Holá México Part 4: Lagoons, Cenotes & Logistics

Text and photos by Gerald Penkler

This trip was spent mostly fishing the surf and flats, however, next time I will focus on the incredible looking lagoons.   I thought I would share some thoughts of how to approach this and what you could expect.

The lagoons and cenotes tend to be lined with thick mangroves and limited access points, meaning some sort of watercraft is needed. This also takes care of the croc aspect.

Casa Cenote has stunning, crystal clear water. As with most cenotes and lagoons, they are lined with dense mangroves. Go early to avoid the numerous scuba divers that head off into the caves. The lagoons themselves tend to be tea-stained in colour.

The easiest way to source a SUP or Kayak appears to be with your accommodation. There were a few places with kayak and SUPs already moored at conveniently located private access points.

However, make sure to procure a roof rack if you want to transport them anywhere.  I could not source an inflatable SUP or kayak without restrictions on where I could take them, although you could rent them for up to a week and I guess you could negotiate.   Hire cost for these were about $100 USD/day.    One guide service offered to take you to lagoons, drop you off with their fishing SUPs and pick you up later for about $200 USD pp.

Lagoons range from vast expanses like this to the size of a swimming pool.

My recommendation if you wanted to DIY and explore numerous lagoons and flats would be to bring your own inflatable SUP, paying the $100 to check in the extra luggage both ways.  If you don’t own a SUP, buy one on Ebay and sell it again when you get back.  Generally you can sell them on your return for about the same price.

Is it worth the effort? It looks like it, yes!  A snorkelling excursion to Casa cenote in Tulum shows just why:

The water is crystal clear and it is no surprise that numerous scuba divers take advantage of the underground tunnels that connect straight through to the ocean.
Juvenile tarpon are scattered throughout this cenote. These ones were sitting at the entrance of a tunnel bringing fresh water into the system. The mixture of fresh and salt water creates a peculiar hazy effect in the water.
Thousands of little cichlid fish hang about the margins and mangrove roots. Plenty of Tarpon food.

A few other tips and notes about a DIY trip in Mexico:

Searching for car hire on big sites like booking.com really limits the options.  It’s far better in my opinion to search Google maps for ‘care hire’ near your arrival airport. This showed up numerous smaller private companies – many that had to be contacted by email for a quote first.  We found one that had excellent reviews, a one off all-inclusive rate, including insurance, full excess waiver and a reasonable deposit. It was about a third of the cost of a big name company.  They were excellent, polite and did not try selling us anything else, or find a reason to charge us for damage on our return.

Driving about felt very similar to driving in South Africa, but on the right side of the road.  Apart from one late evening of fishing, we avoided driving in the dark.  Between cities the roads were generally really good.  Along the coast and smaller towns, the potholes could get really bad.  And as a watch out – there are huge speed bumps on your main roads, which are often not marked and the scrapes suggest many a car has chromed its underside.   There were a number of military checkpoints, but we did not have any trouble. The only issue was some cops stopping us (see part 1).  I took along a SatNav and uploaded an open source street map of Mexico, which worked very well indeed.

We used AirBnB almost exclusively, and were pleasantly surprised by the quality.   They were clean, well kitted and with good beds. WiFi and 3G and 4G were widespread.  There are very few larger supermarkets, apart from in the bigger cities.  However, most groceries and fruit could be procured from little stores. Numerous restaurants are scattered about – although we preferred to try the street food, which was excellent.  Apart from fuel stations, very few places took cards, so we had to carry cash. The bigger towns usually had 1 or 2 ATMs.

Overall the Riviera Maya is a destination worth considering with a bit to offer to everyone, be it to visit runes, sit on the beach, watch birds, dive or simply fish.

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