Our week immediately began with 2 scuba dives from the local shop just 10 paces from our condo. We visited the underwater museum, which is home to over 500+ sunken sculptures that create an artificial paradise for local sea life. Further down the bay we poked around at a natural reef where we saw starfish bigger than our heads, and a sleeping nurse shark. Check out the underwater museum here: http://musamexico.org.
We were feeling brave, so we signed up to take a dive tour of the Cenotes (aka: underwater caves). The cenotes expand throughout the Yucatan Peninsula and are famous for being ancient tombs from the Spanish Conquest of Mexico. Bones from human sacrifices and gold have been found deep in the cave systems, thought to be an offering to the Mayan Gods.
Many of the cenotes have been explored and mapped, but there are still thousands of offshoots that have yet to be discovered. Our dive instructor, owner of Squalo Divers, was one of the top cave diving experts in Mexico and has worked for National Geographic to video and map much of the cave system. Thankfully we had him to guide us on this particular dive, because we were SO NOT PREPARED for what we were getting ourselves into.
The first cenote we visited started as a giant hole in the ground reaching over 100 ft deep. At first we thought this was going to be a piece of cake, we’d see some cool structures, and head back up. But upon our descent we quickly realized that freshwater and saltwater are VERY different. We started to sink FAST. Much faster than in the ocean. Panic set in when we realized we were descending into pitch black, and our sense of direction was lost. Unfortunately it was all we could to do remain calm, maintain buoyancy, hold on to our flash lights, and keep from touching anything – so we didn’t get much video or photos from those dives.
An ancient paradise
After we exhausted almost all of our budget on scuba diving, we decided to check out one of the ancient ruin sites at Tulum. We hopped an afternoon bus for a 3 hour ride south, and made it to the entry gate just as they announced “30 minutes till close!” So we hoofed it through the park, snapped a few pics, and imagined what life was like 1000 years ago. As we hailed a taxi back to the bus station, the heavens opened and rain came down like a motion from the Mayan Gods.
As luck would have it, our good friends John & Heather Hernandez were also in Cancun that week! We met up for cocktails and a night out in the famous “Hotel Zone” of Cancun. We’ll just say that after 5 tequila shots, the night got a little fuzzy. Some things are better left as undocumented memories ????
Beasts with no teeth
The next morning we had to be up bright and early. We powered through our hangover headaches and caught a boat ride out to see the whale sharks. The rule among all whale shark tours is ABSOLUTELY NO TOUCHING the animals. Not even by accident. These creatures are so docile that they often get hurt by unsuspecting divers, or boats that zip over the top of them. Marine biologists still know very little about these massive fish, and therefore whale sharks are considered a protected species.
September marks the end of their mating/feeding season in the Yucatan, so we were lucky to find a pack of about 30 whale sharks about 2 hours offshore. In the summer months, you can find packs of over 100 in some spots.
As we swam next to these gentle giants, one of the passengers from our boat reached out to grab a dorsal fin. She was immediately removed from the water and scolded by our boat captain. They take marine conservation very seriously in Mexico, and touching the animals (even if by accident) means your trip is over. You’re not allowed back in the water, and you don’t get a refund. Personally, we think that’s a pretty fair rule.
Parting is such sweet sorrow…
In just 7 days, we were able to squeeze in a lifetime of memories, with stories we’ll be telling our grandchildren for years. If you’ve ever considered a quick trip to Cancun, remember that there is so much more to do than just the party scene. Mexico is one of our favorite destinations because it’s so close, and relatively inexpensive. The scuba diving is very affordable and the dive sites are unbeatable.
2017 is here, and it’s time for us to plan our next adventure! Until next time… happy traveling!