El Cid El Moro Beach Hotel

What comes to mind when you think of Mazatlán? Most likely, it’s long stretches of beach, gorgeous sunsets and tropical cocktails. Mazatlán delivers all three in spades. But did you know that this coastal city also happens to be home to dozens of species of birds? Join me on a pair of bird-watching adventures on the water.

Mazatlan Bird and Nature Tours

King David Jungle and Beach Tour

The morning begins with a guided 90-minute cruise from the harbor, through an estuary to protected mangroves (natural food source for fish and shrimp). We pass by shrimp packing plants (much of the product gets exported to Japan) and tuna boats (Yellowfin tuna is an important industry for Mexico).

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Our friendly, spirited guide Hugo explains that a helicopter resides on top of each boat in order to search for dolphins: Where the dolphins are, tuna isn’t far away. (By law, all dolphins must be removed from the nets).

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Nearby, tiny, yet productive Stone Island is known for harvesting peanuts, mangos, sesame seeds and coconuts.

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Also in the area is the production facility for Pacifico Brewery, established in 1900 by three German families.

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One of the biggest draws on this particular tour however is the variety of birds you’ll see, from herons to frigate birds.

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Once we enter the mangrove jungle, the boat begins to quietly glide through the channel as we spot a variety of pelicans, herons, cormorants, turkey vultures, sandpipers, egrets, red-tailed hawks, oyster catchers and ospreys (over 550 species of birds call Mexico home).

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At one point, we grab our cameras and smart phones to snap away at a pair of massive pelicans that have decided to spend some time on our boat’s roof as we slowly make our way to the end of the mangroves, where a refreshing dip in the sea awaits.

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After splashing in the waves a bit, we sit down for a cooked-over-the-grill lunch at Lupita Restaurant, a tiny, rustic outpost with a background of chirping birds to accompany our seafood and cold drinks.

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All Over Mazatlán 10 Islands Expedition

A day tour with All Over Mazatlan takes you on a high-speed, sun-soaked Zodiac boat tour of the islands around Mazatlán, including Bird Island.

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As we leave the dock at El Cid Marina Hotel, our guide is on the lookout for Bottlenose dolphins, often spotted in the area.

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Luck isn’t on our side today, but shortly into our tour, we spot seagulls, Blue-footed boobies, pelicans, frigate birds, hawks and ducks as we make our way towards a rocky outcrop for a bit of snorkeling.

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While our biologist/guide Cesar is securing the boat, formations of pelicans hover above. Those white rocks didn’t actually start out being white: local bird colonies have “coloured” their habitat over time!

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The stunning scenery includes sea cave formations, unfortunately too narrow for our semi-rigid boat to head into.

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Following a snorkel session, we pull into a dock near Mazatlan’s Faro, where an abundance of butterflies share the skies with frigate birds, hawks and gulls.

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We climb a sweaty, calorie-burning 157 meters above sea level to the top of Creston Hill offering sweeping coastal views and a peek at the tallest operational lighthouse in the world to reward our workout. Added to this is a newly-built, glass-bottomed walkway jutting out over the sea.

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These two tours offer vastly different experiences and scenery — one is a slow cruise through the mangroves, the other an exhilarating zip along the water.

Estero del Yugo
[Egret photo by Miguel Betancourt Lozano on Flickr]

For additional bird-watching opportunities on land, consider a visit to Estero del Yugo, an 11-hectare nature reserve boasting fresh- and saltwater lagoons, offering birders a tropical deciduous forest to enjoy over 200 species of aquatic and terrestrial birds. The entrance is across the road from the Riu Emerald Bay Resort.

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[Wood stork image by Laurel Parshall on Flickr]

Estero del Yugo was started by Sandra Guido, a trained biologist who’s devoted over 15 years in keeping this part of undeveloped Sinaloa protected from development so that future generations can marvel at the birds and other wildlife in the area.

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[Arriving at Faro before our hike up the mountain]

Day passes are MX $95 (USD $5); weekly passes, MX $288 (USD $15; both prices at time of writing). Guided tours are also available.

My tours were courtesy of Tourism Mazatlán. Opinions, as always, remain my own.

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