Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Sian Ka'an Biosphere

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The Sian Ka'an Biosphere is located close to the city of Tulum in Quintana Roo, Mexico. The road to Sian Ka'an is not well maintained and a local restaurateur told me that there is another way to get to Punta Allen by your own car and once there, we could just hire a boat to go watch dolphins in the wild. We had, however, already booked our tour with iTour and so we decided to stick with it.

The tour assembles at 8:00 am at the iTour hotel (located at the intersection of the Carr Cancun-Tulum and Avenida Coba Sur) and gets back at about 5:30pm. We were driven in a van up to the lagoon, where we boarded a boat to travel via the lagoon to Punta Allen.

The boat ride in the lagoon was good, the captain knew what he was up to and

we got to see several crocodiles and birds making their home in the abundant mangroves.

Crocodile nestled in the mangroves

Swimming away lazily

Flying Pelican

Pink Spoonbill

Fly High!

Unidentified Perching Objects

When we reached Punta Allen, we stopped at a restaurant, had some very light food, changed into swim suits and headed on another boat into the sea to see dolphins, manatees and tortugas (sea turtles). The first thing we went searching for was the dolphins.

We came across a pod of four dolphins that were just lazily, but gracefully ambling about in their backyard

At one point, the four of them were swimming in formation just ahead of the boat.

We watched them for about 20 minutes, then raced off to look for tortugas. Unexpectedly, we found a large manatee and hung out with him/her for a bit.

It was impossible to see the entire shape of the manatee under the water, but he/she did come up for air several times and I got the snout on camera.

The next to be sighted was the tortuga and boy did it take its time about getting up to surface level. By the time the tortuga stuck his/her head out I was done taking pictures, so I simply watched him/her go back down in a 45 degree dive. He/she resurfaced one more time, before completely disappearing from view.

Then the captains takes everyone to a spot where it is possible to snorkel and then a shallow area where everyone can swim before heading back to the restaurant for a meal (not good at all, especially for vegetarians) and then back via the lagoon to the van and the hotel.

Summary: I liked the biosphere itself, but the tour company left a lot to be desired. What I liked: the dolphins, the boat ride, the wildlife.

What I did not like: (1) the tour company should have communicated that they were not going to have water on board (especially when they said several times that there was going to be food on the tour); (2) the tour guide was communicating through a walkie talkie in the lagoon, but our boat had no walkie talkie on board so we really did not get to hear what she said; (3) vegetarians will get only rice and tomatoes -- but I was not really expecting much in that department anyway; (4) there were only two of us who spoke English, so at some point the guide decided that it was not really worth it to translate everything she was saying into English; (5) when booking the tour were assured that even though one of us could not swim, someone will help us during the snorkeling bit of the tour -- not really. There was not even a ladder to get into the ocean, until one Italian tourist managed to communicate the need for it. The seas were somewhat rough and I did not want to take the chance that the captain will actually keep track of me. Also I was completely dehydrated and light headed from the sun by the time we go to the snorkel site (remember no water-- and this was the only time during the entire Mexico trip when I did not carry my own bottle). Just to clarify, I think the captain was nice-- but there was no way I could have communicated what I wanted to him and the guide was not anywhere near my boat. This was not expected since we were told that this was a multi-lingual tour; (6) when we got back to the lagoon, the boat had no docking area and I had to jump about 7 feet from the prow of the boat as the captain was really in a hurry to get back -- not a good thing if you have spinal injuries (7) we then had to walk on junk that had washed ashore at that beach to get back to the restaurant.

Despite all this, I still recommend finding a way to go to the ocean to watch the dolphins in nature, because there is nothing as beautiful as wildlife doing their own thing. Hearing them breathe is the most soothing thing ever.

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