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NEW! Mexico

Birding, Wildlife and Mayan Culture on the Yucatan peninsula

2024 Dates
  • 17 Nov - 28 Nov 2024
Duration12 Days
2024 Price
£5395 pp
£675 single supplement. Deposit £1000

pre-flight airport hotel and lounge are inc.

Max Group Size12

Enjoy great birding and winter sunshine in the Caribbean! This twelve-day holiday covers varied birding habitats, and is timed to coincide with the passage of Neotropical migrants. With the prospect of colourful endemic species, a boat-trip into bird-rich lagoons, tasty Mexican food, well-located hotels and breath-taking scenery, we focus upon tropical birding at a leisurely pace.

This holiday also has a strong cultural aspect as we also visit amazing world-famous Mayan archaeological sites at Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Coba. Our local guide Andrea, will be present to concentrate on cultural aspects in all the Mayan sites we visit. Those who wish can spend time inside the ruins with Andrea, while others can keep birding with specialist birding guide Gabor (joined by another from the Heatherlea team with more than eight clients)! Jungle birding is rewarding at all the heritage sites.

The holiday is a tour of northern and central Yucatán, in a total of five centres as we cover the main habitats to see a host of tropical species. Our targets include endemics Yucatán Bobwhite, Yucatán Wren and Mexican Sheartail, plus many regional specialities including Yucatán Jay, Yucatán Woodpecker, White-bellied Wren, Ocellated Turkey, Canivet’s Emerald, Black Catbird and Orange Oriole. Caribbean specialities include Caribbean Elaenia, Western Spindalis, Caribbean Dove and Bananaquit, we take a boat trip into mangrove lagoons at Río Lagartos to see waterbirds including Bare-throated Tiger-heron, Boat-billed Heron, Caribbean Flamingo and more, and a range of migrating North American warblers, shorebirds and passage migrants make for a constantly changing cast of birds. We also pay attention to the many colourful butterflies we encounter, and a wide range of mammals and reptiles.

Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details here!

Days 1 & 2: Sun 17 & Mon 18 November 2024 - Fly to Mexico and first birding at Puerto Morelos
After relaxing in our complimentary airport lounge, we fly directly from London to Cancún, starting our tour by the Caribbean shore. Our first base will be at Puerto Morelos, a tranquil fishing village on the Turquoise Riviera. The area offers a really good introduction to Caribbean birding, as it includes coastal habitat, large patches of tropical forest and the edges of a mangrove, plus some more open bushy, flowery areas.

A good range of species can be found here, including our first chance of endemics. Key birds include Yucatán Woodpecker, White-browed Wren, White-bellied Wren, Black Catbird, Rose-throated Tanager, Painted Bunting, Blue Bunting, Green-backed Sparrow, Orange Oriole, Yucatán Parrot, Aztec Parakeet, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl and Yucatán Vireo. The newcomer to Caribbean birding may also care to note Magnificent Frigatebird, Black, Turkey and Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Squirrel Cuckoo, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Vaux’s Swift, Buff-bellied and Cinnamon Hummingbird, Black-headed Trogon, Blue-crowned Motmot, Golden-fronted, Tawny-winged, Barred and Ivory-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Greenish Elaenia, Northern Bentbill, Tropical Pewee, Yellow-olive, Least, Dusky-capped, Boat-billed and Social Flycatcher, Bright-rumped Attila, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Masked Tityra, Green and Brown Jay, Spot-breasted Wren, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Wood Thrush, Clay-colored Thrush, Tropical Mockingbird, White-eyed, Yellow-throated and Yucatán Vireo, Lesser Greenlet, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Blue-winged Warbler, Northern Parula, Magnolia, Cape May, Black-throated Green and Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Worm-eating Warbler, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Kentucky Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Grey-headed Tanager, Red-crowned and Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Melodious Blackbird, Great-tailed Grackle, Hooded, Altamira and Yellow-backed Oriole. Overnight Puerto Morelos (two nights).

Days 3 & 4: Tue 19 & Wed 20 November - Río Lagartos/Chichen Itza
From Puerto Morelos we travel to the Northern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula and the Southern shores of the Gulf of Mexico, where our next base is located at the mangrove-fringed lagoons of Río Lagartos. This is one of the best wetlands for birds in Yucatán and a boat trip here should reward us with hundreds of cormorants, herons, egrets, waders, ibises, spoonbills, gulls, terns including Black Skimmer, as well as flocks of rosy Caribbean Flamingo. Other birds here might include Least and Pied-billed Grebe, Ruddy Crake, American White and Brown Pelican, Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Least Bittern, Boat-billed Heron, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, and many other spectacular waterbirds.

