Rio Lagartos is famous for its flamingos

Due north from Valladolid is Rio Lagartos, a small fishing village at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. Somehow, a relief, after Valladolid. Much smaller scale, much more relaxed. What strikes us immediately, is the colour pink, everywhere. The bases of lamp posts, the edges of the pavement, several houses, the little church, even some people’s bicycles have been painted whole, or partly, pink. Rio Lagartos is trying to make clear that this is flamingo country.




there is an abundance of pink in town, to make the connection with flamingos

houses, pavement, and the murals all indicate one way: flamingos

well, and pelicans, of course, they are everywhere

not just the houses, also the balconies

they stress that Rio Lagartos is flamingo country

the municipality office, with an interesting tower

more murals, on the subject of fishing

and another mural, whole wall covering

lots of other tourist boats, the ones to beat to reach Panch first

We have come here for two things: a boat ride across the lagoon to see birds – including those flamingos -, and perhaps some crocodiles, and to see Las Coloradas and its pink basins, part of a large commercial salt works. And it is easy to arrange: just ask in your hotel, and the owner will have a cousin with a boat, or in our case – we still had to have lunch – another family member with a restaurant, who has a cousin with a boat. In other words, within an hour of arrival we had had lunch and were on the water, on our way to the lagoon.

and more birds fishing

heron fishing


The lagoon is big, and we need to get to the other end for the coloured basins, so the boats speeds across the water. Little chance of bird watching, although we do spot several of the larger water birds, fishing themselves. Whenever I want the boat driver Luis to slow down he shouts, over the noise of the engine, that we will see more of those further up. In reality, we need to beat the others to arrive at Pancho, first. Pancho is a huge crocodile who lies motionless under some of the mangrove branches – I am not even sure whether he is alive, or has been stuffed; apparently he is always in the same place. Luckily, we see a few more crocs, and Luis bought some fish to have them open their mouth. I realize that I have seen many crocodiles in my life, but never one swimming. They look so elegant when the slide into the water, from a sand bank, but actually swimming is something else, with their four legs struggling to stay afloat.

and there is Pancho, the big croc

another crocodile, haplessly swimming

or feeding himself with fish from Luis

you’d say that these jaws can handle more than just fish

a spoonbill, pinker than a flamingo!

more pelicans, the white version this time

congregated on a sand bank

or taking a ride with Luis, in our boat

seagull, too, take the easy way

In the end we do slow down, for the pelicans, the herons, the egrets, the ibises, even a beautifully coloured spoonbill. The pelicans decide to invade the boat, no fear for us humans whatsoever (and neither do the seagulls, who also catch a ride for some time). And at the end of the lagoon, there are the flamingos, lots of them, gracefully walking in the shallow water. It takes a bit of convincing to get Luis closer – you know, shallow water; a lousy excuse really, as moments later he does move closer, no doubt not wanting to jeopardize his tip at the end. So finally we do get nearer, and it is a beautiful spectacle. The birds are more orange than pink, fabulous.

and thee they are, the flamingos, ‘dancing’, as it is called

more orange than pink, if you ask me

but equally attractive – and curious, in this case

more of the same, feeding and flapping

more of the same, landing

and in the air they are equally graceful

by the way, pelicans can also be beautiful, flying

Next are the coloured basins, supposedly pink, but there is too much wind for a good view, the water surface is too disturbed. These are basins created by the salt works further on, where salt is still being won by evaporation. The pink colour of the water comes from micro-organisms that feed on particles suspended in the water, thereby ultimately producing a cleaner – whiter – salt. Incidentally, the flamingos also feed on these micro-organisms, which gives them their pink colour, too.

the salt works at the far end of the coloured basins, here coloured with flamingos, too

fish eagle – I think, maybe a young one

a mangrove black hawk

and the smallest of all, black-and-white kingfisher

On the way back we need to slow down our friend Luis several times. As far as he is concerned, he’ll go straight back, ignoring the fish eagle we spot in a tree, or the kingfisher that is resting on a branch in the water. But ultimately he listens – once again fearing for his tip, no doubt – and we end up with some more fabulous shots. Whilst just being on a boat is actually already quite nice, in its own right. No regrets.

close up of the salt works, behind the fences

salt mountain nicely contrasting with the pink lake

equally contrasting, the water colour of the ocean

Before moving on the next day, we drive once more to the salt works, trying to get a better view of the pink basins. We arrive at Las Coloradas, a village created for the salt works, I believe – and not particularly attractive. But we are here for the basins. The water is much quieter than yesterday, and the colours are much better, not in the least against the stark blue sky. The salt operations themselves seem quite impressive, too, but they keep behind the fences. Private property. Not for tourists, unless you sign up for an expensive tour of at least two hours, which disagrees with our further plans today.

and another view of the pink lake, against the blue sky

traveling by ourselves, not in a fast speedboat, provides opportunities to see smaller birds, too

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2 Responses to 10. Rio Lagartos

  1. Thea Oudmaijer says:

    What a nice tour on the boat with all the beautiful birds and other animals??

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