Jul 28, 2008
I love to play tourist in my own hometown. Seriously. When I lived in New York one of the best things I ever did was take the Harlem Gospel Tour, which I highly recommend, but this post is about living in Mexico, so I won't go into that.
One of my friends has her daughter visiting her from Mexico City, so this weekend we took the Alltournative Tours Rio Secreto Tour. Rio Secreto is an underground cave and river system that is just south of Playa del Carmen on the Carretera Federal (just south of Xcaraet). The tour isn't on their website yet, but let me tell you, it's worth the $510 pesos ($50 US) per person. Even better, if you have your local Quintana Roo ID it's only $200 pesos ($20 US).
We made a reservation (highly recommended as another family we went on the tour with had been turned away the day before) and arrived at the entrance at around 1pm and after a short wait they put us in these really cool 4 wheel drive trucks and took us way out into the jungle. After about a 15 or 20 minute ride we arrived at the starting point for Rio Secreto.
It was really cool for me because I was the only American in the truck. The other group in our truck were Caribbean, so they split us into a Spanish-speaking group (for me and my party and another Mexican family) and a French-speaking group (for the Caribbeans). I love being in a situation where I can just attend in Spanish instead of constantly translating for Hans or anyone else. I know it's selfish, but it's so much fun.
I don't have any pictures because I forgot my camera, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway because you aren't allowed to take the camera into the cave with you. We were required to strip to our swim suits (we weren't even allowed to wear watches), and then take a shower before being given a helmet with a light on it and water shoes. From there, where they provided lockers for our clothing and whatnot, we went to the wetsuit station and got shortie wetsuits and life jackets.
Our guide, Laura, gave us some information about the history of the caves on the Yucatan Peninsula and their significance for the Mayan People and then we went into the nearest Cenote. The cave we were about to explore covers many kilometers and is connected to several cenotes on the property.
The first part of the tour was in a dry cave that is still growing. The formations are unbelievably beautiful. As a cave diver, I see lots of caves regularly, but this is the first still-living cave that I have seen in the Yucatan and the difference that 10,000 years makes in the level of cave formations is impressive.
Our guide pointed out various formations and told us their names. We learned that cave explorers are hungry people since she pointed out "fried eggs," "bacon," and "macaroni."
Inside the cave we also saw a tarantula, a cave spider, a cat fish and a blind crayfish. After about 40 minutes (a guess, since no one had watches) we came to a place where we had to swim through the water. Once we reached the other side, we all sat down in a circle and had a silent moment where we turned out our lights so we could see how black the absence of light is and how loud the absence of sound is.
After that, we worked our way out of the cave and then after a quick shower and change we headed over to the lunch spread they had laid out for us. We ate delicious ham sandwiches on croissants with cheese and fruit and your choice of agua de tamarindo or agua de jamaica.
All in all, the tour lasted about 3 hours or so. I would highly recommend this tour for anyone who likes to see natural formations. One of the kids in our group was nine and I would say that it would be good for kids as small as 4 years old as long as they didn't mind cold-ish water (it's 78 degrees year-round).
We didn't buy any photos because they started at about $25 US, but they were absolutely beautiful. I plan to take visitors on this tour the next time I have some. If you're from the area, I highly recommend you check it out. Alltournative runs a very tight operation, it's always well done.