A Travellerspoint blog


sunny 90 °F

We're back now, after a fantastic four days in Playa del Carmen. Before signing off, though, I'm posting some photos from our Saturday snorkeling excursion.

On Friday, we wandered into The Snorkel Shop downtown, chatted with the owner, and ended up booking a tour for the next day -- private, due to the slow tourist season. Our guide Eddy picked us up at 9:00 am, and took us straight to a cenote outside of town.

Quick geology aside: when an asteroid smashed the Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago, the entire area was a shallow sea with a limestone floor. The impact of the asteroid cracked holes in the surrounding area (and killed the dinosaurs), which have since filled in with fresh water. There are vast networks of underground lakes and rivers, called 'cenotes' in Spanish, and they're filled with cool, crystal clear water -- perfect for snorkeling.

The cenote we visited featured the usual stalactites and stalagmites, plus fossil reefs (what had been the sea bottom until it was upended by the asteroid impact), small blind fish, bats, and even Mayan-era human bones at the bottom of one 30-40 ft deep hole. Worryingly, Eddy (wearing a wetsuit, as opposed to our swimsuits and life vests) referred to the water as 'freezing' on entry. That must have been only by Mexican standards; it was a good 70 F, and with no wind underground, was hardly cold.

My waterproof camera enclosure did not arrive before we left, but the tour provides one and a CD with the photos after you're done, even more convenient than taking your own. Here are the two of us underground and half underwater:


Once out of the cenote, we headed to Puerto Morelos (halfway between Playa del Carmen and CancĂșn, roughly) to a nationally-protected reef area to check out the sea life there. We met up with the government-approved reef guide, hopped a boat, and drove a couple hundred yards offshore to a spectacular shallow-water reef, where we spent a couple hours exploring and getting increasingly sunburnt.

The diversity of the fish and the coral life is astonishing. I picked out a few of the better photos:




Here is Colleen, making her way delicately around the coral:


And here I am, holding a massive conch:


Not pictured, unfortunately (bad lighting), was the nurse shark we saw hiding in a cave, or the spiny lobsters in burrows at the sea bottom.

By the time we came back to the beach, ate lunch, and were dropped exhausted at the hotel, it was 4:00 pm. It took about an hour nap and some ibuprofen to regain the energy and will to leave for dinner. We had huaraches down at a little street stand at the corner, then passed out for the night for good.

Posted by elefantstn 21:10 Archived in Mexico Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Day at the Beach

sunny 90 °F

We've been taking it easy today...

Colleen heads into the water:


Guacamole, at an oceanside food stand / bar:


Ceviche de Pescado (fish right off the boat, marinated in lime and tossed with onion, tomato, and cilantro):


Me, relaxed, having attempted (but failed) to consume that whole 'small' order of cevice:


Posted by elefantstn 13:54 Archived in Mexico Tagged postcards Comments (0)

We Are Here

(most everyone else is not)

sunny 87 °F

Colleen and I made it into CancĂșn airport right on time yesterday, caught the last two seats on the bus to Playa del Carmen just before it took off, and booked it into town by about 1:00 pm. Good start to a short trip, no wasted travel time.

Playa del Carmen isn't deserted, but it's noticeably empty -- the swine flu scare has not just kept away some vacationers, but entirely cut off cruise ship traffic. Colleen and I had a nice long talk with the restaurateur at this morning's breakfast, and he was hopeful that it would just be temporary. I tend to agree -- unlike the hurricanes, which cause major infrastructural damage that make visiting less pleasant, the flu epidemic is more intangible, and requires no cleanup.

Speaking of the flu, a common opinion here is that it's entirely made up. The aforementioned restaurateur noted that the Mexican government released no names, no information about the victims, no anything except numbers; his relatives in Mexico City "didn't know anyone" who'd contracted it. That seems to me more of a detailed conspiracy than the Mexican government is capable of pulling off and with no plausible motive besides, but there you are.

We relaxed by the beach yesterday, we're relaxing by the pool so far today. I think snorkeling off Cozumel is in the cards for tomorrow. The waterproof shell I ordered for my camera never showed up in the mail before I left; hopefully I can find a compatible one at a dive shop here before we go so I can get some pictures of the reefs. In the meantime, I leave you with my michelada from last night (also pictured, Colleen):


Posted by elefantstn 08:53 Archived in Mexico Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Encore Presentation

sunny 80 °F

I'm bringing Colleen back to Playa del Carmen with me for Memorial Day weekend.

Posted by elefantstn 09:40 Comments (0)

Back Home

overcast 43 °F

I made it back to Harrisburg today intact. Goodbye warm weather, hello overcast sky. Thanks everyone.


Posted by elefantstn 12:08 Archived in USA Tagged transportation Comments (0)

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