First for the morbidly curious — weather forecast of constant thunderstorms were wrong and we had wonderful weather for the entire trip. All in all, it really was one of the best trips I’ve taken. You can continue after the break (assuming that you weren’t linked here directly) for a real mountain of photos and a little bit of writing.
Day Zero: Getting There
The flight there kind of sucked. I should have looked more carefully when I booked it because we flew to Montreal at midnight, “slept” on the benches at the airport and then caught our flight down to Cozumel in the morning. A relatively long flight on which they didn’t even feed us — damn you Air Canada — which seems kind of shocking to me. But it sure was nice getting off the plane in Mexico and I felt surprisingly full of energy. I don’t really have a problem hanging out in airports I suppose. In a way it’s relaxing, because I just plug in my tablet and read comic books (DMZ and Transmetropolitan were the hits of the trip for me). After landing we took the shuttle to the resort — the Occidental Grand Cozumel — which was extremely inexpensive and more than worth every cent, landing on my recommended list especially for families since it has a nice Kid’s Club. It turned out that a massive Ironman competition was going on while we were there, so the German team had booked 120 rooms at the resort, so even though the flight was full of French Canadians, there were hardly any Americans, and a majority of the people at the place were speaking German which was fun for me since I could eavesdrop.
Day One: Around The Resort
On the first day we just relaxed and bummed around the resort. The reason I picked Cozumel was that it was listed as a top-10-in-the-world snorkeling destination, and the beach in front of the hotel didn’t disappoint as you can see from these photos that I snapped on our first swim on the beach. It was all natural and even better than the artificial reef that the place that we were recently at in the Cayman Islands.
Day Two: Three Reef Snorkel Trip
We spent the morning on a boat going to three reefs in the region of the island around our resort. It started with an amazing hour on a reef about ten feet deep with a ton of fish and nice coral formations. In addition to mountains of tropical fish and starfish, we saw some moray eels and a five foot stingray. The tour was really nicely organized with the boat dropping us off at the upwind end of the reef and then picking us up at the other end, so even though we were in the water for a couple hours, the physical effort wasn’t draining. The second two reefs were a bit deeper, maybe twenty feet, but still very cool with bigger fish like barracuda. In the evening we had supper at Alberto’s, a seafood beach bar a five minute walk down the shore.
Day Three: Dammit!
Day three got fubar’d because we were booked to go on those neat submarine scooters, but when we got there the reservation hadn’t been made, and not only that, Nefarious was too young anyway — contrary to what we’d been told when we paid. But we got refunded and reimbursed for our taxi ride downtown so it wasn’t really a big deal. We ended up doing some more snorkeling at the reef in front of the resort where Caitlin discovered some shrimp (or baby lobsters) and a well disguised camo fish. I also found myself swimming through an insanely giant school of fish — it felt like thousands — when all of a sudden I was in a clearing and face to face with a four foot long barracuda. His face was six inches from mine and I totally thought I was going to get bitten on the nose but he took off instantly. Also saw a disgusting sea cucumber. I hope that’s what it was.
Oh and like most do these days, the resort was separated from the beach by the natural mangroves, with a beautiful raised wooden walkway running through it. The fun thing about this was that the swamp was overflowing with turtles that would rush the bridge any time anyone walked past. I suppose they’re waiting for food. The resort also had quite a few iguanas and lizards of all sizes wandering about as well as birds and other wildlife — it was very lush.
Day Four (Part One): Tullum
We got up at 6AM to take the ferry across to the mainland to see some ruins and go to a nature park. It was a pretty long process getting there so Caitlin and Nefarious were pretty drained on arrival. I didn’t mind because the ferry had power jacks so I could read and I was totally glued to DMZ and Transmetropolitan by then. Anyway, Tullum is an old Mayan port of commerce — it’s not a spiritual city like you can find inland, nor is it particularly residential. The walled port of Tullum sits right on the coast and is sheltered by a massive reef. A single natural channel runs into a small cove, and on top of one of the buildings are a pair of windows behind which a fire would be lit, allowing the Mayan canoes to line up until they’d see the light, ensuring that they were in the safe channel. Some of the buildings had carvings and even paintings — the city flourished from about 1000 AD until the Spanish wiped it out five hundred years later.
