When we were looking for things to do for the couple of days we had available before the cruise started, we initially thought driving around the Florida Keys – then Hurricane Irma happened and wiped a fair bit of the keys into the sea, so we started looking further afield and ML found this place – Xcaret – this is a privately owned theme park – but not like the theme parks that you’re used to. This is an ecological Park that is built in the same area as the archaeological site of the same name.
(Thanks Wikipedia) The land was originally purchased by a group of Mexican entrepreneurs, led by architect Miguel Quintana Pali. 5 hectares of the land was purchased in 1984.
When he began to clear the land, he started uncovering cenotes, sinkholes formed by collapsed cave ceilings weakened by 3 million years of erosion from underground rivers running through them and flowing into the sea. He saw the potential for tourism and formulated the idea of an Ecological Park open to the public in December 1990.
ML really wanted to float down the rivers, so that was our main purpose for visiting the park. There was also exotic birds and a horse show, some other random animals – a jaguar, a tapir, a monkey and some kind of Mexican racoon. You could also snorkel, swim with dolphins or sting rays, just swim at a little beach or have the dead skin eaten off your feet by fish…. there was really something for everyone.
It was quite busy tourist spot and lots of big tour groups, but besides a couple of bottle neck areas on the river, the crowds didn’t really impede on our experience. We donned our mandatory life jackets …
…. and headed down, down, down to the cavernous caves below.
The water was about 22 degrees, so was chilly upon entry, but quite nice to float along to.
We had purchased waterproof covers for our phones and then waterproof punches to put the waterproof covered phones in – you know, just in case… then hooked them around our necks so we didn’t lose them – this was my attempt at taking a photo of what was in front of me whilst treading water and trying to see what was on the screen…
Yes, it was a little bit creepy to start off with (the caves, not my accidental selfie!), but as you went on, you noticed how clear the water was and how relaxing it was to just float along…. some people thought it was the fast lane at the local aquatic centre and kicked their way past people, but other than that, the river was full of calm, happy people just having a bit of fun.
There were interesting things around every corner…. now this photo makes it look like there wasn’t much breathing room between the water level and the ceiling – bit it was totally fine.
The one thing that you don’t consider is who might have worn your lifejacket before you. There is a strap that goes from the back, between your legs and fastens at the front so your jacket doesn’t float off over your head…. funnily enough this was one of the only underwater photos that I took that actually worked out – seriously, we’ve never seen so much bare buttocks as we have done on this trip so far and it’s only been 4 days!
The other thing that gave us a little fright was the cave full of bats! That’s right, you read that correctly. We floated around a bend and into a relatively dark cave and looked up! Needless to say we swam a little faster through there – not before bravely taking a photo though.
There was also a fabulous big room that opened up at the ceiling (people could look down over the railing above) It was like something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The lighting was lovely and they sprayed mist from the tops of the high walls – maybe to give a rainforest effect? I’m not sure – all I know is that it played havoc with my glasses.
This was of the many photo opps along the river. You pressed a button and stood in the right place and a photo was taken – which you then purchase at the end. We didn’t partake in this particular bit of fun.
We knew we were getting close to the end and closer to the ocean when the mangroves appeared.
A bit of underwater photography magic…
And then the big photo opp to finish…
This was our attempt…
When we got out of the river we were right near the sea. There were small little pools like this one that people were swimming in.
And also a big row of chairs and hammocks to take in the scenery.
Australia was on that pole somewhere…
We sat in a couple of beach chairs and watched the parade of passers by. There were activities a plenty going on – parasailing… no, I won’t ever be doing that again!, fast boating – also not a huge desire to do that, glass bottom boats, diving – the lot.
After our big day we found these change rooms to get out of our wet bathers – lucky we’re not too tall or too short! btw – these were unisex change rooms and not a single person got offended by who was changing next to them – amazing!
We taxied back to Playa del Carmen with a relatively tame driver – our driver on the way there was like a bat out of hell and cornered like he was on rails! So a nice sedate drive home was welcomed.
We showered and changed and headed out on the town for the evening. We found out where Paul Stanley was headed the other night. Apparently he works out the front of Señor Frog’s! I’m not sure of the relevance of the skipping rope.
Not wanting to go too far from the hotel after our big swim, we stopped at a Mexican place on the main drag where were escorted by a poncho wearing Mexican man. He plonked us at a balcony table upstairs and we ordered ML her first ever tequila. I suggested a Patron because I’d tasted it once before and wasn’t immediately sick, so I thought that would be a good start.
The waiter carried the drinks down a flight of stairs on his head which was clever, but such showmanship didn’t bode too well for the quality of the food. He later carried down two full margarita glasses, one on top of the other on his head. Impressive, but unnecessary.
So ML’s first taste of tequila – straight.
And she was not fussed. We only got one shot to share – in Mexico a shot is 44mls (1.5oz) and as we weren’t going to shoot it, I thought it best to share and sip. After ML’s initial taste we decided to add some salt and lime which helped the medicine go down.
Keeping the Mexican theme going – we ordered those margaritas – the ones he carried on his head.
It was a good spot – up high on the balcony, but not the best vantage point for people watching… we did however manage to spot someone who we thought could possibly be Olivia Newton-John’s missing husband!!!