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Snorkelling at the Yal-Ku Lagoon

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After completing our Open Water scuba certifications, we expected the idea of snorkeling to lose its appeal. Why float on top of the water when you can dive right down into it? But at shallow sites like the Yal-Ku Lagoon in Akumal, snorkeling is just as good as scuba. Perhaps even better.

Yal-Ku Lagoon

Yal-Ku is a natural lagoon near the sea, not as large or expensive as the much more famous Xel-Ha, but big enough to comfortably occupy half a day. We visited in the afternoon, following an unforgettable experience swimming with Akumal’s sea turtles.

The big advantage snorkeling has over scuba is that you can spend as long as you want in the water. We swam around Yal-Ku for at least 90 minutes, which was easier than it sounds even without a life jacket. The visibility was a little blurry, especially where the fresh water mixed with the salty ocean water, but we saw a ton of fish, including barracudas, trumpet fish and a couple gigantic rainbow parrot fish, who led us on a chase around the lagoon.

Toward the end of our swim, we went through a tunnel in the limestone rock, and ended up in front of a school of thousands of silver fish, moving in perfect unison. Doing my best whale impression, I dove into the center of the school, making them dart away from me with such precisely synchronized movements, it seemed impossible that they weren’t sharing a collective consciousness.

You could spend an entire day at Yal-Ku, even booking a palapa. A stand at the entrance will rent whatever snorkel gear you need, at a reasonable price, so all you have to bring is your swimsuit and towel.

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I used this underwater camera!!!!

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February 10, 2014 at 10:18 pm Comments (0)

Crocs, Snakes and Flamingos at Celestún

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In the southeastern corner of the Yucatán is the Celestún Biosphere Reserve, a natural lagoon home to mangrove forests, flamingos, crocodiles and fearsome snakes.

While booking our tour on the Biosphere’s lagoon, we were the only tourists present. Normally, this is something we’d be pleased about, but not today. “If only some other people would show up,” we wailed. We even waited twenty minutes before buying tickets, just in case. Of course, we weren’t concerned about “sharing the glories of nature” with strangers or anything like that. We just wanted to save a buck. To take a tour at Celestún, you have to rent an entire boat, and it’s the same price whether you’re a group of ten or two. About $120 US.

Alas, nobody came. We cursed and paid up, but at least we’d have a private tour. For two hours, we cruised up and down the lagoon, just ourselves and our guide. Celestún is home to a healthy population of flamingos throughout the year, and we saw plenty of them. They were soaring in from the sky for a graceful landing, running atop the water while preparing for take-off, and wading in the shallows, bobbing for food like the keys of a big, pink piano.

Not far from the flamingos, and surely too close for their comfort, we spotted crocodiles. Well, our guide spotted them. Jürgen and I couldn’t see them until we got very close. A big mother and her son, partially covered by the brush and completely immobile. Shortly thereafter, near the edge of a mangrove formation called “Bird Island”, the guide suddenly stopped the boat and pointed into the bush. It was now that I began to suspect him of being half-eagle. Somehow, from fifty feet away, he had spotted a boa constrictor napping in the tree.

A boa constrictor! It had recently eaten, if its distended stomach was any indication. I’ve never seen such a big snake in the wild, and was mesmerized. Our guide tapped my shoulder and pointed to another boa farther up the tree. And then another a few feet away. I have no idea how he kept spotting them. Later on, while coasting along the river, I nudged Jürgen and whispered, “Watch this.” And then without warning I threw a sardine high up into the air, certain that our half-eagle guide would leap off the boat in pursuit. But he didn’t take the bait.

Midway through the tour, as we were cruising along the river at a rapid clip, we suddenly took a sharp left turn. It looked like we were going to crash into the thick brush, but instead we entered a mangrove tunnel. This was the most picturesque moment of the day, a natural passage through the dense growth, with sunlight filtering through the canopy and pelicans taking a break in the shade.

The long tour finished with a visit to the Ojo del Agua, a natural freshwater spring, and a trip down to the Gulf of Mexico, where we stopped briefly at a petrified forest which had died after the encroachment of salt water. This had been an expensive day out, but was ultimately worth the money. If you’re in a larger group and can split the cost, the boat tour is a no-brainer.

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We Rented A Car From Sixt For This Trip (No Hidden Costs!)

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December 19, 2013 at 6:22 pm Comments (2)

Cozumel’s Punta Sur

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The Faro Cerlain Eco Park is the official name of the reserve which extends across the southern point of Cozumel, but most refer to it as the Punta Sur. Here, you’ll find one of the island’s best beaches, a lighthouse offering a tremendous view over the Caribbean, and a natural mangrove lagoon in which crocodiles dwell. We visited toward the end of our week in Cozumel.

The first (and last) thing you’re going to notice about the park is the horrifically pot-holed road which leads in and out. After fifteen minutes of neck-breaking bumps, you’ll find yourself at the Cerlain Lighthouse. Be careful if you decide to climb it… or at least more careful than me. I was jogging up, trying to beat Jürgen to the top, and smashed my head against the ceiling. So despite the bright daylight, the view I enjoyed from the top was full of stars.

After shaking off my concussion, we took a quick look into the small maritime museum on the bottom floor of the lighthouse, and then embarked on a boat ride around the lagoon. Just inland from the coast, a thick mangrove forest is home to a number of interesting birds, including kingfishers and pink spoonbills. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise, but I was more concerned about watching the water, because the lagoon is filled with crocodiles. Just a few minutes after our tour began, we saw one… a huge beast, moving with terrifying agility.

The best part of Punta Sur is the beach found at the very end of the park, with great snorkeling at the nearby reef. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for this, and the water was too rough for swimming anyway. But we still had a great day out. It’s not the easiest place to get to, and that potholed road is no joke, but it’s worth the effort, particularly if you have an entire day to spend there.

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December 17, 2013 at 12:14 am Comment (1)
Snorkelling at the Yal-Ku Lagoon After completing our Open Water scuba certifications, we expected the idea of snorkeling to lose its appeal. Why float on top of the water when you can dive right down into it? But at shallow sites like the Yal-Ku Lagoon in Akumal, snorkeling is just as good as scuba. Perhaps even better.
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