Located only a few miles into the ocean, off the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, is the small, tranquil island known to locals as “Isla Holbox” (pronounced “Hol-bosh” in English). Famous for its large congregation of whale sharks and numerous endemic and migratory bird species, this captivating Caribbean paradise is the perfect getaway for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Holbox Island forms part of a 380,000 acre protected nature reserve called Yum Balam (Mayan for “Lord Jaguar”), a vast expanse of different ecosystems that include wetlands, more than 145,000 acres of tropical rainforest, the famous Conil Lagoon, coastal mangrove, border Caribbean coastline and barrier islands.
The northern borders of the reserve include Holbox Island, which is situated at the confluence of the currents from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, with waters that are some of the most nutrient-rich of the region. As a result, the marine life of the island is as rich as it is diverse, from whale sharks and manta rays to dolphins, lobster, octopus, eagle rays and sea turtles, making this a perfect destination for snorkeling.
Located only 30 minutes from Isla Holbox, inside the Conil Lagoon, is “Isla Pajaros” (“Bird Island” in Holbox), one of the few islets in the bay composed of solid ground, in this case a mixture of driftwood, seashells and guano. The island is covered by cacti, mangrove and brush, and has numerous towers and walkways from which to appreciate the almost 150 species of marine birds that make their home here.
This island is an ideal spot for bird watching with the more common bird species on Isla Pajaros including frigate birds, white ibis, snowy egrets, double crested cormorants, reddish egrets, roseate spoonbills, white pelicans, grey pelicans, boat-billed herons, the occasional wood stork, and of course flamingos. Many of these birds reproduce on the island, and it is common to see many nests in the local vegetation.