A Travellerspoint blog

Snokelling with Whale Sharks

Isla de la Mujeres

sunny 26 °C

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From Tulum we made our way to Cancun and on to Isla de la Mujeres. Our reason: Whale Sharks.
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We arrived in the late afternoon and sorted out a good deal on a tour before making a delicious dinner and taking advantage of the TV and DVD player in our room.
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The Island was pretty touristy but still pretty cool. We started our tour with breakfast at a local café and headed out on our tour. We did some snorkelling which was pretty cool but fairly basic compared with what we'd done already. The real highlight were the whalesharks.
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Unfortunately, we were one of about 10 boats but we still got some serious quality time with the whalesharks. Matt and I went in twice (with some seasick puking in between) the first time we got a glimpse, but the second time was amazing.
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We were sitting in the water looking in all directions trying to get a second glimpse when this huge head emerged out of the deep blue and passed a metre or so underneath us. We started swimming alongside it, thankfully it was happy to move slowly. We probably spent five minutes swimming next to it, no more than a metre away. It was an incredible experience.
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Apart from the seasickness it was a perfect day.

Posted by Addy21 05:42 Archived in Mexico Tagged sharks whale Comments (0)

Cenotes, wow!

Tulum

rain 19 °C

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We crossed the border into Mexico and pushed through to Tulum for our first night. We found a lovely hostel to stay right near the bus stop thanks to the advice of a very friendly bus stop security guard. We found out the next day it was also one of the cheapest! Yeah!
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We weren't sure what to do with our first day until some of our fellow backpackers invited us to visit one of the nearby Cenotes. We'd heard they were pretty cool, but they really were amazing. The water was crystal clear and turquoise. The fact that they are in caves just make them even cooler. It was overcast and raining outside but in the caves the water almost seemed to have their own light. It was beautiful and very cool exploring the rock formations underwater. We visited Los Dos Ojos Cenote and enjoyed a fantastic day snorkelling,, though the cold got to me in the end.
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We didn't do a whole lot else in Tulum, but enjoyed our time and the company of some other friendly backpackers.

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Posted by Addy21 05:38 Archived in Mexico Tagged cenote Comments (0)

Turtles, Manatees and a well earned rest

Caye Caulker, Belize

overcast 23 °C

large_GOPR0636.jpgAfter our gruelling six day hike in Guatemala we decided we had earned some R&R and definitely needed some blue waters in which to bathe our aching feet. : )

We headed to Caye Caulker. It's a lovely little island, no cars, just golf buggies and back to those fantastic Belizean accents. We struggled to find a place within our budget that wasn't already booked up, Matt came through with a great room with an outdoor kitchen and even proper towels. Live without one for months and tell me that isn't a worthwhile perk!
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We spent our first day relaxing and getting the lay of the land, and booking what we were hoping would be a great snorkelling tour.

We were on a tour with about 6 others and the absolute best guide. Caveman tours. Hands down the best guide there is!
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We started by going looking for manatees in a spot they usually frequent but were disappointed to find they weren't around that morning. We then snorkelled around a pretty cool wreck and saw some great fish. We headed off to find a local fisherman who'd been using that same spot to gut his catch for decades, which meant two hawksbill turtles and tons of rays and fish congregated at the spot. We swam with them for quite a while before the hordes of other tourists and less ethical guides turned up. They were beautiful and so close.
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Next we went swimming with nurse sharks. They kind of look like giant catfish, but they're still pretty cool to swim with. Then we headed off to a spot with a great shelf for snorkelling and nearby seagrass where we got to watch green turtles for ages. We were one of the only groups around and they were beautiful. Matt and I hung around with one just to ourselves for ages. We've even got photos to prove it....
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We climbed back in our boat and Caveman decided to extend our time a little and look for the manatees once more. This time we were lucky. They were incredible. They were the most relaxed creatures I've ever seen, just hanging out and chilling in the water, virtually unmoving. They were beautiful in their ugliness. We could have watched them for hours. Eventually, Caveman signalled it was time to go. Reluctantly, we left, but it was truly one of the best experiences imaginable.
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The final stop in our tour included hunting for tiny seahorses in the mangroves which were very cool and then handfeeding (or at least Matt hand fed, I watched) some really pretty big fish back near the docks.
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Overall it was a spectacular day.

We finished relaxing on Caye Caulker and headed for Mexico.

Posted by Addy21 10:23 Archived in Belize Tagged turtles snorkelling manatees Comments (0)

Tikal

This one deserves its own post

sunny 26 °C

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After our six day jungle trek we weren't certain we needed to visit Tikal, but we were so glad we did.
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We took the afternoon tour and spent a great time exploring some of the most excavated and beautifully preserved Mayan ruins we'd seen. Our guide was great and the pyramids were spectacular. There was even a spot where the Mayans had worked out the acoustics so that the temples produced an amazing sound if you stood in the centre of the plaza.
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We watched another magical sunset over the temples and properly rounded off our Mayan ruin experience.

