We are very excited to announce the opening of the new frontier flats fishing destination, Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge (ESB), in the Mexican province of Quintana Roo. The newly-constructed ESB Lodge is located on a beautiful Caribbean beach in the southernmost part of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, just south of the sleepy lobster fishing village of Punta Herrero and within the massive 1.3 million acre Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, established in 1986. This is a remote wilderness flat fishing destination, 250 road miles (125 miles as the crow flies) from the mega resort complex of Cancun, and 40 boat miles south of the popular fishing destination of Ascension Bay.
Artist rendition of future lodge by Eric Ersch
ESB Lodge opens its inaugural season on April 2, 2017, and will finally allow saltwater anglers quick and easy access to the last frontier of Caribbean flats fishing – Espiritu Santo Bay. This fishery can provide fantastic action for all four of the Caribbean's famous flats species – permit, tarpon, bonefish, and snook. This is "Grand Slam" country!
La Bahia del Espiritu Santo (ESB) is the true gem of the Mexican Riviera, and perhaps the last remaining wilderness fly fishing outpost in the Mexican Yucatan. It has always been the "second sister" to its larger, more accessible sibling to the north, Ascension Bay. But that's all about to change and for the dedicated saltwater flats fly fisherman, ESB provides the best angling opportunities in the entire Yucatan.
ESB was first discovered in 1518 by Juan de Grijalba, just a few days after the discovery of Ascension Bay. Grijalba was the nephew of the famous conquistador Diego Velazquez. He followed Velazquez in the conquest of Cuba in 1511, and in 1518 Velazquez sent Grijalba to be the first to explore the Yucatan Peninsula. Grijalba set sail from Cuba with four ships and about 200 men, exploring the peninsula and mapping the bays, rivers, and estuaries that today are renowned sanctuaries for permit, tarpon, snook and bonefish. He discovered Espiritu Santo Bay on Pentecost Day (May 24, 1518), hence the name Espiritu Santo Bay, "Bay of the Holy Spirit".
While the focus will be on the remarkable fishing in ESB, the most productive of the regional cenote lakes, Mosquitero, is also very close to the site of the new lodge. A mere 30-minute drive accesses this tremendous juvenile tarpon and snook fishery, yet another amazing and untouched daily option for our angling guests.
Before the Spanish brought colonization and "civilization" to these eastern shores of Mexico, ESB was already considered more remote and isolated than Ascension Bay, and seen as a wilderness outpost. During Mayan times, Ascension Bay was critical in providing food for the city of Tulum. The bay and the Boca Paila lagoon were heavily fished by the local Mayan communities, many of which remain today and incorporate important towns like Punta Allen, Muyil, and Vigia Chico. There were no towns or significant populations at ESB, however, and its fishery remained intact and un-impacted by harvest.
From a topographical and geographical standpoint, both bays are very similar. Both are shallow and create navigability challenges for vessels of any size. This is perfect habitat for the shallow saltwater flats that bonefish, permit, and tarpon prefer, while prohibiting commercial navigation.
The primary differences between ESB and Ascension Bay are size and accessibility. ESB is approximately half the size of her more famous sister, but Ascension Bay has more than six thousand people living in the towns around her shores. There are nine official lodges plus several back country, "unofficial" guides that fish the bay, and as of 2015, one hundred and eighty boats with permits for fishing, snorkeling, bird watching, or tours of the bay. This creates a vibrant tourism-based economy centered around these communities, and a constant impact of pressure on the bay.
Espiritu Santo Bay (ESB), however, remains perfectly positioned in a remote wilderness, an area devoid of tourism and the impacts of population and people. There is a small community of about 95 lobster fishermen and their families that live in Punta Herrero, the only human settlement on the entire bay. Only seven boats have legal access to fish in the bay. This combination of remoteness, lack of human population, and limited access is what makes ESB unique, and one of the most pristine resources left in the region to target fish untouched by human influences.
There are simply very few places left in the world with the same sort of unspoiled natural resources as can be found in ESB. Robust and healthy populations of bonefish, permit, tarpon, and snook abound in its flats, creeks, and lagoons. And nobody has better access to or more intimate knowledge of the bay than the guides at Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge, who have spent years guiding there with the former Paradise Lodge.
