Playa Del Carmen – Day 2

Playa Del Carmen – Day 2

Two years ago, we went to Cancun and booked all our excursions thorough the ME Cancun. While we had an amazing time with those tours, they were with lots of other people and we paid a lot more than if we had booked online. This time around, we researched tours on TripAdvisor before we left and booked a Snorkel & Sea Turtle Adventure with Edventure Tours which had a 5-star rating and over a 1.4K reviews! With that amount of reviews, it had to be good and the price was just right.

Our shuttle for the tour picked us up at 7 AM so it was another early morning. The bus was very clean and comfortable and our driver was very friendly. We picked up another couple along the 50-minute drive to Tulum and arrived around 8 AM. The took us to Edventure Tour’s HQ, a little shop on the outskirts of the Tulum Ruins park, and we met Eddy the owner. He was so nice and gave us free passes to the Tulum Ruins since the four-other people who were joining us on our snorkel and sea turtle adventure were rock climbing first. He also gave us a free bottle of organic sun screen to use instead of the stuff we brought that had chemicals harmful to the sea life. Super nice!

It was quite sunny out and Ryan didn’t have a hat so we stopped at one of the shops on the way to the Tulum Ruins.  He tried on all sorts of fedoras, cowboy hats, bonnets, and finally settled on a giant straw one. It was super goofy but, after rocking his Peruvian “adventure hat” for so long, we had to make sure he had a worthy replacement!

Adventure hats are the best hats! Tulum, Mexico

A guide walked us to the entrance of the Tulum Ruins, gave us our free tickets, and said we had about an hour to gallivant around. Since it was so early, there were not a ton of people there, so we had free reign of the Ruins. While they were not quite as impressive as Chichen Itza, the view from the cliffs, combined with the 1,300-year-old ruins, were very impressive.

There were even iguanas running around everywhere. The only downside was that my flip-flops meant for our day at the beach gave me a huge blister. Word to the wise, wear walking sandals on all excursions just in case!

The ruins in Tulum, Mexico

The ruins took about 30 minutes to go through and, while it was only about 75 degrees, it was humid so we were ready for refreshment. We wandered through the market shops outside of the ruins and found a little restaurant to grab a michelada, or what they call Rojo Ojo. It was so good! We walked back to the Edventures area and our guide, George, packed our snorkel gear and gave us some snacks for the bus ride to Eddy’s private property.

Eddy has 10 hectares (24 acres) of forest that had cenotes, a zip line park, and rock climbing on it. Once we got there, George had us hop in a camouflage ATV and we drove fast over 4 miles of rocky path through the forest to get to the cenotes! Cenotes are flooded underground caves with stalagmites and stalactites. There are three different kinds, once that are completely under grounds, ones that have caved in and are partially exposed, and then ones that are totally open. Our first stop was the underground variety.

We walked down this 5-foot-wide hole in the group to an underground paradise. It was completely dark so we were given flashlights to see in the water as we swam. The water was so blue and the perfect temperature. We could see perfectly way down to the bottom and there were little fish swimming around us. It was so cool to swim through the cave and see the bats hanging from the ceiling crevasse. I loved every second of it!

After the cave cenote, we walked to the open air one. It have to say, it was quite nice only having 6 people and two guides to our group. It made for a very exclusive feel without overcrowding. Anyway, this cave had a jumping platform where we could jump into the deep water.

There were also tons of cool structures in the depths of the water and ominous dark caves to go scuba diving in.

Exploring the waters of a cenote in Tulum, Mexico

We swam around and explored the cenote for about 45 minutes before heading to a Palapa for a lunch of pork and chicken tacos. Lunch was pretty good and, after we filled up, Ryan was given the keys to our ATV and drove us back to the van area. He loved every second of it (and we made it back without crashing – always a plus!)

We met the other 4 in our group, hopped in a van, and drove 15 minutes to Akumal Bay where the sea turtles are! Apparently over the past year or so, sea turtle tours were banned by the government due to huge tour groups disrupting the turtles. Two weeks before our vacation, 30 tour groups were re-granted permits out of the 300 or so that had permits the year before. Edventure tours had been working with the turtles and very involved in the environmental protection of the area for 30+ years and were grated a tour, so we were able to go!

The beach was totally packed with people and we were given special wristbands to snorkel out to the turtles. As we got further from the beach, the water got much clearer and you could see green seaweed growing from the sand. Apparently, this was the sea turtle’s favorite food and, within 4-5 minutes of being out there, we saw our first turtle!

