The Marina at Dreams Cancun Resort

As a grand finish to my whale shark tour posts, here are some photos of the beach at the Dreams Cancun Resort and Spa. We used Solo Buceo dive tour company, which is located right at the resort.

**Fun fact: I used to intern as a concierge at Dreams Cancun way back in 2007!**

It was the perfect place to begin and end our day.

Swimming with Giants

Every single time I’ve gone snorkeling, whether it be in Belize, at Xcaret, at Xel-ha or in Akumal, I’ve experienced a kind of claustrophic panic. As soon as my head gets underwater, I flip out. Usually I’m able to relax after a few minutes, but snorkeling is still an uncomfortable feeling for me.

When Jorge, my friend Nadia and I decided to swim with whale sharks this weekend, I was so excited but mostly nervous! I’d never snorkeled in more than 10 feet of water before, much less in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. Or swimming alongside a 30-foot fish.

At 7 am Sunday morning, we made our way to the Solo Buceo dive center located at the beautiful Dreams Cancun Resort and Spa in the Hotel Zone.

Our early-morning boat ride was much bumpier than I’d anticipated, and I realized it was my first time being so far away from shore! It was a scary but fascinating feeling.

Me and Nadia, ready to go!

It took us about an hour to get to the area where the whale sharks hang out. Since we were one of the first boats to arrive, we spent awhile circling the area and communicating with other boats looking for the whale sharks. Once a boat had found them, we saw all of the other boats racing toward the area, where there were about 50 whale sharks.  Beautiful.

Several couples came along with us on the boat, and the guides would take us out into the water in teams of 2. When we spotted a whale shark swimming nearby, the boat would head it off, then the guides would jump in with 2 people and swim along with the whale shark.

Since we were a bit nervous, Jorge and I waited until last. We both panicked a bit when we jumped in, but once I was able to slide my mask on and put my face underwater, the guide pointed toward my right and I saw it, swimming underneath us. Pepe (the guide) grabbed my hand and pulled me forward, and we were able to swim on top of it for awhile before it disappeared into the depths of the ocean.

Jorge and I getting ready to jump in!

Nadia looking much calmer than I could ever be

After the first round of swims, several of the people on our boat got seasick and just waited it out. The rest of us jumped in several more times. On my 2nd and 3rd swims, we tried to head off a whale shark but it went another direction, so we had to look for another one! Both times, another whale shark came swimming right at us. Since the water is so clear, I could see the whale sharks coming from quite a ways away. I can’t begin to tell you what it feels like to have this giant fish swim right at you, mouth gaping open.

Since I don’t have an underwater camera I couldn’t take any photos (fail), but here’s a shot from my friend Kelly McLaughlin so you can get an idea of just how amazing these things look:

Photo by Kelly McLaughlin

On those last 2 swims, I got to swim along just a few feet from the whale shark for several minutes. The immense gills were fascinating, and the spots were sparkly, like they’d been bedazzled by a 12-year-old girl. After we stopped and the animal swam away, I couldn’t stop looking at its huge tail!

Even though I was planning on being frightened and out of my element, it was a surprisingly peaceful experience. The whale sharks are calm, slow-moving creatures and we never once felt in danger. My guide Pepe was also great about guiding me along and pointing everything out, so I never felt lost out on the open sea.

Jorge and his guide swimming alongside a whale shark

The ocean itself surprised me almost as much as the whale sharks. As we were snorkeling along, the water was so incredibly clear and intensely blue. Rays of light shone through and disappeared way down. Even with such clear water, I couldn’t see the bottom. I can’t even imagine how deep it went.

Gringation’s Whale Shark Tour Tips:

  1. Put on sunscreen before you leave the house, or bring bio sunscreen. I was too lazy to put sunscreen on before leaving the house, and our guide told us that once you’re on the boat, it’s bio sunscreen only. And today I’m paying the price. So much sunburn. Ow.
  2. Bring an underwater camera. In a way I was glad I didn’t have one because it was one less thing to worry about while I was swimming, but trust me, you’ll want those underwater photos.
  3. The boat ride is bumpy and uncomfortable (but worth it), so I wouldn’t recommend this tour unless you’re in decent physical condition.
  4. Sunglasses!
  5. Dramamine!

We stopped by Isla Mujeres on the way back… I’ll post those pics tomorrow!

For more underwater pics and a video, check out Kelly’s post: Swimming with Whale Sharks Cancun

Puppy Love

I haven’t done many posts about the dogs lately because it’s hard to get pictures of them (unless they look like this). They’re always on the move! Last night Suki (Dog #1) found a new favorite spot and I was finally able to take a photo.

