Cañón del Sumidero, Chiapas

With the engine whirring the bow of the boat lifted up into the air as we sped down the river. In a Cuharhe river collective boat wearing matching orange life vests, we approached the entrance to the canyon with about 35 of our closest canyon friends (mostly Mexican tourists). Only a few minutes down river from the embarcadero, our guide pulled over to the right shore and pointed out several spider monkeys and a tejon in the same tree. The spider monkeys swung to and fro and yelled at us, while the tejon nimbly ran up and down various limbs. Upon passing the entrance to a federal park fee area we held up our arms to show the ranger our $25 peso wristbands that granted access to the reserve.

Our guide explained that the river has its origins in Guatemala and flows into the Gulf of Mexico. After a heavy rain, trash from the surrounding areas washes into the river. On our visit, there were two floating machines dedicated to collecting debris from the waterway.

Further downstream the entrance to the canyon rose up dramatically in front of us. Our guide explained that in many parts the walls of the canyon are 100 meters and at the highest point 300 meters high. Bromeliads, cacti, and vines clung to the canyon walls. Egrets and pelicans flew alongside the boat, keeping up with us or speeding ahead as they pleased. As we traveled further along, boys fishing along the shore held up their catch to show us and waved. It turned out that crocodiles are the toughest animal to spot in the canyon. Several times our guide claimed there was something to look at but we couldn’t see it. Eventually he pulled over near a rock and there were piles of baby crocodiles!

We saw two flowing waterfalls in the canyon, and another area that looked like it might be a waterfall at other times of the year. Our guide only stopped at the biggest one and even steered us through it. We loved the feeling of cool water splashing on from high above in the canyon.

We decided that based on the amount of time spent outdoors and the substantial collection of tips in his hat, being a river guide must be one of the better jobs in Mexico. Our guide deftly avoided hazards like the occasional rock formation jutting past the water, or a board with a few nails in it. Otherwise the river is slow and there is no boat traffic besides other tour groups.

We definitely recommend doing a boat tour of the canyon. For $175 pesos we enjoyed nearly 2 hours in the boat. After asking the staff, we were even allowed to camp there for the night and were serenaded by eerie calls of unseen birds in the darkness.

Baby crocodiles try to get some sun.

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