We all floated around it and, eventually it had to come up to air. It spun around while rising and came within one foot of my face (see below)! The turtle was so huge and cute and I was in awe that I was so close to such a magical creature! It is amazing how encounters with such majestic animals can make for some of the coolest moments of our lives.

Getting up close and personal with a sea turtle in Mexico

We saw a bit further and I spotted another turtle with two huge fish on it! They were sucker fish and were eating the stuff on the turtle’s shell. So cool! We watched that turtle for a while and then were off to explore the reef.

The reef had tons of beautiful fish, much better than our snorkeling in Thailand, and we even saw a king fish! King fish are one of the deadliest fish we can encounter in reefs, but they are so cool looking!

A school of purple fish in the reefs in Mexico

We snorkeled for another 30 minutes or so throughout the reef and ended up back on the beach. We hopped back in the van and drove about 10 minutes down the road to a lagoon to do some more snorkeling. The lagoon was in a nature park with cool sculptures everywhere and we had to walk through a forest path to get to the lagoon. It was beautiful and full of amazing fish that flourished in the nutrient rich stream water hitting that of the sea.

Lounging by the lagoon in Mexico

We snorkeled there for about an hour. The top two feet of the water was hard to see through as the salt and sea water mixed, but visibility got much better with a quick dive down.

Snorkeling in a lagoon in Mexico

Eventually, all the activities of the day and early morning got to us, and we hopped out of the lagoon to relax on the rocky edges until the group was gathered and we took the hour-long ride home to get ready for our extravagant dinner at the Passion restaurant.

 

 

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Phuket – Day 3

Phuket – Day 3

Another early morning for our next day in Phuket. Even though we had to get up at 6:45 AM, we managed to get a solid 10 hours of sleep – much needed after all of the long days on this trip so far!

We had another amazing buffet breakfast and were picked up outside of The Slate hotel right at 8 AM. We ended up going to the exact same marina as the day before for our James Bond Island tour, but it took half the time since traffic was nonexistent. Not only that, but the sun was peeking out of the clouds and it didn’t look like we were going to have rain – Woohoo! Or so we thought…

We checked in, grabbed some snorkeling fins and coffee, and were introduced to our very loud and super energetic guide, Latte. All of our guides have had very generic English “thing” names that they tell tourists, like Latte, Kiwi, Coco, or Miss Boy (the later two were very flamboyantly feminine men), to make it easier for their tourist groups to remember. Bold, but effective, strategy!

We went down to the same dock as the day prior and hopped on another speed boat of the same variety. Since it has the best view and makes for the most fun experience, we sat in the front of the boat for the 40-minute ride to our first stop – Maya Bay. About 15 minutes into the ride, we looked behind us and saw huge black storm clouds pouring rain down onto the land we just left. The wind was heading our direction, so we were literally outracing the storm. The monsoon storms were no joke and made a sunny afternoon look like it was midnight. The storms had huge drops of whipping rain and winds that would blow you over. Needless to say, we were cheering our captain to go speedy-fast and were bouncing up and down during the bumpy ride in the front of the boat.

Heading into Maya Bay of the Phi Phi islands in Thailand

We finally made it to Maya Bay where there must have been 50 other boats and hordes of people. The actual swimming area was way too small and the boats and tourists took up every inch of space – and we were there in the off-season! Again, I would rather have gone to a less famous and less crowded place, but we enjoyed it anyways.


We got off the boat, took maybe 2 pictures, and then the rain hit. We ran under the cliffs for shelter and it actually worked pretty well. The wind picked up the sand hit our exposed skin like little bee stings. With everyone off the beach to find shelter, we were actually able to see its beauty without all of the people!

The rain lasted about 15 minutes and then, one by one, the rays of sunlight came back.

We had about 5 minutes to enjoy the scenery before getting herded back onto the boat so we could continue our tour.

We cruised around the island to a cove with teal blue water and tons of snorkelers, and then rounded the outside of the island to a beach with monkeys on it. The monkeys were used to being fed by the boat’s passengers, so about 6 of them came out to say hello in hopes of a treat. The laws recently changed at the Phi Phi Island State Park, so we could no longer feed them. Despite knowing that, this one awful tourist threw a little plastic covered lollie at one of the monkeys. The monkey picked it up, bit it, and then spit the hard-candy out. We were appalled at that guy for 1) giving a monkey something plastic and hard that it could easily choke on, especially when we were specifically told not to feed them anything and 2) for littering! I couldn’t look at him without disdain for the rest of the trip.

