If you are interested in this graceful creature, this guide on where to see flamingos in Latin America, will tell you all the main spots where you can see it.
ABOUT THE FLAMINGO
There are only 6 species of Flamingos, as listed below
- American (Caribbean) Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)
- Andean Flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus)
- Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis)
- Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
- Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor)
- Puna (James’s) Flamingo (Phoenicoparrus jamesi)
I find flamingo one of the most beautiful and elegant birds and as I have seen a lot during my travels around Latin America I thought I would share with you where you can find them.
The species of Flamingo that you can see in the Caribbean area is called called American Flamingo or The Caribbean Flamingo (scientific name Phoenicopterus ruber), because it’s a spice that is found especially in North America, and in the Caribbean regions although some colonies live also in many regions of South America such as Guyana, Brasil, Venezuela, Colombia, and Galapagos.
The beautiful plumage and it’s colorful shades of pink and red comes from the pigmentation contained in the organisms that they eat.
Their length can reach 1.20 to 1.40 mt ( 4 feet long) and their weight around 3 kg. The long legs are for walking in the waters and the long neck is for searching food in the muddy and shallow waters which they filter through lamellae (thin, flat membranes) on their big black beak. How amazing is mother nature? Everything has been made with a purpose. We need to remember that.
Flamingos are very social and they love to live in huge colonies besides mingling with other bird spices. It’s less common to see one or two of them, and if you do, for sure there must be millions of them hiding somewhere around.
They are not usually considered migrant birds although they can move up t0 hundreds of miles in search of food. Some other spices of Flamingo use to migrate to other regions during reproduction seasons, like the one in Yucatan, such as the Flamingos of the Galapagos.
WHAT DO FLAMINGOS EAT?
All flamingo spices follow the same diet, small shellfish for the most, worms, insects, weeds and diatoms. They also ingest mud so that they can eat all sorts of bacterias and microorganisms that live in it. The Caribbean (or American) Flamingos use to eat with their head totally submerged in the water as the filter it throught lamellae (thin, flat membranes) and then swallow the food.
WHERE DO FLAMINGOES LIVE?
The pink flamingo natural habitat is the coastal salted flats and lagoons or any body of shallow water where they can find their food. In the Yucatan peninsula, they normally live on the occidental coast during wintertime and migrate to the east coast to breed in March through October. However, it is possible to see them all year round everywhere.
WHERE DO THEY BREED?
The flamingo’s colonies in the Yucatan peninsula would live there all through their reproductive cycle, migrating from Celestun (west of Merida) to Rio Lagartos, on the further east of Yucatan, where they actually go to breed.
However, we can see flamingos all around the region all through the year. The breeding time is normally around the middle of March when the reproduction process begins.
They chose spots of white sands banks, close to shallow bodies of waters has their breeding place, normally in places such us Petén Hú, Punta Meco and less in Las Coloradas, El Cuyo y Yalmacal, on the east coast.
Courtship, mating, nest building, food hunting is all part of the natural cycle.
The first eggs deposition normally occur in May with an incubation period of 28 days by both parents. Eggs hatch from June through the beginning of August and the newborn babies start their first flying attempt in July and it takes until October to become a pro bird when they start executing all the activities adults do.
After that period they would migrate back to the occidental coast of Celestùn.
From nesting to hatching it’s not an easy time for them as the eggs are subject to all sorts of dangers, from predators to weather conditions, human behavior included.
Although the government is taking actions to preserve their environment and protect the spice, it’s our duty and responsibility as individuals and inhabitant of this world to help maintain it as beautiful and intact as it is.
WHAT FACTOR PUT THEM IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION?
The most common predators that are threatening flamingos’ eggs are the gray fox, raccoons, seagulls and other predatory birds that point at their eggs to eat them.
There are many other factors that are putting this beautiful species in danger of extinction among which bacterias or virus inflicted sickness that affects their respiratory and digestive tracts.
However, I am ashamed to say that the most important mortality cause is due to human misbehavior. Unfortunately, we don’t pay enough attention but silly actions that we consider innocent can have a huge impact on those creatures and their babies. Think about getting too close to their habitat by walking or by car or bike, or boat. That would scare the birds so much that they rush to fly away, crashing with each other, hurting themselves and their babies. Or the eggs could fall from their nest and break before due time.
There is also a huge illegal commerce of those beautiful birds for personal use or zoos.
