Aside from Chichen Itza, there are a lot of other fun activities in and around Cancun besides the beautiful beaches and the hottest night clubs. South, along the beach about an hours drive is the beautiful ocean side ruin at Tulum. I visited this spot a few years before this trip and – due to its idyllic location on the white sands of the Yucatan – Tulum is one of the most beautiful ruins I have ever explored. I can see why the Mayan emperor selected the location as his vacation home.
Another fun and interesting trip is a mangrove swamp tour. You will see the advertisements in the brochure sections of most hotels. In my case, the boat company sent a driver to my hotel and took me to the marina in the Cancun lagoon – a harbor really – where I met my tour guide named Angel (photo above). My boat lesson consisted of, “Have you ever driven a boat?” Once I said yes, he said, “Let’s go then!” He got in his boat and took off and I followed. I had to remember how do drive the boat again and remember to give plenty of “lead time” as boats don’t have breaks. But within 10 or 15 minutes I felt like a pro at it.
As we motored out of the harbor, I saw many rich houses that looked like so many that you might see in South Beach, Florida. Many of the homes had boats and yachts tied up and families walked along the marinas and beachways. I wondered how many of these ocean front neighborhoods were gated communities – probably all of them.
After about a 15 minute boat ride, we were clear of the “inhabited” area of Cancun and came to the jungle’s edge. It is amazing how Cancun is almost completely surrounded by thick jungle. From high up in some of the hotel rooms all you see is blue ocean and green forest with the occasional black vulture circling overhead. Angel must have assumed I knew how to drive a boat well as he did not slow down at all. He cut right into the mangrove bypass lane and stayed pretty heavy on the throttle. It was really quite exciting to zip back and forth along this narrow waterway cut right through this wet jungle. I had flashbacks to a James Bond 007 movie (was in “Mooonraker?”) where the boats were chasing each other in Louisiana. I was nervous a few times that I would crash and had plans to jump over the side if it got to hairy. And then I thought I might be eaten by crocodiles and decided to back off the throttle a little bit.
After a while, we slowed down and Angel pointed out (actually he yelled from his boat back to mine) some of the local wildlife and fauna as we passed. We saw white egret (below), turtles and eagles perched high in nests above the treeline.
As you can see in the photo below, some of the waterways were quite narrow and we puttered along at a slow pace listening to the birds and watching the wildlife. I had hoped to see some monkeys but did not see any. I am not even sure if there are any at this latitude.
At some points, the jungle grew right over the top of the waterway and the mangroves were quite thick and it got a little on the dark side. I did see some large fish (not sure what kind) swimming near the surface; they would dart back into the water with a “spalsh” as the boat came near. We drove along a waterway that zig-zagged back and forth through the mangroves for some time and eventually emerged on the other side.
Angel took me over to a boat tie up point that looked like it was in the middle of no where in the ocean. As we came closer I could see that it was shallow water despite the distance from the shore. He brought a snorkel and mask and I did some snorkeling to see the coral reef and fish. I wished that I had brought my scuba camera.
The next time you are in Cancun, I recommend a mangrove boat tour. I had a lot of fun, learned about the local ecology and saw some interesting wildlife.
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