Friday, 17 June 2016

Isla Mujeres: Whale Sharks



It's that time of the year again! The time where you can swim in the middle of the ocean with amazing gentle giants!

On the way out..
In Mexico, at least in Quintana Roo, Whale Shark season is from June to August. Sometimes you will see one or two, other times you see hundreds. If you're really lucky you'll get to see Manta Rays too!


Patiently waiting for my turn
I did this trip for the first time in 2014 with a few friends, I will never forget the experience. To get there from Playa Del Carmen is quite long, but well worth it.

When you arrive to the boats on the coast in Cancun that take you out, you are given coffee (terrible) and a snack, if you get sea sick, I don't recommend either!

Ready to jump!
The boat ride takes awhile, but it was only then did I have a quick thought to myself; wait, what if this is scary? what if these huge mammals scare the shit out of me?! Naaah!!

Such an amazing animal
As soon as we got there we could see them all spread out, but boats everywhere too. They come to the surface to eat the plankton, actually you'll see it in your hair and on your skin. The guide lets you jump in 2 at a time with them and you have to SWIM! These things may be big but they are FAST! You swim until you're tired, or until they go back down to the blue, then you get back on the boat and wait your turn again.
How can you not love this?!

I don't even remember how many times I jumped in, but for sure I was the last one doing it. I just could not get over every little detail about them. How all of their spots varied. How their gills looked to move so easily like paper. How fast they were. How small I felt next to them.

Trying to keep up
The only thing I don't like about the tour is the number of boats. You feel a bit like you are harassing them. Obviously if they get sick of you they just descend deeper, but surely that would be annoying, like flies in your food or something.

Can't even fit their full body into one frame...
Will I do it again? I'm not sure, I want to obviously, but I really don't know how I feel about all the attention they are getting and how that affects them. It's been 2 years since my last trip so I am getting itchy feet, so we shall see. Please, if you do go, remember to cover up with hats, sunglasses and a shirt but don't put on sunscreen!

Surrounded by aqua blue water...don't mind the hair!

Monday, 13 June 2016

Havana,Cuba


Cuban National Flag (from google)
Oh Cuba...
You just have to...
Possibly the quickest flight I've ever had in my life. From Cancun to Havana is about 1hr 10mins flight, we flew air Cubana.

So many water fountains, but this was the only one with water in it! 
When you get off the plane in Cuba, you are surrounded by flight staff all wearing stockings that reminded me of my childhood. You know, the thicker ones with patterns all over them, in black or white? Then you walk outside and are immediately hit with the smells of gas and cigars.

Downtown near the hotel zone, take note of the cars!
You need to change your money to Cuban dollars right there. Maybe not all of it, but you'll need it for your taxi into the center, ours cost us about $25 CUC from memory.

Havana Cathedral
Havana Cathedral

Making friends outside Havana Cathedral
There are 2 different currencies, the CUC, which is about the same as the US dollar, and the CUP which is a local currency and can't be used many places. We found a cafe, that if you sit in and have a coffee and lunch it's tourist currency (CUC), but if you walk around the corner, they sell sandwiches from their side door using local currency; we bought 4 burgers for about $1 US.

La Boelm
La Boelm, Hemmingways hotspot 
We had friends who had visitied Cuba previously and who still had contacts for places to stay. A lot of people will rent out their apartments or even their rooms to tourists. We had a whole apartment in a building that looked like we were in the 70's. I was a little unsure about taking the elevator sometimes...

A fun way to get around...Coco Taxi
The malecon, is the main strip along the ocean where a lot of locals will come and sit and meet in the evenings, especially the weekends. You'll see families gathered, vendors selling snacks, teenagers meeting passionately, kids running around, it's actually a nice atmosphere. Perhaps we weren't bothered much though because people would assume that Cleyon was Cuban!

One of the many Mojitos! 
There are so many places to eat and drink. You can do it at a reasonable cost or spend a bit more as you like.

Outside the university
We took the double decker bus around Havana to see the sights and stop off along the way. This has now become a bit of a tradition for us when travelling around.

Plaza de la Revolucion
Che: Plaza de la Revolucion
We visited the museum, which had a few tankers and fighter planes outside. The information inside attached to the photos and items were all in Spanish, so it was a pretty quick trip through the museum.
Museo de la Revolucion
Museo de la Revolucion
Obviously we were in Havana, and I can never pass up a rum tour, so we ventured down to the Havana Rum building. It isn't the factory, it is not where they make it but they do show a video, and go through the history of rum in Cuba. They also have a replica of the factory made into a train set.



Relaxing on the Malecon

Meeting the locals
 
Havana Club Rum tour!

