Tulum Ruins 06/23/07
Sunday, June 17th the trip began with an easy flight from Philadelphia to Cancun. We arrived at the new Terminal 3. It took us about an hour to clear Immigrations and the bags had arrived by the time we went to baggage claim. In Cancun, Customs has each visitor hit a big button to see if you get the green light, PASSE or the red light, ALTO. A few in our group got the red light and they had to open their bags for the Custom's Officer. As soon as we were done we headed for our vans, which were waiting for us right outside. We were in Akumal around 3PM. We checked into Hotel Akumal Caribe, took a quick tour of the resort and immediate area and it was onto the beach. We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the beach and pool. Dinner was at Lol-Ha Beach Bar, a casual outdoor restaurant right on the property. It was early to bed after a few games of cards.
Sunday, June 18th we spent the day getting to know Akumal. We had a nice breakfast at Lol-Ha and headed across the highway to the Telesecundaria (Middle School). Leticia Cordova, who runs an English Program and Environmental Education Program at the Middle School met us there and introduced our group to the three classes. We did several activities with these school children through out our week.
After our visit we had a fun ride back to the beach
We all met at the CEA Center (Centro Ecológico Akumal) and listened to a presentation about CEA and the local environment by Paul Sanchez-Navarro as well as a talk on the Coral Reef by Joel Ortega. Following that the CEA Volunteers took our group on a snorkel tour in Akumal Bay, we saw several turtles along with a number of fish.
Some of our students mentioned that they played Futbol (soccer) when they were introducing themselves to the local students - that led to a pick-up soccer game on the beach while we waited for lunch.
Following lunch, we picked up our golf carts and headed toward Yal Ku Lagoon. Along the way we stopped at Half Moon Bay. We spent the rest of the afternoon snorkeling and hanging out in Yal Ku Lagoon. We headed back to the hotel where several folks took a dip in the pool before getting ready for dinner.
At 9:00 we headed to CEA to hear their Turtle Talk. Half of our group joined the CEA volunteers and Armando Lorences, CEA's head of the Sea Turtle Protection Program on a Turtle Walk. Unfortunately, the group headed home a little too early that evening, since there were 7 turtles who nested that night.
Tuesday, June 19th We woke early and walked up to the highway to catch a collectivo. This is a popular mode of transportation for the locals. Collectivos, or sometimes called combis, are air-conditioned vans that make many stopped from Playa Del Carmen to Tulum. They cost between 15 and 20 pesos each way. We caught our rides and were dropped off at Xel-Ha. Xel-Ha is a unique eco-park at the mouth of a very large lagoon. We arrived and had breakfast at the water front restaurant. After breakfast we headed up to the top of the lazy river where we met up with several of the students from the Telesecundaria. We grabbed life jackets and inner tubes to float down the river. On the way some folks stopped to jump from the cliff or try their skills on the rope bridge. After a leisurely morning we joined the local students for lunch. The rest of the afternoon people were free to do as they pleased inside the park. Some snorkeled, wandered on the paths, went to the beach, kayaked or napped in a hammock under the palms.
We had dinner that night at a very casual, local, outdoor restaurant named Lonchoria. After dinner the second half of the our group headed out for their Turtle Walk. They were much more fortunate – they saw a Green and a Loggerhead mother.
Wednesday, June 20th We had breakfast at Lol-Ha and then met our vans and headed to Sian Ka'an Biosphere. One of the largest reserves in all of Mexico. Our guide, Pastor made the experience fabulous. He guided us through the Muyil Ruins, along a jungle path and out to the lagoon. After snacks the group got into boats and rode across the large lagoon, through an ancient canal, across another lagoon and into a natural canal. At the second lagoon everyone got out and floated down the canal through the mangroves and grasses. The boats took us back for an el fresco lunch and on to the cenote.
After a couple hours of rest and relaxation back at the hotel, the group was ready for an evening of fun in Playa del Carmen. Playa, not too long ago, was a sleepy little fishing village but after being the fastest growing city in the world it has become anything but sleepy. We dined on the beach and headed to 5th Avenue for some very serious shopping. Some of the girls caught on quickly to the bartering and were very pleased with the prices they settled on. All in all we had a wonderful evening and we topped it off with a bus ride home.