Also destroying their natural environment while building infrastructures, and any kind of uncontrolled urban development can badly hurt the growth and preservation of the flamingos’ population.
Although the government is taking action to preserve their environment and protect the spice, it’s our duty and responsibility as individuals and inhabitants of this world to help maintain it as beautiful and intact as it is.
WHERE TO SEE THE PINK FLAMINGOS IN LATIN AMERICA
In the entire Yucatan Peninsula, there are quite a few places where you can see the pink flamingoes
RIO LAGARTOS – YUCATAN
Situated in the northeast of Yucatan Rio Lagartos is a small fishing village at 10 km distance.
The local fishermen are also the one who looks after the tourists and take them to tour around the lagoon to see crocodiles, flamingoes, and the local fauna and appreciate the natural environment.
You can either book a tour from your resort or in advance.
Or you can rent a car and get there. And you will easily find options.
Bear in mind that it’s much better to go early morning as that’s when you see more of the local fauna besides watching an amazing sunrise.
So the best thing to do is get there on the previous afternoon when you can still find fishermen. Find one and agree for the following morning.
You would normally leave at 6 am for the tour and it should end around 10 or 11. You will have time to eat and move on to the next destination.
Best time to see flamingoes is from March to October in their breeding season, however, you will be seeing flamingoes all year round.
Here some options on where to stay
EL CUYO – YUCATAN
Right south of the most famous Rio Lagartos you can find El Cuyo a beautiful untouched paradise.
If you want to learn more about it you might want to check out my guide to visiting El Cuyo.
It’s not a really popular place for spotting flamingoes, however in order to get there you need to drive on a beautiful road through a lagoon, and most of the time you will be able to see flamingoes from a distance.
If you go to Rio Lagartos, it will be worth going through el Cuyo and explore this peculiar area. It’s really special.
LAGUNA ROSADA, YUCATAN
I didn’t know about it until I spent a month there to housesit in Chixchulub. A small town close to Progreso, and Merida. If Chixchulub rings a bell to you it’s because if you are into cenotes, you might have read about the Crater of Chihxchulub, originated by an asteroid that supposedly fell in the small village about 65million years ago, generating this 200 km diameter crater.
Scientists believe that the impact of the asteroid on the earth caused the extinction of 50% of spices and created what is now called the cenote ring. If you pay attention to the location of the cenotes on the map, their distribution actually forms a ring around chixchulub. I speak more about it in this post.
Getting back to our Laguna Rosada, (pink lagoon) so called because, well… easy to imagine.
I was driving around and took a beautiful road in the middle of a lagoon and while driving I spotted pink dots on the horizon and the closer I was getting the more clear was the scene. They were pink flamingoes. I was ecstatic. I had to stop the car as soon as I found an easy spot where I could pull over and admire the pink flamingoes in all their beauty.
Sometimes they were playing among them, other flying other just posing spreading their wings hiding their head. It was a magnificent show. You don’t really need to take a tour to see them. I don’t even think there are any. Also because you get very close by car. In the same area you can also visit
- the Archeological site of Xcambo’
- the beautiful Hacienda San Francisco de Tzacalha where you can stay for a couple of nights. It’s an amazing place. I wrote about it in this post. And if you want to know about the history of the haciendas in Yucatan you can check out this other post.
- You can go to the Dzilam de Bravo right on the opposite site to Laguna Rosada, from the Hacienda and take a boat tour of the mangroves, you can see other flamingoes and other birds. You will also be able to swim in the Ojo de Agua right in the lagoon. A surreal phenomenon in the water where holes in the bottom of the lagoon are pushing water up to the surface. National Geographic sent an expedition to study the phenomenon and made a reportage a few years ago. It’s definitely an interesting place to visit.
- You can drive along the Costa Esmeralda, that stretch of coastal road that from Dzilam the bravo takes you to Xcambo‘ and then to Laguna Rosada and you can even make a stop by the beach. It’s not the Caribbean but it has its charm too.
It’s basically a circle (map below) that you can drive around in one day easily
Suggested hotels where to stay in the surroundings:
As I was mentioning before this hotel is an unexpected oasis of beauty in the north of Yucatan. Built from an old Henequen Hacienda, the large property offers luxury accommodations equipped with all the comforts of a high-end hotel in a natural and laid back environment. Plants and greens spread all over the manicured gardens, restored old buildings and farm animals give a romantic old charm to the tranquil cozy place.
