Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Maya Bay - Koh Phi Phi, Thailand USA,

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Gold, skeletons, and even film crews can be found in Mexico's supernatural cenotes, as Matthew Parsons discovered on a snorkelling excursion from Thomson's Sensatori resort on the Riviera Maya

In the 2005 film The Cave, scuba divers discover a terrifying, parasitic species living beneath a cave in Romania. But this horror film was actually filmed at Tak Be Ha on Mexico's Riviera Maya - and our guide doesn't want to talk about it.

Despite my questions, she wants us to but the film completely out of our minds as some of our group are starting to look a bit uneasy.

Once we have all squeezed through the manhole-sized entrance hidden in the jungle undergrowth, climbed down the ladder, zipped up our wetsuits and tested the temperature of the water, our guide points out the route we are about to snorkel.

There are a few safety rules, such as don't touch the elongated roots or stalactites that stretch down from the cave's roof into the water, or swim into any dark holes.

The water feels cold at first, but after a few minutes you warm up as you swim in single file through the cave.

Swimming actually feels more like gliding; the water is crystal clear and illuminated by underwater lights, and you "fly" above mysterious chambers and tunnels, some of which continue for hundreds of metres and emerge in other cenotes (water-filled caves) in the area.

This gliding sensation is a unique experience for me, and adds to the supernatural feeling of these caves - you start to understand why these places held such importance for the ancient Mayans.

They believed these cenotes, which blistered up on the rim of a crater formed by a meteorite that struck millions of years ago, were portals to other worlds.

As a result they were used for a range of rituals and sacrifices; gold figurines as well as skeletons have been dug up from these underwater tombs across the Yucatan Peninsula.

There's definitely something spooky about the caves. When climbing out of the cenote after our idyllic 45-minute snorkel, and changing back into our clothes, we saw on the back of one of our group a red mark the size of a dinner plate.

A victim of the deadly, mutated parasite perhaps? Fortunately not - it was just a mosquito bite. You need to get out of your wetsuits and into your clothes fast.

Turtle Bay in Akumal

Once back in the jeep, it's a 30-minute drive to Akumal on the coast, for the second part of this excursion. Akumal is also known as Turtle Bay, because it is famous for its turtle breeding.

What's nice is there's no boat journey; you leave your belongings in the dive centre and just stroll into the sea with flippers and snorkel. Within five minutes we were greeted by turtles walking gently along the seabed. A lot of the coral looked damaged due to recent hurricanes, however there were bright patches of purple and red, attracting a modest range of tropical fish.

This half-day excursion is full of surprises and ideal for the less- confident swimmer. Tak Be Ha has underwater lights and guide ropes, and is mostly shallow, while snorkelling at Akumal is close to the beach, and with lifejackets and the excellent guide you'll always feel safe.

And anyone who has seen The Cave need not fear - the only parasites you'll come across are a few of those pesky mosquitoes.

Copyright: UBM Information Ltd.

Source Citation
"MEXICO: RIVIERA MAYA - Subterranean adventures." Travel Trade Gazette UK & Ireland (2010): 55. InfoTrac Small Business eCollection. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Document URL

Gale Document Number:A222395201

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