Wildlife pics: Why spending $10 instead of $5 is smart

Heaps of tourists from around the world LOVE to take local wildlife pictures. Hey, even us Mexicans are ready to hang from a tree to get the perfect selfie with a cute  baby monkey. Now, REAL LocoLocals know that paying for pictures with drugged-up jaguars, monkeys or any kind of reptile that’s chained up is just NOT COOL!

So, not wanting to miss out on the amazing late summer sights, we visited ” Jardín Botánico Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín”,  locally known as Puerto Morelos Botanical Garden.

We had an amazing time, and found our top 5 reasons for you to visit too!

1)    It’s more than a garden

NORMA Oficial Mexicana NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010, Protección ambiental-Especies nativas de México de flora y fauna.
NORMA Oficial Mexicana NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010, Protección ambiental-Especies nativas de México de flora y fauna.

This natural gem does not only provides conservation, educational & maintenance work; they also facilitate scientific study and protect a number of endangered plants on site. You can see them marked with the  NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010 code, the  Mexican Official Norm for Environment protection for native species of flora and fauna.

Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín Botanical Garden  is  a forest sanctuary; walking it you get to experience what the jungle and mangroves are truly like.



2)    Animals galore!

Traveler photo by monkeysaurusrex “Baby Monkey” (August 2013)
Traveler photo by monkeysaurusrex “Baby Monkey” (August 2013)

I will be honest, if you think bullfights and animal circuses are cool, we ain’t gonna be friends. However, if you are interested in wildlife, -well, hello new BFF wink* wink*- This healthy ecosystem is home to badgers, coatis, spider monkeys, ocelots, agoutis, wild boar, deer, iguanas and lizards. And the list goes on. Try visiting early mornings and later in the afternoons for this guys (just like us) steer away from the midday sun.

This very cute spider monkey is endemic to the Yucatan Peninsula.



3)  Yucatan Melipona ‘She da bee’s knees’

Melipona "bouncer" bee at the botanical garden
Melipona “bouncer” bee at the botanical garden

I might be biased here (because glucose in honey does that to people) but who wouldn’t love beautiful, fluffy, well-mannered, sting-less bees? That’s the Yucatan Melipona bee.

Sweet fact! To protect the entrance to their beehive Meliponas have a bouncer bee. She sets shop by the door allowing only family bees to come in and prepared to kick any intruders out. Don Justino Kinil, the medicinal plant whizzz and beekeeper on site, explains that during an invasion the bouncer fights the intruder often to the death giving her sister bees enough time to block the entrance with wax from the inside.

Now that is taking one for the team!


4)    You can spend all day here!

Mayan Ceremonial Center "The Altar" built in the Post classic period 1400A.C.
Mayan Ceremonial Center “The Altar” built in the Post classic period 1400A.C.

Some activities include:

  • Discover traditions of the Mayan people at their “Chiclero” camp and Mayan model house on display.
  • Take a guided tour and learn about the names and uses of countless plants
  • Get a good work out bush walking around the park
  • Go wildlife spotting! (We saw plenty of people with binoculars taking their sweet time and bird watching).
  • Take great photographs of the flora and fauna
  • Visit the 600-year-old Ceremonial Mayan ruins
  • Enjoy the quiet space with a book, meditation or just in awe of Mother Nature

5)     You get to meet awesome people

Biologist, Alejandra Flores Lepe
Biologist, Alejandra Flores Lepe

Did you know? Some botanical gardens have a team of 100 even 200 workers strong, with several curators, biologists and gardeners on rotation. Puerto Morelos Botanical Gardens tends to its 65 hectares with a permanent work force no larger than 12 people! This is possible because very single individual has a personal commitment to nature and to environment education. From Don Benancio, the security guard, to Alejandra Flores -my very cool guide for the day- I only met heroes in disguise.



(Yes, we said ‘5 reasons’ but there is one that we could turn into a whole new post-it is THAT important)

6)     Your money matters


If you are new to the area, you should beware; there are other places where you can see wild animals up close. Heck! You can take a selfie with them for $5 dollars , beyond PoMo (like in Playa del Carmen).

Let me tell you why you should not endorse this practice, not even with $1 :

  • Because someone profits with the forced labor imposed on an animal that should be free.
  • Because it makes a joke of the alarming fact that many of these species are endangered
  • Because it continues to feed the demand for poachers
  • Because it normalizes the idea that what matters is what us humans want even if it is at the expense of an animals life
  • In short, because it dehumanizes us

Locolocals! Visit Puerto Morelos Botanical Garden instead.

You will have a  meaningful experience and your visit will contribute to the betterment & protection of the environment.

 What you need to know:
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, from 8:00AM until 4:00PM
Location: Carretera Chetumal Cancún Km. 320, Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, México
Entry Cost (per person)
  • $120 MXN International visitors
  • $100 MXN Nationals
  • $50 MXN Nationals with special discount (students, teachers, children under 10 years old, elders with INAPAN and INSEN card &  QROO residents)
Guided Tour (per group)
  • $200 MXN groups can be up to 20 people.
Bring water and closed shoes for comfort. There are mosquitoes, so thin long sleeves and long pants are a good idea.

Finally, and I can’t stress this enough! take the guided tour! It is so much fun and the guides are so friendly and if you go with your friends its very economical.

Panoramic view from tree top
Panoramic view from tree top

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