Located in the northeast coast of the state of Quintana Roo, the 8 km. long and 20 to 700 meter wide Contoy Island is the eldest ecologic protected area in the Yucatan Peninsula. It was in 1961 when the government declared it as a Natural Reserve Zone and a Wildlife Refuge. By 1998, the island became by official classification a National Park. Although unpopulated by people, this ecologic reserve is administered by the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas, which depends on the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico.
Contoy Island was first visited by Mayas of the Post-classic period (889-1697 A.D.) who carried out fishing activities. Later, it served also as a referential point for Spanish expeditions and English pirates in the zone.
Marine birds are numerous here, especially during Winter and Spring. More than 50 migrating, resident, and occasional marine bird species have been registered. These birds find in Contoy Island a spot with food to nest and to rest during their journeys. Among the more abundant bird species stand out the "Fragata Magnifica", the "Cormoran doble cresta", and the Brown Pelican. Other birds include marine swallows, American flamencos, and different species of herons, like the White Heron, the Blue Small Heron, and the Maned Heron.
Besides, Contoy Island is home to more than 98 plant species and 8 flora species. The types of vegetation on the island include coastal dunes, low jungle, coconut palms, and mangrove. Whereas the west coast of the island presents palms, the east coast has dunes and other type of plants that can endure the salt of the sea and the constant hit of the waves. Fourteen reptile species, including three different species of turtles which are white, "carey", and "caguama" live or arrive regularly to Contoy Island. Other reptiles that can be seen here are iguanas, snakes, and different types of lizards. Moreover, seven salt water lagoons add more diversity to the ecosystems that coexist here.
Regarding the underwater world, 234 fish species have been identified. Sport or recreational fishing is not allowed. However, since this is one of the most productive fishing areas of the Mexican Caribbean, responsible fishing programs have been developed. Besides, the island features part of the Mesoamerican Reef System, that is the second largest in the world and goes from Contoy Island to Honduras. In this section of the reef, more than 106 invertebrate animals, 14 sponge, and 11 mollusk species have been classified.
With this astonish biodiversity, Contoy Island is a paradise for nature lovers. Visitors to Contoy Island will find in this wildlife sanctuary the opportunity to commune with protected natural settings. Diving, snorkeling, birdwatching and boat tours can be arranged to spent a wonderful day here. A beautiful, peaceful beach is ideal to swim and to snorkel. Divers can get tours from certified divers. Guides can take visitors along interesting paths to see the diversity of life and landscapes. It is important to state that the eastern coast of Contoy Island is not for swimming. Tourists can go towards this section through secure paths, but its sharp, rocky terrain advise to be extremely careful. There is a museum in the island that exhibits representative samples of the flora and fauna of Contoy and that synthesizes the history of the island. And a tall observation tower that was inaugurated in 1982 is great to get different angles of vision both of the island and the surroundings.
Visitors should not forget to take a number of articles with them such as degradable sun protector, cap or hat, insect repellent, and swimming suit. Unless the tour to Contoy Island has been arranged with lunch included, tourists should take some food and water too. It is common sense to keep the place clean or even let it cleaner than it was when arriving.