An adventure written by Haley Jardine (@wanderfullife)
Up bright and early we hit the road and headed to the coast in search of flamingos and pink waters. As soon as we smelled the ocean we pulled over and hiked over a grassy dune to greet the salty seas with open arms. The water was Caribbean blue, the sand white and littered with thousands of shells. It was warm and we couldn’t have been happier taking a swim after driving two hours, butts and palms sweaty while navigating through small town after small town.
Reluctantly prying ourselves from the ocean we got back in to the car to find the infamous pink waters of Las Colorados. Our first hint that we were close was giant mounds of white salt. These pink waters are where this salt is created. We followed some other cars and sure enough found ourselves driving on sand, pools of bright pink water on our right contrasting with the blue skies above us. A sense of elation and excitement over came us as we jumped out of the car to take it in. We stood before a massive salt flat that roasted in the sun, evaporating ocean water from the Gulf of Mexico. Stepping into the water it felt warm and extremely soft, which made sense because the salt concentration was high enough to float a human body. We decided to make some tailgate sandwiches and as we ate them, our feet became salt encrusted with a thick layer of white powder. Never in our lives will we see vibrant pink water like this again so we made sure to lock it in the memory bank before we left.
Back in the baking hot car we set off to Rio Lagartos in search of some pink waterfowl. These flamingos are pink for the same reason the waters were, due to small microorganisms that contain carotenoid pigments. These pigments are released when the organism dies, dying the salt flat waters and the flamingo’s vibrant pink. We hoped to find a tour guide that would take us deep into the mangrove to see these the odd yet beautiful and unique birds. We were lucky to find Francisco from Rio Lagartos Expeditions after waiting on the fishing docks for a while.
Francisco took us on his banana shaped boat out into the murky waters of the thick mangrove reserve. We quickly spotted a large salt-water crocodile; over 2 meters long and literally pulled the boat right up to it. The crocodile was within reaching distance and didn’t even flinch.
As we boated along we saw hundreds of blue heron, king fishers, black hawks, cormorants, and several other species of birds that migrate from Canada and Argentina. These mangroves are brackish water that is a mix of ocean water and fresh water that bubbles up from ground water through limestone rock. After boating underneath a bridge where a raccoon lived we saw a pink line form on the horizon. As we got closer hundreds of flamingos came into view, their beaks and underside of their wings black, the rest a vibrant pink. It was so pink it was hard to believe the colour was natural!
Francisco shut off the engine and gondola style pushed us closer as to not startle the birds. We got super close and could even distinguish the males from the females. Some slept with their heads tucked in their plumage, one leg down in the shallow water. Others were feeding, their bills in the water, using their tongues to filter out their meal. As we sat their watching the sun began to dip below the mangroves and a vibrant pink colour that matched the birds painted itself across the sky. We spent the next half hour watching the sun disappear below the Mexican land and the sky exploded in an effervescent mix of red, pink, orange, and blue. It appeared to get brighter and even more vibrant just as the full moon rose off the opposite horizon, bigger than any moon we had seen before. The entire sky was on fire and as we boated back to Rio it began fading into black, but a smile never left our faces.