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The Yucatan and CozumelIsland and Mainland Endemics, Mayan History and Culture, Cenotes, and Flamingoes    

February  5 - 14, 2019

Harboring about ten percent of Earth’s biodiversity, Mexico is one of the most biologically rich countries in the world.  During this journey, we’ll explore and learn about some of that richness as we visit Isla Cozumel and the Yucatan Peninsula. Though well known as a popular resort destination, what is often overlooked are the extensive tracts of native forest and impressive diversity of flora and fauna found in the area.  In addition to rainforest, lagoons, mangroves, beaches, cenotes, and coral reefs, the area is of course rich in Mayan culture.  

We begin on Isla Cozumel, a tropical island which retains about 90% of its native forest cover.  From our home base at the very nice Villas El Encanto, we’ll make special efforts to find two island endemics, Cozumel vireo and Cozumel emerald.  We’ll also search for Caribbean specialties - including western spindalis, Caribbean elaenia, and white-crowned pigeon - resident specialties such as Yucatan vireo, black catbird, and rose-throated tanager, and several endemic subspecies such as the “golden” race of yellow warbler.  

After a short ferry ride to the mainland, we’ll head to the Tulum area where we’ll stay at Casa Selva Orquideas, a lovely lodge surrounded by excellent forest and well away from the tourist crowds.  Here we’ll look for many species, including black-headed and gartered trogons, long-billed gnatwren, yellow-lored parrot, olive-throated parakeet, red-throated ant-tanager, northern bentbill, wedge-tailed sabrewing, buff-bellied hummingbird, keel-billed toucan, collared aracari, orange oriole, turquoise-browed motmot, and Yucatan jays which are near daily visitors to the yard.  We’ll visit nearby Punta Laguna, a forest reserve with Geoffrey's spider monkey and black howler monkey as well as great birds, such as yellow-olive flycatcher, red-crowned ant-tanager, Lesson's motmot, seven species of oriole, squirrel cuckoo, and more.  We've also had some luck in this area with infrequently seen species such as collared forest-falcon, bicolored hawk, vermiculated screech-owl, ruddy crake, and Cape May warbler.  We'll also visit the scenic Mayan ruins of Tulum, where we’ll take a guided tour, and Cenote Mool Ich, a special spot where we're usually the only visitors.

From Tulum, we head a short ways north to Valladolid and Hacienda San Miguel where we’ll spend three nights.  We're usually the only guests at this out-of-the-way spot in the tropical dry forest.  We’ll make a day trip north to Ria Lagartos for a lagoon boat tour in a reserve famous for its American flamingoes.  The open water, the mangroves, and the mudflats also provide excellent habitat for waders, shorebirds, skimmers, common black hawk, and many others.  In the adjacent cactus scrub, a unique habitat in the region, we’ll look for two Mexican endemics, Yucatan wren and Mexican sheartail. 

From Valladolid, we’ll also visit two important Mayan sites, Ek Balam and Chitzen Itza.  Ek Balam is a site off the beaten path while Chitzen Itza is perhaps the most impressive site in the Mayan world.  In addition to tours at each site, we’ll be looking for turquoise-browed motmot, white-bellied wren, rufous-browed peppershrike, bright-rumped attila, blue bunting, ferruginous pygmy-owl, white-browed wren, white-fronted parrot, and many more.

While seeing and learning about many of the region’s birds, we’ll also spend time learning about the general ecology and natural history of the area with stories about plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.  The Yucatan is an easily reached destination with good infrastructure and easy access to many habitats.  We'll be staying in unique lodges with excellent food and great service from the many warm and talented locals who help put together a memorable trip.


The cost will be about $ 2975 -3000 per person, double occupancy, and includes all meals, lodging, entrance fees, and transportation from Cozumel to Cancun.  Limited to 8 participants.

Detailed itinerary and references available upon request.

Yucatan Jay and Yucatan Wren by Dwayne Longenbaugh
Cenote Mool Ich by Suzanne McNitt

Last updated: April 02, 2018.