Over the course of the past three seasons these guides have been on ESB nearly every day of the season, logging literally thousands of hours learning every nook and cranny of this remarkable, remote fishery. The lightweight, super shallow-draft Hells Bay skiffs can enter many flats no one else can access with the heavier, larger pangas more common in the region. Between August 2014 and August 2015, these guides are proud to have logged in 201 days on the bay. In that duration, they averaged 1.5 permit per day, registered 12 grand slams, and countless bonefish, tarpon, snook, and barracuda brought to the boat.
For permit fishermen, especially, there may be nowhere else on the planet that can compare to ESB. The populations of fish are amazing; especially in the prime permit fishing months when water temperatures are ideal and schools of fish abound on the flats of ESB.
Please don't hesitate to call (800-669-3474) if you have questions or if you'd like to make reservations at this remarkable fishery.
2017 Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge Sample Travel Itinerary
IMPORTANT NOTE: A U.S. Passport valid for at least six months beyond your travel dates is required for entry into the country of Mexico. Remember, passports are now required for all land and border crossings into and out of the United States. For information on obtaining or renewing a passport, please refer to the U.S. State Department's webpage for Passport Information at www.travel.state.gov.
Booking Airfare to Cancun, Mexico (Airport Code: CUN):
Now is also the time to secure your commercial airline reservations to/from Cancun, Mexico. You will need to make these arrangements on your own, though of course feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns about your specific itinerary before you make any purchases.
Cancun is serviced daily by nearly every airline with multiple flights daily to and from the U.S.A. Major airlines to consider include United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, Aero Mexico, Virgin America, and Alaska Airlines.
Arrival to Cancun (Saturday):
On the day prior to your scheduled arrival date in the lodge, you should plan on traveling to Cancun (CUN) and overnighting at one of the many fine hotels in the area.
We strongly suggest you overnight at the Courtyard Marriott Cancun for the night before you are scheduled to arrive at the lodge. The hotel is very close to the Cancun International Airport, provides free shuttles at half-hour intervals, has a great pool, bar, restaurant, and the rooms are modern and spacious. ESB Lodge and The Fly Shop will be arranging for a special rate for our guests staying at the Courtyard Marriott Cancun.
Courtyard Marriott Cancun:
Bi-hourly complimentary shuttle service, airport-hotel-airport, picking up at stall #26 right outside the terminal. The Courtyard Marriott Cancun is very nice and comfortable and the closest hotel to the Cancun Airport, extremely convenient. It has its own restaurant or the concierge will call you a taxi to get you downtown for dinner.
Upon arrival into Cancun, you will clear Immigrations first, then retrieve your luggage and go through Customs. Clearing Customs in Mexico is carried out by passing through an examining area where each piece of luggage will be screened, then walking up to a lamp post "stoplight" and pushing the BIG button. If the light turns green, keep walking. If the light turns red, don't panic, this just means your luggage may be inspected by a customs official. Outside of customs there is a phone bank with free and automatic connections to several local hotels; you'll want to call here and request a shuttle to the hotel. The Courtyard Marriot has bi-hourly complimentary shuttle service airport-hotel-airport, pick up at stall #26, right outside the terminal.
Departure from Cancun to ESB Lodge (Sunday):
The Wednesday prior to your trip, you will receive an email with the time that you have to arrive (between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.) at the FBO – Private Aviation Terminal to meet your air charter to the lodge. You must take a taxi or the shuttle to the Private Aviation Terminal. In Spanish, the terminal is referred to as Aviacion Privada. It is located approximately two blocks before terminal 3.
A Departure Tax will be collected at Private Aviation Terminal of approximately 160 pesos ($9USD). They accept $US dollars or credit cards for payment. If you are flying into Cancun the same day you are catching the charter flight to the lodge you do not have the pay the departure tax, just show the official your international flight ticket. The flight from Cancun to our designated airstrip just down the coast from the lodge departs the Private Aviation Terminal at approximately 9:00 am and lasts approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. You should be on the ground no later than 10:30 a.m. You will be met by the lodge staff and transferred by air-conditioned van to the lodge, an approximate 1 hour and 15 minute drive.