It’s a protected biosphere reserve that extends for 600 Km² between Mérida and Campeche where you can admire a stunning colony of flamencos all year round but most probably in winter.
You can either take a tour from Merida or drive to the small fishing village of Celestun, located 90 km east of Merida. It’s a beautiful road, a highway for most of the time and then a state road that takes you to the small village connected to the mainland by a bridge.
How to see the flamingos
Right there, as soon as you cross the bridge there is a tourist point where you can book your tour.
It normally costs 1200 pesos (70 USD) for the boat. I was alone and didn’t want to spend so much. I was lucky that they put me on a private boat with a family who agreed in having me and I paid 200 pesos 10 USD.
If you go on the beach by the pier they also sell tours there and if you are alone it is most probable that they will be able to put you on a tour and you pay per person and not per boat.
Where to stay in Celestún
Casa Celeste Vida(moderate budget)
It’s the best option in town close to where you would start the tour and right on the beautiful deserted beach. The rooms look spacious and cozy, decorated with Mexican bright colors
Ximxim Unique Mayan Hotel (high price),
If you wish to live like a star with world-class service, Ximxim is for you, featuring romantic four-poster beds, the finest linen, private bathroom and a terrace with hammocks and private access to the beach. The hotel has been inspired by a typical Mayan village so that the suites are shaped like the traditional palm-thatched roofs cabin, but built with all the comfort and amenities of a modern 5 stars hotel.
What to see in the surroundings
If you have time to spare after a visit to Celestùn you can then head to Campeche and visit the historical city within the old walls. Here I wrote the 6 reasons why you should visit Campeche.
On the way from Celestun to Campeche, you can stay or just visit, the beautiful Hacienda Santa Rosa (High price), a stunning old mansion turned into an intimate 10 room luxury hotel, which has conserved the charm of the ancient walls. I would go there just to stay in one of my favorite resorts in the Yucatan Peninsula – I love the Starwood Hacienda luxury collection and all their properties.
You can check the Hacienda Temozòn, where I have stayed, here.
Other places to visit:
Edznà, an archaeological site at 45 minutes from Campeche
Hacienda Huayamon another stunning property from the Starwood luxury collection.
If you wish to take a road trip this post on the road trip I took might be helpful.
Holbox is a cute little island on the coast of Yucatan more popular for swimming with whale sharks tours than spotting flamingoes.
However, you will definitely be able to see them and at a very close distance, from playa coco. Although you can literally walk very close to them, please make sure you keep a generous distance to respect their space. They are very shy creatures and you might cause anxiety and scare them away.
ARUBA – RENAISSANCE PRIVATE ISLAND
I have been to Aruba on several occasion for work in my previous life, but only during one of my trips, I managed to take some time off and visit the beautiful private island at the Renaissance Hotel.
Besides being one of the most exclusive and trendy places where to stay in Aruba, which I wholeheartedly recommend, the hotel also own this small island which you can reach by a 10 minutes boat ride provided by the hotel itself. There you will have the best time relaxing on an unspoiled white sand beach surrounded by lush mangroves in peace and tranquillity. The hotel provides also beach chairs and a delicious restaurant for your lunch.
A colony of 5 flamingoes, roaming around undisturbed and careless of the human being are certainly the highlight of the place, probably one of the most Instagrammed places in Aruba. It’s kind of hilarious but real and you can even take thousands of selfies with them. I am sure they will even strike a pose for you.
To check out prices and availability click here
Aruba is a great place where to spend a sunny vacation and splurge in stunning beautiful hotels on white-sand beaches, eating in the best international restaurant, and get pampered. It’s no surprise that it’s called a happy island. I will tell you all about the island soon in another post.
ACKLINS – BAHAMAS OUT ISLANDS
I have been visiting the Out islands for a few years for work. Yes, I know what an awful job I had?
I have been mainly on Nassau in New Providence, the main island, but I managed to take a few quick trips to other out islands, such as Eleuthera, Abaco Islands, Exumas, which I will talk about in another post if you can bear with me.
Aklins island was not on my map at that time and I totally regret it, I hope to have another occasion for visiting. I just found out its one of the other few places in The Americas where to find colonies of the beautiful Flamingos of the Caribbean.
