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R2R: Florida to Mexico

Armando Ubeda stands on the wing of John Pryor's Cirrus SR22 ready to depart KSRQ for MMMD.

Yesterday, Executive Director John Pryor and Mesoamerica Program Manager Armando Ubeda departed Sarasota, FL (KSRQ) bound 686 mile south for Merida, Yucatan (MMMD). Here are John's thoughts on the first part of the Rockies to Reef Expedition.

Joining me for the trip is Armando Ubeda who has managed LightHawk's program in Mexico and Central America for seven years. In addition to being a superlative travel companion, Armando will be introducing me to our conservation partners on each leg of the Expedition.

Necessary gear for the journey includes: life raft, personal life preservers, Mexican/Central American airport guide from Baja Bush Pilots, O2 canulas (needed above 12,000' when in mountainous terrain or climbing above weather), headsets, EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), umbrella, LightHawk hats, binoculars, POH (pilot operating handbook) and travel documents.

Before heading south, Armando and I met up with Tuck Colby for breakfast. Tuck is a longtime LightHawk board member, volunteer pilot and supporter who lives in Sarasota. As we briefed him on the Rockies to Reef Expedition, he seemed impressed with our plan to share news of this journey to highlight LightHawk's commitment to conservation in Mexico and Central America. Tuck has seen a lot during his time with LightHawk, so this seal of approval is important.

Ready to depart for Merida, 686 miles away across the Gulf of Mexico.

After departing Sarasota, we fly in radio silence with no air traffic control for two hours between Florida airspace and Mexican airspace. Here I am employing a reliable avionics tool for spotting land ahead. I'm happy to report that our flight was smooth and easy with calm water below.

At last, the coastline appears under the wings of the SR22. After 3 hours and 40 minutes, we land in the capital and largest city in Yucatan state, Merida. A wall of 100 degree heat greets us as we unpack ourselves from the small plane, grateful to stretch our legs, shed our life preservers, and begin the Mexican portion of the Rockies to Reef Expedition by meeting with Rodrigo Migoya and R. Xiomara Galvez of Niños y Crías, A.S. LightHawk partners for about 15 years.

More updates to come, stay tuned.


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