A Day in Contoy IslandDate: 22/09/2020
Contoy Island, a virgin paradise full of exuberant life and surrounded by the tranquil Caribbean Sea. It is one of those paradise-like places that you expect to see in a movie like Pirates of the Caribbean, except that this one is real and at your reach. The island has a very special reputation amongst birdwatchers who nicknamed it “The Island of Birds” because of the permanent presence of hundreds upon hundreds of seabirds that have thrived here, far from our influence on the world.
Protected by the Mexican government since 1961 and named biosphere reserve in 1998 this island has no permanent human inhabitants beyond a small rotating group of researchers and park rangers. The true owners of this island are the 152 species of seabirds that nest in the mangroves and palm trees of the place, the 14 species of reptiles that rule over the ground and the uncountable marine species that live in Contoy’s reefs.
A Special Adventure
Contoy island is still a place of pristine nature and it has been kept this way by the strict enforcing of rules meant to preserve this place. This is why the Mexican government only allows entry to 200 visitors per day. If you book a tour in advance or if you are very lucky and find a last-minute spot on a tour and become one of the lucky 200 to visit Contoy then you are in for a wonderful day of complete immersion in nature.
Visiting Contoy is an all-day activity; to begin with, it takes about an hour by boat to reach the island from Cancun or Isla Mujeres and another hour to get back, and there is plenty to do here. Most tours to Contoy offer the opportunity to snorkel in one of its famous reefs, most likely Ixlache reef. Here in the island's surrounding waters you will find fish of all sizes and colors, stingrays, sea turtles and much more. Visiting these curious creatures in the comfort of their own reef home will make you feel as if you are visiting an alien world.
Once you are on land you will have time to explore the island, take in its beautiful vistas and meet the noisy but wholesome flying inhabitants of the place. Beginning with the Marine Museum, a small but informative museum where you can learn about the local flora and fauna as well as the island’s history. Then go enjoy the charming beaches on the island with their soft white sand and calm crystal-clear water. Explore the trails that twist and turn through the mangroves and palm trees of Contoy where you can come face to face with the island’s famous iguanas and hundreds of curious seabirds. End your visit at the observatory where you can take in the breathtaking panoramic view of the island’s lush green vegetation, the whites of the sand, all the shades of blue in the water, and the spectacular flight of thousands of seabirds.
If you play your cards right your visit to Contoy might also include a visit to Isla Mujeres. Some tours to Contoy island also stop by Isla Mujeres’ downtown area. This is the last stop of your excellent day, a day throughout which you will have the opportunity of getting closer to nature, enjoy the stunning beauty of incredible vistas and unforgettable experience, get to know two Caribbean islands and even have the chance to go shopping in Isla Mujeres’ artisanal and souvenir shops.
And as it usually goes with us, here we bring you a few suggestions to make the most out of your day in Contoy:
- Bring your swimsuit as well as a change of clothes that are light and comfortable.
- Bring biodegradable sunblock and insect repellent. It is important that they are biodegradable and reef safe or you won’t be use it in the national park.
- If you are prone to sea sickness we recommend you take an anti-sea sickness medication the night before your tour to avoid any potential inconvenience.
- Some tours include drinks and food either on the boat or on Isla Mujeres, this will spare you from having to carry your own as well as treat you to great local food.
- Book a tour that includes transportation from your hotel or vacation rental to the marina and spare yourself the trouble of finding parking in areas where there is very little affordable parking.