Thursday, June 21st we were up early for breakfast and off to meet some of the local students and headed to Xcaret for the day and night. We had a quick introduction to the park, a tour of the aquarium and then everyone spent the day exploring the park and seeing what they wanted to see when they wanted to see it. The park was too big and offered too many options for all of us to explore it together. The park offers shows through out the day, places to swim and snorkel, underground rivers to float down, animal exhibits from panthers to bats; monkeys to butterflies. Many of us enjoyed the Mayan village where you could get handmade souvenirs. Close by the Mayan Village was the chapel and a recreation of a typical Mexican Cemetary.
Group at the Entrance to Xcaret
Sra. Phillips, Sr. Miguel, Sra. Shomgard at Xcaret
Sr. Rada learning the ropes
Mayan Artist at Xcaret Mayan Village
Xcaret's chapel and replica of a typical cemetary
Students at the Xcaret night show
Friday, June 22nd We woke up early and had a wonderful buffet breakfast with our gorgeous view of the beach. We were picked up in vans at 9:30 and taken to Hidden Worlds where we explored underground caves and rivers and snorkeled in a truly unique world. Some of the group also chose to zip line. We got back to the hotel around 1:30 just in time to drop off our snorkeling equipment and head to Selva Maya for another tour of a different underground cave, one with a beautiful cenote complete with a rope to swing and jump into the water with. This was nature at is most pristine and the lunch which was cooked fresh by the Mayan caretakers was out of this world; fresh tortillas, beans, rice, grilled potatoes, chicken, fresh salsa and guacamole. The thoughts of it makes my mouth water. We all enjoyed this meal at picnic tables under a palapa roof in the jungle. How do you end a day like today? With some free time to enjoy the beach and pizza by the pool! After dinner the students worked on gift bags for their new friends. They brought all of the gifts into one room and spend well over an hour organizing them all. There was so many wonderful things for kids of all ages.
Saturday, June 23rd Our last full day, and word was spreading that there was going to be a big soccer match at the field across from the library that afternoon. Everyone was talking about it, kids, waiters, locals and visitors alike, so we had to get moving early in order to be back in time for our very own World Cup. We had a buffet breakfast and headed to the library to meet some of the youngest kids that participate in a Saturday morning program with Maggie, the librarian. We delivered the gifts we had chosen for the library.
We met our collectivo at the entrance to Akumal and headed to Tulum. Tulum may be the most gorgeous of the Mayan Ruins! Located right on the Caribbean Sea they are exquisite. The day was hot and the fact that the beach was right there made it more than tolerable. We took a tram from the entrance of Tulum to the actual Ruins. At the entrance of Tulum are lots of shops.
As we were getting ready to leave there was a short rain shower that cooled us off in time for The Soccer Match!
The field we played in is a new addition to the area. It was built as a soccer and baseball diamond. Compared to the sports fields our group is used to this was extremely rustic. The grass was barely growing in and where it was it was not mowed and the field was still full of rocks – but that didn't stop one boy from playing in his bare feet! In the beginning our team looked – Red Hot! We were ahead and playing with gusto. By the end our team was Red! And Hot! And that is when the young local kids got the advantage – to them it was just another day. The game went on for almost 2 hours. Everyone had a great time. After the game we headed to the beach and pool to cool off.
That evening we got together with some of our new friends; kids from the school, staff from CEA, staff from the hotel and more. We had a pizza party and Ryan Wolfe who was on our soccer team that day, DJ'ed for us that night. Ryan grew up in Akumal and is attending high school in Texas. He was home for vacation and it was great to have him join us for our last day!
Can you find two of our teachers in the fist beach shot and some of our girls in the second?
Wyomissing World Cup
Dancing with the stars
Sunday, June 24th We had the morning to enjoy the resort and then it was time to go. We were loading up the vans by 11:15 and on the road to the airport by 11:30. It was a great time for all!
I want to thank everyone for a wonderful trip! The students and staff were wonderful and I look forward to the possibility of doing more trips with Wyomissing in the future. I do hope that those of you who took photos will send them to me so I can post a photo album of this wonderful trip.
Thanks for the Memories!