Tag Archives: Snorkeling



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Ah, Xcaret (“esh care Rhett)!!  What an amazing place.  If there is one thing that Mexico excels at, it is in their ecological parks, and Xcaret is one of the crown jewels.  We had no real idea of what to expect because this was our first foray into one of the parks (in 2009 on a Playa del Carmen resort vacation).  Just walking the park to get from one activity to another requires a certain level of fitness because it is huge.  And, it has a plethora of “things to do.”

Of course, we boated out to the reef to snorkel.  And, it was amazing!!   For another snorkeling experience, we went down into a maze of caves, where you can pick one of three underground rivers (cenotes) to snorkel in.  Or, if you like living on the edge (like we do), you can hand your fate to the muses and use the spinner found at the spot where the cave branches in three directions.xcaret-ball-game 2

They have an Ulama “ballpark” inside Xcaret where the ancient game was played (and, still is in a few places in Mexico).  They hold demo games several evenings each week.  It, too, is amazing and offers a glimpse into the ancient Mayan culture.

In addition to beaches, dolphins, sheltered coves, beach palapas, underground rivers, multiple restaurants, lockers, and equipment rental, they put on a glamorous floor show at night which is a fantasy of lights and music that is billed as a musical history of Mexico.

If you’re going to be in the area, then get a two-day pass because there is plenty more than one day’s worth of sights, sounds and activities!



Xel-Ha – The Magical Lagoon!

So, the hillbilly and I spent two days in the past two weeks doing the “parque” thing. My youngest son, Kenny, and his girlfriend, Julie, were here for 18 days through Christmas, New Year’s and beyond. It just seemed appropriate that we do something fun and touristy.

Kenny &  Julie in their snorkeling get-up at Xel-ha.

Kenny & Julie in their snorkeling get-up at Xel-ha.

First up was Xel-ha. Its activities center on a lagoon fed by an underground river that eventually opens out into the Caribbean. It is, of course, a beautiful setting, and the lagoon has a couple of small lava rock islands which lend themselves beautifully to great snorkeling. There are platforms all around the lagoon that provide easy entre to the water. Each platform has racks of life jackets and plenty of room to don your snorkel equipment (which is provided as part of the fee). Then, you simply go down the steps and splash into the realm of los pescados.

Having two young people with us meant that the day was an adventure. The kids and I jumped Leap of Courage Xel-ha IIoff the “The Stone of Courage” into the lagoon.  It’s purported to be five meters high (about 16 feet), but on the way down, I know I counted a good 20 feet. My son remarked to me, “Good jump, Mom. I don’t know any other 67 year old women who would do it.” My first thought was, “It never occurred to me not to do it,” followed immediately by, “OMG, I’m suffering from serious age denial!!”

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Xplor the Underworld!

When I ordered the tickets for our day trip to Xel-ha, I ordered a package deal for the hillbilly and me that included a day at Xplor. You have to use the second ticket within six days, so the week after seeing Kenny and Julie off at Cancun, we headed for the challenges of Xplor on our own!

When you check-in, you are issued a locker key and a helmet that you must wear the whole time you’re in the park. I’m surprised, shocked really, that this ensemble-topper hasn’t caught on in the larger human community – it is incredibly flattering (see picture below), and adds a touch of haute couture to the most mundane outfit. The helmet also has a number on it that will be used to pull up your pictures when you’re done.

WXplor - The Beginning 5e did the zip lines last. There should be another name for the zip lines at Xplor because the zip line at Xel-ha was a ride on a line, in a sling, into the lagoon. At Xplor, you climb up, up, up, up and up, and eventually get to a platform from which you “zip” over the jungle.  No problem, I told myself, I can go with gravity and a seat under my butt forever.

Yeah, right! I found that the sling was now a thing of the past. It’s all well and good to put someone into a sling if they’re zipping over water, looking at a soft landing in a lagoon, as you are at Xel-ha. But, when sending them over the jungle, those people are strapped into a contraption that basically acts as a tourniquet at the top of both legs and the waist. If you lose your hold while zipping, no problem –you’re in a death grip that restricts all circulation below the waist. However, if your rescue isn’t timely, you may have to have both legs amputated.

At the end of each “zip” segment, there is another climb, sometimes up stairs and, occasionally, up a (very steep, in retrospect) ramp to the next zip segment.

There is a seldom discussed benefit from having a spouse who has smoked since he was 15 years old – Marv fell farther and farther behind me in the climb to each new zip tower, which meant I had to wait for him for longer and longer periods. By the time we got to the 10th leg, I was easily getting a six-seven minute breather each time.

Xplor Marv's Happy FaceBefore the zip line runs, we swam the underground river.  Have you ever noticed that if the water is just a few degrees cooler than the ambient air temperature how some people just go to pieces.

Once we got past all the squealing and shrieking that accompanied the initial plunge into the river, I noticed that most of the folks, in front of and behind us, were not “swimming” but standing up and walking, which I kind of thought was cheating. But, Marv is 6’3”, and the aforementioned smoking does not allow for a lot of powerful swimming strokes, so he walked, too. What the hell? I grabbed the back of his life jacket and let him float me along behind. After all, it was a good, non-strenuous way to see the cave and get pictures.

After our “swim,” we paddled a raft in yet another part of the underground river system, using these little paddles (about 12″ x 9″) that strapped to your hands.  Me in front, the hillbilly in the rear.  It took me a few minutes to catch on to the fact that I was, not only doing all the steering, but all the paddling, too. However, it took less than 10 seconds to correct that little oversight.Xplor UW Raft

At one point during our raft ride, the cord that kept my camera attached to my wrist gave up the ghost and my camera went into the drink. The couple immediately behind us very kindly stopped to help us look. The nearest “monitor” paddled over to see what the problem was (and I noted somewhat bitterly, did so with a real paddle, not one of the hand-thingees). Miracle of miracles, the lovely man found my camera, just as I was mentally writing it off. For the record: I firmly believe that if you really want to find something, give up on it and it will show up.

During your excursions through the Xplor cave systems, there are cameras set up throughout that are set off by motion detectors. As soon as they “detect” you, the cameras snap your picture. This process creates a series of pictures during your escapade in the caves that you can buy at the end for $75 USD a package. I really don’t like looking at myself anymore, and I definitely don’t want to pay $75 to do it, so I told the park rep to enjoy them.  Though the thought of being on camera in my helmet did give me a moment’s pause before I issued the denial.

Xplor Amphib Veh 2Xplor has multiple zip lines systems, river swims, amphibian treks and river raft trips, so if you want to do your “activity” again, you are not locked into seeing the same stalactites, nooks, crannies or jungle. They also have several trails for the amphibious vehicles. And, as with Xel-ha, the entrance fee also includes lunch (all you can eat) and drinks (non-alcoholic only).

But by this time, even the thought of just sitting in a car while trundling through the caves and jungle did not stir the hillbilly’s adrenaline. So, we trudged back up the long ascent back to the entrance, turned in our helmets and locker key, staggered into the parking lot and, more or less, fell into the car.

It was another wonderful day.  Xplor is great fun and offers a variety of fun “adventures,” both above and below the jungle canopy.  Plan on a whole day there, unless you’re like the hillbilly and I – then plan on fewer hours, depending on how much steam your factory still manufactures.  We lasted about 6 hours.