Last week, CNN.com published an article titled “3 undeniable reasons to explore Mexico” (http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/29/travel/mexico-three-reasons/index.html). The three reasons listed included gastronomy, pre-Hispanic sites, and swimming in cenotes. We wholeheartedly agree with these reasons. But after reading this article, it was easy to quadruple their number of reasons by emphasizing Mexico’s biodiversity and wow-inducing wildlife opportunities.
#1: Friendly gray whales of San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja California
San Ignacio Lagoon is one of the best places in the world to see gray whales with their calves. The lagoon provides safe haven for young whales for the first several months after they’re born. Whales in San Ignacio Lagoon have a tendency to approach boats to check out the human cargo on board sometimes coming right up to the boat, hence the descriptor “friendly”.
#2: Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) – The Aquarium of the World
Separating the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexico mainland, this narrow sea is home to a unique and varied ecosystem. Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez the Aquarium of the World. Home to many species found nowhere else on the planet, as well as many migratory species like humpback and blue whales, leatherback sea turtles, and manta rays.
#3: Isla Guadalupe’s Great White Sharks
A volcanic island located approx 160 miles off the west coast of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, Guadalupe is considered one of the best places to see great white sharks. For gutsy travelers, cage diving puts you in the water face-to-face with these infamous marine predators.
#4: Swimming with Whale Sharks
The gigantic, polka-dotted whale shark, called “domino” by locals, is the largest living fish on the planet. The Whale Shark Biosphere Reserve located off the north coast of Quintana Roo plays host to arguably the world’s largest congregation of whale sharks on the planet during summer months. It’s the perfect place to swim with these gentle sea giants in their natural environment.
#5: Sea Turtles
Seven of the eight species of the world’s marine turtles nest on Mexican beaches in the Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. There are a wide variety of places in Mexico where travelers can watch females turtles nesting on the beach, hatchlings returning to the sea, or swim alongside individuals as they feed in the ocean.
#6: Monarch Butterfly Reserves, States of Michoacán and Mexico
Every winter, the cloud forests in the mountains of central Mexico play host to millions and millions of over-wintering monarch butterflies. The annual migration of these monarchs from the Great Lakes region is one of nature’s greatest mysteries. Incredibly, four to five generations separate the monarch populations that make this long and dangerous migration. The monarchs creating the spectacle in Mexico are the great, great grandchildren of the generation that migrated there the year before. Seeing the sheer abundance of monarchs, bending fir branches with their weight and sounding like raindrops as they take to the air, is an encounter not to be missed.
#7: River of Raptors, Veracruz
On any given day in early October, half a million raptors may be seen gliding overhead in Chichicaxtle, Veracruz. Here you’ll find the greatest raptor flyway in the world, a narrow strip of coastal plain situated between the Sierra Madre and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the world’s greatest concentration of raptors (peregrine falcons, American kestrels, Swainson’s hawk, Mississippi kites, and a variety of other talon-bearing species).
#8: Birthplace of Vanilla
Ever wondered why you can buy vanilla for such a low price in Mexico? The vanilla orchid, the only fruit-bearing member of the orchid family, has its birthplace in Mexico. Vanilla beans were first harvested in what is now the state of Veracruz. Yes, vanilla is grown in other locations around the world today. But if you want to see it in its natural habitat, Mexico is the place.
If the reasons listed above aren’t reason enough to head south of the border, what about #9 on our list?
#9: UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Mexico has the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country in the Americas and 6th most in the world. For the complete list, check out http://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/mx.
Thinking of a trip to Mexico? Contact Reefs to Rockies to speak to one of our travel consultants (http://reefstorockies.com/).