Many people travel south to Mexico in the winter to escape the cold weather in their part of the world. They flock to southern beach towns, like Cancun, where the average air temperature in January is a balmy 81 degrees, and the ocean is only a few degrees cooler. What’s better than white sand, warm turquoise water and palm trees swaying in the breeze in the middle of winter?
One of the top five most biodiverse countries in the world, you can see some animals in the wild in Mexico during winter that you can’t see anywhere else. It turns out that many species feel the same way as humans do about the cold months and migrate to this part of the world to wait out the winter. The chance to get an up-close look at these amazing animals is worth missing a few days beach-side.
Have you ever heard the sound of hundreds of thousands of butterfly wings fluttering in the air overhead? Every winter, as temperatures begin to drop in the U.S. and Canada, millions of monarch butterflies fly south to the oyamel forests in central Mexico. They align on every bush and tree branch. If you visit one of the monarch reserves, you can see a carpet of orange and black on the forest floor as well as monarch butterflies in the trees all around you.
Many species of whales migrate south to swim in the warm Pacific waters off of Mexico, including humpback whales, sperm whales, grey whales and orcas. The trip south takes them approximately four months to make, and when they reach their destination off the Mexican coast, they breed and give birth. Of the group, humpbacks tend to be the most friendly with tourists. You can take a boat out and witness the mamas swimming with their babies. surfacing for air and breaching majestically out of the water.
In Mexico’s Baja California Sur state, you can swim with whale sharks in the winter. They appear gray with white polka dots dotting their backs and fins, and can measure up to 65 feet in length. Don’t let the word shark scare you, however, as they have no interest in eating humans. These gentle giants are content calmly gliding through the water filtering plankton and tiny fish into their mouths. In fact, you can swim right up to a whale shark without being in any danger.
The lovely weather, pristine beaches, warm ocean water and wildlife viewing aren’t the only interesting parts of Mexico in the winter. There’s also a tremendous amount of history that can be experienced in this diverse country. It’s the perfect time, before the heat and humidity of summer, to tour the ruins of ancient pyramids, temples and cities that were built by civilizations that existed hundreds of years ago.