Bacalar tour operators and tourists throw caution to the wind

Locals complain that tour boats routinely take on more passengers than they are legally allowed. Photo: Courtesy
Locals complain that tour boats routinely take on more passengers than they are legally allowed. Photo: Courtesy

Residents in Bacalar are complaining that motorized boats continue to violate navigation rules on the lagoon.

Over last week’s long weekend, boats and jet skis made their way through restricted waterways at great speeds. 

Chetumal’s port authority is responsible for the area, however according to people in Bacalar, they rarely bother to show up. 

Motorized boats on Bacalar’s “seven-color” lagoon are almost entirely used for tourism and recreational activities. Several areas in the lagoon are off-limits to motorized crafts, but that has not stopped tourists and locals from venturing in. 

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Locals also complain that boats offering tours routinely fill their crafts with tourists beyond their legal capacity.

“They pack tourists in like sardines, it’s really dangerous you know, not just because the boat could capsize, but because of COVID-19 transmission. It is very irresponsible,” said local resident Cynthia Rosado. 

Aside from safety concerns, navigation rules have also been put in place to protect the lagoon’s ecosystem. The lagoon had been known for its turquoise and blue bands of color. However, in recent years they have begun to fade. 

Environmentalist groups are calling for a suspension of all motorized craft on the lagoon to protect its delicate ecosystem. Under such a plan only non-notarized crafts such as kayaks would be allowed.

Kayaking in Bacalar is a popular activity for reasons which should be obvious. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

“Five years or so ago, Bacalar really started to grow. All of a sudden it went from being a sleepy little town with a gorgeous lagoon to a major attraction with tons of hotels and restaurants. And now, the lagoon itself is paying the price for all the activity. It’s still nice but it’s not quite the same,” said Raúl Lopez of nearby Chetumal.

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.