Apr 14, 2017

Las Coloradas Pinks to Bacalar Blues

No man ever steps in the same river twice,
for it’s not the same river
and he’s not the same man.


From light azure of shallow limestone bottom to deep cobalt of underwater cenote. 
You swear you are in the ocean, not a freshwater lake.
Many, in conversation, told us we must see the Lake of Seven Colors in Bacalar, Mexico, near the border of Belize.  After enjoying the bright pink lakes of Las Coloradas we figured we had to see more unbelievable colors before leaving this part of Mexico.  It meant many hours out of our way but it was well worth the detour.

From the air - (www.casaesmeraldabacalar.com).
Bacalar is the second largest freshwater lake in Mexico (number one is the more well-known Lake Chapala near Guadalajara). Unlike the now brown and dying Chapala, the Lake of Seven Colors still sports a white limestone bottom helping reflect the hues of the sky and keeping the lake full of sparkles. There is a good reason they call it ‘The Lake of Seven Colors’, it could not be bluer, especially for a freshwater lake. But how long before its fate also changes for the worse?  We are told time is already ticking…  Lucky to see it before it is too late…  Another place becoming victim of its own beauty/success.

People come afar to be here – Bus from Argentina
The water is very welcoming and refreshing for a swim at any time of the year with mild temperatures throughout.  We are considering it as a possible spot for Mike to train for his next triathlon.  The more we travel, the more we realize how difficult it is to find the perfect place for a swim, run, bike combination training. To find a good location for all three is a rare gem.  We didn’t realize just how good Mike had it in Campeche.

Stromatolites - earliest form of life on earth.
One of the unique members of Lake Bacalar are the living giant stromatolites.  They represent the earliest life form discovered on Earth. One is probably the largest in the world at over 10-km long and taller than 3 meters.  Their formation supports many hectares of mangroves and other vegetative growth in the southern end of the lake.  Bacalar lake’s biogeochemistry has allowed these life forms to flourish in both number and exceptional size.  Forming in shallow water, stromatolites are made of sedimentary grains that are trapped and bound by microorganisms. Although they look like ‘insignificant’ rocks, stromatolites provide records of life on earth from ancient time until the present.

A physical feature is the submarine/sublacustrine cenotes (sinkholes beneath the lake’s surface) that are thought to be the most extensive of any in the world. Cenotes are located both within the lake and on its adjacent shores.  Cenotes are of two types, those on land and those that are sublacustrine (submarine). While the land cenotes are more abundant than the sublacustrine cenotes, the latter are of particular interest because they are the direct conduits of freshwater exchange between land and Lake Bacalar.

Lots of kayaking, small boat sailing, and windsurfing. 
Usual to have afternoon breezes.
Ecologically, Laguna Bacalar is a leading indicator of the ecological health of the region and is home to numerous marine species that have adapted to freshwater.  With quick, mostly unplanned expansion for tourism, the lake is on the verge of too much pollution threatening its ecology forever.  Nearly non-existent sewage infrastructure doesn’t help the matter much either.

The old fort’s entrance with a peek at the water.
One very important aspect is the potential overpopulation of black striped mussel in that they pose a great threat to the living stromatolites. Should Laguna Bacalar reach high nutrient levels, the mussels will overgrow and kill the stromatolites. Most of the stromatolites already have mussels on them; however, the stromatolite growth is faster than the mussel population growth. The mussels are in fact buried alive by rapid stromatolite growth but this could quickly be turned around.

At dusk, resting by the beach.
This area is rated at the highest conservation priority of the entire Caribbean ring.  The town has begun working with UNESCO to make it a World Heritage Site, hoping to give it more ‘teeth’ to protect this fragile environment before it is too late.  It would be very sad to see this beautiful area become another filthy overcrowded derelict Cancun or Playa del Carmen. 

Locals seem conscious of the problem and are spreading the awareness and looking for better answers.  We hope they, unlike many other popular places, make a difference in saving this no longer pristine but still beautiful place.  Good luck.

Meandering blues of various shapes.

Source:  The Laguna Bacalar Institute

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