Seconds later, Konan (Dog #3) fell/rolled off the couch and the moment was ruined. Gosh, I love them.

 

Jorge vs. The Flying Cockroach

So last night I was calmly watching TV when out of the corner of my eye I saw Konan staring at a black critter making its way up the staircase wall. I thought “Oh, the black lizard from the front patio must have ventured indoors!” Then, I noticed it had somehow gotten way up on the bannister right by my head, and it was a GIANT COCKROACH.

I gave a girly scream and rushed out of my recliner, twisting my toe on the way. I took shelter on the chair across the room, half watching TV and half keeping my eye on the roach. After a good 20 minutes of wiggling his antennae, I suddenly realized he wasn’t on the bannister anymore. I ran to the middle of the living room and, letting out a stream of profanities, looked around the room to find him.

He was right behind my chair and walking across the ceiling, in true Spiderman fashion. This is when I took shelter in the hallway.

He then disappeared again, and it took me quite awhile to find him from my post cowering in the hall. Turns out… he had mastered the art of camoflage.

At this point I retreated to the kitchen, only peeking out from time to time to check the cockroach’s position and make sure he wasn’t plotting my demise. I considered using the can of Raid, but any mexpat knows that cockroaches are only angered by bug spray.

I waited a full hour for Jorge to come home. He asked me, “Where’s the roach killer Raid?”

“The cleaning lady used up the last of it last week. All we have is the garden Raid,” I replied.

“Are you kidding? He’s going to laugh in my face when he sees that! Give my your flip flop.”

Armed with the garden spray in his right hand and my flip flop in his left, Jorge approached the curtain and sprayed the roach to get it out of his hiding spot. With one swift motion of his left arm, the flying roach was defeated with a fatal chancletazo.

Something tells me he still lives, somewhere in the depths of our garbage bin.

Who kills the bugs in your house?

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 4

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 1

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 2

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 3

Sadly, only 1 pound lost and no noticeable changes since my last weight loss update. Now I’m down to 134 pounds.

Here’s what happened: When my family was here in late May, I missed 2 weeks at the gym. Despite all of our dinners in Playa del Carmen, I was proud that I was still able to control my portions. My nutritionist was a bit disappointed that I only lost 1 pound at my weigh-in, but I am thrilled that I didn’t gain any weight with little exercise and all that temptation (including a day at an All Inclusive resort)!

There was even a 5-layer chocolate fudge cake at work that I didn’t eat! I even cut slices for everyone in the office and had it sitting within my line of sight the entire work day. So, so proud.

My goal is to lose 1.2 kilos (2.6 pounds) in 2 weeks (by this Friday), which would get me down to 60 kilos! (132 pounds) It doesn’t sound like much, but when you get down to the last few pounds, it gets harder and harder to let go of the weight.

Now that I’ve got the diet and temptation part down, I need to pick up the pace at the gym. I don’t want to fall into the “skinny fat” category, so it’s time to work on my tone. It’s already gotten so much better in just a few months, but this gringa’s got a long way to go!

To keep me motivated, here are some more before and after pics so you can see the difference in my face:

Before - 160 pounds

After - 134 pounds

What’s the biggest food temptation you’ve ever resisted?

Spring Break in Mexico? Yes Please.

This week, I was excited to sign on with the Mexico Today program once again! Over the next few months, I will be sharing the occasional link to posts on the Mexico Today website (in addition to my “normal” posts on “hard-hitting” topics like the beach, my weird neighbors, and spiders).

Today I’m sharing a short but sweet article on something I have experienced first-hand:

Mexico Remains a Top Spring Break Location

50,000 Spring Breakers in Cancun and the Riviera Maya alone! After Jorge and I went bar-hopping in Cancun’s Party Center back in March, I can see why.

In fact, I think all 50,000 of those Spring Breakers might have been at Coco Bongo that night.

So tell me, amigosWhat’s the craziest thing you’ve done during Spring Break?

Getting Used to Solo Adventures

I’m a little sad lately.

Jorge graduated university in December, and he started his first job in early April, which is very exciting! He works the morning shift, so he’s always home in the evenings when I get back from work. We still get to see eachother a lot, which I’m very grateful for.

The downside? Jorge works weekends. Our fabulous weekends traveling to places like Holbox, Playa del Carmen and Isla Mujeres are over, at least for the next few years. Since his shift starts at 7 am, we can’t stay out late on Friday and Saturday nights anymore. Well I can… he can’t 😛

As passionate as I am about tourism… tourism never sleeps. Employees in Mexico’s travel industry typically only get 1 day off a week (sometimes no days during high season), and it rarely falls on a weekend.

