The National Park Isla Contoy is located 30 kilometers north of Isla Mujeres, where the Caribbean Sea joines with the Gulf of Mexico. The Ixlache reef to the south of Contoy is the beginning of the second largest barrier reef on the world, the Mesoamerican Reef.
Contoy island is a protected area since 1961 and was decreed a National Park in 1998. It is an uninhabited island and is managed by the Comision Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas, CONANP (National Commission of Natural Protected Areas) that is a member of the Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Nature, SEMARNAT (Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources).
Contoy’s length is 8.75 kilometers, it has an area of 230 hectares and marine area of 4,900 hectares. It is the most important shelter of marine birds of the Mexican Caribbean. Its lagoons and mangroves are home to 173 registered species of birds. In the winter there are more than 10,000 birds, including frigates, cormorants, brown boobies and marine swallows.
In the summer, three species of marine turtles arrive to Contoy’s beaches to layeggs: the hawksbill, green sea turtle and loggerhead. Of the 98 species of identified plants, especially mangroves cover the 70% of the island area, they have been preserved intact, and they are home for many species of birds, reptilians, crustaceous and fishes.
The surrounding waters of Contoy are very rich in nutrients, food to the plankton that is the food base of more than 234 species of identified fishes in the zone, including the majestic whale sharks and the stingrays which feed near the shores.
In the Ixlache Reef there are abundant species of corals, fishes and organisms of commercial value such as spiny lobster and queen conch.
The number of visitors to the park is limited to 200 persons per day who arrive in authorized boats departing from Cancun, Puerto Juarez or Isla Mujeres. The time of departure is at 9:00 o’clock and the arriving back at 17:00. The crossing takes approximately one or two hours depending of the boat, the departure point and the weather.
The facilities of the park in the ecotourism zone include a pier, anchorage buoy, a visitors center with a museum, an observation tower of 20 meters in height, two interpretative pathways where the local flora and fauna can be seen, a viewpoint for watching birds, two big palm shelters and eating areas for the visitors, and a field station equipped with wind generators and solar panels.
The main dish of the day is the delicious “Tikin Xik” fish (Yucatan gastronomy specialty).
The allowed activities in Contoy are ecotourism, monitoring of birds turtles and coral reef, scientific research, and two types of commercial fishing, all of them supervised and regulated by the park.
Isla Contoy National Park, together with the Area of Protection of Flora and Fauna Yum Balam, they have the joint responsibility of the conservation of the north limit of the Mesoamerican Reef, where the aggregation of whale shark occurs. The marine portion is almost 146 thousand hectares, its creation was announced by President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, the 5th of June, 2009 to protect one of the biggest concentration areas of whale sharks in Mexico and the world.
Since 1994, when the civil association Amigos de Isla Contoy was established, it works with the National Commission of the Nature Protected Areas (CONANP) in the task of promoting the conservation of Isla Contoy, supporting the management of the national park in the: Protection, conservation and ecotourism projects.
Amigos de Isla Contoy, supports the maintenance, remodeling and equipping of the field station of the national park, visitors center, museum of Isla Contoy, observation tower, palm shelters and pathways.
A visit to Parque Nacional Isla Contoy, is for all nature lovers.