About a week ago I returned from a 5 day, 4 night trip to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, traveling south of the popular tourist destination of Cancun to reside at an all-inclusive report a few miles north of Playa del Carmen. The official occasion was to celebrate my husband’s successful passing of his professional engineering (PE) exam, but an unofficial reason was to escape from the never-ending winter we’re having in the northeast/Mid Atlantic region.
I am not a huge beach or pool person, so I was hesitant to go on such a trip. I thought that the eat and drink all you want aspect would get boring after a couple days. And let’s face it, there has been a lot of negative press about Mexico recently, from a family dying of carbon monoxide poisoning in a VRBO, to the bomb on a ferry to Cozumel, to 15 people getting killed in drug cartel related violence in Cancun last week. But for the sake of my hubbie’s happiness, I tried to remain positive.
And I’m glad I did, because this was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. Why, you ask?
- The birds
- The snorkeling
- The other wildlife
- And ok, the booze and food were pretty great too!
I am a bird nerd and I added 7 lifebirds to my list, as well as 2-3 other birds that I have only seen once or twice before, including dozens of magnificent frigatebirds. The lifebirds were the tropical kingbird, Yucatan woodpecker, hooded oriole, summer tanager, yellow-billed cacique, great kiskadee, and plain chachalaca. All but the last bird were seen on our resort. The final one was on our way back to the airport. Thanks goes to the handy laminated field guide I picked up the week before we left:
In terms of snorkeling, we were able to borrow gear from our resort, wade out into the ocean right there, and see some fish. Unfortunately it got windy by day two, so there was too much sand to see much. The wind canceled our first off-resort snorkeling trip, and I can’t say I would recommend Cancun Adventures to anyone in the future, but our second trip at Maroma Adventures, was great! I saw some sting rays, myriad fish like angelfish, blue dorys, damselfish, and some people saw a turtle, although I was not so lucky.
The snorkeling off the Yucatan Peninsula is supposed to be second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I don’t have that to compare to but it was a million times better than last year’s snorkeling off St. Kitts. And Mexico requires that you wear only “reef safe” sunscreen to help prevent the coral bleaching that is happening worldwide. I bought some off Amazon and it worked ok, but I can see why this type of sunscreen isn’t all that readily available. It leaves white streaks everywhere and needs to be reapplied a lot more frequently. But if I helped not kill innocent corals and fish then it’s worth it. I will say that the reef looked a little rough, but not completely bleached like some are. Just a word of caution that a lot of the so-called “reef safe” sunscreens out there are NOT actually reef safe. Read all the reviews, know which ingredients are bad, and buy accordingly.
Here are some photos of the fish we saw while snorkeling:
In addition to all the sea life we saw many iguanas and coatis on our resort.
I would recommend highly taking a trip to the Yucatan for the wildlife watching, eating local cuisine (what great, diverse fruit!), and general relaxation. Enjoy!