Caye Caulker, Belize


Belize National Flag (from google)

So on the map, Belize doesn't look that big, and maybe it isn't compared to Australia but it is also kind of difficult to get to.

Boats next to the water ferry dock
Cleyon and I did a quick trip to Belize from Playa Del Carmen. We took an ADO bus at 11.30pm which stops over at the border for immigration purposes then takes you into Belize City. We had heard bad things about Belize City in terms of safety, so we planned to head over to the islands.

Local Belikin Beer advertisement....
We arrived at about 8am (yes, it's a long bus ride) and took the water taxi from Belize City to Caye Caulker, a small island with the motto 'Go Slow'. We booked a small place, just a room and a bathroom, which is enough for the two of us. We live pretty simply.

Main street of Caye Caulker
Laying out at 'The Split'
Enjoying a drink at 'The Split'

The island is small enough to walk around, but also can be kind of tiring because of the heat. The main attractions of the island, other than just enjoying the pace, is snorkeling, diving and drinking or relaxing at 'the split'.
Friendly stingray saying hello

As divers, we of course have heard many things about the Blue Hole in Belize. When we asked around at the dive centers, it would cost around $200 US per person and it was a loooong boat ride. So we decided perhaps we would come back to Belize and stay on an island closer another time.

Enjoying the reef
Instead we went snorkeling! We went through Mario's Tours, a small shop on the main dirt road. We decided to go with him because he was friendly to us earlier when we asked for recommendations for places to eat. We paid about $30 each and went to 3 different snorkelling spots; Shark-Ray Alley, Coral Gardens and Hol Chan. It was a really nice relaxing day. The guide was really friendly and fun and pointed out a lot of things.

Our tour guide from Mario's Tours
Smiling nurse sharks
I've never been a fan of feeding marine life, and that is the one point I didn't like about the tour. 

Cley's selfie with feeding nurse sharks in the background
After the feed
A day at 'The Split' is a day well spent. Drinking at the bar there, meeting new people (a ridiculous number of Aussies), jumping into the warm water and lying in the sun, all the while with reggae beats in the background. The exchange rate is $1 US: $2 Belize Dollar and can get you a lot depending where you go. 
Enjoying a good coffee at Glendas Cafe
Breakfast sandwich at Glendas Cafe

There were actually a couple of nice places to eat and a good couple of bars too. We went back to Glenda's Cafe a few times for their breakfast sandwich and good coffee. And to Syd's! If you like Caribbean style food you will love it. The Belizean style food is very similar to Jamaican, as you can imagine Cleyon was pretty happy about it. Especially when he saw the fried chicken come out with rice and peas! 
The drinks were good at this bar! Just be careful on the swings haha..
Dinner with friends we had made during the day. 

There was also a 'club', I can't remember the name, but if you go there, it won't be hard for you to find haha. We had a lot of fun watching others dance, and having others watch us too! 

At the club! 
All tired out after the water taxi back to the mainland...
*We did this trip in 2014, so things could have changed since then...

Tulum: The Ruins



Me and my honey at the ruins
Welcome to the Yucatan Peninsula in Quintana Roo, Mexico! As you walk through to the exits of the airport you hear of all the tourist attractions from the tour companies trying to strike your interest. This combined with the instant humidity as you walk outside can be a little bit overwhelming....


Cley captured this while I was staring at a nearby iguana!

When we first arrived in the airport in Cancun in 2014 a few things stuck out in my mind, one of them was Tulum. 
At one of the 5 entry points

One of the many happy iguana residents 

This beach is off limits for turtle egg nesting

Tulum is a town about 40 mins south of Playa Del Carmen. It has become a popular place recently particularly for boutique hotels. The main attractions in this area are an amazing stretch of beach, a ridiculous nunber of natural cenotes and of course the archeological ruins. 



Tourists on the path...the umbrella is for the sun!

Some of the ruins still in tact..

I'm not sure this thatch roof is from the 13th century haha

The Mayan ruins in Tulum was a seaport in the 13th Century for trading in mainly turquoise and jade. It is the only Mayan city to be built on the coast and was also one of the few surrounded by a wall.


The view of the beach...this one you can access and snorkel

The ruins themselves are ok, but not my favourite. It is very popular because of it's location (it's pretty close) and because of the views of the sea. I still do recommend going, but if you do, good idea to bring bathers (the beach is awesome!), a hat, sunscreen and some water. There isn't too much shade there and it can get pretty steamy!


White sandy beach in Tulum

If you still have energy afterward I recommend walking along the beach, but remember, you also have to walk back! 

*The picture quality isn't great, this was from 2014, from memory the camera we used was on it's last legs....