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Topic: Where The Sky Begins Day 8

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
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    Default Where The Sky Begins Day 8

    When we got up this morning, the sun was still fast asleep. We had to be up at 5:00 for a 5:30 pick up. This was my birthday and we had booked a bird watching tour that had come highly recommended. This particular tour was only offered on a Sunday. We got up and ready and headed to the lobby building. Even though we were early, the van was already waiting for us. Our guide Steven knew it was my birthday and he had decorated the van. This was a nice touch. There was another couple on the tour with us and he introduced them and the driver to us. Then we headed out.

    Steven told us what the plan was for the morning and what we were likely to see. We initially headed towards Tulum, but then headed further south. About halfway, we stopped at a 7-Eleven were picked up a coffee each, which was included in the cost of the tour. For a convenience store, they had quite a good selection of coffee. Graham had a dark roast, and I had a coffee with all kinds of spices, which was lovely. When we got back to the minibus, we also got a huge ham and cheese baguette each.

    The sun was starting to come up just as we got to our first destination. This was a Mayan village. Steven had brought spare binoculars and I borrowed a pair. He also has an amazing telescope that he set up every time there was a rare bird around. I normally struggle focusing through a telescope, but I had no issue with this.

    As soon as we got out of the minibus, there were birds. While I was sorting out the focus on the binoculars, the others saw a member of the toucan family. I missed this, but got treated to all the types of jays they have in quick succession. I had felt that we had been absolutely spoiled with birds up to this point, but on this trip, we saw all the birds we had already seen around the resort and many more. Every few feet, there was another new bird. When we were heading back to the minibus, we saw a ferruginous pygmy owl. Unlike most owls, the ferruginous pygmy owl is most active during the day. This was quite a find and I honestly thought this was a good as it was going to get. I was wrong.

    We were just about to get on the minibus when Steven spotted a keel-billed toucan moving off at speed. He knew that I had hoped to see a toucan and he promised he would find it for me. I thought we had no chance. The thought that popped into my head that this bird was halfway to Mexico City by then. He led us down a gravel track past a shop and some houses and sure enough, the toucan had landed in a tree about 200 yards down this track. Steven set up the telescope and I got a fantastic view of this amazing bird. We looked at the toucan for a good 20 minutes until it decided it had better things to do. This was just as well as we had other places to be.

    We headed back to the minibus and drove the short distance to one of the entrances of Sian Ka’an. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve was established in 1986 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Sian Ka’an translates into Where The Sky Begins and this inspired the title of this trip report. It covers an area of 1,080 square miles and is an absolute treasure trove for wildlife. Apart from a huge selection of birds there are numerous different types of monkeys, crocodiles, wild cats like jaguar, puma, and ocelot as well as dolphins and even manatees. There are also 23 archaeological sites within Sian Ka’an. The next time we come to the Riviera Maya, I definitely want to do a boat tour in Sian Ka’an. Fortunately, we did not run into any big cats or crocodiles. I don’t think at least the crocodiles were too far away as Steven pointed out relatively fresh tracks that had been made by crocodiles. We did however see plenty of birds. Initially we walked through some woodland where we saw some squirrel cuckoos, different types of warblers and some woodpeckers.

    The woodland led us to a lagoon, which is where we saw the crocodile tracks as well as pelicans and cormorants. After we spent a little while at the lagoon, we took a boardwalk through the mangrove. This is where I saw the only hummingbird of the holiday. I love hummingbirds and normally I would have been very excited about this, but I had seen so many rare birds that morning that this did not really register. One piece of wildlife I could have done without was a snake that was sunning itself in shallow water. It seemed to be more bothered by us as we were by it. It was a red rat snake which is thankfully entirely harmless unless you happen to be a rodent.

