Oh, so that’s what is next. Yeah, yeah… that’ll do.
So, it is really freaking cool to have family and friends that are able, willing, and want to take you on trips with them. I have been fortunate enough to be in that position with a family that really likes to take trips. So, we obviously jumped at the chance to go to Mexico to swim with Whale Sharks near Cancun!
We stayed on Isla Holbox on the north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Not surprisingly, it was gorgeous. Driving there from the Cancun airport, everything is flat and scrubby, with little pockets of civilization every several kilometers. These little towns we saw were all about the same, similar to those seen through out Central America: cinder block houses in some paused stage of construction, thatched roofs, poured concrete buildings for the mini super market, dogs running around, but not as many chickens as I usually expect. A two hour car ride from the airport later, we were at a dock for a quick ferry ride across to Holbox.
Holbox is a super cool island. More than 6 times longer than it is wide (barely 1.5 km), the civilized part of it is bunched around this port. Dirt/sand roads crowed with locals and tourists walking and riding golf carts and motorcycles. More dogs roaming around – a surprisingly large number of them small (daschunds, terriers, etc…), mini super markets on every corner, lots of places to buy touristy items, and a lot of quite good looking restaurants, local food and food from all kinds of places (Italian, Asian…). Our hotel was beautiful on the beach side of the island, along side many other hotels on the beach. Lounges, hammocks, a beach bar, palm trees to keep you cool in the hot sun, not to mention a fair number of attractive young ladies lounging around taking in that hot sun as well…
Our first morning on Holbox was our day out on the water to see the Whale Sharks, which were so cool, but a two hour boat ride away. Away at 0700h, ham and cheese sandwiches on a twenty foot boat with eight visitors, a guide (Jesus, really), and a driver/chef with a small awning in back. With the sun low and the wind in our faces, the temperature was perfect (but it heated up quite efficiently and us gringos got nice and crispy). Two hours later, we found ourselves arriving at a part of the ocean, that would otherwise be completely unremarkable, we found at least three dozen similar boats… and lots of fins slowly cruising the water’s surface. Time to swim!
Now, thanks to the Mexican laws around Whale sharks, only two people were allowed to get in the water at a time with a guide, and you had to wear something buoyant. Unfortunately, we had missed this second rule and had not brought wetsuits, so we had to wear life jackets – lame, but the bright orange did make you feel a little safer with all of those boats around. If you don’t know, whale sharks are completely harmless, at least as far as people have experienced. We really only see them cruising around, eating plankton and fish eggs mostly, at the surface, but there is much research going on currently to learn more about these beautiful, majestic, and mysterious creatures. Here, off of the Yucatan, the sharks are swallowing as much fish egg as they can, using the balene-like structures in their wide-open mouths to filter them out of the water as they cruise the surface all day long. These eggs are all throughout the water and you get them in your hair (and swimsuit). So, two at a time, we jumped in and tried to keep up with these 5m+ sharks, which were deceivingly fast, and we all got to swim three times.
After swimming with sharks, we went to a reef, which didn’t look promising, but turned out great! We saw some barracuda, needlefish, lion fish (gosh they’re invasive), conch, lobster, a nurse shark!, and a ton of various reef fish. It was just delightful. Getting out of the water, our driver/chef had been at work, preparing a fabulous ceviche. Amazing. I highly suggest doing this if you get the opportunity. Look for the Whale Shark Daddy.
The rest of the time on Holbox was spent relaxing, enjoying the food (of which there are plenty of amazing options – go local, you won’t be disappointed), ocean, sun, and people. Winning meal, for me, was a deep fried whole grouper. Just amazing, they nailed it.
I don’t know what comes next, but hey, I could totally keep going like this.