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Entries about snorkelling

Sailing to Colombia

via the San Blas islands....


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As I mentioned previously in my last post, I did not want to fly over to Colombia so the only other option (other than taking a machete, making my way through the Darién Gap and taking the risk of being kidnapped by the FARCs) was to take a boat and sail to Cartagena. The prices are quite steep (between 500 and 550 US$) but so are the flights between Panama and Colombia and besides you get to visit some of the most gorgeous islands in the world, the San Blas islands.

[It is possible to find a similar journey for a cheaper price (350 US$) but this is by speedboat where you go through the islands and by doing this way, you are being dropped straight at the Colombian's border and not in Cartagena.]

So in Portobelo (Panama), we got introduced to Ariel and her crew Hannah and Max who were going to be responsible for us for the whole trip (6 days). Ariel owns the boat but for this trip she had also hired a captain who has sailed on all the seas of the globe, Chris, a South African national.

So in the morning of the 5th of September, the 4 crew members and us the 8 passengers raised the anchor and started to sail aboard a nice sailing boat called One World. More information about the boat and crew can be found here.

During the first day we were supposed to refill in gas in one bay nearby but unfortunately due to technical issues of the gas station, we had to stop for the night there instead of sailing overnight to the islands. Anyway not a problem as the next morning we were leaving the bay at 6am and a few hours later, we would reach the first islands and had a first gasp on this piece of heaven.

The first days were therefore dedicated to do some snorkelling in the reef around the islands,fishing, making a campfires, sailing to different places and swimming around the boat when we could. In the last two days, we started our journey from the islands to Cartagena and arrived in the morning of the 10th September, in the Cartagena canal, with a view on all the skyscrapers of the new part of Cartagena.

The whole journey was just fantastic, the crew was very friendly and professional, and our whole group was a good mix of European culture with the British, Irish, Italian, Swiss and French countries being represented, all getting well along with each other! :)

And if I had to choose a highlight of this journey, this would probably be when we stopped in the middle of nowhere to swim around the boat. At that time we were right in the middle between Panama and Cartagena with no coast in sight. We were swimming in the most blue water I have ever seen, with 2000 meters under our feet.... A truly amazing experience.

And here are a few pictures taken from this trip:

Our sailing boat by night

Our sailing boat by night


First catch (and last) the first day!

First catch (and last) the first day!


Jumping off the boat

Jumping off the boat


Sunset

Sunset


Our campfire

Our campfire


One of the San Blas islands

One of the San Blas islands


More islands

More islands


Captain Chris

Captain Chris


A compass, apparently I have been told it can be useful on a boat...

A compass, apparently I have been told it can be useful on a boat...


Our companion for a part of the crossing, quite tired

Our companion for a part of the crossing, quite tired


People chilling out

People chilling out


Another sunset...

Another sunset...


The first fort of Cartagena, when entering the bay

The first fort of Cartagena, when entering the bay


The skyscrapers of Cartagena

The skyscrapers of Cartagena


A cargo ship exiting the bay

A cargo ship exiting the bay


A statue in the middle of the bay, not sure what is represents...

A statue in the middle of the bay, not sure what is represents...


Our fantastic group (From left to right, top to bottom: Max, Rory, Aidan, Archie, Pablo, Fabian, second row: Chris, Ben, Hannah, Ariel, Stephanie and myself)

Our fantastic group (From left to right, top to bottom: Max, Rory, Aidan, Archie, Pablo, Fabian, second row: Chris, Ben, Hannah, Ariel, Stephanie and myself)

Posted by manolo84 21:47 Archived in Panama Tagged boats snorkelling english Comments (4)

Adventures in Belize


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Still trying to catch up with the blog as I am almost a month behind now, so I'll make a condensed one for a change with mainly pictures... :)

Caye Caulker was then the next destination, a small island located East of the Belize coast, not far from the coral reef. The first thing which strikes you when you arrive in Belize, is the difference in price compared to Mexico. Indeed here the currency is almost fixed on the US dollar (1 US$ = 2 Bz $) and this means that the prices are high. For example, a day trip on a boat to do some snorkelling costs around 65 US$, and other tours can easily reach 90-100 US$... Anyway, my aim by coming to Belize was not to stay here forever, but to see the reef and its wildlife, a few ruins across the country and then head off to Guatemala.