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Anyways, after that we motored for another 5 minutes to an area where we could snorkel. Unfortunately, the reefs that had once lived there had died off, so it was more rocky than anything. On the bright side, the water temperature was perfect and there were some pretty fish so Ryan and I had fun swimming around exploring the area.

The next stop was for lunch on yet another island. We climbed ashore and walked to the buffet of rice, stir fried veggies, dry chicken, and spaghetti with marinara sauce. The best thing was the pasta, so we filled up on that and chatted with a really interesting newlywed couple. The husband was from Germany, the wife from China, and they both had interesting stories and perspectives about how they met and about US politics. I swear, everyone from around the world has opinions about US politics and they are not afraid to share. Always an interesting conversation topic!

After that, it was back on board the ship, off to another island for more snorkeling, and then to our last stop, Khai Nai beach. Both places were filled with other boats, tourists, and places to shop.

 

The last beach didn’t have snorkeling, so we just walked around the beach for a bit, took some pictures with our tour guide Latte, and then we spotted the cats… well, more like older kittens. They were super cute and we watched them pounce around. One cat started to dig in the sand which was endearing, but then he pooped in the hole in the middle of all of the tourists, sniffed his droppings, and then covered the hole back up with sand. We found it hilarious and I exclaimed that “at least the cat was polite enough to cover the mess up”. Our laughter faded when we saw 3 other cats do the same thing, all along the beach where tourists were building sandcastles, laying out, and walking along the beach. We were struck with the realization that this island was literally the largest litter box we had ever seen and that, judging by the sheer number of cats roaming around, there were hidden treasures everywhere on the beach – YUCK! Ryan was beyond amused with this and I couldn’t help but laugh. With this knowledge, we hurried to the water-side and opted to sit on some rocks to people watch until it was time to go.

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We were so lucky that the rain held off after the brief downpour in Maya Bay. It stayed nice out, with just a few sprinkles, all the way up until our ride back to the marina. We had initially sat up front, but the waves were so high that we were getting bounced 2-feet into the air each time we hit a big wave, so we moved inside. As we maneuvered to our seats, I slipped and ended up gashing my foot on a pair of goggles someone left out. Everyone saw me fall and everyone saw me get hurt. I shouted out to see where the first aid kit was, but no one budged to help or ask me if I was ok outside of Ryan which was I found a bit strange. It wasn’t until one of the crew noticed that I some antiseptic and a Band-Aid. I am definitely one of the “how can I help” types, so I was a little surprised by how different the rest of the passengers reacted in that regard.

After I got my foot fixed up, I donned my handy-dandy rain jacket as it started to downpour once again. We were back at the marina within 15 minutes and it didn’t take us long to find our transport back to The Slate hotel.

I can’t begin to describe enough how good it felt to shower the salt water off and to change into dry clothes after being damp all day long! We got fixed-up and headed down to the beach road outside of our hotel property to find another beach-side restaurant for dinner. It ended up being quite a nice night and all of the vendors were on the streets, the restaurants and shops were open, and the personality of the whole area changed from the rainy-day before.

We found this cute little place with tables on the beach to eat at. I had an amazing panag chicken curry and Ryan had sweet and sour pork. The view and the sound of the waves combined with the perfectly cool breeze was heavenly and made us tired. An Australian Shepard walked up to our table and cuddled up on the ground next to us for some extra-cute company during our meal. Ryan gave the dog a piece of pork and then tried to give the dog a pet on the head. He definitely made us homesick for our puppy back in Texas!

The dog wanted to stay by the beach, so we said goodbye before heading back to our hotel. When we got to the staircase up to our room, we heard mewing and a young cat walked right up to us! He wanted attention so, in a germaphobe / didn’t want worms type of way, I stroked his back with my flip-flop. He was so cute and affectionate! We started walking up the stairs to our room and he followed us – uh oh… In an attempt to beat him to our room without him entering, we picked up the pace, and he fell behind us just enough for us to make a break into the door. I felt so bad leaving him out there meowing morosely but we did not need a cat in our nice clean room. Of course, Ryan was guilt tripping me afterwards (“you’re leaving him out there all by himself? What it he is cold and lonely?”) so I had to throw an empty water bottle at him to stop so I could get some piece of mind and sleep.