On the plus side, we got to see flamingos. It was a first for us, and we are delighted to have had the opportunity. Unfortunately, we got to spend a total of twelve minutes with them. I know it was only twelve minutes because that is the amount of time stamped between my first flamingo photo and my last.
As our boat started motoring away from the flock after such a short visit I thought surely we were heading to another area to spy on more of these rare and beautiful birds. But no. After twelve whole minutes – just 2.3% of the roughly eight and a half hours we spent with Mayan Ecotours that day – we were done with the birds.
Instead of stalking more flamingos we went to tour mangroves, some of which were pretty cool. But most of our time, a whopping two and a half hours, we spent at the beachfront restaurant they took us to for lunch. For those keeping track, that means we spent about thirteen times as long at lunch as we did doing the thing we joined the tour specifically to do.
In the spirit of charity I revisited Mayan Ecotours’ promotional material to see if I had simply misunderstood what the tour involved. Did they really promote this as primarily a trip to the beach? No, not at all. In their printed copy they don’t actually mention the beach once, although it is shown in a single photo on their site.
The two minute video on their website probably does a better job of representing the content of the trip we took, but it still misleads about how long the tour devotes to each activity. The video spends 15% of its running time showcasing the flamingos which, if applied to the nearly six hours of our trip not spent in transit, would have given us about an hour with the birds. And had they done that, I wouldn’t be bitching about Mayan Ecotours right now.
Instead we spent two and a half hours at a restaurant and only twelve fucking minutes seeing flamingos, so I am.
We don’t normally participate in group tours, and this is a good reminder of the reason why. We often find that prepackaged itineraries don’t fit us very well. They spend a lot of time on things we don’t care about and scrimp on those we do. That was certainly true in this case.
We decided to join this tour simply because it was the path of least resistance. To do it on our own would have required negotiating a collectivo from Merida to Celustun. Once there, we’d also have to negotiate a boat to take us out to see the birds.
None of that is particularly difficult on its own. The problem for us is that we tend to get going long before other travelers which means we end up waiting forever for the shared collectivos to fill up and depart. We figured we’d have the same problem in Celestun where we would have to wait for other travelers to fill the eight person boats.
So we took a tour instead, which ended up being a huge mistake.
Disclaimer: We don’t go on comped tours or accept free press trips so we can write shit like this. All opinions are our own because we pay our own way. Suck it Mayan Ecotours.