It was created on May the 21st of 1999, and its 60.348 hectares north of the State of Yucatan are an area of climatic transition that favours an eruption of fauna life, which is composed of 554 species, 142 of which are endemic in Mesoamerica, 14 of Mexico and one of Yucatan.
The birds are the group presenting the most numerous and flashy populations within this panorama of life. 335 winged species have been registered in here, being 179 of them resident, 142 migratory and 14 both resident and migratory.
The main attraction for visitors is the pink flamingo (Phoenicopterus
ruber), an emblematic species that arrives in the estuary to
nest and feed its breed until they are able to fly. The cormorant,
herons, storks, water guans and the kingfisher soar across the skies
of the reserve as well.
Due to this richness and variety, the Lagarto Estuary was the first system of wetlands in Mexico to be recognised worldwide and registered on the RAMSAR list, an international convention conformed by 123 countries that emphasizes the importance of this kind of areas, considered to be vital for the survival of aquatic birds.
The diversity of mammals, amphibians and reptiles is also important;
and the first group comprises 58 species, some in an endangered
situation such as the spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), the jaguar
(Pantera onca), the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis),
the spotted cat (Leopardus wiedii), the ounce (Felis
yagouaroundi) and the Mexican anteater (Tamandua mexicana).
Likewise, the reported amphibians and reptiles add up to 95 species,
while there are 71 fish and marine animal species, such as the octopus
(Octopus maya and Octopus vulgaris), the lobster (Panulirus
arhus) and the shrimp (Penaeus).
Every year sea turtles such as the loggerhead (Caretta caretta),
the green or white (Chelonia mydas), the leatherback (Dermochelys
coriacea) and the carey (Eretmochelys imbricata),
lay their eggs on the 60-kilometre long coastal strip of the Lagarto
Estuary; and they are all in a perilous situation.
The flora diversity in this reserve is greatly due to the different ecosystems it presents, such as the lower and mid forests, the petenes (true islands of exuberant vegetation), the mangroves, the brushwood of the coastal dunes and the floodable grasslands.
Regarding the weather, the annual average temperature is of 22 degrees Celsius, being downpours persistent in some sectors. Besides, the zone is considered of high risk, for being in the path of the hurricanes that form in the Caribbean Sea and in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.
There are four communities within the protected area, dedicated to fishing and the exploitation of the salt deposits: San Felipe (1 hotel), Rio Lagarto (hotels with up to twenty rooms, cabins and restaurants), Las Coloradas (it has no tourist infrastructure), and El Cuyo (8 cabins with basic services and restaurants).
Historians and studious of the pre Hispanic cultures believe that this territory was the seaport of the great City of Chichén Itzá, where the Mayas controlled the exchange of goods in the centre of Mexico, Guatemala and other places in Central America.
The reserve is currently administered by the National Commission of Protected Natural areas (Conanp), and has two field stations, one in Rio Lagarto and the other in El Cuyo, where they monitor the area and set off on surveillance patrols.
It is located at 275 kilometres from Mérida and at 50 from Tizimín; and you have to follow Federal Highway 176 (Mérida - Tizimín) in order to access it. There are also paved roads connecting San Felipe with Rio Lagarto and El Cuyo. Another option is coming by sea, disembarking at the ports of San Felipe or Rio Lagarto.