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Finding Eden and new animal friends in Sisal’s lush ecosystems

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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. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.

There are few coastal communities on the Yucatán peninsula more beautiful and full of life than Sisal.

An aerial view of the town of Sisal, its pristine beach to the north, and mangrove/swamp lands to the south. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Though Sisal is known mainly for its gorgeous beaches, its coastline and surrounding mangroves are home to an extremely wide array of wildlife and landscapes. 

Even the drive to Sisal, past towns like Caucel and Ucú, and Hunucmá is extremely interesting and full of color. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

As you move closer and closer to the coast, you may notice birds of several species peeking out of the bush.

Sisal is famous among birdwatchers as being one of the best spots in Yucatán to see flamingos and dozens of other species. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

One of the best places to go birdwatching in Sisal is a small rackety old dock just off the right-hand side of the highway, just before town.

From the dock it is posible to see a wide range of exotic birds, including pink flamingos. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Though flamingos garner the most attention from visitors, the area is home to several more species.

Immature Northern Jacana is sometimes nicknamed the Jesus bird. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But birding in Sisal is not limited to wetlands, as the windy sandy roads that surround the town are also teeming with life.

Because many of these narrow side roads don’t get much traffic, they are perfect for strolling along in search of wildlife to photograph. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

These roads are especially good for spotting hummingbirds, which are of course gorgeous but notoriously difficult to get in to focus.

A hummingbird takes a break from all that fluttering, offering a great opportunity for photography. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Though some birds are extremely skittish and will fly away as soon as they are spotted, others including cormorants are quite social, and even seem to enjoy posing for photos.

A couple of cormorants sit unflinchingly atop a lighting fixture on Sisal’s boardwalk. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Herons and egrets are also plentiful in the region and prefer to hang around mangroves that offer up plenty of shade, water, and food. 

A blue egret takes flight above Sisal’s swamplands on its way to catch a meal. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Speaking of food for birds, Sisal’s swamplands are full of little fish fresh for the picking. There are so many and they are so concentrated that it almost seems unfair to them. 

Though the fish swimming around the swamp and mangroves are not very big, running from just a couple inches to about six, but there sure are a lot of them. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine
These little fish are also sought after by fishermen who presumably use them as bait to catch larger fish. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But birds and fish are not the only wildlife to be found in Sisal. A great variety of insects, reptiles and even mammals can be seen, though admittedly this last category is much more elusive. 

An iguana, or Toloc, as they are known in Yucatán, takes in some sun on a wall near the entrance to a restaurant. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

But there is no denying that there is trouble in paradise. The growth in tourism Sisal has experienced over the past few years threatens the area’s ecosystems and wildlife.

Check out the upcoming summer issue of Yucatán Magazine’s printed edition for more on this topic and find out if the rumors are true, and Sisal is bound to be “the next Tulum.”

Check out more features on Yucatán’s amazing birds and wildlife here

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