Snorkeling Adventure in Tankah Cenote

Snorkeling used to terrify me. I would put my face under the water and instantly feel like I was being suffocated. Maybe that’s what claustrophobia feels like?

But living in the Cancun and Riviera Maya area, you have to get over your fear of snorkeling if you want to have any fun!

After 9 year living here, I’m finally comfortable snorkeling. The thought of barracudas still freaks me out more than I like to admit, but I’m trying to move past it. A few weekends ago, I went with a few of my coworkers from BuyPlaya Real Estate on a girls’ day in Tankah Bay! First we snorkeled in the ocean (no pictures, sorry), where we saw lots of huge colorful fish and the entrance to an underwater cave. No barracudas in sight, thank you God.

Next, we walked across the street to the main cenote in Tankah. I’m unsure of the name, but from quick internet searching it seems to be called simply “Tankah Cenote” or “Casa Cenote” (after the nearby restaurant). This cenote is interesting because it connects to the ocean through a large tunnel… the same one we saw when snorkeling in the ocean! It’s a completely open cenote, unlike many of the cave cenotes you’ll find throughout the Yucatan Peninsula.

Our group of four girls spent an hour or two exploring Tankah Cenote, which begins as an open pond-type area then becomes a long river through the mangrove.

The water was simply unbelievable. It reached 4 to 5 meters deep in most areas, but everything was crystal clear. Like swimming in a pool!

What I loved about Tankah Cenote was the mangrove on either side. As you’re swimming along, you see underwater forests of the long, thin roots on either side of you. The entire coast of the Riviera Maya is filled with mangrove, and it’s a huge part of the local eco system. At this cenote, you can see why! Mangrove roots thrive when growing in mud and water, so they serve as the perfect filter to keep the water clean and free of debris. In fact, the mangrove tree system is one of the main reasons that the ocean and cenotes in this area are so clear!

The mangrove is also home to lots of baby wildlife, as well. It must be fish hatching season, because we spotted thousands and thousands of baby fish living in the underwater mangrove roots. Just gorgeous.

During my snorkeling adventure in Tankah Cenote, I saw lots and lots and lots of baby fish, plus some bigger and more colorful fish near the floor. I even spotted a blue crab! (That little guy was hard to see because he was 5 meters below me and blended with the blue water. I had to dive down a few times to get better look.)

Tankah Cenote was also a fun place for me to get more comfortable with my snorkeling skills. Being in such clear, pool-like water made me feel safer than snorkeling in the waves of the ocean… with all the barracudas… ugh. And of course, my friends and I seized the opportunity to take some fun underwater pictures.

We also saw lots of divers. Apparently Tankah Cenote is also a popular spot for beginner divers, and there were several people there getting scuba diving lessons. I’ll stick to snorkeling for now, thanks.

Tankah Bay is located in the Riviera Maya, just north of Tulum. It has plenty of beautiful beach homes to look at, and of course great snorkeling locations. To get to Tankah Cenote, we drove down the main highway and turned left at a sign with a large peacock on it about 10 minutes after Akumal. Sorry I can’t be more specific!

All of these photos were taken by my friend Lisa Love Juliot, who works with me at BuyPlaya Real Estate.

Isla Mujeres Pics and My Dream Home

On the way back to Cancun from our Whale Shark tour, we swung by one of our favorite places: Isla Mujeres. The Solo Buceo tour guide team provided us with lunch and snacks to eat on the boat while we cruised along the Isla Mujeres coastline.

We rode by Playa Norte

Then we made our way to the south end of the island, which I’d never seen from the ocean before. There was lots of lush greenery and a few tiny islands. I was in love!

That's the Cancun skyline on the horizon.

We even got to swim a bit just off the coast. Even though the water was crystal clear, it was also quite deep!

Nadia and me

But my absolute favorite part was spotting my dream house. My long-time readers know about my obsession with houses (I blame my parents), and this one, although under construction, did not disappoint. It was set right on the edge of a rocky peninsula, bordered by turquoise on two sides. It even had a few palapas and pergolas being built.

Tomorrow I’ll post some pics of our arrival back to Cancun and dry land. WHAT A DAY!

Where would your dream house be located? (Would it be a hurricane risk like mine?)

 

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

Xel-Ha

For my birthday this past weekend, we decided to go with some friends to Xel-Ha.

Xel-Ha is a huge ecopark set on in inlet in the Riviera Maya, just south of Playa del Carmen. It has a great All Inclusive plan (all you can eat buffets and all you can drink bars), and it’s perfect for snorkeling, exploring and just relaxing. It has cenotes, lagoons, a mile-long river you can swim through, cliffs, ziplines, a floating bridge, and the list goes on.

One of the highlights was floating down the river, but I didn’t get any pictures because I don’t have a waterproof camera. I saw lots of fish and a barracuda!

Other than that, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

The dolphinarium

Its hard to get the full effect from this picure, but under this bridge were HUNDREDS of fish. Later, Jorge and I snorkeled through there... Ive never had such an amazing experience. Then someone threw fish food on top of me and I was attacked by hundreds of fish. Good times haha

Jorge and Juan trying to look cool by the floating bridge

The man of my dreams, taking a much-needed nap.