If there is one park designed exclusively for animal lovers, it’s Xcaret. This is a park that is devoted to the environment and its inhabitants. An entire day may not be enough to truly enjoy the exotic splendor that makes Mexico so mesmerizing. If you only have a short time in Mexico, this is one attraction not to be missed.
Xcaret is not divided into themes like many parks. Instead, it’s more of a “surprise around every corner” park. Natural animal exhibits are intermingled with gardens, Mayan history, and conservation programs. Snorkel underground rivers, see baby sea turtles, watch skilled craftsmen create hammocks and paint leather goods, explore caves, get a bird’s eye view of the coast from the rotating observation tower, or relax on the beach. Your day here is what you make of it.
Almost anything you want to do in the Yucatan, you can experience here at Xcaret. Snorkel with stingrays and sharks and interact with dolphins and manatees. Take a snorkeling tour out to a reef or experience a sweat lodge.
One of the things I loved most about the Xcaret was that you could see their conservation programs at work. Xcaret has a Turtle Conservation Program that collaborates with the government. 4 out of the 7 sea turtle species specifically nest on the beaches of Quintana Roo. Conservationists collect about a 150 turtle eggs every year so they can hatch in the park and allow the baby sea turtles to grow in a protected environment. At around 15 months of age, they are big enough to be released and not be a meal for most birds. This gives a small percentage an extra leg up in a harsh world filled with peril. Only 1 out of every 1000 baby sea turtles will make it past their first birthday.
The parrot nursery was fascinating to me mostly because I’ve worked with birds for many years and know how demanding they can be. The nursery is part of the Macaw Breeding Program and there were several hungry mouths to feed! Scarlet Macaws is just one of the species that can be seen here. and are very endangered throughout Central and South America. The women worked quickly and methodically to fill every crop in each pen. The goal of this program is to release these birds back into the wild one day.
Never have I seen so many flamingos at different stages of development than here at Xcaret. I spent a lot of time watching and photographing the flamingos form the tiniest chick to adolescence, an obnoxious teenager, to the adults who started the circle of life all over again.
The stars of Xcaret are the female and male jaguar. One showed off its spots, the other a shiny black coat where if the sun hit just right, you could see its spot pattern. These elusive big cats are very hard to spot in the jungles of Mexico. Many people might say they shouldn’t be here, but it’s a proven fact that we only care about what we know about. I was absolutely fascinated watching their gait as they moved slowly through the fauna of their home, and how they blended in with the shadows of the trees. I would have loved to have seen them chase down prey.
So much to do and see, this is a park that requires a full day. At night, Xcaret puts on a nightly dinner show (extra $). Staying at Occidental Grand Xcaret, just a 5 minute boat ride away down a private canal, is your best choice to be able to change and eat between a fun-filled day of saltwater encounters and the elaborate arena show. This is one day (or many days) that you won’t forget!