I’ve been in Mexico for less than a day and Contiki is already pulling out the big guns! Not only am I staying at an all-inclusive resort (Now Jade) over looking the ocean, I get to spend the entire day with Claire (the Contiki rep) at an adventure park on Mayan land. The Jungle Maya Expedition is ran by Alltournative Tours and is an Me Time optional on both Contiki’s Mexican Grande and Yucatan Highlights tours.
I knew about this excursion before my departure but I didn’t do much research about what it was, mostly because I didn’t want to. I liked the unknowingness about this entire adventure. All I knew is that it was an adventure park consisting of repelling, zip-lining, and snorkeling!
We started our morning VERY early, as in we had to be in the lobby at 6:55am, and it took approximately 75-90 minutes to arrive at The Jungle Maya. During the drive, our driver/tour guide, Emilio, gave us an overview of our day including a brief history about the Mayan family, who continue to reside at the Rancho San Felipe ranch and are the keepers of the Nohoch Nah Chiich cave. This cave is the entrance to the Sac-Actun underground freshwater river system; the longest in the world at 137 miles.
Here is a brief history of cenotes obtained from the Yucatan-Holidays Website: “Cenote comes from the Mayan word “dzonot” or “ts’onot” which means sacred well. Cenotes were the main source of fresh water for the ancient Mayan civilization. Mayans believed the cenotes contained curative elements and considered many of them to be sacred. They also believed cenotes to be portals to the underworld and a way to communicate with the gods.” (yucatan-holidays.com)
By the time we arrived, Claire and I were eager to get started and couldn’t wait to take our dive into the cenote. Before we started our off-track adventure, we participated in a traditional Maya purification ceremony lead by a medicine man. A main aspect of the Mayan culture is the worship to the elements- water, earth, air and fire. All elements which were included in this purification ceremony. I really don’t have words to describe this ceremony. I remember learning about the Mayan culture when I was in 5th grade (like 11 years old) sitting in Mr. B’s class and it was a bit surreal participating in this ceremony. It brought me back to many good memories at Lagos.
After I came back to reality, we were off to rappel 40 feet down a hole into a breathtaking beautiful cenote and swim in Yaxmuul. Yaxmuul is a natural underground pool of pristine water and rock formations. This was my first ever time rappelling and it was quite the experience. I’ve done a little rock climbing (at a gym) in the past and could understand the basics, but it really is a whole new experience rappelling down a hole in the ground laughing the entire time. Prior to our decent, Emilio informed us that the water was a tad chilly and the lady before us was squealing upon touching the water so we were a bit terrified about the actual water temperature. I remember slowing down before splashing into the water but to be honest the water was very refreshing. It was the perfect temperature after standing outside in the Mexican sunshine and swimming in this fresh water pool was unreal.
Upon exiting, we took a little hike to the original Mercedes Benz Unimogs, the major 4×4 vehicle in the world, waiting for us to take us through the jungle to the zip-lining course. If I were to describe this ride, bumpy would be a complete understatement. Shaking, bouncing, rocking, and bumping up and down, side to side for 10 minutes are just words. Watch the video below to see just a glimpse of the reality of this ride.
The zip-line course consisted of 3 lines sailing over the jungle’s foliage. This first one sends you backwards, as they have a sling-style stop, meaning it stops for you versus manually having to stop. The second one is normal and sends you flying forwards or in my case sends me twisting during the entire line. The last line is the most exciting of them all as it sends you flying at a downward angle landing you in a cenote. Aside from losing my bikini bottom for a slight second, this experience was incredible and full of laughter.
Once the entire group (a total of 6) was finished with the zip-line course, it was off to the cenote snorkeling experience in the Nohoch Nah Chilich Cavern. This cavern is part of the Sac-Actun cenote system and is recommended by National Geographic Snorkeler specialized cave divers. While in this cavern we were surrounded by rock formations and millenary stalactites and stalagmites, which are still growing and an incredible sight. I’ve only been snorkeling once (in which scarred me for life) and cave snorkeling was not in my adventure guide but this trip was about new experiences.
By this time in the day, Claire and I were famished and ready for our authentic Mayan lunch. Here at the ranch, they continue to serve food grown and cook over coal stoves. Our spread included chietas (a potato patty with herbs), empanadas, frijoles (beans), rice and vegetable soup topped of with ridiculously spicy salsa. For refreshers, we enjoyed delicious jamaica (ha-my-ka), which is a hibiscus flower based tea, and tamarind juice. Both were unbelievably delicious!
Once lunch was completed, we hiked our way through the jungle to return to the starting point, where we gathered our belongings and enjoyed a well needed tamarind margarita (sin tequila) while our photographs were being gathered. I didn’t mention this earlier, but part of the Jungle Maya expedition included local photographers who captured our entire adventure. Not to shabby of an experience huh and the best part was that this was all before 3pm!
As it was still daylight when Claire and I arrived back at the resort, we didn’t waist too much time before heading down to the beach for a relaxing afternoon. I was able to catch some ZZZs by the ocean but by 5pm, Claire had to go on a conference call and I headed up to my room to enjoy a nice jacuzzi bath. We reconvened for dinner and following dinner we headed to the lobby to inquire about Celine’s arrival and sure enough there she was! I was in a bit of celebrity shock and she was so kind and honestly reminded me a lot of my own mother. We ended up talking for quite sometime before we all called it a night. At this point, I was more ready and prepared for my #NoRegrets Day. Stay tuned for my summary of my once-in-a-lifetime day of scuba diving!!