The reefs of Xcalak are part of a much wider, inter-connected eco-system that includes lagoons, bays, rivers, estuaries, and the largest wetlands in Mexico.
Chetumal bay, behind Xcalak, is a protected marine sanctuary and home to one of the largest populations of manatees living in the wild. Often, due to reasons not yet fully determined, these manatees go out to the ocean and swim amongst the reef. These encounters with wild manatees on pristine reefs and crystal-clear waters are truly spectacular.
An herbivorous, aquatic mammal, the manatee prefers warm, shallow coastal waters. Despite their bulk, they are quite delicate and cannot tolerate cold temperatures—since, unlike whales or seals, they have no underlayer of blubber to keep them warm.
Although generally slow-moving and shy, the manatee is surprisingly agile and can swim 15 to 20 mph in short bursts. Manatees are currently listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN and protected by law. Their reduced numbers are of great concern to conservationists.