Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Trip to Sian Ka'an with Rob Volker

Meet Rob Volker.



We met him two years ago when he was guiding a Thomas More excursion to a Chickleadero camp, a Mayan village, and a  Cenote. You can see my account of that trip in my January, 2011  blog.   Rob is now a private contractor and this year we signed on for his trip to Sian Ka'an.



Tour takes you out on the thin peninsula to the right and to Punta Allen, which is at the red pointer.
Sian Ka'an is a magnificent 1.3 million acre wildlife preserve located about three hours south of Cancun along the so called Mayan Riviera. It was declared a biosphere and protected area by the Mexican government in 1986.  The goal was to limit commercial development and preserve the area's pristine tropical forests, wetlands, coastal inlets, and marine habitats for the future.  There is a lot to preserve as the various ecosystems now support over a hundred species of mammals and fish and some 350 species of birds.  

We started our trip at 7:00 AM from Playa del Carmen.  After a short break in Tulum, it was on to  Hwy 109.  Highway is definitely a misnomer for this track.  After you pass the check-in point, the  road turns into a fearsome potholed monster that was made even more exciting on the day of our trip  by a series of tropical showers.

Check-in was a bit damp

Over the next two hours we met very few vehicles, which was lucky, as our driver had to weave his way back and forth in futile attempts to avoid at least some of the water filled pits in the gravel surface..
    
Sometimes the road was just a sliver throgh the jungle and at other times we were treated to tantalizing views of virgin beaches and waves rolling onto the shore.  It wasn't a comfortable ride, but it was always captivating.



About two bouncy hours later our genial guide told us that we would now "go down to the sea in ships" in order to avoid another hour of  bone jarring road travel.  This would actually get us to our luncheon  destination--a little hamlet called Punta Allen that was orginally founded by Blackbeard the pirate--a little faster.      

Sure enough we could see down at the beach a couple of boats waiting for us.
We piled out of our van,



took a brief facility break (women were across the road but just as primitive),

and waded out to our waiting motor boats. .


Shortly,  we were skimming across the water with our new-found watermen extraordinaire.


I'm not sure what competence looks like, but we felt absolutely secure in hands of our drivers.

On the way to Punta Allen we slowed down at some mangrove islands.  Rob pointed out a 
frigate bird resting on land. 


An American  Coot almost swam right up to our boat


Then a resplendant group of Roseate Spoonbills came into view



And a pair of Snowy Egrets


 

followed by a bunch (I like those technical terms) of Double Crested Cormorants



But the real treat was a huge occupied Osprey nest.

One of the pair (they mate for life) and use the same nest year after year was perchd on the edge.


when number two circled and landed. That was worth the price of the trip right there. We didn't actually see any young ones, but we think there may have been some down inside the nest. 






We also saw frigate birds in flight.  I did not know that they have the longest wingspan vs total body weight of any bird.



as well as some young ones resting in the trees.


There were pelicans roosting too.




and we caught this brown one in flight at the Boca Paila bridge.


Need I say more than this is a bird watchers paradise.  And our day was only half over.  We had a lovely outdoor lunch at a seaside restaurant and then had some time to explore Punta Allen where things seem to move at a slower pace.



but the kids are kids and the puppies are puppies wherever you travel.





 Some houses have great looking doors.

And even the most modest seem to be totally connected.


We could have hunkered down for a nice siesta, but Rob got us moving back down to the dock again. .

 One boat in our group went out to a reef to snorkel while our second boat cruised peacefully around a mangrove lagoon






We rejoined the rest of our group for a final push out into the more open water where we saw a fair number of dolphins and also a sea turtle that swam right up along side.




By late afternoon we made our way back to the beach where we had left our van.

Thank goodness it was dry and sunny now so the long bumpy drive back down Hwy 109  didn't seem quite so long.   


We were back to our hotel by dinner time. All told it was a real adventure and Rob Volker was the glue that held it together.   He is a superlative guide, his English is excellent, and his knowledge of nature and history is broad.  Above all he has a talent for communicating his love for Mexico, its natural habitats, and the people who live there.    Check out his web site  by clicking here
and do consider his services.  We are sold on his work.

Jm and Jan De Young

p.s.  We have discovered that bird indentificatons are really tough three months after you have seen them. Comparing my pics to various poses in other books and internet sites reveals just how tricky naming can be.  Colorations within species and males and females differ widely. Younger birds often look quite different from the adults.  So please let me know if you think we have mis-identified what we saw.

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