Opening Statement



Monday, 25 July 2011

Mexican Mayan Riviera Diary 4: Snorkel Trips

Wednesday July 20
My cousin Don and I went snorkeling off resort today. A friendly lad, "Nacho” [a good Mexican name] took us and a small group out in a mini bus to a little Mayan settlement by a ceynote and a cavern where we could swim. We walked through the jungle to the open mouth of the cavern and went in. Huge stalactites hung from the ceiling, many of them thousands of years old. A fresh water river runs through the caves deep dark depths. The water was cool, a very refreshing respite from the blistering heat. It was also crystal clear. The limestone bottom had a light sheen to it. We could vibrantly see the the many white, green and yellow shades of the rock deposits. There were a good number of tropical and salt water fish. Since the limestone is saline both can survive, the catfish being the only fresh water fish, I guess it is just lightly enough salted for the tropical fish who also swam about in small schools. French divers had explored and mapped out the underground river for seven kilometers from the cave. We could see the dark mouth of the underground river with the dive lines going down into it, but that is as far as we could go without tanks. Plus you have to be very careful you don’t hit your head on the rocks. Ouch!
Afterwards we walked a bit further through the jungle to an open ceynote. It's not unlike a cavern, with the roof collapsed. It resembled an open pit with steep cliffs to dive from. There was also ravelling. We grabbed onto the handles and flew out over the lake riding the line downward. Nacho calling out when to drop so we wouldn’t hit the dock on the other side. It was quite a lot of fun, we even tried it backwards. It requires a lot of trust but was quite a buzz.
The water went to varying depths. It felt like swimming in a big aquarium, with a brightly green coloured moss, white limestone bottom, and scores of small colourful tropical fish. Not big fish mind you but there were lots of them swimming about. The water was cool, the sun hot. It was great fun diving in and climbing out, swimming about with our snorkels exploring every nook and cranny until lunch time.

A Mayan family dished out a plate of fried chicken, tortillas, guacamole, rice and beans for us, which we washed down with pitchers of ice cool drinks. I avoided the super hot sauce this time, sticking to the salsa. It was all very Mexican, quite delicious and we were glad to tip them generously.
We drove into the fishing village of Akumal and headed over to the lagoon. Akumal is a small fishing village. The locals held out, never selling the land to the resorts, but developed it for themselves. There were numerous dive shops. Old, but quite grand pastel coloured 1940-50’s art deco homes with Mexican tile roofs dot the shoreline. The simple fishing boats still bob up and down in the bay where the turtles swim about. There is a whole colony of them. I have snorkeled here before, its a beach shore dive, quite nice. I was somewhat disappointed when we headed over to the lagoon instead, but it was quite nice too. Azul waters, limestone rocks, we saw a few stingrays sliding along the bottom, very graceful, but watch out for their tails! There were small tropical fish, not particular spectacular in size from what we have all ready seen at the resort reef. I followed a good sized school of Blue Tang out to sea a ways, and found a huge garden of verde green brain coral, and brightly coloured parrot fish. Most of the coral was dead. Nacho later told me the hurricanes have smashed it up pretty bad, and the increased numbers of swimmers with their sun tan lotion, touching everything and so on hasn’t helped either. He said some days there aren’t hardly any fish at all.
There is a pretty sharp thermocline. Two underground rivers also empty into the lagoon, where of course they can’t mix with the saline sea water. It makes for a glimmering, oily visual effect that creates widely varying currents, some quite cool, others bathwater hot. If you swim in somebodies wake, or move round too much, it gets stirred up and hard to see. If you glide along, effortlessly, it calms down and everything snaps back into focus. I was happier to be swimming off on my own for the most part. I’m quite a strong swimmer and don’t like to get held back, especially when folks are flopping about, stirring up the water, and scaring away the fish.
After a good swim on my own I headed back to our group inside the mouth of the lagoon, only to find out I had missed seeing a turtle! Apparently it was a fairly small one, I’ve seen two big ones this trip back at our own beach, so I wasn’t too upset. All in all it was a vigorous swim, very refreshing and we were out a good hour and a half. On our way back to the landing I swam up onto a white sand beach cut off from any roadways, or any other access routes. Very natural. I law in the shallow surf, and could feel the light waves lapping up against me. The hot sun beating down. Very relaxing, transporting, definitely a snapshot for the mind, to close my eyes and remember back next winter.
Overall an excellent day of snorkeling. I would have liked to visit a few inlets but the sites we visited were top notch, with a lot of variety. I returned to the resort, no doubt tired after two days of go go go, but in a good way, recharged, with a golden brown tan, feeling very relaxed and quite pleased with how our whole trip has worked out.
Thursday July 21
A leisurely day. We slept in, enjoyed a late breakfast, and headed out to sun on the beach. There was a great Caribbean breeze. We easily found a few lounge chairs under a swaying palm where we parked ourselves for most of the day lying about and enjoying the last full day of our Mexican holiday.
Don and I swam out to the reef again. The water was very choppy again, and a lifeguard in a canoe  kept trying to follow us, and blowing a whistle to warn us back to shore. He couldn’t quite navigate the rocky reef to get very close. Ironically, it happened on our last day and all, after many regular uninterrupted trips to the far edge of the reef. We ignored him awhile but he couldn’t be placated so we headed back closer to shore but took our time to explore along the way.  It was well worth it. As he paddled away, hiding just over the horizon, we came upon a huge barracuda, about four or five feet long, just lazing below the surface, drifting back and forth with the current, snapping his big pointed teeth at us. Don got some shots with his underwater movie camera; we will see how they turned out.
I followed a huge stingray as it swept along the sea bottom towards another little coral patch where the water was churning with tropical fish. Angel fish, Blue Tang, Parrot Fish, Snapper, Stripped Sgt Majors; well there was quite a variety. A giant school of minnow swam past just below the surface, tiny specks of silver glittering in the sunlight. Don and I just floated above, lightly treading water as we watched, then dove down to swim about with the fish. They didn’t care, and swam right up to our masks to look in at us. The water was warm as a bathtub. I floated to the surface, lying on my back. I could see the white beach shore lined with palms and the resort rooftops in the background. The sea water is so buoyant; it was like I was just hanging inanimately, in sheer paradise, pure bliss. An excellent final dive on a great trip.
We later went out for dinner then back to our room to pack. The bus picks us up after breakfast tomorrow, and it’s back to Toronto, about a four hour flight. I’m getting a bit tired of being away, but in a good happy way. I feel well rested, have had a great time. I think I've had just about enough of everything here, for now. This trip has pretty much been perfect in every way. Still there’s no place like home, and ones own bed. I'm even beginning to miss the everyday familiarity of our own abode, plus Janet returns to work on Monday, so it's adios Mexico, and hola Toronto once again.

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