We also spend time visiting the inland dry scrub and thorn forests which are home to a wide range of Yucatán endemics and other localized species, such as loud Yucatán Wren, small and elusive Yucatán Woodpecker, a group of Yucatán Bobwhites or attractive Mexican Sheartail. With some luck we might also find the local 'Speedy Gonzalez', otherwise known as Lesser Roadrunner. The area is excellent for a variety of raptors and we may see Common Black Hawk, Yellow-headed Vulture, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s, Common Black, Great Black and Grey Hawk, Short, White and Red-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, Laughing Falcon, American Kestrel, Merlin, Bat and Peregrine Falcon.

The inland area holds a wonderful variety of specialist species including Plain Chachalaca, Red-billed Pigeon, Common and Ruddy Ground-Dove, Zenaida, White-winged and White-tipped Dove, Aztec Parakeet, Yucatán Parrot, White-fronted Parrot, Yellow-billed, Mangrove and Squirrel Cuckoo, Groove-billed Ani, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Great Horned Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, Pauraque, Buff-bellied, Ruby-throated and Cinnamon Hummingbird, Canivet’s Emerald, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Belted and Green Kingfisher, Golden-fronted, Ladder-backed and Lineated Woodpecker, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet, Least, Vermilion, Yucatán and Social Flycatcher, Bright-rumped Attila, Couch’s and Eastern Kingbird, Tree, Mangrove, Bank and Cliff Swallow, Green Jay, Yucatán Jay, Blue-grey and White-lored Gnatcatcher, Grey Catbird, Mangrove Vireo, Tennessee Warbler, Yellow, Mangrove, Yellow-throated, and Palm Warbler, Grey-crowned Yellowthroat, Scrub Euphonia, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted and Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Blue-black and Yellow-faced Grassquit, White-collared Seedeater, Lark and Savannah Sparrow, Red-winged and Melodious Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Orchard, Yellow-tailed Oriole and Lesser Goldfinch.   

Our cultural itinerary begins here, as we visit the famous Mayan Ruins at Chichen Itza. This is a large, dazzling ancient city that once was the centre of the Maya empire in Central America between 750 AD and 1200AD. It is a Unesco Cultural World Heritage Site, recently listed among the seven new Wonders of the World.  The ruin complex offers a perfect mix of nature and culture, and we visit hidden trails, which offer great birding in dry thorn and humid forest habitats. Species here might include Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Canivet’s Emerald, Ridgway’s Rough-winged Swallow, Yucatán Jay, White-bellied Wren, Blue Bunting and Orange Oriole.

Days 5 & 6: Thu 21 & Fri 22 November - Uxmal
Our next base is further west close to another famous archaeological site, the stunningly decorated Uxmal. The ruins themselves are in the middle of a thorn forest, offering excellent birding along easy trails surrounded by tropical forests and overgrown fields, offering a good variety of Yucatán species. We visit in the cooler part of the day before large tourist groups arrive, spending a half day at the ruins before lunch, and exploring tracks into the forest around the archaeological area. At the ruins we may see Plain Chachalaca, Canivet’s Emerald, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Yucatán Flycatcher, Cave Swallow, Yucatán Jay, Green Jay, Rufous-browed Peppershrike and Painted Bunting.  

Days 7 & 8: Sat 23 & Sun 24 November - Sian Ka'an Reserve
From Uxmal we cross from the western side of the peninsula to East Yucatán, where we stay very close to the southern entrance of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. This is a huge protected area comprising tropical semi-deciduous forests, mangrove habitats, fantastic lagoons and sandy beaches. We dedicate one full day inside the protected area which is hardly ever visited by tourists, even birders! The list of species here can be quite amazing, including Ocellated Turkey, Grey-necked Wood-Rail, White-bellied Wren, Yucatán Jay, Green Jay, Blue Bunting and many more. Hummingbirds are represented by Wedge-tailed Sabrewing and Canivet’s Emerald, and in the evening we try for Yucatán Poorwill and Yucatán Nightjar. Other birds of interest include King Vulture, Singing Quail, Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Mexican Antthrush, Grey-collared Becard, Ridgway’s Rough-winged Swallow, Black Catbird, Yellow-winged and Rose-throated Tanager, Blue Bunting, Green-backed Sparrow, Thicket Tinamou, Hook-billed, White-tailed and Double-toothed Kite, Black and Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Collared Forest-Falcon, Scaled Pigeon, Caribbean Dove, Aztec Parakeet, Mottled Owl, Pauraque, Vaux’s Swift, Green-breasted Mango, White-bellied Emerald, Buff-bellied and Cinnamon Hummingbird, Blue-crowned Motmot, Belted Kingfisher, White-necked Puffbird, Collared Aracari, Keel-billed Toucan, Golden-fronted, Ladder-backed, Smoky-brown, Golden-olive, Chestnut-colored, Lineated and Pale-billed Woodpecker, Plain Xenops, Tawny-winged, Ruddy, Olivaceous, Barred and Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Barred Antshrike, Greenish, Caribbean and Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Northern Bentbill, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Royal and Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher ..... there are many more! To do it justice we will spend two nights in this area.