In the Aklins islands you can also dive in the crystal clear blue waters, snorkeling, enjoy your fancy resorts and the island vibes.
There are a few points where you can the elegant pink birds, without necessarily get too close. Remember they are a very sensitive animal in danger of extinction, let’s respect their privacy while admiring them.
Driving from Greys’ continuing north toward Chester, the road literally cuts through wetlands, lined by mangroves whose water often floods onto the road. The ponds in Chester’s are prime spots for flamingo spotting, especially as you get closer to Chester’s Highway Bonefish Lodge.
Flamingo Bay, Long Cay
Long Cay is an offshore island just north-west of Acklins Islands: Long Cay, Acklins and Crooked Island are grouped together in the shape of an inverted C. Its name, is owing to its flamingo population.
“Just before the “Welcome to Mason’s Bay” road sign, if you’re heading north, there is a group of small off-shore mangrove islands that seem an arm’s length away from the road. They are in fact within walking distance, as the sea that separates the mainland from the most northern island is shallow and passable, preferably with water shoes. Flamingos hang out on the beach and near the mangroves around these islands. If you hike across the cut, you can go in search of the flamingos. Or you can admire them from the comfort of the road.” Out island official website
Source of Information- The Bahamas out islands website
Where to stay
How to get there
You will need to fly to the international airport of Nassau and then take a small plane with local airlines, here below the schedule and the link through their website.
|DEPARTURE CITY||ISLAND||ARRIVAL CITY||ISLAND||FREQUENCY|
|DEPARTURE CITY||ISLAND||ARRIVAL CITY||ISLAND||FREQUENCY|
|Nassau||New Providence||Crooked Island||Acklins||M, Fr|
|Crooked Island||Acklins||Nassau||New Providence||M, Fr|
|Acklins||Acklins||Nassau||New Providence||M, Fr|
|Nassau||New Providence||Acklins||Acklins||M, Fr|
LAGUNA COLORADA – BOLIVIA
Although it seems to be of different spices of Flamingo, they are still pink and beautiful and I thought I should mention it. The Laguna Colorada, right by the famous Uyuni salt flat, is a spectacular pink lake home of the James’s Flamingo, also called the puna flamingo, a native spices of the Andes which was thought to have disappeared. Although we can still see families of this beautiful bird roaming around, it’s no secret that it an endangered spice in constant threat of extinction.
I discovered about this Lagoon when I was researching for my trip to South America. Here you can have a look.
I have included the Galapagos Islands in my South America Bucket list and I am just updating this post as I have just returned from an awesome 3 weeks stay in the Galapagos Islands. Definitely, a trip to remember. I talk about it in my thorough guide on the Galapagos Islands that you don’t want to miss.
Traveling to the Galapagos Islands seems like an unreachable dream destination for many, as it is known to be super expensive besides being so remote. I have found interesting sources that explain how it is a doable trip also for those traveling on a budget.
My friend and I did a lot of research on how to get there on a budget and compared cruises and Do-it-yourself trip and opted for the second one. We actually went to Isabela Island where we were lucky to see a few flamingos as it was not the right season. But they graced us with their majestic presence. Here below some pictures.
The pink flamingo colonies of the Galapagos are the few that don’t migrate nor for breeding neither for food searching. I guess they have everything they need there.
For this reason, it’s easy to see huge colonies of flamingos all year round at the Galapagos. However, If you want to see interesting courtship behavior and young flamingo babies, time your visit to the Galapagos in spring or summer. I went in winter.
Flamingos can be found throughout the islands, but larger colonies are visible in Floreana Island, Isabela Island, Santiago, Rabida Island.
Bear in mind that Rabida and Santiago can only be visited on a cruise, while Floreana can be seen during a tour from St Cruz and Isabela is one of the three inhabited islands and you can actually stay there. That’s where I saw the flamingo, right on a lagoon in town. More info soon.
I hope you enjoyed the article and found it useful.
If you think I have missed any spot please feel free to write in the comment below or send me an email. I would love to add it.
I will also update the post with new information when I find them.
Thanks a lot for reading.
Sources I used for this article, besides my experience:
FOR FURTHER READING
- Yumbilla falls hike – a day trip from Chachapoyas Peru
- The most spectacular lakes in South America that you must visit
- The real origin of Panama hat
- 25 Interesting facts about Ecuador
- Where to stay in Quito, a guide to the best hotels for any budget
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