Before I go into detail about our vacation adventures in the Playa del Carmen area of Mexico, I want to give a little background on the place we stayed, the Sandos Caracol Eco Experience Resort (http://www.sandos.com/hotel-sandos-caracol-in-playa-del-carmen.htm). The possibility of seeing monkeys first brought this resort to my attention, but all the other activities offered at no cost were what really sold me on it.
A person could go to this resort and enjoy the pool, the beach, the bars, and have a great time without ever experiencing anything else the resort has to offer, but they’d be missing out on so much. The resort itself—the rooms, restaurants, pools—are what you’d expect from an all-inclusive, nice enough, but I’ve stayed at fancier. Hubby and I aren’t really interested in fancy, though.
It’s the grounds and activities that drew me in. I’m not talking pretty flowers and fun stuff to do at the pool (although there’s that too). I’m talking mangroves.
Cenotes (Five in total, one you can swim in)
Mayan River boat ride
And we can’t forget the spider monkeys!
Not only monkeys, but coatis (pronounced quatea)
Birds (all kinds)
Fish, snakes…You get the idea. There’s also many organized activities such as photo safaris and daily eco and bike tours. And a great kid’s club and waterpark. I found it discouraging that so few visitors took advantage of these free activities. Then again, fewer participants meant more individual attention for those of us who were truly interested.
First and foremost, Sandos Caracol is all about the Xcalacoco (pronounced Ishkalakoko) Experience. Xcalacoco is the place where thousands of years ago, the Mayan sailors arrived year after year, in order to share their news transmitted by the goddess Ixchel of Cutzamil (now Cozumel).
As well as their commitment to conservation and respect of the land (and being environmentally responsible), Sandos Caracol is dedicated to preserving and sharing the Mayan Culture through its ceremonies and legends.
We were privileged to watch three of their evening performances where, with incredible attention to detail, everything is authentic, from the Mayan costumes, the music, right down to the incense burned. In this series of ceremonies, we learned the legend of the love story between the conquistador and the Chaman’s princess daughter.
The first ceremony, The Arrival, begins on the beach with Mayan rowers rescuing a castaway on their return trip from Cozumel. When they realize this nearly drowned stranger is different from them, with white skin and unusual clothing, they become frightened and suspicious. The Chaman decides to make him an offering to the goddess Itxel.
Feeling a strong connection to the foreigner, the Chaman’s daughter, a Mayan princess, begs mercy for his life.
Out of love for his daughter, the Chaman agrees to spare him, not knowing the princess and the conquistador are falling in love.
The second ceremony, The Ceremony by the Sacred Cenote, is held at the main cenote. The princess and the conquistador, forbiddingly in love, have been meeting in secret every night at the cenote.
One night, the Chaman sees them together and his rage is so great, he condemns them both to death. (Chaman is on the boat, the conquistador and princess are being held by the villagers)
The princess is thrown into the cenote to drown, while the conquistador manages to escape to the jungle. Unbeknownst to the Chaman, the conquistador and the princess are reunited when he returns to the cenote to discover she’s survived.
The third ceremony, The Fire of Life, is set at the Sun plaza. The Chaman is repentant for having killed his daughter and he asks the villagers to help him recreate the Fire of Life ceremony so his soul can find peace.
Towards the end of the amazing ceremony, the princess and her conquistador appear at the plaza and the Chaman, so happy to have his daughter back, accepts the foreigner into his family.
With the darkness and all the movement, my photos could not do justice to these incredible ceremonies, and I apologize for their poor quality. But, believe me when I say the shows were breathtakingly beautiful and the costume details were exquisite. I’ll share a few more of my best ceremony shots in the coming weeks, along with many more of our activities. I hope you’ll come back to enjoy them.