I was in Mexico for less than a day and Contiki was already pulling out the big guns. Not only was I staying at an all inclusive resort, Now Jade, over looking the ocean; Claire, the Contiki rep, and I got to spend the entire day at Jungle Maya Expedition, a Mayan adventure park just outside Cancun.
This excursion, Jungle Maya Expedition, is one of the “Me Time” optional excursions on both Contiki’s Mexican Grande and Yucatan Highlights tours.Technically, I knew about this excursion before my departure, but I didn’t do any additional research. I liked the unknowingness about this entire trip. The initial packet from Contiki mentioned that it was an adventure park consisting of rappelling, zip-lining, and snorkeling!
Let the Fun Begin
Claire and I were up early for this adventure, meeting in the lobby at 6:55am. The drive took approximately an hour and a half before we arrived at The Jungle Maya. During the drive, our driver/tour guide, Emilio, gave us an overview of our day. He told us about the Mayan family, who continue to reside at the Rancho San Felipe ranch, which is where we were headed. Plus, he explained that they are the keepers of the Nohoch Nah Chiich cave.
The Nohoch Nah Chiich cave is the entrance to the Sac-Actun underground freshwater river system. It’s the longest in the world at 137 miles. Within this freshwater river system are cenotes. The Mayans believe that many cenotes are sacred. They believe that they are pathways to gods.
Our adventure began with a traditional Maya purification ceremony led by a medicine man. The purification ceremony included each of the elements, in a special cave designed for this ceremony. One of the main aspect of the Mayan culture is the worship of the elements: water, earth, air and fire. It’s hard to put into words what this experience was like for me. I learned about the Mayan culture when I was in 5th grade, but I don’t remember much. It was fun getting to experience the culture first hand.
Next, it was time for our first adventure, rappelling 40 feet down a hole. The repelling finished in a breathtakingly beautiful cenote. It also allowed us to swim in a yaxmuul, which is a natural underground pool of pristine water and rock formations.
I’ve done a little gym-based rock climbing and could understand the basics, but this was my first time rappelling. Talk about a special first-team experience. hole 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. The lady before us squealed upon touching the water. We were a bit terrified about the what actual water temperature. I remember slowing down before splashing into the water, but to be honest the water was refreshing. It was the perfect temperature for after standing outside in the Mexican sunshine. Swimming in this fresh water pool was unreal, too.
Upon exiting, we took a little hike to the original Mercedes Benz Unimogs. An Unimog is one of the major 4×4 vehicle in the world and it was our ride through the jungle to the zip-lining course.
If I were to describe this ride in one word, bumpy would quite do it justice. For 10 minutes, Claire and I sat there shaking, bouncing, rocking, and bumping up and down, side to side. Nothing prepared me for this ride. Watch the video below to see just a glimpse of the reality of this ride.
Zip-Lining and Snorkeling
The zip-line course was next. It consisted of three lines sailing over the jungle’s foliage. The first one sent us backwards, with a sling-style stopping contraption. The second one was normal and sent us flying forwards. In my case, I was twisting for the entire line. The final line was the most exciting. It sent us flying at a downward angle, landing us directly in a cenote. Aside from losing my bikini bottom for a slight second, the zip-lining experience was incredible and full of laughter.
Next, we ventured to the cenote snorkeling experience in the Nohoch Nah Chilich Cavern. In addition to being the entrance the Sac-Actun cenote system, the cavern is a recommended “must see” by National Geographic Snorkeler specialized cave divers.
In my lifetime, I’ve only been snorkeling once, which scarred me for life. Cave snorkeling was definitely not in my adventure guide but this trip was about new experiences. Besides, once I was inside the cave, all I could see were beautiful rock formations and millenary stalactites and stalagmites.
Authentic Mayan Lunch
An authentic Mayan lunch was next on the itinerary, and thank goodness, Claire and I were famished. At the ranch, they continue to serve food grown on property. They cook over coal stoves, which is a traditional way of cooking.
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. Everything was delicious!
After lunch, we hiked our way through the jungle and return to the starting point. It was about time to go home, but not before we enjoyed a well deserved tamarind margarita (sin tequila).
During this time, the photographs taken throughout the day were being downloaded and gathered. I didn’t mention this earlier, but part of the Jungle Maya expedition included local photographers, who captured our entire adventure.
We returned home to the resort by approximately 3pm. Since it was still daylight, we didn’t waist any time. We headed straight to the beach for a relaxing afternoon. I feel asleep by the ocean, which in my opinion, is the BEST place for a nap. By 5pm, Claire had to go on a conference call, so I returned to my room for a nice jacuzzi bath. We reconvened for dinner.
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, to be honest. It was surreal. She was so kind and honestly, reminded me a lot of my own mother. We ended up talking for quite sometime before we 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!!