On Wednesday morning, the weather had very much improved in line with the forecast. The rainstorms of Tuesday had blown through and it was now sunny and calm. We had relied on the forecast to book our dive for this morning. Paamul is home to a lovely dive shop called Scuba-Mex Dive Center run by a Texan gentleman called John. If you find yourself down this way, the diving is competitively priced and the dive sites are only a short boat ride out from shore. Add to that the fact that the water is around 28°C and you’ve got the perfect dive option.
We set out at 9am. With the water so warm, Ishbel and I decided to eschew wetsuits and dive in swimming costumes and rash vests. This dive was absolutely spectacular. If you’re unfamiliar with Tarpon, these are fish that grow to over 2m in length and over 100kg in weight. There’s no real size context in the video below, but at the start of the dive we were swimming towards what looked like an enormous wall of fish flesh. These tarpon seemed to be towards the upper end of what they achieve size-wise.
This was an amazing sight, and quite rare to see so we were very fortunate to have experienced it so early in our diving lives. Also, a quick thanks to Ian Henderson, Donald’s son, for the original music to accompany the movie.
Despite the excitement, I managed my air consumption much better than on any previous dive and achieved a dive time of 58 minutes. Ishbel had a 63 minute dive, so we were both pleased with that. We got back into the boat and headed back towards Paamul.
We relaxed for a while after the dive then headed to a nearby restaurant for dinner, which was delicious. My consumption of avocado in various forms (although mostly guacamole) has gone through the roof here in Mexico.
On returning to the house, we were taught the rudiments of a card game called Euchre, well-known in the US for over 100 years but rarely played in the UK. It’s played with a short deck and there are some idiosyncracies that take a while to get used to, but we enjoyed it.
On Thursday, Ishbel and I had booked tickets to visit Xcaret, a theme park just along the road from Paamul. I say theme park, but it’s not the kind of place that would usually spring to mind when you hear that phrase. We had decided that we would visit the aviary and the butterfly pavilion to let Ishbel get some photos, then we would swim the underground river, which is 540m long but largely sheltered from the scorching sun.
The aviary proved to be successful for getting the bird shots Ishbel was after, but I was delighted that she didn’t have the camera handy for one particular event. The Crested Guan is a turkey sized bird. I don’t know whether it didn’t like my hat, or just didn’t like me, but when it jumped up and attacked my head, I beat a hasty retreat out of the enclosure.
Luckily, we didn’t encounter any aggressive butterflies, so our visit there was incident-free.
By this time, we were definitely both feeling the heat as the sun rose higher in the sky. It was time to hit the river. We changed into our costumes and headed over to the entrance. Floatation vests are compulsory for those who want to use the river so we strapped ourselves into those and stepped into the pleasantly cool river. The average temperature was posted as being 22°C, so quite a lot cooler than the sea we dove in the day before. There were quite a few people at the entrance and the first tunnel was crowded with various groups but a lot of people decided not to go through with it and we saw a few exiting at the steps strategically placed just 100m along the river’s course.
The water flows through steep-sided canyons and along underground channels, so it stayed cool all the way, which meant my bald head avoided the sunburn it may otherwise have suffered. It was nice and refreshing, but it’s still a half kilometre of swimming so a decent bit of exercise, too.
After the swim, we strolled slowly back towards the exit. We had decided that we would pop back to the house to get out of our costumes, even though they were drying off nicely in the warmth of the sun, then come back to the park for dinner and the evening show spectacular, celebrating Mexico.
We had a nice dinner in Xcaret, and were adopted as stand-in grandparents by a cute little Mexican girl who was about two years old and overwhelmingly excited about seeing the horse show that preceded the main spectacular. Her parents were very amused by her constant interaction with the two non-Spanish speaking people at the next table.
We left the restaurant to snag good seats for the show. It was really well done with a range of performances: dancing, singing, horsemanship, and some great Mexican bands.
I had been a little uncertain about what I was signing up for at Xcaret but we both had a thoroughly enjoyable day here.