While our Monarchs of Mexico tours always start with great anticipation, 2019 was going to be particularly memorable. After all, it was to begin just following the encouraging press release by World Wildlife Fund in January that the northeastern overwintering population of Monarchs had increased by 144%! This year, the roosting colonies covered an impressive 6.05 hectares of forest, which is the largest colony since the winter of 2006/2007. The sheer number of butterflies, combined with warm temperatures, resulted in equally spectacular yet unique experiences at all four butterfly sanctuaries we visited. Quest travellers were treated to leisurely mountain ascents up to 2,800 metres to the roosting colonies on horseback, while they took in views of towering conifer trees and the wildflower understory. El Rosario Sanctuary supported almost half of the total wintering population, and we were treated to views of entire trees so heavily covered with butterflies that the branches drooped under their weight!
At the Cerro Pelón Sanctuary, the butterflies were departing their roosts and travelling downslope in search of water, resulting in a river of butterflies streaming down the mountain all around us. We practically had the sanctuary to ourselves! Our ascent up to Sierra Chincua provided stunning views of the mountains and agricultural landscapes that occur at lower elevations around the butterfly sanctuaries. Here we not only spent time with the butterflies, but also local school children who were visiting on an art field trip to draw the colonies.
In addition to seeing millions of butterflies, we enjoyed bird walks with our expert local birder Manuel and we observed a variety of migrants as well as striking endemics including the Rufous-backed Robin, Red Warbler, and Banded Quail.
One of the tour highlights was also a tour of the historical Mexican town of Angangueo with Estela Romero Vazquez. Estela is a local resident and correspondent for Journey North, who first started visiting the sanctuaries with famed Monarch researcher Lincoln Brower when she was 10 years old. Her family also hosted him while he conducted research. We had the opportunity to visit beautiful cathedrals, the central square and market, and hear about the town’s mining history. Our tour ended with a visit to an impressive mural in the centre of town which visually describes the history of the town.
On our last day we had the opportunity to visit the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City and learn about the diverse and fascinating cultural history of the country. The impressively large museum, which covers almost 8 hectares, has exhibits on all of Mexico’s significant civilizations as well as modern-day rural life.
Throughout the tour we were treated to delicious Mexican cuisine and lodging with beautiful grounds and authentic Mexican charm. As always, our Mexican hosts were incredibly gracious and pleasant throughout our travels. Mexicans are very proud of their heritage and their country, and as we experienced and came to appreciate on this tour firsthand, their spectacular Monarch butterfly colonies!
We’re already taking bookings on our 2020 Monarchs of Mexico tour. Won’t you join me?