Isla Holbox

Holbox (hol-bosh), the streched island on the north-eastern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, is part of the Yum Balám Nature Reserve and only separated from the mainland by the Yalahua Lagoon.

The mostly calm, jade-green water of the Gulf of Mexico also owes its colour to a special type of algae. Despite its considerable length, Holbox is only three kilometres wide at its widest point, making the island pedestrian-friendly. Moreover, only a small part of the island is inhabited.

Since cars are not tolerated, with the exception of some supply vehicles, golf carts are increasingly being used as a means of transport instead of the previous freight bicycles.

Many of the nearly 1600 inhabitants of the island town – also called Holbox – still live from fishing, even though tourism has long since become an important source of income. The catch, which is unloaded from the boats in the afternoon, includes snapper, bonito and grouper as well as lobsters and octopus, depending on the season. The quality of the fish and seafood served in the restaurants is accordingly fresh. A speciality is the local ceviche, a cocktail of marinated shrimps, fish or crustaceans with lime juice, tomatoes, coriander and garlic.

Holbox also owes an exceptionally rich bird life to the abundance of fish and plankton in its waters and mangroves. Hordes of pelicans and gulls besiege the fishermen while gutting the fish in order to get to grips with the waste. But also cormorants or even frigate birds show themselves surprisingly little shy and can hardly be disturbed by observers. Among the migratory birds that only come to Holbox at certain times of the year, flamingos are the main attraction. Thousands of them populate the lagoon from late spring until the beginning of autumn. But also during the rest of the year a boat tour in the Yalahau Lagoon is worthwhile. On their land side one finds a fresh water spring in the midst of the mangroves, which is a just as popular as unusual bathing place. This tour is usually combined with a visit to the bird island “Isla de Pájaros”, which is designated as a bird sanctuary.

Holbox might be called the Mexico’s Pitcairn Islands in reference to the historical fact that pirates once mixed with the local Maya and formed a local population of eight families whose descendants still live on the island today.
While until a few years ago Holbox was an insider tip reserved mainly for European backpackers, today clearly perceptible North American influences dominate, which can be seen above all in the exploding real estate prices.

Apart from boat and kayak tours, swimming, (sun) bathing and beach walks, the range of activities is limited to Holbox. The town, which comprises only 12 blocks of houses, has no attractions to offer and there is no nightlife worth mentioning (to the delight of visitors seeking peace and quiet).

Keyword: Whale Shark
Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world and feed on the smallest animals of the tropical seas: through their flattened, terminal mouths they suck in plankton, krill and at best small creatures with the sea water in order to squeeze the latter out again through their gills. The behaviour of whale sharks is determined by their way of foraging. Despite their size, these harmless animals usually swim relatively slowly on the sea surface. The grey, bluish or brownish basic colouring of the fish is interrupted by vertical, light stripes and white spots spread over the whole body. That is why they are also called “Dominó” in Mexico. The “Proyecto Dominó” of CONANP (Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas) is one of the most comprehensive research projects on whale sharks.
Every summer, nutrient-rich water rises from the depths of the Caribbean and flows west along Yucatán Road across the flat continental plate off Holbox. This surplus of nutrients leads to a strong growth of plankton, which in turn attracts hundreds of whale sharks. This is considered the highest concentration of this kind anywhere in the world. Also in the waters off Holbox – in contrast to other feeding places – whale sharks of both sexes and all ages are sighted.
Class: Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fish)
Order: Selachii (Sharks)
Family: Rhincodontidae (whale sharks)
Genus: Rhincodon (Whale Shark)
Type: Rhincodon type
Size and weight:
The largest surveyed animal had a length of 12.1 m, but there are credible sightings of larger animals of up to 18 m in length. Weight: probably 20.000 kg on average. The heaviest weighed animal weighed 36,000 kg. Reproduction: There seems to be no fixed mating season, young fish were discovered in different regions at all seasons. Whale sharks are viviparous, hatching up to 300 young animals from the egg capsules in the womb. Her birth size is between 40 and 60 cm.