    The final part of the tour took us to Muyil archaeological site. This is the most significant archaeological site that is within the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Muyil was settled around 300 B.C., centuries before the better-known sites of Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Tulum. It remained as a settlement up until the time of the Spanish invasion in the 16th Century where people either fled from the Spanish out of fear or were killed from diseases spread by the Spanish. There were strong links between Muyil and Coba which we were visiting the following day. The architecture is similar to the Mayan structures found in Guatemala. The centre piece is the Castillo, a very impressive five-tiered pyramid that is crowned by a small temple. It is the highest structure at the site at 59 feet/15 meters. There is also another impressive temple on the site that has some stone carvings of birds. Even though I had read that the secret about this site is out and that this is no longer the hidden gem it once was, we did not see another soul until we were nearly at the exit.

    Once we had thoroughly explored Muyil, our driver picked us up at the entrance and we made our way back to the hotel. We were dropped off first. We went to the buffet for some lunch. I had some made to order pasta with bacon, vegetables, and tomato sauce. Graham had some grilled steak and salad.

    After lunch, we got changed into our swim gear and collected our water hammocks. We headed straight to the lazy river. As we were getting close, it started to rain. It was not raining particularly heavily at this time, and we were going to get wet anyway, so we pushed on. The rain progressively got heavier, and it got quite miserable so after a few laps, we gave up. I had an attempt at taking photos of a sereque, but was once again outwitted.

    We headed back to the room and got showered. Then we had a nap to make up for the early start and the fact that we had another late dinner reservation. This time round we were both awake before the alarm went off. We got up and dressed and then headed for some pre-dinner drinks. Both my margarita and Graham’s sangria hit the spot.

    Dinner that night was at the steakhouse El Rancho. This is the only a la carte we visited that is not in “restaurant row”. It is located by one of the activity pools. During the day, this is used as a buffet, but at night it becomes the steakhouse. This venue is much larger than the other a la carte restaurants.

    We were seated as soon as we arrived, and I liked the unusual “bread service” there. Instead of bread, we were presented with a plate of chicken wings. I am not normally keen on meat on the bone, and I normally don’t like chicken wings, but they were amazing. I had read how good the chicken wings at the resort are and decided to give them a try. I was not disappointed. Our server took the drinks order when he brought the chicken wings and we both went with sparkling wine.

    This time round, we both had some soup. Graham had the clam chowder, and I had the onion soup. This was kind of a deconstructed presentation. Instead of being topped with bread and cheese, the bread with melted cheese was served on the side. It was very tasty.

    For his main course, Graham had the t bone steak with mashed potato and sweetcorn. I had the ribeye steak with baked potato and grilled asparagus. We both enjoyed our meals. The meat was perfectly cooked, and everything was tasty. Neither of us had room for dessert.

    After dinner, we headed straight back to the room. With having quite a late dinner again, it was past our bedtime and we had another fairly long day ahead of us.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    0 Post(s)


    That tour sounds amazing, good on them for making a fuss about your birthday. You got some great pictures of the owl and toucan.

    Those buildings are in fantastic condition for being a couple of thousand years old, I bet there are not many modern ones still standing in another couple of thousand years.

    Those steaks look huge, I'm not surprised there was no dessert that night.
    7 Trips to Florida, Christmas in LA, Disneyland Paris twice and odd days here and there.
    All my trip reports are now HERE.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Orlando, FL
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    What a truly fantastic birthday! I'm just astonished at how great your bird photos are. It looks like you're right up next to them. And that toucan...gorgeous!

    I always try to imagine what it looked like when real communities were using those old structures. What a grand place it must have been.

    I had to look up sereque, as I've never heard of them before. They look like if a squirrel and a capybara had a baby.
    Midlife: when the Universe grabs your shoulders and tells you “I’m not messing around, use the gifts you were given.”

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    0 Post(s)


    Just a massive 'Wow!' for the birdlife. A real wildlife experience. I can remember our trip to Tulum when we were walking along the main path to get there and we kept seeing these vivid flashes of bright colour among the trees, and it was any number of macaws and parrots. Just thrilling. But your trip was a whole different level.

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