Upon arrival to the lodge, your baggage will be transferred by the staff to your room. You are welcome to relax and enjoy a cold beverage in our traditional Caribbean palapa and then make your way to your air-conditioned room to unpack and get organized. A delicious lunch will be served at 1:00 p.m. followed by a general orientation explaining daily schedules, facility layout, lodge policies and such. If you are unsure about some aspect of your trip, please be sure to ask questions – the staff is there to make your trip as enjoyable as possible.
There is no guided fishing on the day you arrive, but feel free to walk and fish along the beach. You can also use the lodge's snorkeling gear to explore the reef, or just hang out and relax and re-set your clock to Caribbean time.
Full Fishing Days:
Each evening, during cocktail hour or after dinner, the angling options will be discussed with fishermen and a plan will be devised for the next day. Most commonly, anglers are up at 6:00 a.m. Fresh coffee, juices and a delicious breakfast buffet with cooked-to-order eggs will be ready to go at 6:30 a.m. You should be out the door and on your way to the fishing grounds no later than 7:30 a.m. The drive from the lodge to where the boats are moored takes no more than 15 minutes. The guides, who have left earlier in the morning, will be waiting at the flats skiffs, ready to go for the day. The fishing days at ESB Lodge are full, no less than 8 hours total. The most distant fishing areas in Espiritu Santo Bay are no further than a 45-minute boat run under normal conditions, with some areas as close as five minutes from the dock. Lunch is taken on the fly. The guides will have you back to the lodge between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. for a shower, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Dinner is normally served at 7:00 p.m.
If you have the will and stamina, there is usually a crowd that retires to the bar for after-dinner drinks, cigars on the deck, and plenty of fishing stories. The fly-tying table is available to guests that want to twist up some new flies for the next day's fishing, and there is wireless internet ac¬cess in the lodge for those who desire to check in with their family or friends.
Departure Day (Sunday):
There is no guided fishing on the day of departure. Departure from the Cancun International Airport (CUN) back home must be no earlier than 2:00 p.m. Be prepared to depart the lodge for the local airstrip no later than 8:30 a.m. The charter flight back to Cancun is scheduled to depart at approximately 10:30 a.m. The night prior to your morning departure, please reconfirm your flight departure time with the manager to ensure proper transfer arrangements. Please also be sure to clear your lodge account and have your bags packed and ready for transfer to the airstrip two hours before your scheduled departure.
You will be given envelopes for tips for the guides and the staff. The lodge recommends $300 - $350/person for the guides and $100 - $150/person for the lodge staff, in cash, $USD. You can give this envelope to Dane or Chiara for distribution. If you have any questions about the tipping, just ask the managers and they will advise.
Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge Pricing: $3,950 per person, Double Occupancy (shared room/boat/guide) $5,950 per person, Single Occupancy (private room/boat/guide)
April 02 - July 02, 2017
August 13 - November 12, 2017
8 anglers maximum per week
Your package includes round trip air charter transfers from Cancun to the nearby landing strip and subsequent auto transfer to the lodge (Sundays only), air-conditioned accommodations, all meals, beverages (soft drinks, juices, mixers, and bottled water) and Hosted "Happy Hour" beer and margaritas, fishing license, 6 days fully guided fishing, and 15% Mexico VAT.
Personal tackle, air charter or ground transfers other than on Sundays if needed, gratuities, alcoholic beverages other than what is outlined in inclusions, items of personal nature and any lodging or meals not provided at Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge, and the FBO Departure Tax.
There is a hosted/free "Happy Hour" serving beer and margaritas, after fishing and before dinner. The lodge has a full bar where cocktails and beers are available for purchase between $3 and $5. You are welcome to bring your own spirits - the lodge has plenty of ice and mixers.
Google Earth GPS Coordinates:
Making Reservations to Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge
To make a reservation, please give us a call at 800-669-3474 during business hours any day of the week. We can give you the answers you need, detailed explanations to questions you might have, or check on availability and confirm your reservation in minutes.