Release the Turtles!

I have to admit that my life is pretty cool. I got to spend my Monday morning on a Caribbean beach watching young sea turtles swim in the ocean for the first time.

This photo was taken by my friend Pamela Acosta on Monday morning. God bless GoPro cameras.

Xcaret park in the Riviera Maya invited a bunch of us over for the day to see the first sea turtle release of their 2014 season. Here in the Cancun / Riviera Maya area, mother sea turtles come to our beaches to nest and lay their eggs. Many local volunteers, companies and resorts have baby sea turtle programs where they rope off turtle nests to keep them from harm, then releases the newborns into the sea to make sure they get there safely. (The path from the nest to the ocean can be perilous for them!) Only 1 out of 1,000 of these newborns will reach adulthood.

However, Xcaret goes a step further to increase their odds of survival in the wild by caring for the turtles until they reach 15 months. So, throughout February and March 2014, Xcaret will be releasing a few of their 15-month old sea turtles every day at noon on their amazing beach!

The water was STUNNING. Oh my gosh. The water. Wow.

And the turtles had a paparazzi-like crowd to make them feel like celebrities.

They let the kids form a group for each turtle, then release them one at a time. It was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen!

What a great way to start the week. Thanks Xcaret!

Xcaret’s Festival of Life and Death

While all my American friends were celebrating Halloween last week, here in Cancun we were enjoying some Day of the Dead festivities. I’ve blogged in the past about Day of the Dead in Cancun, like events at Parque Las Palapas and altar items sold at Market 23, but this year was quite different. Jorge and I went to Xcaret park in the Riviera Maya for their Festival of Life and Death. I’ve been dying to go for a few years, and this time we finally made it.

The night we went (Friday, November 2) was ridiculously busy. I was told they had nearly 15,000 people at the park that night for the Festival of Life and Death, probably because it was the final day, a Friday, and the day that most locals had off of work. It was an amazing event, but we made a mental note never to come back on the last day of the festival again. Parking was… interesting.

Part of the crowd gathered for a show

Crazy crowds and parking on the highway aside, we had a great time and the festival was STUNNING. We saw catrina face painting, tons of shows, a beautiful cemetery and incredible scenery.

Festival Decor

Anyone who has been to Xcaret knows that it’s a feast for the eyes, with lush jungle, great beaches and amazing animals. The Festival of Life and Death was no exception. The park was adorned with torches, candles, costumes and marigolds (“flor de muerto”, a Day of the Dead tradition) and it was beautiful to see.

Altars
During Day of the Dead, many Mexicans set up an altar in their home to honor deceased loved ones. These altars are adorned with marigolds, crosses, candles and the food and drinks the deceased enjoyed during their lifetime. Xcaret had a large area dedicated to altars made by local communities from across the Yucatan Peninsula. It was fun to see how different each altar was while still incorporating many of the traditional elements.

The Mayan Ball Game Show

After touring the park, we managed to see one of the many shows for the Festival of Life and Death. Held at the park’s Mayan ball game court, it was about the ancient Mayans fighting the people of the underworld in the famous game.  It was CROWDED (we almost saw a fist fight between two ladies over not being able to see), but I still managed to get a few pictures from far away.

The people of the underworld had the best skeleton costumes. This is the best picture I got!

Playing the Mayan ball game

My favorite part 🙂

 The Cemetery

Xcaret has a reenacted Mayan village as well as a colorful cemetary set in levels all around a hill. It’s cool to look at during the day, but even better at night! The lower levels of the cemetery have smaller gravestones, and they get more elaborate the further you go up. Most have some kind of small room or ornate miniature house. Each was adorned with candles and marigolds in celebration of Day of the Dead. Really interesting to see…

Underneath the cemetery

If you’re ever in Cancun or the Riviera Maya for Day of the Dead, I highly recommend Xcaret’s Festival of Life and Death. Magical 🙂

Have you ever been in Mexico for Day of the Dead?

 

Xcaret

This weekend, I made the quick trip from Cancun to Playa del Carmen with Jorge’s family to visit one of my favorite places in the world: Xcaret.

