Reconnect with nature at Chichankanab lagoon — maybe just stay out of the water

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
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.
The waters of Chichankanab may look inviting, but you perhaps best stay out unless you wish to encounter a crocodile. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Stretching nearly 20 square miles, Chichankanab is one of the most extensive lagoons in western Quintana Roo.

The southern end of Chichankanab lagoon, just past the community of La Presumida. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Ironically, Chichankanab in the Yucatec Maya language translates to “Small Lake” — though this may be a reference to its width rather than length.

The area surrounding the Chichankanab lagoon is one of the most untouched in all of Quintana Roo, though small farms and communities do exist in the area.

Aerial view of the Quintana Roo’s low-lying jungle near Chichankanab. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The lagoon is home to a wide variety of fish, birds, reptiles, and mammals including monkeys and jaguars. 

Spider monkeys, howlers, and large cats are all attracted to Chichankanab given its year-round abundance of water. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

When driving through the area it is a good idea to slow down, as not all of the jungle’s creatures are as fast as spider monkeys.

The pond slide is a common species of medium-sized, semi-aquatic turtle easily identifiable by a red or orange band marking its face. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Though Chichankanab is far from what one would call a tourist hot spot, there are a few convenient spots to observe the lagoon.

From the town of Dziunché, it is possible to drive along a small road to a dock where one can enjoy a picnic.

A palapa on a wooden dock on Chichankanab lagoon, an ideal place to spend a few hours and enjoy the view. Just remember to take your garbage with you. Photo: Courtesy 

While some locals have been known to swim in the lagoon, it is important to note that crocodile sightings are fairly common. 

Just past the town of La Presumida, there is a narrow 1.5-mile road that will take you to the lagoon’s southernmost point.

If you rather leave your vehicle on the road and walk to the lagoon you will likely be rewarded with several opportunities for birding. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

At the detour to the lagoon, you will find a large wooden gate and signs to help guide you to the waterfront. 

A sign in Spanish reads “In the Jungle, there is no Wi-Fi, but you are sure to find a connection.” Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Like everywhere in the vicinity of the lagoon, the area surrounding the lookout is teeming with life, so do your best to keep quiet and enjoy the view.

View of Chichankanab lagoon from the surrounding jungle. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

During antiquity, several Maya communities settled around Chichankanab, but the ruins of these towns have yet to be excavated, let alone open to the public. 

Conch and bone jewelry are found in the region surrounding Chichankanab lagoon. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Chichankanab makes for an ideal stopover en route to Bacalar from Mérida, as it sits almost exactly halfway. 

A map shows the location of Chichankanab, in the state of Quintana Roo, near Yucatán’s state line. Image: Google Maps

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