Hiking on the Nares Mountain Trail near Carcross, Yukon in August 2018.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Galetta (Ottawa), Ontario.

Where are they going next? We have flights booked to London, England in October.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Not the best visit to the monarch butterflies

But, it's still a fascinating experience.

This was our sixth visit to see the monarch butterfly wintering grounds in the mountains west of Mexico City. And our second visit to the El Rosario sanctuary. Depending on which article you read, there are anywhere between 8 and 16 known locations, but only 4 of them are open to the public. We have now been to Sierra Chincua twice, Piedra Herrada twice, and El Rosario twice. We have not yet visited Cerro Pelón, however that may change over the next week!

The El Rosario sanctuary is the one most visited by tourists. And the months of January and February are the most popular times to visit. And, yesterday was Saturday so being a weekend, we were aware that it would be fairly busy with tourists.

And it was.

Arrived at 11:30am.

The ideal conditions for visiting the butterflies is with sunny skies and between the hours of noon and 2:00pm. However, those conditions rarely occur. Normally, by the time noon rolls around, the clouds have moved into the mountains. 

The butterflies hang in clumps in the oyamel fir trees. They congregate so closely together that from a distance it's hard to figure that they are butterflies. Scientists think they do this to stay warm. And it is only when the sun comes out to warm things up that the butterflies start to fly.

The day had started off sunny, so we had high hopes. But by the time we arrived at the parking area, the clouds had moved in.

The tourist stalls.

Entrance cost at El Rosario is 50 pesos ($3.50 CAD, $2.70 USD) for adults.

Looking back at the upper parking lot.

El Rosario is the most popular because it is the easiest. You can drive up to 9,700' altitude to the parking area, then it is about a 10 minute walk mostly uphill through the gauntlet of tourist stalls. Then you can take a 20 minute horseback ride (100 pesos each way) followed by a 15 minute hike or do the full 45 minute hike which is mostly on concrete stairs. The location of the butterflies is around 10,500' altitude.

The viewing area.

The area where the butterflies congregate is very small. In fact, it's totally amazing that you are hiking up the trail, and not seeing any butterflies. Then, only 500 meters on there are literally millions of them hanging in clumps on about 20 trees. There are so many butterflies vying for space that they literally cover the tree trunks on those trees.

(Click on the photos for them to become full screen).


Hanging like bunches of grapes.



I took a couple of videos for you so you could get a better perspective...











Tree trunk covered in butterflies.


If you are lucky and the sun comes out during your visit, it doesn't take long for things to warm up... and when things warm up the butterflies take to the sky. A few of us hung around at the viewing area waiting for that to happen. All it takes is five minutes of sun for things to change. If you were to get a half an hour of sun, the skies would fill with butterflies. We didn't get that lucky, but we did get a few minutes where it was enough to make a difference.






Out of our 6 different visits, this one ranked probably second from the bottom. We have only been lucky enough to have near perfect conditions once out of those 6 different visits. Also taking away from the magic was the number of people, but we knew that going into it. Still, don't get me wrong... even when conditions are not ideal it is still a very interesting thing to see.

We hope to go to the least visited sanctuary at Cerro Pelón on Tuesday or Wednesday depending on the weather. It is the least visited because it is difficult to get to including a steep hour and a half hike to the top. From what I have read, we may be the only ones there if we go mid-week.

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19 comments:

  1. Beautiful - and I hope conditions work out for the 2nd butterfly colony visit

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    Replies
    1. We hope so too! It is still an amazing sight to see one way or the other. :-)

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  2. Even without it being far from perfect conditions, still so amazing!!

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    1. You are totally right, it is definitely an amazing sight to see. :-)

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  3. Replies
    1. Good to hear! You won't be disappointed, we can assure you of that. :-)

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  4. It is amazing to see the pictures. I'm sure it even better to be there to witness.

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    1. You have that right, the pictures don't really catch the size of the colony. One thing that the camera does do well, is it brings the butterflies up much closer because without zooming in on them or using binoculars you don't see as much detail.

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  5. Wow, big crowd. They should start charging more be able to maintain and preserve it.

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    1. Yes, it was a big crowd but it was funny we never felt crowded at any time. We tend to agree with you, at least at this particular site. Having said that, they have lots of people there to make sure people aren't touching the butterflies or getting too close to them and also making sure people remain quiet when they are in the viewing area so they are making sure that the butterflies aren't impacted by the crowds.

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  6. I’m sure the first timers were enthralled by what they saw and hopefully will be even more so when you visit Cerro Pelón....looking forward to that post. Btw, what was the name of the sanctuary you took us to last year? I forget!

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    1. Yes they certainly were! We are really looking forward to going to Cerro Pelón, somehow I think this will be our favourite site and hopefully the weather will cooperate for us.

      The butterfly sanctuary that we took you to last year was called Santuario Piedra Herrada.

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  7. Definitely too many people, but still amazing to me. I hope the next spot is quieter and even more perfect. Sounds like it could be. Crossing fingers for you!

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    1. We totally agree!

      Our fingers are crossed as well for perfect conditions at Cerro Pelón, I think we are really going to love this sanctuary. :-)

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  8. pics are amazing...glad to see everyone having such a great time..Barry and Jeannie

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    1. Thank you Jeannie and Barry! We are also happy that everyone is having a great time. :-)

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  9. I don't know if you guys had heard about this since yall are down in Guerrero. Sad news from El Rosario - the two victims were longtime advocates for the butterfly reserve - and they must have gone missing right before you visited:

    Story from Texas Public Radio:
    https://www.tpr.org/post/sadness-and-worry-after-2-men-connected-butterfly-sanctuary-are-found-dead

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    Replies
    1. Oh yes, we have definitely heard about this and it is very sad and unfortunate. I believe one went missing around the time we were there or just shortly after and the other one was definitely after we were there. :-(

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