Xcaret is an immense ecopark filled with unbelieveable attractions. I’ve been there 4 or 5 times already, and I still haven’t seen everything! The park has Mayan ruins, an underground river, a Mayan village, an hacienda, greenhouses, a huge butterfly pavilion (my favorite part), stunning beaches, dolphins, jaguars, sharks, a lookout tower, amazing restaurants, an aquarium… and the list goes on. All this is surrounded by lush jungle and winding paths, making you feel as if you’ve stepped into another world.

This park isn’t just about nature, though. It’s about Mexico. Combining Mexican culture, Mayan roots and the stunning jungle setting of the Riviera Maya, Xcaret is heaven on Earth. (Except for the snake that slithered across my foot at the entrance… sent that thing flying with a high kick and a scream!)

We started the day wandering around the hacienda near the entrance, with beautiful courtyards and unique colonial artwork, followed by amazing views of the Riviera Maya from the lookout tower. Then, we stopped by the orchid greenhouse (WOW) and took a turn on a riverboat.

A few of us jumped into the underground river, where we swam through caves and vine-covered cliffs, exiting into a beautiful enclosed jungle filled with vibrant butterflies. We walked past jaguars, tapirs and monkeys on our way to explore some Mayan ruins, then stopped by Xcaret’s large aquarium.

After a quick dip in the Caribbean Sea in one of the park’s crystal clear inlets, the family grabbed a quick dinner and headed to Xcaret’s famous show. Mayan warriors greeted us along the fire-lit path to the immense theater, where we sat back and watched the Mayan ball game, Papantla flyers and traditional dances from all over Mexico.

The evening ended with the show’s final song, “Mexico en la Piel” (Mexico In Your Skin), which brings tears to my eyes every. single. time.

Exhausted, I took a little cat nap on the car ride back to Cancun, thinking how much I’m dying to go back already.

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You can follow Xcaret on Twitter via @XcaretPark

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

My Three Day Weekend

So my 3-day weekend for Mexican Independence Day was busy, busy, busy! I’ll do a quick run-through for ya 🙂

Thursday

To celebrate Independence Day, we played it simple this year… tacos and potatoes at a friend’s pool. Just a calm evening sitting around and talking while listening to fireworks in the distance. Ended the night around 5 am, I think.

We really need to hang out with this group of friends more often. They’re friends of Jorge from high school, and we always have a great time with them.

Friday

Also a low-key day. We ordered the plants we want for the backyard, then went to Jorge’s cousin’s 3rd birthday party where we had tortas and raspados. Then we went home and took a long nap!

In the evening, we went to my suegros house for some pasta from Cheester.

Me and Jorge at Sofia's bday party

Saturday

My brother-in-law scored a dozen free passes to Xcaret. Since Jorge’s cousins were in town visiting, we went with them for the day. I’ll do a more detailed post later this week, but here’s a teaser photo for ya…

Sunday

On Sunday morning, we (and by “we”, I mean Jorge) planted some mini palm trees in our up-and-coming backyard, and laid some some dirt. I’ll post the full makeover later this week, so you can check out our little patio, palm trees, fancy grass and orchid (whaaaaat??)!

Here’s a preview shot of Jorge hard at work while I supervised (and by “supervised”, I mean ate cereal, took pictures, played with the dogs and decided where the palm trees should go).

I think we can all agree that Jorge is the best husband ever.

The grass and orchid plant came today, but won’t be installed until tomorrow. Boo.

Immediately afterwards, my suegros came and picked us up to go to the pool. My brother-in-law’s girlfriend’s parents (confusing, I know) own a piece of land out in the middle of the jungle where they’ve built a little private pool and garden, complete with hammock area and bathroom. We spent the rest of the afternoon there. I would have taken pictures, but I was too busy swimming, eating Domino’s pizza and napping in hammocks. Life is so hard sometimes.

Afterwards we did laundry at my suegros house, like we do every Sunday. Meanwhile, I caught up on reality TV online… Project Runway, new season of Survivor (hurray!) and America’s Next Top Model All Stars (go Allison and Laura!). Then Jorge and I went home and watched the first episode of Jersey Shore Italy. (Oh Mike, you scoundrel!)

So that’s it for my 3-day weekend. What did you do this weekend?