English is the main language of this country (all the other countries in Central America are Spanish-speaking countries), and it was therefore easier for me to deal and communicate with the locals than in Spanish, but I still felt that one week was enough to explore a few chosen places in the country. I am sure my bank account will thank me later on...

The first days then in Caye Caulker were therefore dedicated to snorkelling and I managed to see manatees (impressive!), nurse-sharks, sting-rays, barracudas and tons of other fishes and corals. Really an amazing experience. It would even have probably be better to do some scuba-diving but the high prices just discouraged me. However for those who like to dive (and have a bit of money to spend), you can easily arrange a day trip to the blue hole, one of the deepest in the world. Apparently those who did so warmly recommend it.

Among my group some people had waterproof cameras and I really wanted to show you some pictures taken "under" but I didn't manage to get the pictures yet. I will probably update this post at a later date then once I can get hold of them. In the meantime here are a few shots I took during these few days on the island.

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My tour agency... Easy boys!

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The streets of Caye Caulker

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On the right side you can see the waves created by the presence of the reef underneath. We are at about 1km from the island already.

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Let's jump!

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Our guide feeding the several nurse-sharks and sting-rays populating the area to attract them near our boat. Fierce battle! A few minutes later, we would be swimming in the middle of these totally inoffensive yet impressive creatures...

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The second stop (and last one) in Belize would then be San Ignacio, a town located near the Guatemalan border. From there there are several tours you can do, including visiting Mayan ruins (Caracol), swim near waterfalls, go to some caves adventures, well it's not easy to get bored. However as I said before your wallet will suffer a little...

As I am mainly interested in the Mayan culture and architecture, I decided to opt for visiting the ruins of Caracol instead of the popular ATM tour (caves adventures) and on the way our group also stopped to see a few natural caves and waterfalls.

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The streets of San Ignacio

And one week is a short time but I felt it was enough and that time had now come to pass the border of Guatemala, as Tikal and El Mirador were already calling me in the distance...

Posted by manolo84 13:38 Archived in Belize Tagged waterfalls islands snorkelling ruins mayas Comments (3)

Meet the turtles

in Tulum


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After Merida, now was the time to head off to the beach but this time to the east coast of Mexico, in the Carribean gulf. After having heard bad reviews about Cancun and Playa del Carmen which are really touristy (mostly people from the States eager to party night and day), I then decided to go to Tulum, a more quiet and cheaper option (and not that touristy compared to the two others town I have just mentioned).

Tulum is little town that have been growing since the last decade and attracts more visitors, especially backpackers avoiding Cancun and who still want to be immersed in the Mexican culture. The other thing that Tulum is famous for is its Mayan ruins, a kind of fort which had been built centuries ago, right on the beach front. So for me all these elements made the choice of Tulum a no-brainer and I took the bus (hanging firmly my camera against me) to arrive a few hours later in Tulum, in one of the several hostel the town hosts.

And then that's when you realise that the world is small and that all the people follow more or less the same route and same hostel recommendations, because when I checked in I could recognise some french people I had met a week before in Merida.

Overall, I stayed in Tulum for about a week, relaxing on the beach, snorkelling with the turtles, visiting mayan ruins and enjoying the night life.
Indeed there are so many activities that it is hard to be bored in Tulum, the only limiting factor being your wallet as some diving tours can be quite expensive, even if they look amazing (like diving in caves or cenotes for example).

Here are a few pictures of Tulum, its beaches and its ruins:

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That one is not my picture (unfortunately) but this was really how I saw it

During that time, I also took the opportunity to visit the nearby ruins of Coba:

Coba is estimated to have had some 50,000 inhabitants (and possibly significantly more) at its peak of civilization, and the built up area extends over some 80 km². The site was occupied by a sizable agricultural population by the 1st century. The bulk of Coba's major construction seems to have been made in the middle and late Classic period, about 500 to 900, with most of the dated hieroglyphic inscriptions from the 7th century. However Coba remained an important site in the Post-Classic era and new temples were built and old ones kept in repair until at least the 14th century, possibly as late as the arrival of the Spanish.
source: wikipedia

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The problem when you don't arrive early at the ruins: a lot of tourists are also there...
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On top of the biggest pyramid

Posted by manolo84 19:08 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches snorkelling ruins mayas Comments (0)

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