After visiting the small Mayan ruin in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, we did not go straight back onto the boat that brought us there. Instead, we took off our lifejackets and put them back on like a diaper – putting our legs through the holes made for arms. With a awkward hop into the clear green river, we were floating through the mangrove. The boatman drove off in the opposite direction and would meet us again at the end of our drift.
Wearing the lifejackets like diapers allowed us to stay seated as we floated through the mangroves. This way we could see tiny fish swimming in the river and the mangroves growing on both sides of the water.
Besides providing shelter for the fish swimming in Sian Ka’an, the mangroves are hosts for a variety of epiphyte, also known as air plants. The most common ones are orchids and epiphytic bromeliads. In New York, the orchids are usually no longer than 2 feet tall, and air plants, like Tillandsia, are usually less than 6 inches wide. Here orchids grow more than a meter tall, and the Tillandsia are humongous. This is clearly the right environment for them.
We floated for about half an hour until we saw the boat again. I wish we can drift longer. But the water eventually runs into the sea. We retrieved our picnic basket from the boat and had lunch on a boardwalk. The boardwalk was burning hot, since there was no shade nearby. After lunch, it was time to head back. The distance that took 30 minutes to drift through was covered by the boat in 5 minutes driven at a slow speed.