Mexico Adventures in Snorkeling

Caribbean, mexico, Travel

2017 moving into 2018 have been a time of trying new and exciting things I never thought I would be able to try. While snorkeling, scuba etc. all seem like normal vacation and travel things, things that most people in the United States have tried, I never have had the chance. Not until my late 20s did I really push the issue, and I made sure on my last trip to Mexico to take to the water, gear….on head.

The Sandos Caracol Eco Resort offers snorkeling in both salt and fresh water environments. I decided, as I had not snorkeled before, that fresh water (without waves) was the more logical choices. I started with their “Jade River Snorkel” which was through a small canal system that went through the resort, and offered a chance to view fish, mangrove root systems and to learn about the complex water systems that cover the Yucatan. While snorkeling one could feel water pockets where two systems were linked and mixing waters.

From the Jade River we moved into the main cenote at the resort, which offered a massive area to snorkel, interact with fish, and relax in cool water. Both experiences provided a glimpse into the waters and environment of Southern Mexico.

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it’s a great look

This was only a small part of the different activities the resort offers, many of which we simply ran out of time to try. Yet, it offered a great opportunity to stretch my arms and learn methods required for snorkeling.

The next day my bigger snorkeling trip took place, this time I was confronted with waves and a far more interesting and diverse plant (coral) and wildlife.

 

The tour I took, through Ocean Tours Mexico, provided a fantastic sampling of what the Yucatan offers. We started with a tour of Tulum, then we hit the waves, and finished in a cenote and cave system nearby. All of these elements offered a great sampling of the biodiversity and fascinating history of the region.

The only disappointment was that there were no turtles in our ocean snorkeling, but we did have a blast seeing bats in the cenote, and some truly beautiful fish in the ocean.

These photos are from the talented photographer with Ocean Tours:

For my next adventure in Mexico, my hope is to see and snorkel with Whale Sharks!

 

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Mexico Adventure- Sandos Caracol Eco Resort

Caribbean, love, mexico, Travel

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For our honeymoon in December we selected something a little different from the norm. We decided to ditch the high-end resort and head to something that felt more authentic to the country we were visiting. This meant that we wanted somewhere that offered plenty of activities, but also an embracing quality of celebrating the regional offerings in a caring and thoughtful way.

We selected Sandos Caracol Eco Resort for these reasons. The resort, as the name indicates, is an Eco resort, meaning it has made a consorted effort to reduce its waste and impact on the environment without sacrificing the resort. Sandos Caracol is a fantastic example of what I hope to see in resorts in the coming years. Over water bottles they have replaced everything with massive jugs of water. Over straws they just serve everything in cups. Over just trash, they offer recycling everywhere in the resort. For food, everything but a few options was served on reusable plates and with reusable cutlery. The resort has instead of ripping out the natural mangrove and water ways, it has built up to work with the jungle.

In addition to respecting the natural environment, which it teaming with birds, coati, monkeys, lizards, and sterilized feral cats; the resort offers a glimpse into the life and times of those that lived in the region before colonialism. They do this in multiple ways, including the Dance performances held several times a week. Sandos Caracol has sprinkled elements of indigenous culture throughout with statues, placards explaining beliefs and rituals, morning rituals celebrating different elements, and by building in a way that respects the features of the area. For instance, the resort has its own cenote in the center of the resort, in which visitors can snorkel and enjoy, but also be reminded of how these almost majestic fresh water features really sustained the Maya for centuries. These same systems provide most of the drinking water to these communities even today! All of this combines into a thoroughly enjoyable experience for visitors to the resort. You would literally never have to leave the resort if you didn’t want to. As an all-inclusive all the food and alcohol is included so there is no need to worry about the basics. Rooms are comfortable and welcoming. Restaurants and rooms are air conditioned. The resort is so shaded with natural trees and vegetation that nowhere gets super hot or uncomfortable. Then the beach has plenty of trees and shaded areas to keep pasty me happy. We upgraded our stay to an adults only area. This gave us beach cabanas, a private clubhouse with snacks and a bar, and a more calm part of the beach. It also meant our room was in a more secluded area of the resort, an area that we could listen to animals, and truly just enjoy our time in peace and some seclusion.

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Added bonuses to the resort:

  • It’s wonderfully walkable, meaning you get some exercise to burn off the alcohol.

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  • It’s only a maximum of about 10 minutes to the beach from any place in the resort.

 

 

  • You can snorkel in fresh or salt water.

 

 

  • They have their own resort dogs, Mexican hairless dogs, that were revered and loved by the Maya. They’re very friendly and cute!

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  • There is plenty of outdoor and romantic dining, creating a truly memorable experience.

 

 

 

    • They have a ceremonial area that’s hidden in the resort, one for sweat lodge experiences, and another for outdoor celebrations. Both are fascinating.

 

  • Everyone that works at the resort is warm, welcoming, and a delight to speak with. Take a few minutes to get to know some of their story, where they are from, and why they work at the resort.

 

 

  • Beyond traditional performances, they had more modern events such as a Michael Jackson night, superheroes night, and other events.

 

 

 

 

  • After their nightly shows, the resort does karaoke events, brings in local bands, or simply offers an enjoyable vibe throughout.
  • They have their own small water park, that is kid friendly, and then full of slides for the older kids….ahem…adults.
  • The beach, while a little rocky, is also full of wildlife such as tropical fish.
  • They have an odd assortment of rescue animals that hang out at the resort in friendly digs. This includes parrots, chickens, donkeys, pigs, rabbits, and probably some other friends I am forgetting.