So what have I been doing with my weekends without Jorge?

  • Intense Saturdays at the gym
  • Church every Sunday
  • Running Sunday afternoon
  • Lots of TV

Not bad, but I really miss my adventures.

Last week I got so frustrated that I just went to the beach myself, something I’d never done before. My next stop was Surfin Burrito (because you can’t go into the Hotel Zone without a little somethin somethin from Surfin Burrito). Spending a day with myself wasn’t half bad, but I really did miss Jorge.

Some pics from my solo trip to Forum Beach in Cancun’s Hotel Zone:

I’d love to turn to my friends for some fun weekends, but most of them are married/have a boyfriend, so it’s hard to convince them to have a girls’ day. My amazing single friends mostly work weekends.

Feeling a little lonely.

Do ya’ll have any other great ideas for solo weekend adventures?

Loud Americans

During yet another trip to The Surfin Burrito in the Cancun Hotel Zone this past Saturday, I was listening in on the conversation of the 2 tables next to us. Why was I listening in, you ask? Because they were speaking so loudly I had no choice. Of course, they had to be gringos.

In Cancun, American tourists have a reputation for being loud. I’m here to tell you that this stereotype is pretty much dead on, to an extent.

When I hop on the bus to go into the Hotel Zone, it’s filled with mostly Mexicans for awhile… and the bus is silent. Once the bus leaves downtown Cancun and enters the Hotel Zone, tourists start to get on. And the volume level goes way up. I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty amusing to see dozens of Mexicans sitting quietly in their seats on their way to work while my fellow gringos scream things like “WALMART??”, “DUDE! STEVE WAS SO WASTED LAST NIGHT!”  or “HILTON? HIL-TON? YES? SI? YOU LET ME KNOW! OK! GRACIAS!”

I even heard one guy shout aloud on the bus, asking in all seriousness where the bus stop for “COKER BONGER” was. Jorge and I assume he meant to say Coco Bongo.

What I’ve noticed after 7 years here is that most American tourists are low-key when in public, so the stereotype isn’t 100% true. However, I’ve also never seen anyone from another country act that loudly unless they’re at a party or a sporting event.

In a nutshell: Not all American tourists are loud, but all loud tourists are American.

It’s not a bad thing or an offensive thing to be loud in public. (Especially not in Cancun!) It is pretty funny to watch, though.

What kind of tourist are you?

**Edit: After posting this, I’ve been told by a few friends that it’s not just Americans. Turns out Canadians can get quite rowdy as well. 😉 Party on, Canada. Party on.

Spring Break Cancun Craziness

Well this past 3-day weekend was crazy, to say the least!

Friday night we went to Party Center in the Hotel Zone with some of Jorge’s guy friends to see some of the Spring Break 2012 action.

Line outside Coco Bongo

This shirt was a Christmas present, and it didn

Mandala - filled up!

We wandered around Party Center for awhile, then decided on XX Bar because it was cheap, and the only place that wasn’t 100% packed yet.

**Note to my female readers: Dancing on bars is fun, but I recommend wearing jeans, not miniskirts. It may seem fun at the time, but you won’t like that YouTube video filmed by some stranger once you’re home from vacation.

**Note to my male readers: Don’t dance on bars. Ever. You may fall into the concrete bar pit like this one shirtless body builder we saw. Hilarious for us. Not an easy embarrassment to shake off for him.

The best part of the night: I got hit on! Since I’m always out with Jorge, I haven’t gotten hit on much in the past 5 years. 30 seconds by myself at the bar, and I was turning guys down. Nice to know I still got it!

We left XX Bar around 4 am and snuck into went to Plaza Forum for some late-night pizza. Yum!

What I've Been Up To

So the past few weekends I’ve taken tons of pictures to share with you guys! Things have been pretty busy at work, but I figure I’ll keep ya’ll updated. Here goes…

Last Weekend:

Went to my friend Dama's birthday party at Black Pub Friday night

Saturday: Went to another friend's birthday party, complete with palapa and a taco stand

My "gringas"... flour tortilla, pastor, onion, cilantro and pineapple

Saturday night: Burgers in a friend's backyard (it had very cool design, but I only managed to get a shot of this light-covered palm tree)

 

This Weekend:

On Saturday I bought this... I'll tell you why later!

Sunday afternoon: Puerto Morelos

Saturday night: Carnaval parade in Playa del Carmen (all pictures were either blurry or blocked by pedestrians, but the costumes were great!)

What did you do this weekend?