Thursday, August 24, 2017

Swimming With Whale Sharks!

While in Isla Mujeres during "whale shark season", we decided to book a tour to swim with these giant fish. The whale sharks are only around a few months of the year, so we figured we'd do this while the timing was right. These tours are sold everywhere, but we decided to book with the vendor outside of our hotel since it was so convenient. We weren't sure who he was booking us with, but it turned out that he hooked us up with a great tour company .. Ceviche Tours!

We meet our tour guide the next morning at the dock, then boarded a power boat with six other guests & the two tour guides ... Fred, the ceviche maker & guy who swam with us & pointed out the whale sharks .. and Jesus, the captain & owner of Ceviche Tours. After about an hour ride & some talk on his VHF, Jesus found the sharks. Jesus was about to stop the boat when he got another call on the VHF .. another spot a bit further had more whale sharks. We went another 5-10 minutes and stopped where one other boat was. It turned out we were 25 miles off the Isla Mujeres coast and in 130 feet of water. We could see the huge fish feeding off of plankton on top of the water .. so slow & graceful.

All of us put on our fins & snorkel gear, as well as a life jacket around our waists. Ken & I were prepared to be scared to jump off the boat .. after all, these are the largest fish in the world! However, we were both surprisingly calm and had no problem jumping in. We stuck our faces under the water & instantly saw these gentle giants around us. They'd gently glide by with their mouths open to suck up the plankton & algae, and then we'd find ourselves alone. It was a trip that when we'd look in the water, it was still blue ... and there were no other fish in sight. Whenever Fred or one of us would see more whale sharks, we'd yell at all the others to "look down". One time Fred told me to look down, which I did .. only to find myself about 5 feet away from one of these creatures and right in the path of its mouth! I didn't wanna find out if I'd be sucked up, so I quickly moved out of the way .. while kicking the guy behind me I'm sure.

We didn't bring an underwater camera with us, so we don't have any photos of the whale sharks, but here's a few from Ceviche Tours ..

.. and here's a video too!


After about an hour in the water, Jesus called us back to the boat and we headed to the beautiful Playa Norte beach on Isla Mujeres for relaxing & ceviche. As were headed back, Jesus pointed out a ton of boats in the distance .. there were so many it looked like a city! Jesus said the boats were whale shark tour boats. We then realized how lucky we were to have Jesus take his time to find us a better spot. The amount of boats were ridiculous! If we'd have stopped there, we would have had to take turns & probably would have only been in the water 10-15 minutes. Glad Jesus found a better spot!

Once we stopped at Playa Norte beach, Jesus pulled out fresh fish fillets, tomatoes, onions & seasonings for Fred to cut up for ceviche. While Fred prepared the ceviche, we chilled in the clear water & enjoyed the scenery. 

Ken enjoying the water ...

We'd never had ceviche before, but we decided to try it after learning that the raw fish actually cooks with the added lime juice. It was really good, and I went back for seconds .. so light & refreshing!

We're so glad that our marina friends recommended taking the whale shark tour! When you think of being in the middle of the Caribbean Sea & swimming with wild, giant creatures .. it's pretty amazing! Give Ceviche Tours a try if you're in the area during whale shark season. We don't get anything for recommending them .. we just liked them. If you're there in the Winter, they have a Sail Fish tour that sounds pretty cool too!

Next up .. we try our first Airbnb in Cancun!

Hasta luego .. until then. Mid-Life Cruising!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Return to Isla Mujeres!

Ken & I love Mexico, so when we saw a "Living Social" non-stop airfare deal from New Orleans to Cancun .. we jumped on it! Yeah, we moved onto Nirvana a couple of months ago & are prepping her for cruising this winter, but traveling is our main goal so why wait?! The deal required us to fly on certain dates, which meant we needed to spend 6 nights in Mexico. We decided to spend 3 nights on Isla Mujeres, and then another 3 nights in Cancun.

On the morning of July 30th, we hopped on a plane and arrived in Cancun 1.5 hours later.  After a 20 minute ferry ride through gorgeous, blue waters we arrived on Isla Mujeres.  Here are a few pics from the ferry ...

We love all the palm trees!

We were there for a late lunch/early dinner of tacos & beer. After a series of tough events the past two months, we were so ready to chill out! How does three tacos & two beers for $5 bucks sound? So good!

We stayed on the little island of Isla Mujeres last year, and we loved it. It's full of palm trees, beautiful beaches, gorgeous rocky shores, spectacular sunset views, golf carts & scooters to get around, and really inexpensive food, beer & fresh margaritas!

We stayed at the same hotel as last year since the price was right & it's located on one of the main streets of the island .. lots of bars, restaurants & activity with live music in the evenings. Ken forgot how hard the beds are at this hotel .. he needed about 30 minutes every morning to work out the kinks in his back! Other than that, we still loved the location and the pool.  Here's a pic of the Hotel Plaza Almendros from last year ...

See that guy sitting in front? He books tours, and was there again this year. We decided to take the advice of our new friends at our marina back home and book a "Whale Shark" tour with this guy. More about that in the next post! 

We spent the first two & a half days chilling at the beach ...

and touring the island on a golf cart.

I've mastered the "selfie"!

We stopped at one of our favorite places from last year .. "The Joint". We had nachos & beer, and listened to live music with a great guitar player!

We stumbled across the only brewery on the island .. Isla Brewing Company, so we had to stop in. The owners are from North Carolina & fairly new to Isla. They had four beers, and we sampled two of them. They were really good!

See the woman Ken's talking to in the picture below? It turned out that she lives on a sailboat & arrived with her husband just 4 months earlier! They planned to stay a few weeks, but fell in love with the island and decided to stay through hurricane season. We enjoyed talking with her, as we hope to sail our own boat to Isla Mujeres someday!

 As I mentioned last year .. I'm not a big margarita fan, but the fresh-made margaritas on Isla Mujeres are really good! Those two margaritas were fixin' to be ours!

While the island has great Mexican food, they also have a great variety of other food too. We tried  Italian food on both of our trips, and it was really good. We've been told that the island has quite a few Italians that have moved there & opened up restaurants.

We enjoyed the island as much as last year, but we didn't take near as many photos this time around. If you want to see a lot more .. check out these posts from last year or this photo album! Last year we rented a scooter instead of a golf cart & I made a little amateur video .. check it out here!

Next up .. swimming with whale sharks!

Hasta luego .. until then. Mid-Life Cruising!
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