photo by Tami Cowden
Pink Flamingoes at Xcaret Photo by Steve Fey
Xcaret is about 70 km south of the Cancun airport. It owes a lot of its layout and ambiance to Walt Disney’s genius, but it is in fact more than Disneyland, or even Disney World, claims to be. It is not only an amusement park, zoological garden, snorkeling site, thrill ride center, and display of Mexican culture, it is also an effort to preserve the natural beauty of the Yucatán and the Caribbean. Like Disney, it isn’t cheap, but it’s cheaper than Disneyland, and that’s something. 1 day for 2 adults, purchased at least 3 weeks in advance, runs $219US. (At a reasonable exchange rate that runs to about $2800 in Pesos. At the Xcaret exchange rate that’s about $2400 in Pesos. Take a lesson.)
Birds Near the Entrance Photo by Steve Fey
Here are some Flamingoes at Xcaret. This is the only picture we have that actually includes the name of the place in the frame somewhere, so I’m using it right up front. The population of flamingoes has been decreasing in recent decades in the Yucatan, and as you may imagine, the loss of a lovely native bird isn’t what people hope for. One of Xcaret’s largest projects is breeding and release of flamingoes to replace those lost to, well, whatever is causing numbers to drop. I imagine shrinking habitat, pesticides, the usual culprits, are to blame.
These parrots are near the front entrance. There are some flamingoes there, too, as you might notice, but the parrots come even before the giant gift shop (told you they copied Walt’s ideas) that you must either walk around or through to get to the good stuff. We bought the “Xcaret Plus” package, which I would recommend. It includes the underground rivers (more below) and snorkeling, plus even a free buffet lunch (very good) which even included a free glass of beer! Free beer! And, while I’m on that subject, here’s a brief aside:
I generally prefer the darker ales, especially English style. My favorite beer is called Hobgoblin Ale from Oxfordshire. It has no hops. I have poo-pooed cocktail beers in the past, but I have to say that, in the hot, muggy jungle Corona was just what I needed. So, I guess I have to apologize for bad mouthing lighter, hoppy beers, because in the right time and place, there is nothing better.
Sitting on a Mayan Ruin at Xcaret Photo by Tami Cowden
There are Mayan ruins in Xcaret, too. “Archeological Zones” they call them in Mexico. And, unlike that expensive place to the west, they are included in the price, and one can sit on, or climb on, them at one’s leisure.
Here I am, sitting on one of them. The peninsula is fairly crawling with Mayan ruins, and as the Mayans aren’t using them any more, and in fact don’t mind people poking around on or in them, it’s easy enough to find a place to check out ancient stonework without driving two hours and being harassed by a state cop. But old stone structures aren’t really my thing. If they were I’d be a big fan of the US Senate. But, I digress. I do like the fishies, though, and Xcaret has a nice aquarium. Here’s something from in there:
Sponges at Xcaret Photo by Tami Cowden
There are lots of sponges and other interesting items, including what I call the “ugliest fish in the world.” I don’t have a picture of the thing good enough to publish, but trust me, that thing is ugly! Corn smut runs at its approach. Faux Tuscan houses crumble to the ground when it’s near. I mean, it’s horrible looking. But, meh, everybody’s gotta live, right?
Now, the underground rivers, they are something special. The advertisements mention an “underground river,” but don’t mention that there are actually three of them to explore. We took the darkest one, and paddled up another one just a bit. Here is a view from inside the one we floated down:
Floating In An Underground River Photo by Tami Cowden
As you can see, it was less than sunny in there, which was great! I don’t really think that I felt any wetter when this photo was takcn than I did walking down the path to get into the river. You need water shoes, or they’ll throw in a pair of swim fins if you don’t have any. I’d forgotten how easy it is to swim really fast with fins on. Wowzers! Upon returning to Xcaret, we plan to do the other two. You can, in fact, do all three, or one or two, as many times as you’d like as long as they are open, which is up until 5:30 PM. And, yes, I would enjoy returning. In fact, if you click over to their website (see the first word of this post) you’ll see that they have a whole slew of parks, and you can do a Disney thing and buy a multi-day pass and visit them all. In fact, you can stay right there and never leave their property. Walt was an inspiration to many, wasn’t he?
We were running out of time after the river, and had to walk about a quarter mile over to the snorkeling lagoon. And that is really cool! One of the first things I saw was a stingray (not the car, a real one) swimming directly below me. I had to resist the urge to reach out and touch it, as it was wild and for all I knew spent Saturday nights talking to its stingray friends about the “time they got that wacky Aussie guy.” Tami’s attempt to do underwater photography failed for some reason, so I can’t post any pictures, but it was an excellent way to finish our day at the park. If you’re ever in that part of the world, I’d recommend a visit. And get the “plus” pack because it’s worth it.
Coatimundi Photo by Tami Cowden
This is a coatimundi. You may have seen them in a zoo. In the Yucatán they are more like squirrels. Wild, that is, and extremely interested in whatever food humans drop. We saw about a half dozen of them ducking in and out of a trash receptacle. They’re cute, though. Other wildlife of note are the Parrots, and not to be forgotten, the crocodiles/alligators. Not sure just which they are but I’m happy to report that we didn’t see one. I’ve seen them before. They’re green. They eat people. I don’t need to know more than that. Besides all that I’ve mentioned, Xcaret is home to quite a few feral cats, which I imagine are employed to keep the rats down to a mild roar. At least I didn’t see any rats. Did you?
Finally, once again here are a few random photos from our day at Xcaret. (If you pronounce it as if there were an “i” in front of it, you’ll be close enough.)
A Recreated Sweat Lodge in Xcaret Photo by Tami Cowden
Howler Monkey (native) Photo by Tami Cowden
A Working Cat Photo by Tami Cowden
Deer Photo by Tami Cowden