One of the Sandos Caracol Resort’s draws for me was the daily eco tours. Each day offered a different learning experience. Hubby and I took our first one, the wind tribute tour, on Tuesday, with Alex as our guide. We started on the beach, where he explained how the barrier (coral) reef, which begins near Cancun and runs along the length of the Riviera Maya continuing southward to Guatemala, is the second longest in the world and is a very important part of the area’s ecosystem.
We also learned that Cozumel, back in the Mayan times, was home to the fertility goddess, Ix Chel. She was also responsible for sending rain to nourish the crops, and the villagers would go to Cozumel (known as Cutzamil) by small boat to make offerings to the goddess to ensure they’d have enough rain to grow their food. This information tied in to “The Arrival” Xcalacoco ceremony presented that evening at the beach.
We then went to one of the nurseries, where Alex showed us various plants and trees the resort grows for many different purposes. When Alex showed us a young Ceiba tree (pronounced say-bah), he told us the legend of X’tabay (ish-tah-BYE). I heard three versions of the popular X’tabay legend while out there. Please forgive me, Alex, if I don’t get your version exactly right.
X’tabay was a beautiful young Mayan woman who fell deeply in love with a young man. When her boyfriend failed to show up one evening for their date, she went looking for him and found him drunk and in the arms of another woman. X’tabay became so angry and hurt by his betrayal that she went to the local Chaman (shaman) to seek revenge. He told her the only way she’d be revenged was to kill the young man and tear out his heart. So that’s what she did, but the act drove her to madness and when she died (or killed herself?) she came back as a spirit, who continued to seek revenge on wayward males.
Unsuspecting men, who wander into the jungle after consuming too much alcohol, might meet X’tabay under a Ceiba tree, where she would seduce and then kill him, leaving his heartless body in the jungle. Some men escape from their encounter with X’tabay, and they all describe X’tabay as a very beautiful woman who can float on air, dressed in a flowing white dress, and combs her long dark hair with claw-like fingers.
The warning in this cautionary tale is for young men not to drink too much and misbehave or the X’tabay will get them.
From the nursery, we went to see the Macaws. Sandos Caracol has six resident macaws, most, I believe, are surrender birds or rescues.
We saw these two earlier, back by the snack bar.
These two are located near the nursery.
This odd couple is also at the nursery. Apparently the little blue female is in love with the much younger, and very cranky Darwin. Before being housed by Sandos, she’ d been used for taking photos with tourists and because of the resulting stress, she plucks her chest feathers out. Rather sad to see, and a good reminder that these animals are being exploited, so if we don’t support the people doing the exploiting by paying to have our pictures taken with these poor creatures, the practice will be forced to stop.
The temperamental Darwin
From the macaws, we stopped by to see the Mayan dogs. These two boys are hairless, and I thought their skin would be soft, but it felt rather rubbery. Normally, they’re housed in a large pen near the burros, but guests thoughtlessly insist on feeding them junk food and the dogs ended getting so sick, one almost died, so they were being kept in a smaller, hidden, pen until they were well again.
Alamo trees by the Tortuga Lagoon
A glimpse of the Caribbean Sea.
Christmas tree in La Toscana Italian Restaurant
Daily towel art
Feeding the animals is another activity offered
Our first of many encounters with a small group of Coatis (pronounced Qua-tea). These little guys look like a cross between a raccoon and an ant-eater. They’re totally adorable and have learned the fine art of begging. Cute to see, but not a good idea. Not only do they fill up on unhealthy food, they stop eating the termites and other bugs, which upsets the ecosystem.
The resort offers bikes for the guests to use and there’s a great two km path to ride on. The bike I chose was a bit big for me, the tire pressure was too low, and because of an injured left arm, I could only steer with my right one. This made for a tricky combination and I didn’t enjoy the experience as much as I wanted to.
We had our first a la carte dinner that evening at Los Lirios, the steak and seafood restaurant. Unfortunately, Hubby got stricken during the meal and couldn’t finish. We spent the rest of the evening in our room with him quite ill. It wasn’t the flu, and he hadn’t had too much to drink, so have no clue what didn’t agree with him. I was disappointed to miss the first Mayan ceremony and would’ve tried to venture down to the beach alone to watch it, except we knew we’d get a second chance the following Tuesday.
The next morning, Hubby was much improved, but too shaky to go on the photo safari or that day’s eco tour, so we kept things pretty low-key.
We spotted more coatis on our way to breakfast.
We took a very brief stroll along the beach, in a southerly direction, our first foray near the water. This is the location of the Xcalacoco ceremony we’d missed the previous evening.
On the way back, we happened across some hilarious pool activity.
Our towel art that day
Another unique no-cost activity at the resort is the Mayan River boat ride. It’s billed as romantic, and guests are offered sparkling wine and chocolate-dipped strawberries. Because of Hubby’s dodgy stomach, we turned down the wine and spent the journey alternating between ohhing and awwing over the gorgeous setting and quizzing our young guide, Jesus (Hey-zeus). Not only could he speak flawless English, he had plenty of stories about the Mayan culture and the local environment.
Jesus, in elaborate Mayan costume.
We spotted a turtle
Crystal clear water and incredible vegetation.
Our afternoon stroll took us by the Cenote de la Tortuga.
I heard sometimes the spider monkeys hung out near the suspension bridge over the Cenote de la Cascade, so that’s where we headed next.
And success! We found monkeys! They stayed in the canopy, so we only got brief glimpses and inferior photos, but I was beyond excited.
I could go home happy now, having seen what I’d gone there to see. Naturally, I hoped for many more encounters in the coming days. And my hopes came true, many times over. More monkey business to come!