48 Hours in Cancun: Whale Sharks and the Underwater Museum

After a short two-hour flight from Mexico City, I have arrived in the tropical destination of Cancun. 😀

Woo hoo!mexico_map

Why Visit?

Cancun is gorgeous, glamorous, and great for parties. They have plenty of all-inclusive resorts on pristine beaches where you can be pampered in paradise. 😀
file_8570234318777415976620x310Well, I had already been to Cancun during my college days,  to experience the all-you-can-drink cocktails and flashy nightclubs. It can be exhilarating and entertaining, but also kind of exhausting! Hah.

Just like insanity of Las Vegas, for me, Cancun can also only be handled in small doses. 😛

Anyway, this time around I was seeking out natural encounters and adventures of a different sort. 🙂

48 hours is plenty, so let’s begin!

Where to Stay

For the a quick two night stay, I made camp at Hostel Ka’beh. 
IMG_2554It was cheap and close to the bus terminal, which was great with my heavy luggage. 🙂
IMG_2555The price was $10/night, which included shared dormitory, locker, clean water, and DIY breakfast.
IMG_2553Looks like I’m makin’ waffles! 😀6a00d8341c630a53ef0133ee7328f2970b-600wiDespite my motive for coming to Cancun, the people staying at this hostel were looking to party. Fine by me! It worked out to my advantage, since their return from the club at 6 AM was a nice wake-up call for me. 🙂

What to See

Parque KabahIMG_2517IMG_2516This is a popular park for locals to get in an early morning jog, since its located in the residential centro of Cancun.

Its location is a little off-the-beaten path, but I heard it was a great place to spot local wildlife.

Jackpot! These are coatis. With a ring tailed coat, raccoon paws and a pig snout nose, I found them to be absolutely adorable!
IMG_2519Especially the coati baby. 🙂
IMG_2520

For a second I was worried this was going to be a Mexican remake of Jurrasic World. 😉
IMG_2533Just kidding! Hah.
Turtles going for a cracker. 🙂
IMG_2529 IMG_2525 Anyway, from there I was off to re-discover the hotel zone of Cancun.
IMG_2546 Just like Vegas, walking the strip in Cancun is almost obligatory.
IMG_2542I stopped on the way to pick up Starbucks coffee, which for me is a little treat to signify the start of my vacation. 😀
IMG_2548At first I began walking on the right side of the road…
IMG_2536…then I quickly switched over to the left side. :/

It was a lot less intimidating. 🙂
IMG_2541Plus, they had some colorful graffiti. 🙂
IMG_2538Apparently Nichupte Lagoon is on the right side, and is a notorious spot for crocodiles.

Anyway, after losing my body weight in sweat, I decided to take a bus the rest of the way.

Luckily, you can take the R1/2 bus for 70 cents, which will take you from downtown to any spot in the hotel zone. Brilliant!

Fun Facts about Cancun

Now, let me give you a little background history on Cancun to help you better explain the cities’ layout.

Cancun, unlike any other place in Mexico, was completely created for tourism and its existence is less than 50 years old.cancun-before-and-afterIn 1970, the Mexican government approached this forgotten and abandoned area of the Yucatan, and designed to build an area to boost the tourism industry.

The project was completed in three phases: a non-residential tourist zone of high rise hotels, a residential downtown with distinct neighborhoods and an international airport.

These areas are very segregated from each other, which has pros and cons.

Pro, locals here don’t have to deal with as many tourists and can go on living a rather normal life in this touristy city.tourist_3Con, as I found out, to get from one place to the other is very challenging, and not very walkable.

Also a con, unlike all other places in Mexico, Cancun seems to lack that colonial architecture and charm. :/

Well then, where do you have to go to find art and architecture in Cancun? The answer: you’ll have to go underwater. 🙂

Underwater Museum of Cancun 

Designed by Jason de Caires Taylor, in effort to promote marine conservation, these over 100 statues act as artificial reefs and re-directs snorkelers away from the Manchones Reef, where there has been substantial coral damage.
This piece is titled, The Silent Evolution.fbook5fbook7fbook27 fbook23fbook22This sculpture museum symbolize a positive relationship between humans and the ocean, where the coral can grow off the human statues, instead of negative effect that people and contamination usually have on the ocean.
fbook11 fbook24 g0452176 g0372148 fbook13fbook25fbook4 fbook2Fish school, for a school of fish. 😉
fbook20fbookKnock, knock. Anybody home?fbook16fbook18This is titled, The Banker.
fbook26Volkswagen.
fbook32This piece is entitled, Time Bomb.
fbook17Dory says, “Swim away!” 😛
fbook8 fbook9 Anyway, for this dive I chose Coconut Divers.
IMG_2543 They were extremely laid back and the price was very inexpensive.
IMG_2550Check out that turquoise water! 😀
fbook14 Let’s do this!
fbook15 After diving MUSA, we were able to take our second dive at the Manchones reef, which was teeming with marine life.
fbook30 fbook6 fbook3 fbook12 fbook31Black sea urchin.
fbook21Lionfish.
fbook28Ooh, Barracuda! 😛
fbook10 fbook29We went with three beginner divers, who were not certified and two divers taking their open water course. If you’re not into scuba diving, there is also a shallow museum gallery for snorkeling, as well as, a glass bottom boat for those who don’t want to get in the water. 🙂
Price for the two tank dive: $75 USD

