One of the great natural wonders of Chiapas is Sumidero Canyon. The canyon was formed over tens of millions of years by the action of the Grijalva river. In places, the walls are over 1000 meters high. Tours typically start in Chiapa de Corzo, and go downriver to the Chicoasen dam. They then turn around and head back.
I arrived in Chiapa de Corzo on a small bus, having come from Tuxtla Gutierrez. The boat tours can be found by heading toward the river. Many tours are pre-packaged: you are picked up at your hotel, taken here, and immediately placed on a boat. I could have done that, but I decided to do it on my own. So when I wandered down to the boat landing, I had to wait about 45 minutes until they had enough people to fill a boat. The cost was around $200 pesos, and the tour typically lasts two to two and a half hours. It’s hot in Chiapa de Corzo, and you’re in the sun the whole time. If you choose to do this, by all means bring plenty of sunscreen, water, and you may even want to wear longer sleeves and pants to keep the sun off you. A hat is also advised, but remember you’ll be in a boat, so it must remain tight on your head.
The tours are typically in Spanish, so if you don’t speak much Spanish, you may miss out on some things. The tour guides like to look for crocodiles, which can be seen sunning themselves on the side of the river.
On our particular tour, we only saw three. They were however quite impressive! The boats angle in so that you can get a closeup look at them. I’d say we got within ten feet or so of most of them. When you get closer, they open their mouths, I suspect, as a warning to stay away!
There’s also a lot of birds around the canyon. In one spot, there were large amounts of what appeared to be some sort of vulture. These birds must congregate here often as there are quite a few other pictures out there of the same exact birds in the same exact spot.
There are also lots of other birds — herons, egrets, and the like, which can be seen throughout the boat ride. There are also large groupings of what appear to be cormorants.
The boats themselves are reasonably comfortable. Ours seemed to be fiberglass, and there is some pounding if you go over another boat’s wake. Everyone is required to wear a life preserver. It can be somewhat hard to get good photos out the front of the boat if someone tall is sitting in front of you. Someone mentioned the front seat being the best, but I didn’t get it. I was able to hold my camera over my head and take a lot of photos that way. There are literally dozens of boats sitting in Chiapa de Corzo waiting. I don’t know if they ever fill them all. During the time we were on the river, we saw perhaps a half dozen other boats. The photo to the right is one we passed as we were heading out and they were coming back.
The guide will point out some interesting rock formations along the way. The one to the left is called the Christmas Tree (Arbol de Navidad). This formation is a result of minerals deposited by a waterfall, which are then covered in moss. It’s quite interesting, and you get an up close view. I happened to be there during the dry season, and the canyon was quite dry. During the rainy season, there are more waterfalls, and the Christmas tree would probably have had water running off it, and would have been much greener.
The best parts of the tour for me were just the stunning views of the Canyon. You can hurt your neck craning up to see the tops of the cliffs they are so high. Here are some more pictures taken of the Canyon walls, birds, crocodiles, etc…