Celestún means in Maya "Painted
Stone." This fishing community is located 90 kilometers west
towards the western tip of the Yucatán Peninsula in the Gulf
of México. It is a picturesque coastal traffic port, with a
revolving reflector lighthouse, 12 meters high, signaling
four intermittent flashes. Its inhabitants still preserve
the traditions and folklore of the Mayan fisher folk. Their
activities consist out of fishing (octopus, grouper, dogfish
and king crab), salt extraction and agriculture (corn and
The main economic activities of
the area are: Fishing (octopus, grouper, dogfish and king
crab), salt extraction, agriculture (corn and citric), day
tourism and, increasingly, ecotourism.
The climate is warm and semi
arid. The annual medium temperature is 26.5 ºC (80 ºF), the
hottest month being May with an average 29 ºC (84 ºF) and
the coolest, January, with 23 ºC (73 ºF).
The annual precipitation goes up
to 777 mm (30 inches). The highest monthly average rainfall
is in September with 166 mm (6.5 inches) and the lowest in
March with 5.2 mm (0.2 inches). More than 80 per cent of the
precipitation occurs during the months of June to September.
Celestún is located 90 Km. (56
miles) west of
(route 281) and/or 216 Km. (134 miles) to the north of
(route 180), towards the western tip of the Yucatán
Peninsula in the Gulf of México.
59,130 hectares (146,000 acres) shared by two states: 25,000
hectares (61,800 acres) belong to the state of
(Municipio de Celestún) and the rest, 34,130 hectares
(84,300 acres), to
(Municipio de Calkiní).
BIOSPHERE RESERVE “RÍA DE CELESTÚN”
On July 19th, 1979,
the Federal Government declared The Celestún Wildlife
Refuge. Because of its importance as the main feeding area
for the American Pink Flamingo and countless species of
waterfowl and shorebirds, its status was upgraded to that of
a Special Biosphere Reserve in 1989.
The Special Biosphere Reserves
are representative zones of one or more ecosystems that
haven't been altered by man. These areas are the habitat to
endemic, and/or species threatened with extinction.
Today, México has 44 National
Parks, 13 Special Biosphere Reserves, 16 Biosphere Reserves,
eight Protected Areas, three Natural Monuments and two
Coastal dune scrub (11 per cent):You
can distinguish two large groups of vegetation in this zone:
First, the coastal or haliphilous dune vegetation that grows
near the beach and is tolerant to extreme conditions such as
high salinity, strong winds and tides, and second the spiny
thicket that is less tolerant to sudden environmental
changes and thus grows inland. In Celestún, you can find an
interesting mixture of tropical savannah, low tropical sub
deciduous forest and tular vegetation and find exotic
species of palm trees, cactus, bromeliads and orchids.
The Estuary (Nine per cent):
The "Ría de Celestún", as the
estuary is locally called, is 22.5 Km. (14 miles) long and
has an average width of 1.25 Km. (0.8 miles). It displays an
exceptional landscape created by the unusual combination of
natural resources, flora and fauna that constitute an
ecosystem representative of the dry tropics. Its shape is
rectangular and stretches out from northeast to southwest.
The communication with the Gulf of México is through a
narrow mouth, 0.46 Km. (0.3 miles) wide, in the farthest
southern part of the lagoon.
Mangrove forest (59 percent):
The mangrove swamps are among the most productive ecosystems
on Earth. The mangroves are highly efficient converters of
sunlight into organic material. This material in turn feeds
countless invertebrates, which are themselves consumed by
numerous fish, bird and mammal species.
Mangroves are resistant to salt
water, and thus prosper where other plants do not. They are
also uniquely adapted to anaerobic (oxygen poor) soil
conditions. The black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) sends
up straw-like shoots that bring oxygen to its roots; the red
mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) has similar "breathing holes"
in its arching, aerial roots.
Pentanes or "hummocks" (Two per cent):
Ecosystems by themselves,
hummocks are "islands of vegetation," endemic only in three
parts of the world: the Yucatán Peninsula, Cuba and southern
Florida. The life of these ecosystems turns around a cenote
or fresh water spring. They are home to many species of
wildlife and its main characteristic is the presence of
precious hardwood like Chicle (Manilcara zapota), Chaca (Bursera
simaruba), Tulips (Malvaviscus arboreus), Cedar (Ficus
tecolutensis) Anona (Annona glabra) and Sabal (Sabal yapa),
among others, which grows up to 25 meters (82 feet) or
higher. The fact that they only exist in three relatively
small regions of the world awards them with an extraordinary
value that justifies the demands of guaranteed conservation.
Marshes (Five per cent)
Main wintering area for
greater flamingos, nesting beaches for endangered sea
turtles, endemic plants and birds in coastal dune scrubs;
estuary "nurseries" for countless fish and marine species;
highly productive mangrove communities; two endangered
crocodile species; migrant and wintering water birds,
shorebirds and songbirds.