http://musacancun.org/

Well, the main reason I came to the Yucatan this month, out of any other spot in Mexico, was for the whale shark migration. 🙂

Whale Shark Tour

They migrate near Isla Contoy and Isla Holbox off the coast of Cancun in late summer, so that they may feed on plankton, and while they are here, visitors have to option to swim with these gentle giants. 🙂

For this excursion, I chose Ocean Tours.ocean-tours-playaAfter months of researching websites and reviews, I found Ocean Tours had the best reputation for respecting the animal’s space. They only allow two people in the water at a time, as to not crowd the whale shark and obviously no touching is allowed.
These animals emerge from the ocean depths each day to feed on a plankton, and the goal is to be the least disruptive as possible.
As well, these fish are filter feeders, so Ocean Tours limits the use of biodegradable sunblock. Why do they do this?Well, the animal spends most of its time at the surface, mouth wide open, ingesting large quantities of water. This water is slowly filtered out through the gills and the animal is left with only digestible krill and plankton. Large quantities of sunblock worn by tourists can seep into the water the animal drinks and potentially clog those filters.
FBOOK1

The Tour

Our day began shortly after 7:30 AM, when our group was picked up and transported to the main dock for breakfast.
IMG_2562 IMG_2558During this time, everyone received a dose of anti-nausea medication, geared up, and headed for the docks.
IMG_2556 IMG_2563Our guide for the day was Katy, a sweet girl from Estonia, who spent the last seven years living in Australia.
g1282452Our first mission was to find the whale sharks.
Note: whale sharks are a 100% natural encounter, so they do not guarantee that they will spot a whale shark during the day; however, they will refund your money if they are not successful.

We spent two hours in the rapid speeding boat while on our search. I was definitely happy I took the dramamine earlier. The antiemetic made the ride a lot nicer. 🙂

Anyway, after two hours we found a sweet spot. There were a half dozen whale sharks feeding at the surface. It was time to jump in! 😀
I was very eager and excited, so I volunteered to be group #1!
Here were a few shots from my first jump. 😀
g1533058 g1392570 g1392571 g1392608 g1392745 The GoPro was fantastic, since it takes photos automatically every 3 seconds. 😀
g1392769 Whale sharks are the largest known fish on the planet, at around 40 feet long and 20,000 pounds.
FBOOK4Their behavior is very docile and passive.
FBOOK7 g1312487Unfortunately, due to their gentle nature, they are a vulnerable species and hunted in many parts of the world. 😦
g1332502All of the animals have these white spots, which are like fingerprints. Each pattern is unique to that particular animal.
g1322494 Each animal has 5 pairs of gills used for filter feeding.
g1342513They also have a pair of dorsal and pectoral fins, plus a rather large powerful tail.
g1352529 Oceanologists know very little about this species, other than what can be observed on the surface during feeding times.
g1563243 g1392696I found that swimming along side them, watching their mouth and gills slowing expand, the graceful motion of their bodies to be memorizing. As I swam and looked into their eyes, I felt at ease.
g1543157It was a magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience. 🙂
g1392696 g1493016 After swimming with the sharks we headed over to Playa Norte, off the coast of Isla Mujeres, which is said to be one of the world’s prettiest beaches. 🙂
fbook34 We had a tasty lunch of red snapper ceviche and guacamole, while soaking up the sun. Absolute paradise! 🙂
g1683342 g1793376
Price: $180 (honestly priceless) 🙂
http://www.oceantoursmexico.com/whaleshark_discovery.html
I swam a total of four times with the whale sharks. Also, I have some great video footage with the whale sharks, that I will edit and hopefully post real soon. 😀
OK, so that wraps up my 48 hours in Cancun.
Now I have moved on to the pristine beaches of Playa del Carmen.
I have a lot more planned for this ESLventure, so stay tuned. 🙂

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