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16 species you'll see in Contoy if you are a good observer!

16 species you'll see in Contoy if you are a good observer!

Ecology of Isla Contoy


Isla Contoy, one of the Natural Protected Areas of the state of Quintana Roo, is nationally recognized as one of the crucial biodiversity preservation areas in southern Mexico.

Isla Contoy National Park has stood out as an exclusive tourist-recreational site with a limited number of visitors per day.

These actions maintain the ecosystems and their functions (regulation of the continental phase of the hydrological cycle, aquifer recharge, stabilization of the local climate), values (biological resources, fisheries, and water supply), and attributes (refuge of biological diversity, cultural heritage, and traditional uses).

Thanks to all the protection obtained from the joint work of CONANP (National Commission of Protected Areas), SEMARNAT (Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources), SECTUR (Ministry of Tourism), Ministry of the Navy, among other Mexican Government agencies and civil associations, Isla Contoy has managed to maintain high standards in the care of its fauna. The above places it as a bird sanctuary and one of the most important marine ecosystems in the Mexican Caribbean.

Fauna of Isla Contoy

When visiting Isla Contoy, the types of species you will encounter are diverse. During your trip, you can ask the park rangers to inform you about the animals on Isla Contoy and the places where you can admire them.

Here is a quick guide to the most popular animals in Contoy. Pay attention as you might find them easily.

Terrestrial species:


A total of 173 different species of birds have been recorded on the island, but it is impossible to see them all as some travel from far away and only stop at Isla Contoy to rest before flying to their final destination. However, you will likely encounter the following birds with the naked eye. 


We can almost guarantee that this will be the first bird you will see and the most striking. Pelicans are natural protagonists thanks to their large size and the fact that they are not afraid to approach boats or areas with people.

Double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)


You can see it flying close to the water, almost always in search of a delicious fish. You can distinguish it by its dark plumage and the loud squawk that you will hear in the distance.

As it flies, you can distinguish them by their double-tipped tails. You will have to look up to find them, as their short legs always keep them in high places to make their flight easy. Males have a bright red pouch on their chest (called a gular skin) to store food, which they deploy when they want to court a female.

To learn more about the birds of Isla Contoy we invite you to read our blog article.



This iguana moves freely through the park, looking for sunbathing on the rocks, especially in the dune areas. The spiny iguana is very common throughout the Yucatan Peninsula and is a locally protected species.

This type of lizard will be almost impossible to find since its colors hide it perfectly among the plants. If you manage to find one of these, admire it very well because it is a species you will only find in some parts of the Caribbean, such as Cozumel and Isla Contoy.



This butterfly is so famous in Mexico that there are several sanctuaries dedicated to its care. It is a protected species that use Isla Contoy National Park as a resting place while migrating north.

They live in muddy and mangrove areas. They sleep during the day and are more active at night. Their blue color makes them an interesting species to observe and photograph. In Contoy, they can be found on the edge of the mangrove.


Marine species:


This particular sponge is very striking because of its vibrant orange color that contrasts with the blue of the sea. It looks like a rigid, porous stone.

This type of snail from Peru, is dragged by the currents through the waters of the Caribbean until they reach Florida. Their presence helps to investigate the behavior of marine currents.

It is a marine crustacean common in the Caribbean area. It has no claws but has antennae that are larger than its body. It has been a source of human consumption since ancient times by fishermen in the area.

This specimen will be very easy to find. Just walk around the island and look down to see them moving within the museum and between the mangrove area. They move so confidently that you must be careful and watch your step.



  • Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus)


It is the largest fish in the world and is believed to have inhabited the earth for 60 million years. It lives in warm waters and moves alone (although it sometimes gathers with other specimens to feed in areas with a lot of food). When the whale shark arrives in the Caribbean area, it is possible to swim with them as they do not represent any danger to humans. Remember, you can only admire this amazing species between June and August.

  • Ballyhoo (Hemiramphus brasiliensis)


Its body is long like a small snake and has a sword-shaped beak. Its light green color helps it hide very well in the water of the Caribbean Sea, but if you pay attention, you can see it swimming on the beaches. It is used as bait in sport fishing.

  • Mayan cichlid (Mayaheros urophthalmus) 


This fish is the most abundant in the Yucatan Peninsula. You can recognize it by the dark-colored spot on its tail and the vertical stripes that run along its body. It is so common that you are sure to see it while snorkeling or on the menu of several restaurants.


In Isla Contoy, you can see 3 types of sea turtles. It will be difficult to see them with the naked eye since several are endangered and hide in deeper waters. If you pay attention, you may see them from your boat when they come up for air. 

The 3 species are:

  • White turtle (Chelonia mydas): It has a white chest, and its shell is olive green with reddish or brownish streaks. It weighs about 250 kg. It is herbivorous and feeds on seagrasses.

  • Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta): It has a big head. Its carapace is dark-colored and has yellow flippers. It is carnivorous and feeds on crabs, fish, and mollusks.

  • Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata): It is less than 1m long. It has a carapace covered with dark brown and yellow translucent overlapping plates. Its snout looks like a beak that serves to catch crustaceans and sponges.


Isla Contoy National Park is a sustainable protected area for the conservation of sea turtles and works as a reserve, refuge, reproduction, nesting, and nesting area for sea turtles.



Due to the lack of fresh water on Isla Contoy, no mammals inhabit the island. The only exception is some types of bats that occasionally roost in the area of the field station and the southern tip of the island.


If you pay attention during your trip to Isla Contoy, you will see the species listed above. Only true explorers will find them all!

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