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Mexico Adventures – Mayan Dance

Caribbean, mexico, musings, Travel

Welcome to my newest series of blogs on my travels in Mexico. I hope to expand on my stories soon, but for now we will focus on the Yucatan and Cozumel.

My husband and I had a fantastic time on our honeymoon, and we selected a fantastic blend of local culture, beach, and romance. Our selection was the Sandos Caracol Eco Resort just north of Playa Del Carmen, which turned out to be an ideal blend for our two travel styles.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the resort was the attempt to respect and nurture the local indigenous culture. The area that is home to the resort was once sacred to the Maya due to its location in a mangrove forest. Well, or so the resort legends tell. Regardless, the resort has features throughout that celebrate Maya culture, art, ceremonies, and animals.

One aspect I appreciated the most were the series of dance performances that they held throughout the week. I enjoyed not only the story aspect that celebrated the Maya, but also the insane talent that the performer had through dance, music, and presence. It was a real treat, that left the audience mesmerized at the skill and beauty.

Here is a short video on just how phenomenal the performances were.

Happy Travels!

Read more on Mexico: Chichen Itza, Seven Wonders of the WorldHoneymoon Planning for Opposites,

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Chichen Itza

Caribbean, History, mexico, Travel
 If you read my last post you know that I went to Chichen Itza recently, as a part of my journey through the Seven Wonders of the World. I am sitting at 2 out of seven and feeling pretty good about getting tot he other five eventually.

However, I want to expand on my journey through Chichen Itza as it was a really remarkable day and I highly recommend spending the time to visit if you find yourself in the Yucatan or Mayan Peninsula.

I never truly understood why Chichen Itza was considered a wonder of the world until we visited it, and we made the right decision in getting up stupidly early and going with an archeologist as a tour guide.

 

This helped with several parts of our day. First, we beat the heat by getting there early. Second, we beat the general public crowds. Third, we missed some of the harassment from vendors that set up all over the city grounds. Finally, and most importantly, it gave us historical and cultural backgrounds we would have not otherwise learned.

If you have an interest in this tour, click here, it’s through Viator and well worth the price.

We started the day with a somewhat late pickup from our resort, this was the only real issue on the tour, which I am unsure of what happened with it, but it was a minor hiccup that was fixed with a quick phone call.

One downside for my husband was that the van from Playa del Carmen was pretty small for his 6’4″ body, but we survived. However, do note that this will be up to three hours in the van/bus each way. Also, you may bring a hoodie just for the cool weather and/or air conditioning on the bus. This is also a great time to nap! Don’t worry about needing a restroom of food/water, there will be about two stops going and coming back for any needs you may have.

At the complex we met up with our guide/archeologist, Marco, who took us on what felt like a SHORT two hour tour of the main part of the city.

As you walk into the city complex you are met with the grand pyramid, or Castillo Temple that is so iconic. This is where we learned about the sounds that bounce through the temple creating a whistling like a bird, which changes in pitch and volume from where you stand and listen or clap. To the east of this is a remarkable temple that makes a rattle snake noise (tail rattling) when you clap at a certain angle.

All of this is meant to represent and celebrate Kukulkan, the feathered serpent man-god that meant so much to the Maya culture. They also, at this time in the culture, practiced human sacrifice to appease the god(s) through blood offerings where hearts were ripped form chests while still beating, and  backs were broken before being drowned. (This really isn’t so different from gladiator games, public hangings, warfare etc.)

From there we toured buildings set up for the king of this specific city-state and the intricate measures that were taken for the rulers and nobility. For instance, a king was never allowed to touch the ground, so there are no steps from his throne room at the ball field and other areas that reach the ground. Instead, the noble was transported on a Litter.

In addition to being blown away by just the scale of the buildings more auditory wonders came into play. For instance, at the ball field, for the Mesoamerican Ballgame, they had an auditory system set up where the King could hear conversation from the opposite side of the field.

Maybe you remember it from this movie:

Traditionally, visitors from other tribes and cultures would be placed here, so that the king could listen for any treasonous information or gossip and it’s likely that the visitors had no idea they were being spied on.

Finally, our tour was wrapped up with some free time, around an hour, where we were able to see other buildings that made up the city. We also had to note we were only seeing about 30% of the entire city as much more was closed off for restoration and research. However, it was exciting to explore the city and imagine what it would have looked like with thousands of people milling around. People that were praying, working, selling, cooking, talking and living their lives as people around the world do.

In the other areas of the city we saw what is believed to be an astronomy tower, additional pyramids, and royal complexes that housed people and worked in tandem with their beliefs and rituals.

We learned other snippets as well, like that the Castillo or main pyramid has several pyramids built inside of it and that the Maya would build new things, and burn the old every 52 years or so as a rebirth cycle with their calendar. Additionally, the majority of the city would have been painted in lush, vibrant colors, specifically red made from paprika or cochineal.

While many people jump on the bandwagon that the Maya were supernatural or even in touch with a greater power, I have to encourage additional research and thought. It’s easy to come up and write off ideas as beyond this world, it’s harder to do the research and actually learn where, what, when and how things came together. Pretending that an alien or outside entity must have created these marvels writes off people that fall into a minority as somehow unable to build such remarkable things. Which is complete garbage. These empires and cultures from the Americas lived in the same complex cultures and identities that Europeans held onto. While they looked, spoke, and existed differently, their mores, taboos, and livelihoods were very similar and equally important. There are also endless wonders in the Americas, some of which are just being discovered.

Anyway, get out, explore, be amazed!