The tiburonera rocked as we stepped down from the dock and unto the seemingly unstable, yet solidly built boat. A tiburonera is the closest thing you can find to a floating bathtub, simple crafts that run rampant in the gulf coast of the Yucatan. Usually, no more than 29 feet these stable boats withstand the weathering that comes with decades of cruising the ocean. Simple, with no cabin and just three benches the run from gunnel to gunnel to sit on, many times with a motor that has to be manually steered. These boats are simple, rugged, and made to withstand the harshest of days riding this boat is an experience by itself; it was also my ride for the day.
The sun glistens off the ocean, and the rays burn my skin. The hot and humid day makes me question why I enjoy riding on these boats so much. With nowhere to hide from the elements I do the next best thing, grab a cold Corona and crack it open as we leave Progreso and head towards a beach that is only accessible through boat after hurricanes have ripped the only road that led there. The mild-mannered captain, weathered by the elements, warned that the return would not be as enjoyable, I was excited about an adventure. We reached our beach and pause as we draw up the game plan, we would take kayaks and paddle towards a water spring, but it was too windy, so this plan was spoiled. We could paddle to where the flamingos were, but then the wind might push us away, so this plan was foiled, maybe just maybe, we could reach them on our trusty tiburonera. We agree this is the way to go, but we still hold hope that we can paddle to the flamingos.
We head up a canal, lined with trees and an old and dilapidated dock; we reach a fork in the canal, and as we get to the point of making a decision, we see a patch of pink in the distance on both sides. We were in luck we could paddle to the flamingos, against the wind but not to grave. We enter the estuary; and as soon as we enter, the boat comes to a halt. It was too shallow for the boat, and the rest of the adventure would have to be in a kayak. As I step off the tiburonera, I feel my feet sink in the soft mud and the water, no deeper than knee-deep, was warm from the sun that appeared to be just inches away.
We get on the old yellow kayaks, and as we begin to row, we quickly realize that it is so shallow that we feel the kayak as it drags on the sand under us. The paddle to the birds was long; it wasn’t arduous, it was just longer than I thought as the wind insisted in dragging us away from our destination. Sure enough, after getting stuck in the shallows, and battling with the wind for a bit, we got close enough to hear them, and for them to hear us. Weary of scaring them, we proceeded, we rowed slowly and quietly. Until we got too close and they flew away.
The flamingoes graciously ran across the water and took off, the once blue sky colored with shades of pink: the sight, something out of a National Geographic documentary. I try to make sense of it but I can’t, I can’t decipher where I am or what I’m doing. I feel lost as I am engulfed in a sea of pink. The beautiful birds dance in the skies almost in a choreographed way; they fly away from us and circle back around as if to show us they were there. Nature’s fashion show, I assume. And then, as if I was hit by a truck, I am stunned with a sense of admiration for nature, and an indescribable joy takes over me. Knowing well how fortunate I was to be where I was, to see what I saw, and to know that there are pieces of this world that man hasn’t spoiled. Proud that my Mexico has this to offer. Experiential travel often changes the way I look at destinations and travel in general, especially when I have the opportunity of living these experiences in my backyard.