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Posted by Addy21 09:46 Archived in Guatemala Tagged ruins mayan Comments (0)

Jungle trek to Mayan ruins

Flores, Tikal and El Mirador

overcast 30 °C

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A few buses and a relatively painless border hop later (except for the outrageous exit fee from Belize!), we arrived in Flores. This tiny little town is on a island in Lake Peten Itza, connected by a bridge to the more substantial Santa Elena. It's a very pretty, very touristy little spot. We spent a couple of days getting organised before heading off on our jungle adventure to see Tikal and then hike in to see El Mirador.
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As always we started ridiculously early. We hopped on a bus to a tiny village of Carmelita where we started with a very hearty breakfast, which was just what we needed. Unfortunately, our guide did not inspire a great deal of confidence. He was obviously still drunk from the night before and fell asleep on our jolting bus ride to Carmelita. We assumed when he disappeared after a very short breakfast he was loading up our donkey, but no, he was drinking 5 beers with his friends which he very cheerfully told us over an hour after we gave up on waiting and went to find him. Despite this we assured ourselves Alex would sober up and improve as the trek went on.
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We spent our first day hiking through deep semi dried mud that was hell on the ankles. We had a few brief respites with some gentle, more rainforest like, stretches which was lovely, and we even encountered a low hanging birds nest. Our first night's camp was made in quite a nice setting and after smoking more weed (oh, he started on the trek), Alex eventually provided us with some basic dinner. By this stage I was more than annoyed with our wayward guide, which escalated further when he failed to fulfil his promise to wake us early to see our first pyramid ruin for sunrise. My fury helped me walk faster and we made good time on our second day. This was when my feet began to hurt in earnest.
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Our guide, who we really should have stopped listening to at this stage, convinced us to take an "alternative route" so we could swing back this way to see the ruin we missed. The alternative route turned out to be a completely overgrown jungle trek, complete with spiky plants and a wasp sting for Matt. By the time we made it to our second campsite it was very close to dark. I was in tears my feet hurt so badly and Matt's back was also killing him. Somehow that all seemed to melt away though when we climbed up to the top of our first pyramid ruin and saw the sunset over a sea of green. It was incredibly peaceful and beautiful beyond words. Pop would have loved this sunset.
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Our pictures don't do it justice. From our vantage point we could see the raised green mounds that indicated the other ruins we were to visit. They looked very far away. We had a much nicer and hot dinner provided by our guide's mother, who was guiding another tourist and was camping at the same site that night.
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The next day we hiked to El Mirador. It was spectacular. A proper ruin, not just a mound covered in trees, we climbed to the top and spent some time soaking up the views. Our guide proved slightly more useful by talking us through the history of the site and meanings of the various pyramids and uses of the other areas. We walked our last 15 minutes to our campsite and were very happy to know we had a whole day and half of rest before hiking again.
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Our guide took us around some of the other significant areas on the site, and we were often in view of families of spider monkeys and even some howler monkeys. Very cool. We climbed up another pyramid to watch the sunset again, and once again it was breathtaking. I loved watching the monkeys but this lot were bizarrely aggressive: throwing sticks, leaves, flowers, whatever they could find and coming really quite close in aggressive displays. It really was quite intimidating. They were still amazing to watch.
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The next day we relaxed and visited more of the site. Learning a lot about Mayan culture and the history of the sites excavation, though I'm not sure how much of that was accurate given our guide was the hero in most of his stories. The paths were moss covered and the trees were beautiful. The whole site was on levelled platforms created by the Mayans for agriculture. It was all pretty incredible. All of this was made even more incredible by the fact that we were the only two tourists on the site for the whole time. We had the ruins and sunsets entirely to ourselves.
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We climbed a different pyramid to watch our third sunset and even saw a toucan in the distance. Finally we enjoyed a brilliant lightshow from fireflies on our walk back to the camp.
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The next morning we got up early (no longer relying on Alex's nightly promises to wake us) to watch sunrise from the top of one of the pyramids. It was beautiful and peaceful, but the sunsets were definitely more spectacular. We headed off again along a really beautiful path through a different part of the ruin and climbed another pyramid which proved to be the current hotspot for five toucans and a very pretty woodpecker. We were incredibly close and very beautiful, we stayed as long as they did and loved every minute.
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We hiked off again to the final site, which really wasn't that amazing after all we've seen and looped back to our original campsite as promised for our final night.
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The hike out proved the worst day yet, partially because we were footsore (or back-sore) but moreso because the horrible mud was back and this time less dried, It sucked at our feet and it got stuck on our shoes making them so much heavier. It didn't help that we were racing the clock to get back in time for the one daily bus. We were incredibly relieved to finally make it out and back to La Carmelita. The bus arrived 40 minutes after we arrived which allowed just enough time for a beer before dragging our weary butts back to Flores and a proper bed.

Some of the wildlife,
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Posted by Addy21 07:46 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

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