Let The Monkey Business Begin

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.

134 Macaws

These two are located near the nursery.

143 Macaws

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.

145 Darwin & girlfriend (she loses feathers from stress)

The temperamental Darwin

146 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.

151 Mayan dog

152 Mayan dog

Alamo trees by the Tortuga Lagoon

136 Alamo trees @ Tortuga Lagoon

Tortuga Lagoon

137 Tortuga Lagoon

A glimpse of the Caribbean Sea.

174 Sandos Caracol

Christmas tree in La Toscana Italian Restaurant

153 La Toscana Italian Restaurant

Daily towel art

157 Towel art

Feeding the animals is another activity offered

158 Feeding the burros

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.

167 Coatis 168 Coatis 171 Coati

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.

183 Coatis

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.

186 Beach looking south

On the way back, we happened across some hilarious pool activity.

187 Main pool

Our towel art that day

188 Towel art

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.

34 Mayan River boat ride

Jesus, in elaborate Mayan costume.

189 Jesus

We spotted a turtle

190 Turtle in Mayan River

A raccoon

194 Raccoon, Mayan River

A heron

197 Heron, Mayan River

Crystal clear water and incredible vegetation.

193 Mayan River 200 Mayan River 201 Mayan River

Our afternoon stroll took us by the Cenote de la Tortuga.

203 Cenote de la Tortuga

205 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.

218 Cenote de la Cascade 523 Suspension bridge @ Cenote de la Cascade 524 Suspension bridge @ Cenote de la Cascade

And success! We found monkeys! They stayed in the canopy, so we only got brief glimpses and inferior photos, but I was beyond excited.

208 Spider Monkey 209 Spider Monkey 210 Spider Monkey 213 Spider Monkey

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! Jump to next post here. Start from the beginning here.

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One thought on “Let The Monkey Business Begin

  1. Pingback: We Found a Mayan Jungle in Our Backyard | joyceholmes

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