This journey takes you deep inside the Mexican states of Yucatan and Campeche, to explore the best of what these areas have to offer. We include a few must-see locations such as Chichen Itza; but delve well beyond, for wildlife, scenery, cenotes and lesser known Mayan and pre-Mayan sites.
Our most distant point is huge Mayan complex of Calakmul, which lies deep within the forests of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, on the border between Mexico and Guatemala. Our final approach to the temple site takes us 50km through wildlife rich forest. Don't be surprised if a Toucan, Tayra or family of Coatimundis pass across the road in front of you.
Calakmul is that bit too far from popular tourist centres for most visitors make it to. For such a jaw-dropping site it will surprise you how few other visitors you encounter. We can walk up many of the temples here and on some you will be the only ones, with views over seemingly endless forest in all directions. Mayan temples emerge above the canopy all around, whilst a constant hum of insects and birds is broken at times by the reverberating roar of Howler Monkeys. The tops of these pyramids are like canopy towers, providing distant views and vantage points to peer into tropical treetops where avian activity is greatest.
You will enjoy similarly spectacular views over other forest areas on this journey. One of these is a Mayan Community Jaguar Reserve, where you will stay one night at a tented camp, established for some of the country's leading wildlife researchers. We will walk along research transects and stake out lakeside areas in search of birdlife and wildlife. Jaguars are without a doubt present here, as you will see from tracks your guide will find for you; but most likely that these big cats will evade sight of us.
At forest lake in the Otoch Ma'ax Yetel Kooh Reserve, we will head out in an open canoe as dawn mist rises from the water. The forest interior here has the remains of ancient Mayan activity, but is now taken over by large troops of Spider monkeys: Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis to be precise - a subspecies found only in the Yucatan. Like Howler Monkeys, Spider Monkeys have prehensile tails which, like a fifth limb, are able to grip branches.
Caves are widespread throughout the Yucatan, since much of the land is limestone - formerly coral reef, forced above sea level when the Chicxulub Meteor struck the Earth 66 million years ago. This was the event which wiped out the dinosaurs. Where the limestone is undermined by underground water and weighed down by trees, great sections collapse to make cenotes. These holes expose a world of underground rivers and caves below. We will swim and snorkel in some of the most beautiful of these, enjoying crystal clear waters and views into the world's largest system of caves.
We will often see bats roosting in the cenotes; but there are two cave systems we visit which provide us with a couple of the world's most exciting bat spectacles. The first location requires us to walk into a cave, just as thousands of bats are leaving into the early night sky. We will don helmets, head torches and overalls to edge ourselves into narrow tunnels where snakes have adapted to catch bats as they fly in and out of the cave. Snakes literally hang from the cave ceiling, lunging at bats as they fly past.
The other bat highlight we will take you to is place where we can stand with touching distance of a twister of thousands of these mammals. We will walk to a point about 30m above a cave exit, where at sunset, everything looks quiet - no bats in sight. As the light dims, a few bats start to emerge, flying in a tight circle in front of us. More bats join them - a few at first, but then hundreds and eventually thousands, maintaining the tight circle, filling the space vertically from the cave entrance 30m below us, to the top of a forest covered rockface about 50m above. The sound of wings flapping and echo soundings becomes intense, but then begins to fade as bats to spread out into the night sky, separating to go and feed.
Birdlife is another special feature of this journey. At a place called Rio Lagartos (Alligator River) in the Gulf of Mexico, we find the densest concentrations of Flamingos in the country. We also find some beautifully coloured lagoons and mangrove-lined estuaries with white ibis, snowy egrets, red egrets, tiger herons and crocodiles.
At the Coba ruins and just outside Xian Ka'an Man & Biosphere Reserve, we go in search of classical tropical birds such as hummingbirds, toucans, aracaris and giant tropical woodpeckers. We can also find great birdlife around our base close to Calakmul, where we use a water tower and nearby Mayan temples to take vantage above the canopy, to see parrots, parakeets and colourful tanagers.