Day Four (Part Two): Xel-Ha
We spent the rest of the day at Xel-Ha, a natural park that I have to recommend to anyone going to Cozumel, Cancun, or the Mayan Riviera. A bit “touristy”, but still super cool. It’s essentially a massive aquarium that you can swim in, snorkeling being what we started our day with. We went all over the park, finding small secluded rivers with low cliffs on each side, swinging from ropes and zip lines, going inside underground rivers and flooded caves, getting surprised by coatimundi (the fox/raccoon-looking mammals), watching Manatees being fed — they may seem like massive ugly beasts but they are so beautiful and elegant and fluid when you see them in person — and even jumping off a twenty foot “cliff of courage”. It took Nefarious twenty minutes to work up the courage but she did it too.
Day Five (Part One): Lighthouse Beach
On the fifth day Nefarious went to “Kid’s Club” at the resort and Caitlin and I did an Island Tour in off-road buggies — essentially sand rails. We started by going down to the tip of the island that had a beach that reminded me of the Baja and was surrounded by low-lying swamps full of alligators. The beach had a big lighthouse and museum, and I am very proud of myself for climbing up all 132 steps to the top. Admittedly I suffered for it and my legs still haven’t recovered, but it was an amazing view and a couple of German athletes were up there as well so I got to practice my Deutsche for a while. For some reason it’s been coming back to me more and more the sicker I get. Oh, and you may notice there is a ruin in one of the photos — that’s an Aztec weather station. The island, unlike the Mayan and Olmec mainland, is Aztec, although I guess most tourists have no idea what the difference is. Anyway, on top of the structure were a dozen holes on the compass directions attached to internal conches. When the winds would pick up the building would whistle loudly, warning those inland that a hurricaine was coming. Then the Aztecs would have twelve hours to get all their animals, important possessions, and families down into the caves for shelter.
Day Five (Part Two): Offroading
The second half of the day we took the buggies onto muddy trails in the jungle. We got incredibly dirty, especially when we gunned it to get over a ramp that was preceded by a deep mud-pit. We must have had the equivalent of a truck-bed worth of mud poured on us. Caitlin was none too happy. We also got to go down in some of those caves I just mentioned. Afterwards we headed down to the beach for lunch. You wouldn’t believe how much mud poured off of us. Kind of wrecked it for the folks snorkeling around us! After lunch I watched a baby barracuda hunting and actually catch a little fish and eat it right in front of me.
Day Six: Dolphin Discovery
On the last day of our vacation Caitlin rested and Nefarious and I went to the natural “Dolphin Discovery” place five minutes down the road. I had mixed feelings but Nefarious really wanted to go swim with the dolphins, but I was relieved to see that the animals were well treated in a very large enclosure and seemed to be very happy, eagerly hopping out of the water to peek at any group of people who came out to see them. Nefarious and I watched a nice sea lion show, swam with the dolphins, and also got to feed the Manatee lettuce. I was hoping to spend more time with the Manatee as that was a real treat. The dolphin encounter was superb — not only was there the normal kissing and hugging of dolphins, but we also swam with them and they pushed us about and pulled us around at high speed. Like I said it’s hard for me because I don’t like seeing a dolphin enslaved, but this seemed like a responsible operation with happy animals. When we got back the storm started rolling in, but we had good weather the whole time.
Well, that’s about it. A very nice vacation at a good resort with nice staff, facilities, and food, and an excellent selection of tours. The whole thing was quite inexpensive, something like $700 a person which to me seems pretty amazing for an all-inclusive resort for a week plus the flights — the only thing that doesn’t include is the extra tours, but even they weren’t very costly. It’s kind of amazing how inexpensive vacations are these days. For Christmas we are going back to Mexico, but this time to the mainland. I imagine we’ll hit Xel-Ha again, and some of the inland ruins. We’re also flying to Florida to see my father and going to Christmas itself with Caitlin’s parents, so it should be good too. Finally, I’m happy to say that my health held up well, so it’s really was more than I could have hoped for.
Thanks to everyone who bought jewelry while I was gone. The sale will continue until month’s end, and I’ll spend this week working like a maniac to get everything shipped. Thanks again and I’m happy to answer any questions about the trip of course. Oh and I bought it through redtag.ca which I’ve had pretty good experiences with and I’d certainly suggest to other Canadians looking for trips on a budget.