Aldea Zama: Birds Around our Tulum Condo
We spent the middle of our Yucatan trip in and around Tulum. It’s a former hidden eco-chic getaway that now suffers from its own success. Posh (i.e. WAY-overpriced) hotels and chic-ly named condominiums dominate. The visitors are a bunch of broke ravers and DJ aficionados alongside hedge fund bros in white linen and yoga ladies on bikes. Tulum itself is not a birding hotspot. Still, there’s beauty and adventure to be had. There are several sets of ruins within a short drive (Coba and Muyil). Tulum has beachfront ruins. The amazing-looking Sian Ka’an Preserve is near. The highlight of the area for us was, by far, the cenotes – limestone sinkholes filled with crystal clear water. Some are great for snorkeling. Others offer scuba diving. Tankatch Ha, near Coba, is a cave almost 100 feet down from the surface, and has a platform for jumping in (highly recommended). The cenotes are unique, dazzling, and magical. Don’t miss them. And the beach is nice if that’s your jam.
We stayed in a rental in an area known as Aldea Zama. It’s a big flat area of jungle between town and the beach that has turned into a theme park of condominium complexes. Don’t get me wrong – we loved having air conditioning, a kitchen and a couch, and a nice swimming pool outside our door for our five night stay. When a couple family members felt sick for a couple of days, the condo was a trip saver. And all the buildings and construction sites provided a lot of jungle edge that gave me a chance to find some birds. On various morning and afternoon walks, I picked up eight lifers: the ubiquitous Yucatan Jay, Yucatan Woodpecker, Yucatan Vireo, Scrub Euphonia, Black-cowled Oriole, White-fronted Parrot, Yellow-lored Parrot, and Olive-throated Parakeet. I never found any big or mixed flocks, though.
Social Flycatchers and Masked Tityra were regulars on snags, while Roadside Hawk preferred mid-level cover.
One day, the boys and I headed to the beachfront ruins in Tulum. It’s a popular tourist destination, so unlike the bigger and better ruins at Coba, or the awesome birdiness of empty Muyil, there is a line to stand in. Happily, a family of pretty tame coati provided free entertainment. It was super windy (not unusual during January from what I’m told). The iguanas didn’t seem to mind, but it kept the bird activity down. Don’t expect a big list here.