Over 300 bird species can be found in Celestún's Special
Biosphere Reserve: cardinals, orioles, motmots, woodpeckers,
hummingbirds, flycatchers, kingfishers, cormorants,
magnificent fregate birds, herons, egrets, white ibises,
wood storks, ospreys, hawks, vultures, sandpipers,
roadrunners, owls, pelicans, etc. There are some endemic
birds such as the Yucatán wren, the black-throated bobwhite
and the Mexican shear tail hummingbird. Celestún is
considered the fourth largest wintering ground for ducks in
the Gulf region. In winter you're likely to observe over 13
migrant duck species. But surely the most popular bird and
the most sought after is the Pink Flamingo (Phoenicopterus
The flamingo is one of the most
graceful and spectacular birds, but also one that depends on
a fragile ecosystem - hyper saline lagoons - for survival.
The Northern Hemisphere's only mainland flamingo population
lives along the North and West Coast of the Yucatán
Peninsula. The flamingo feeds and nests in flocks of several
thousand birds huddled together in knee-deep water or wading
along muddy salt flats. It feeds on small organisms that it
filters from the water through a complex mechanism in its
large, specially adapted bill.
From the 8 species surviving in
the world, 7 exist in México and 4 nest in the coasts of the
Yucatán Peninsula: Green turtle (Chelonia mydas), loggerhead
turtle (Caretta caretta), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys
imbricata) and leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coríacea.
They spend their whole life in the water except for the
brief moments the females come ashore to nest and lay their
A female sea turtle arrives
ashore at her nesting beach at night in the months of April,
May, June or July. She might nest two or four times during a
single nesting season. Though she is fast and well suited to
the water, she is slow, awkward and in danger on land. She
drops about one hundred white eggs that look like ping-pong
balls into a hole that she previously scooped out using her
back flippers. When she finishes, she covers the nest with
sand and slowly lumbers back to the sea. The eggs are ready
to hatch about two months later.
All eight species are endangered
or threatened. They are killed for meat and leather; their
eggs are taken for food and aphrodisiacs. Their nesting
sites are destroyed for industrial development. They are
ground up by dredges, run over by pleasure boats, poisoned
by pollution, strangled by trash and drowned by fish lines
There are two crocodile species
in México, the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) and
the Moreleti crocodile (Crocodylus moreleti). The latter is
found in the Celestún estuary. Despite their armor, which
protects them from most predators, all crocodiles are
threatened by extinction. Hunting them for their skins for
luxury leathers and destruction of their habitat has made
humans responsible for their precarious situation.
The order Crocodylia includes 3
families of the largest reptiles living today. They are a
living vestige of a group called archosaurus of the Mesozoic
Era which dates back 225 to 65 million years. Their most
characteristic features are internal. Despite their ancient
history, they are the most advanced reptiles, having an
enlarged brain and cerebral cortex indicating their
increased ability to learn.
Other important reptiles can be
found in the region such as land turtles, boa constrictors,
iguanas and geckos.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Public buses leave on the
hour every hour from the corner of Calle 50 and 67 in
If driving from
head south to Uman and turn right at the plaza there, or
head towards the west from
past Caucel to Hunucmá.
WHAT TO DO IN CELESTÚN:
Take a boat trip out to the
estuary or Ría and admire the impressive water bird
populations. As many as 18,000 flamingos can be seen at
once, offering an incredibly pink spectacle. Explore the
mangrove swamps and plunge in one of the beautiful sweet
Celestún boasts long stretches of pristine beaches. It
is a superb place to avoid the crowds and enjoy the sun,
sand and the warm emerald green waters of the Gulf of
Seafood: No stay in
Celestún is complete without a visit to one of the sea
front restaurants specializing in fresh, locally caught
"Birders" look for more than just flamingos in
Celestún. Up to 320 species of birds have been recorded.
A tour lasts six to seven hours. Part of the tour is by
land and part by water.
You won't return to your hotel barehanded after this
tour! The richness in zoo and phyto plancton of the Gulf
of México assures you a very good catch. Besides, the
chef will be delighted to prepare your seizure to your
Night boat rides:
This exciting tour allows you to see animals that you
normally don't see during the day. They hunt at night
while others sleep: crocodiles, boat-billed heron,
yellow-crowned night heron, great-horned owl, etc. The
boat ride lasts approximately 2 1/2 hours and covers
about 30 km. (18 miles) of the estuary.
CELESTÚN DO'S AND DON'TS:
take a boat trip to see the
flamingos and other wildlife on the estuary, but DO
NOT ask your boatman to force the flamingos into
flight (it is illegal!).
take a night beach walk in
summer or fall, looking for nesting or hatching sea
turtles, but DO NOT disturb the turtles if you
leave Celestún without trying its seafood.
reservations, availability and bookings, please contact us