Mayan Ecotours to Celestun. No bueno!

Flamingos, Celestun, Mexico

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. 

Flying Flamingo, Celestun, Mexico

We were lucky enough to spot one, and only one, flying flamingo in the short amount of time we had with the flock. If I’d have blinked I would have missed it. Probably about half our boat did.

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. 

We admit, the mangroves growing out of wine-red water was pretty cool

We admit, that seeing mangroves growing out of crystal clear, wine-red, water was pretty cool

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.

This guy wasn't advertised either so maybe I should just stop being a whiny bitch about the whole thing. Nah.

This guy wasn’t advertised either so maybe I should just stop being a whiny bitch about the whole thing. Nah.

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.

Celestun Mexico-2

More of this, please

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.

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14 Comments on “Mayan Ecotours to Celestun. No bueno!”

  1. barbstruestories January 22, 2016 at 8:44 am #

    Since we will never travel as much as you two do, it’s great to get a sense of a country via your experiences. We have been to Mexico a few times. Based on your experiences so far and reports in the news, we spend our weak Canadian dollar in other than Mexico in the future.


    • Marilyn Albright January 22, 2016 at 9:31 am #

      Please don’t judge an entire country on some bad experiences, which happen everywhere. We spend several months each year in Mexico, and good experiences FAR outweigh the not so good.


      • Brian January 22, 2016 at 9:46 am #

        Totally agree. We don’t want to give the impression that people shouldn’t travel to these places. We’re just relaying our experiences as we experience them. And the take-away from this article isn’t that Celestun sucked, or Mexico sucks, it’s that the way we chose to explore this particular part of the world didn’t suit us. If we were to do it again, we’d make our way to Celestun on our own, maybe stay overnight, and hire an independent boat to take us to see the birds. That’s how we usually do things and I guess we’ve just grown accustomed to doing things our way.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Marilyn Albright January 30, 2016 at 5:00 am #

          I was referring to the comment of the person above, not to your experience, which clearly was not a good one! You gave an honest report.


      • barbstruestories January 22, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

        Point taken. My comments could have been put more finely. I enjoy the blog and understand its purpose.


  2. Marilyn Albright January 22, 2016 at 9:33 am #

    I like your honesty! And the flamingos you did see are lovely.


    • Brian January 22, 2016 at 9:48 am #

      Thanks. We’re still glad to have seen them. 🙂


  3. f-stop mama January 22, 2016 at 4:48 pm #

    I have never been a fan of group tours & this post solidifies that decision. They can be great for some people, but we are not those type of people. I love the road less traveled, so to speak. I could not help cracking up at this post. Love your honest and candid words 🙂


    • Brian January 22, 2016 at 4:59 pm #

      Heh-heh-heh . . . thanks for your support. You’d be surprised at some of the private feedback I’ve gotten. Makes me wonder if some people would rather just hear happy words, even when they’re not true.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Emily January 22, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

    Bummer…I am sorry you had a less-than-great experience. We took a second-class bus from Merida to Celestun and found it much more appealing. I can’t recall when the first bus runs, but it’s fairly early. They will let you off right at the boat dock, and if you’re willing to pay the price for the boat (fixed cost no matter if there are 1 or 8 passengers) for the two of you, you can leave any time. The boat we took, we split the cost of with 2 men, and while the guide didn’t speak much, he did let us spend a lot longer with the flamingos than you got, in two different spots. We did the same mangrove tunnel and crocodile viewing, but no restaurant. I’d guess we had about 40 minutes with the flamingos vs. your 12. So, I’d recommend this alternative for those who want to go for a day trip. We actually spent three nights in Celestun at a lovely guest house and enjoyed the peace and quiet, but there’s not much to do there beyond the flamingo tour, and we rode bikes down the long and pretty road out of town to the north, where we saw one lone flamingo all by itself, and some other birds.


    • Brian January 22, 2016 at 10:24 pm #

      We originally planned to do Celestun the way you did, but then decided we could do it more efficiently as a day trip from Merida. Oh, well. Next time.


  5. yeahanotherblogger February 14, 2016 at 11:39 am #

    I know what you mean.
    At least, though, you got some good photos out of it.


  6. تور دبی July 15, 2017 at 4:30 am #



  7. Perry January 31, 2020 at 7:43 am #

    I’d love to be able to take my family on a vacation. It’s been too long since we’ve had one.


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