Monday, December 3, 2012
2. Money Matters - Once you get to your room leave all your valuables there and carry just enough money for your outing. The island is safe and you will not get mugged, but there is always the possibility of a misplaced backpack or purse. If you like to get in the water, consider a waterproof packet or container to slip money in that you can wear in the water.
3. Cuanto Cuesta? - Always ask how much something is in pesos instead of U.S. dollars. You will pay less.
4. Know Your Taxi Rates - Ask a local the rate to your destination. You may not get that rate, but you can at least get close. You say the rate to the driver BEFORE you get in the taxi. If they know you know the rate they will not try to gouge you as much. This will save you from paying double or maybe triple the normal fare. Also generally taxis are cheaper if you catch them on the street rather than at a taxi stand.
5. Notice Your Taxi Number - If you ever accidentally leave anything in a taxi, knowing the taxi number will increase your chances in retrieving it. One of my guests learned this the hard way, when he left his backpack with his passport and camera in a taxi. With that in mind, also bring a copy of your passport and driver's license and put them in a different bag than your originals. It will make replacing documentation easier if you need to.
6. Camera Care & Electronics - Throw a few silica packets from pill bottles into your camera bag or any bag with electronics. Moisture in a tropical climate can be hard on them. Also be VERY careful on the beach. One grain of sand can ruin a camera fast.
7. Supplies 101 - Bring a hat that protects you from the sun and that doesn't blow off easily. It is often windy on the island. Also big beach sarongs are better than heavy beach towels. They are easier to carry, sand shakes off of them easily, they dry quickly and can double as a beach cover-up. I also recommend throwing some Ibuprofen or your pain reliever of choice in your suitcase. If you don't speak Spanish trying to communicate what you need at a pharmacy will be difficult but amusing for the pharmacist. And of course sunscreen, water, antibacterial gel and some glamorous sunglasses.
8. A Map - I recommend Chick Maps. These maps are the most comprehensive that I have seen and really give you an insider's view of the island. It shows information, reviews and locations of popular and obscure destinations. They are well worth the $10. You will save time and experience places you would have never known about. Order them on-line at Mapchick.com.
10. Be Adventuresome - I will never forget an evening spent dancing with gypsies by a campfire in the Indian desert. (No, I was not drinking.) Try something new. I recommend a snorkel trip no matter what your expertise or lack there of. I use Casa Del Buceo. Local divers will know the best places and point out wild life you would have never noticed. Go early in the morning (7am) before the afternoon crowds scare the big marine creatures away. Also swimming with the whale sharks is a definite item to add to your bucket list. Make sure it is the season when they are in the area.
These are just a few tips for a hassle free vacation of a life time on Isla Mujeres. If you have some tips of your own. I would love to hear them. Please add a comment.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Thursday, June 21, 2012
My daughter always complains that I always see the cool stuff when she's not with me. I explain that maybe that's because she is not behind me thrashing like a wild colt. I need to teach her the art of stealth swimming. Now I understand how my Dad felt on our nature walks when we were kids, and he told us we had to be quiet if we wanted to see any animals. Anyway from my little beach house I have an underwater universe in my backyard. And whenever life seems overwhelming and I need a little peace; or if it seems humdrum and I need some adventure, all I have to do is grab my fins, Barracuda, and venture out into the deep!
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Anyway, Dorothy is back in Kansas now as we return to our house in Missouri. But somehow it seems a little more like Oz. The pink dogwoods are in bloom, and my azaleas are in vibrant fuchsia dress. A carpet of pink cherry blossoms blanket the ground under our trees and the birds are singing so beautifully that I just have to close my eyes and soak it in. When I walk down our tree lined street that looks more like a park than a neighborhood, I get that feeling a foreigner gets when they visit some place exotic. I am giddy and gushing about how green and gorgeous everything is.
Monday, March 26, 2012
As whale shark season is approaching, it it time for me to do my annual repost of this article. Every year when these giants visit the waters off Isla Mujeres, we always go out to marvel at the beautiful creatures. It is an experience not to be missed.
I've had a pretty adventurous life so far. A few of my excursions have included: whitewater rafting down the Snake River in Idaho, riding in a camel caravan in India, and tromping through the jungles of Indonesia on the back of an elephant. But of all the adventures I have experienced, I consider swimming with the whale sharks off the coast of Isla Mujeres as the greatest wonder of all. I can hardly believe it is possible for the general public to be able to take a boat ride out to sea and swim in the wild with these gentle giants. During the months of June through September the whale sharks migrate through the area in swarms that the locals call afuera following plankton blooms created by the joining of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. This migratory path was only discovered about 6 years ago by local fishermen. Nowhere else in the world do whale sharks gather in such numbers. In the summer of 2009, 420 whale sharks comprised the largest number of whale sharks observed in a single aerial survey.
It is not uncommon for me to hear of friends swimming with several hundred whale sharks. Giant manta rays measuring about 10 ft. across follow the same plankton blooms and are often seen with whale sharks. Since both are filter feeders they share the same migratory paths. The primary reaction to experiencing these mammoths of the deep is heart pounding awe. Spanning up to 40 feet and weighing on average 36 tons these pescados are the world's largest fish species. There are unconfirmed reports of much larger specimens of 59 feet all the way up to 75 feet, but since they are aren't documented they are relegated to remaining fish stories for the time being. Despite their enormous size, these sharks pose no threat to humans. They are very docile and seem undisturbed by any contact with people. Licensed tours do follow special rules to protect the whale sharks from harassment from over-exuberant tourists. They are asked not to touch the whale sharks and boats are instructed to stay 10 meters from the whale sharks. The later rule is a little hard to enforce since often the sharks swim right up to the boat as if to take a look at you.
These majestic sea creatures are still relative mysteries to the scientific world. Their lives span between 70 to 100 years most of which is spent out of sight. Capable of diving up to a mile and a half down into the ocean depths and migrating thousands of miles at a time these marine marvels still hold many secrets yet to be discovered. Yet for ages the world over the whale shark has been revered and respected. To the Vietnamese he is known as a deity called Ca Ong translated "Sir Fish." To much of Mexico and Latin America he is Pez Dama or Domini, because of the spots on his back. In Africa he is Papa Shillingi. To the peoples of Madagascar, he is called Marokintana meaning "many stars." To me, he is Magi - a wise king wandering the deep. Now is the time to see these wonders of the water while it is still possible to interact with these giants in such a personal, and profound encounter. Feel the current of the water as they swim next to you, look them in the eye and feel the rush of a lifetime. Visit Isla Mujeres now and experience the marvel of the Magi!