Days 9 & 10: Mon 25 & Tue 26 November - Coba/Playa del Carmen
We continue northwards passing Tulum, and visiting another attractive Mayan ruin area surrounded by a dense forest at Coba. This area has well-maintained paths connecting different ruins including altars and temples. This is also the only site where it is possible to climb to the top of a Mayan pyramid, the highest in Yucatán, an optional activity which offers a breathtaking view of huge, green jungle in all directions. Among many others we will look for Red-crowned and Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Yellow-winged and Rose-throated Tanager, Green Jay, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Canivet's and White-bellied Emerald, Yucatán Woodpecker, Yucatán Flycatcher, Ridgway's Rough-winged Swallow, Yucatán Jay, White-browed Wren, Black Catbird and Green-backed Sparrow. After a tasty Mayan buffet lunch at the shore of Lake Coba we check for Least Grebe, Limpkin, Spotted Rail and Ruddy Crake. Later we discover another interesting place near Coba, where we pass a couple of small, traditional Mayan villages. This area is good for buntings, seedeaters, flycatchers, orioles, woodpeckers, hummingbirds and parakeets. Later in the afternoon we travel to Playa del Carmen. 

Other birds of interest include White-crowned Pigeon, Caribbean Dove, Mangrove Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Caribbean Elaenia, Yucatán Vireo, Bananaquit, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Prairie and Swainson’s Warblers.

Two nights at Playa del Carmen.

Day 11: Wed 27 November
Some final birding before we transfer to Cancún airport and our flight home, arriving on the final morning (Thurs 28 November 2024).

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

What's included in your holiday price:

  • return scheduled flight from London – Cancún - London, airport taxes, transfers from and to airports (where appropriate).
  • full-board accommodation at hotels and lodges (as detailed), picnic lunches
  • ground transportation, National Park and heritage site entry fees
  • The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included subject to terms and conditions. Read more....

Free Field Guide! - 'Birds of Mexico and Central America' by Ber van Perlo is included in your holiday price. One copy per room booked.

What's not included in your holiday price:

  • holiday insurance, optional tips to local guides/other staff, drinks, and other personal expenses.

More holiday information:

Accommodation is in comfortable hotels and lodges. All accommodation is en-suite.
Food: many regional specialities exist in Mexico. Two courses are typical. Midday meals are lighter, such as tacos, quesadillas, guacamole etc.
Walking: the whole Yucatán landscape is flat. Walking is generally light/moderate. An average level of fitness is required. There are some stairs at some of the ruins.
Weather: will be mostly hot, dry and sunny, though it is sometimes overcast, and humid after showers. Temperatures will mostly be between 18°C and 27°C. In mid-afternoon, temperatures are pleasant and ideal for birding.
Insects/snakes: Biting insects are expected, and a good insect repellent is recommended. There are snakes in some sunny dry areas away from the paths, and general caution is advised.
Group size: is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights: are by scheduled airline from London. We may be able to offer flights from another airport or quote without flights. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.
Bird Photography: Opportunities are good in most areas.
Transport: we travel throughout in a large American van or Mercedes Sprinter or equivalent.

Your leaders:  


Gabor and Andrea

Our leaders will be Gabor Orban and his wife Andrea. Gabor has guided birding tours in Mexico (and other Latin American destinations) since 2006, and Andrea is our cultural guide. Gabor & Andrea will be joined by another from the Heatherlea team with more than eight clients.

Our thanks to Shena Maskell for many of the images on this page.

Other birding and wildlife holidays in Central America & Caribbean

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday in the Americas?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

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About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248