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Maverick's Big Adventure Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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20.06.2009

Holbox Island
Mexico's hidden paradise

The highlight of this trip to Mexico has definitely been the three days I spent on Holbox Island which forms an important part of the Yum Balam Biosphere Reserve.



This important wetland nature reserve on the the Yucatán Peninsula was established in 1994 and has the honour of being the first protected area in Mexico to be created at the request of local communities. The reserve was designated as a protected Ramsar site in 2004. The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for nature conservation and the wise use of wetlands and their resources. Several communities are located within the reserve, including Chiquila, Solferino, as well as Isla Holbox.


The Biosphere Reserve is home to jaguars, Baird's tapirs, crocodiles, sea turtles, American manatees, Caribbean spiny lobsters and ocellated turkeys. Migrating whale sharks have become a big tourist attraction in recent years. If you are lucky you may see flamingos but you will definitely see lots of double-crested cormorants, brown pelicans and magnificent frigatebirds. We saw the pelicans and frigate birds but not the jaguars unfortunately because there aren't any on the island. Nevertheless we did hear of one that had walked into a tourist centre kitchen on the mainland and the owners were scratching their head as to how to get it out.


Holbox, which means "black hole" in the Mayan language is just 26 miles / 42 km long and less than a mile wide, lies off the northwest of Cancun. It is separated from the mainland by a shallow lagoon which gives sanctuary to thousands of flamingos, pelicans and other exotic birds and aquatic creatures.


Most of the locals earn their living by fishing. It is common to see fishermen walking through the virtually car free, white sand streets carrying their catch. Many lobsters are caught and most of the dishes served in the island's hotels and restaurants centre around the lobster or other seafoods.





Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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Very few foreign visitors come to this off-the-beaten-track island where electricity only arrived in 1987.




We were so extremely fortunate to have been taken there by a Mexican friend. We were in Mexico to visit my Danish girlfriend's Spanish daughter who was working in the Mexican tourist industry (yes I know it's complicated).





Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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I was in so much trouble when my girlfriend, Hanne, found out that I had discovered this huge conch shell on the bach but had not brought it back for her. If she hadn't realised before she was now certain she had taken up with a complete idiot. Logical arguments such as "it was almost as big as your suitcase, you'd never have got it home" landed on deaf ears. I did shoot straight back out there to get it for her but of course, by then, it was long gone. Joking aside, if you do wish to pick up conch shells, make sure they have no living organisms inside, which would make them illegal to collect.





Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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Holbox is not the easiest place to get to which has helped the island maintain its incredible natural beauty, tropical vegetation, mangroves and miles of glorious beaches.







Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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To get to the island we drove for three hours from Playa del Carmen. We probably could have flown there in one of the small, 13 seater, Cessna type planes. There is also a long, boring, uncomfortable bus service. We left our car parked up at Chiquila and crossed to the island on the Holbox Monkeys Express. This modern catamaran took just 15 minutes to cross the rarrow straight. The seating was comfortable and there were toilets for those who needed them. Several other ferry services are also available. They all take between about 20 and 30 minutes. it's a lovely crossing with spectacular views. There are two boats an hour during the day and an hourly survive in the evening.





Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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Once you get to Holbox it's possible to rent an electric golf cart to get around although the cart pictured here is owned by one of the companies that organise fishing trips.





Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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There is always plenty to do and see on the island including birdwatching, fishing, kite surfing and scuba diving





Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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You can even book a boat trip to go snorkeling with whale sharks, anytime between June and September. We did and it was an experience we will never forget. This gentle giant measures up to 45 feet long (14 meters) and may well be the largest fish species in the world. Form the boat we also saw dolphins and sea turtles. We were told to look out for manta rays too. Maybe next time. Do check before coming here between August and October however because the island is often evacuated during peak hurricane season.





Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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These magnificent Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) are everywhere on Holbox. We loved seeing them and watching their antics.




Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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We also saw a lot of Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus).





Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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We ended each day watching the most spectacular sunsets we had ever seen.





Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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Holbox Island Mexico's hidden paradise - Maverick's Big Adventure
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I've been a traveler all my life and have visited some very special places but Isla Holbox is certainly one of my all time favourites.





Athyrium Guide to Isla Holbox
by E. A. Farro






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