matitas would die. Everything died,” he recalls.

The community then began to build canals to maintain the flow of water in the mangroves. Under these conditions, the mangroves themselves began to reforest naturally. As the wind spread the seeds, they found an ideal environment to reproduce.

One of the fishermen who has become a tour guide is José Efráin Pérez Lara, who does tourist tours with the Dzinintún mangrove cooperative. According to his count, he has sighted 160 species of birds and more than 60 different species of fauna in the area, in addition to the four types of mangroves: white, black, red and botoncillo.

Photo: El País

“There are also orchids and palo rojo, a poisonous tree that can disfigure your skin if it touches you,” warns Pérez Lara

Tourists visiting the mangroves can canoe through tunnels made by the huge mangroves and spot all kinds of animals: from various species of birds to pink flamingos to lizards. The president of the cooperative, Mauricio Dzul, now dreams of being able to increase the ecotourism infrastructure with food and lodging options for tourists so that they can enjoy more of the place. These are facilities that they had in the past but, according to them, were lost due to mismanagement.

Photo: El País

But tourists still come to enjoy nature. One of the stars are the pink flamingos like this one flying over the Ría de Celestún Biosphere Reserve.

Tour guide Efraín Pérez always insists on a message to make visitors aware of the need to protect the mangroves. “They should be aware and appreciate it because it offers ecosystem benefits such as a barrier against hurricanes, it is a nursery area for fish, a refuge for birds and allows a diversity of flora. It can also absorb carbon dioxide… more than rainforests!” he explains.

Tras el trabajo arduo de regeneración del manglar, hace más de 15 años, y que hicieron en comunidad, ahora se hacen solo labores de mantenimiento. 

Photo: El País

Efraín Pérez shows one of the mangrove trunks on the path that tourists walk along before boarding the canoes. “What strikes him most is the height of the mangroves. And the tranquility when entering the tunnel. Some close their eyes to enjoy the sound”.

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