Today Alberto is sharing a truly rare and unique adventure in the Yucatan Peninsula. As he explained to us, “this is not a commercial, touristy activity, but a truly outstanding, remarkable and out of the ordinary way to spend your day in the Yucatan. If a traveler has an adventurous spirit, and wants to learn about the region’s rare and beautiful ecosystems and endemic species, this is for them.”
I firmly believe that people involved in the Mexican tourism industry should have the responsibility of being a link between international visitors and local service providers. Through language and training programs, the government is helping the local people make a dignified living; I believe in supporting this initiative.
Yucatan has several caves, according to studies developed by NASA, there are 7,000 to 10,000 which form complex cave systems produced by water erosion on limestone over millions of years. Some of them are flooded and are joined by crystal clear water channels. The Mayas called these formations dzonot and they were considered sacred entrances to the infra world; today we know them as cenotes.
In a small community in the south of the Yucatan there is a cave that features a rare situation in nature; a few organisms here have adapted to living in total conditions of total darkness. It is a very fragile ecosystem and all these organisms depend on the energetic apportion of the resident bat population which is about 750,000 animals.
Every day at dusk, the bats leave the cave seeking food at a rate of 100 bats per second over two hours; there are 7 different species: some of them are insectivorous and others are fructivorous, there are no hematofags (blood suckers) in this particular cave. When they come back, they contribute to the subsistence of the other organisms that cannot leave the cave by dropping fruit, seeds and even their dejections onto a very delicately balanced ecosystem.
Among those organisms we find strange fish, like the White Lady (Ogilbia pearsei), an eel (Ophisternon infernale) or crustaces like a blind shrimp (Creaseria morleyi), and a water cochineal (Creaseriella anops), all of them endemic to the area and considered very rare.
Explorations show that the water reservoir is part of a very large channel system and there are also several long tunnels and galleries which remain dry.
On some of the walls are present several hundreds, if not thousands of marine life fossils, bivalbs, seashells and corals of diverse species, showing that a very rich underwater environment was present here millions of years ago.
While these organisms depend on the bats for their subsistence, there is still another interesting guest at the cave; the Central America spotted mice eater (Elaphe flavirufa), is a common reptile in the jungles in Quintana Roo, where feeds from small birds and rodents, but its presence at the cave, surviving in total darkness has been classified as an exceptional adapting phenomenon; an example of the strategies that some species have to develop in order to guarantee their food and reproduction.
In the cave, they have learned a new skill; they move in between the rocks and cracks of the walls until they find the perfect hunting spot, they rhythmically balance their body hanging from the wall until their prey comes close; then with a fast movement catch a bat to roll it, kill it with their constricting muscles and eat it.
This is one magnificent spectacle in nature, the cave requires no technical skill, and I provide all the safety gear, chirurgical masks and gloves, hard hats, lights and guiding service. The snakes are not poisonous, aggressive or dangerous in any way, they are not too big or too small, they are constrictors, shy and very sensitive to noise, vibrations and light. The amount of people allowed in the cave at a time is limited, since the ecosystem is so fragile and unique.
Several institutions, including colleges and universities, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel and National Geographic have documented this incredible phenomenon.
If your adventure seeking spirit is still craving for more emotions after this experience, when we leave the cave we will ride a bike through the jungle, downhill and in the dark with the aid of our head lamps, (remember we enter the cave at dusk), within 3 kilometers we will reach a lagoon where we will canoe to go crocodile watching; this area is remote and one of the lowest population densities in the country, the nights are dark and marvelous for seeing thousands of stars.
The lagoon is not too wide, about 400 or 500 meters, but it is 22 kilometers long, and I can assure you that on any given night there would be nobody else in it but you… and the crocs!
Afterwards, dinner, wine and a bonfire are provided to end a one of a kind excursion in the wilderness of the Yucatan Peninsula… until the next day, when you wake up to the sounds of the birds in the jungle in an extraordinary environment that no hotel room can beat, no matter how luxurious!
Thank you for this opportunity to tell you about one very special natural attraction in the Yucatan. I hope I can encourage travelers to be part of this effort to provide the rural communities in the country with a sustainable and dignifying way of life.
And thank YOU, Alberto, for putting forward this interesting adventure to our readers! Alberto tells me that the season for swimming with whale sharks is just getting started (he is a certified Scuba Dive Master) – yet another reason to head out on an eco-adventure in the Yucatan! If any travelers are headed to this part of Mexico in 2012, Alberto would be happy to chat with you about your travel plans. You can reach him via his guide profile.