The calmer side to Cancun, Mexico
Sharon Spence Lieb explores Cancun, reminding us that there is so much more to the city than the night-life.
Really Big Fish
A full yellow moon rises over the shimmering turquoise Caribbean. At dawn, no one strolls the ivory beach. No one splashes in the cerulean pools. But out in the deep, the largest fish on Planet Earth are waking.
Two hours later, on-board a Solo Buceo dive boat, our guide Gabriel hands out life jackets, masks, snorkels and fins. The sea rolls with 35 foot long ten ton giants, swimming around gracefully like plus size ballerinas.
“Wow. We’ve got 40 whale sharks around our boat. Stay close to me and watch out for their tails,” cautions Gabriel. When your guide is named after an Angel you don’t have to worry; just keep calm and follow the instructions.
Looking into the sea of giant fish I force myself to jump off the boat, and find myself face-to-face with a grey white spotted creature the size of a school bus, her huge hula-hoop mouth vacuuming in plankton and krill soup.
Feasting and birthing babies, these whale sharks come to Cancun every May and stay until September. Swimming among them is an incredible joy, but it still makes me feel a little nervy … I hold Gabriel’s hand and try to stay calm.
One whale shark swims right at me for a closer look and I take a deep breath, reminding myself that these fish don’t eat humans. I’m thrilled, but can’t help being a little frightened as a wise calm eye regards me with curiosity. I’m aware that she’s witnessed our Planet’s madness and marvels, navigating the globe at 2500-foot depths. I don’t belong here, but she certainly does.
She follows me as I climb back into our boat, lifting her massive head and giving me a really big whale shark smile. What a gift; what an experience.
Really Tiny Fish
Following our dramatic whale shark encounter we crave some relaxation, so we head to the LeBlanc Spa Resort where we immerse our feet into a small tank for the Fish Spa pedicure.Tropical Garra Rufa fish from Turkey dart around like tiny beams of colourful energy, surrounding our feet and ankles and nibbling gently to remove our dead skin cells.
In 5 minutes my feet are smooth, soft and feel half a size smaller. Relaxed and recharged from this unusual treatment, we’re now ready for more Cancunian adventures.
A comfortable airconditioned ferry takes us to Isla Mujeres, which Erika Mitzunaga Magana, Cancun PR Manager for North America and Asia, describes as “a picturesque Mexican Caribbean island, perfect for relaxation and authentic cuisine, as well as for great prices on handicrafts and silver.”
We wander past charming rainbow-hued houses as we browse outdoor stalls selling hats, dresses and souvenirs. When we arrive at The Silver Factory owner Adolfo Fabian Beltran and his family welcome us warmly, offering us chicken and posole as we try on every necklace and bracelet in the tiny shop, all made from fine quality silver from Taxco Mexico. I finally choose a delicate sea star pendant with matching earrings as a perfect souvenir for time well spent with the Beltran family.
For lunch, we take a taxi to Museum Capitan Dulche. This hip outdoor Beach Club offers gorgeous Caribbean views, thatched roof cabanas, a private lagoon for swimming, and an outdoor bar/restaurant. Los Metates Restaurant serves authentic Mexican dishes like “tikinxic,” a fresh grouper fillet marinated with achiote paste, served with sour oranges, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked on a wood fire.
Owner Iddar de la Parra Vargas takes our group through his “Museo Capitan Dulche,” featuring photos of his grandfather Captain Ernesto, a legendary naval officer and maritime explorer, and models of famous ships from England, Norway and Spain, including Jacques Cousteau’s “Calypso.”
At the Beach Club we snorkel in Cancun’s new Underwater Museum, a fascinating collection of more than 400 sculptures on the bottom of the ocean, created by internationally acclaimed eco-sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor.
Taylor’s incredible underwater world consists of life-sized humans as well as an Urban reef, and he has even made his own underwater interpretation of “The Last Supper.”
All sizes of fish and coral live happily within this innovative reef, which has become a successful marriage of helping the environment while providing new homes to Cancun’s marine life.
There’s a reason Cancun is Mexico’s world-renowned number one tourist destination. Hospitality is genuine, beaches stunning, resorts luxurious, spas pampering, and the international cuisine delicious. And, when you’ve been eye to eye with those gentle giants of the seas once, you’ll want to return every year to play with them.