Monday, October 11, 2010

Cenote Tamcach-Ha and Dinner in Tulum

This past Friday we took a road trip to the Tamcach-Ha Cenote in Coba and spent a wonderful evening dining under the stars on the beach in Tulum.  Unfortunately Allan was feeling sick and bowed out at the last moment.  However, he encouraged me and six of our friends to go and enjoy the day.  Guiltily I still went, and had a simply amazing day.

We left Playa del Carmen at around 1pm in our spacious SUV with convenient fold-down third row, allowing for up to 8 people including the driver.  We headed 45 minutes south to Tulum and stopped at a road-side restaurant just before the turn-off to Coba for delicious fresh fried fish and shrimp tacos with a multitude of self-serve toppings.  Our friends, John and Diane, stayed at the restaurant with plans to walk around Tulum for the day and meet up with us later as Diane does not swim and is deathly afraid of water.  The rest of us (me, Marge, Neil, Marilou and Jane) boarded the SUV and drove 1/2 hour west to the sleepy town of Coba.

The drive was rather uneventful but interesting. There is a neat but pricey Talavera pottery store on the way, which we passed by as we've already been several times.  A few small Mayan towns with prominent speed bumps serve as make-shift mile markers, reminding us of where we actually are in the middle of the jungle.  It's always interesting to see how the locals live in road-side towns buried in the Yucatan interior.

The town of Coba is most remarkable for its beautiful lagoon which filled with crocodiles and the spectacular Mayan ruins of Coba.  On the outskirts of town nestled in the jungle below 20 feet of solid ground is a make-shift winding wood staircase down to the Tamcach-Ha cenote.  The domed roof is marked by stalagtites and looms 30 feet above the clear water.  Adventurous types have 2 jumping platforms - one around 8 meters (26 feet) and the other at 5 meters (16 feet).  The water reaches a depth of 40 feet, although the bottom looks to be only about 10 feet since the water is so clear.  The entire cenote resembles an indoor football stadium with the cenote's rounded shape and oval domed roof.

Although I did jump off a 32 foot (10 meter) Olympic height diving board once in Florida while training for spring board diving in college, the 8 meter cenote platform seemed much scarier.  I stuck to the 5 meter platform, which is daring in itself.  Water shot up my nose each time I hit.  The impact was quite intense, even though I kept in my arms and legs.

In terms of snorkeling there is really not much to see except for a few rocks.  The cenote is artificially illuminated by a couple of lights, but really does not allow for much to be viewed under the water.  Although the bottom can be seen from above the water's surface, under water seems rather dark.  The roof and walls of the cenote are most remarkable with notable stalactites and phallic looking stalagmites. 

We finished swimming after an hour or so, and then headed back to the lagoon at Coba feeling very refreshed by the cool, crisp waters.  At the lagoon we saw a sign indicating we could pay to see crocodiles.  Anxiously we stopped and paid a local store owner/guide $10 pesos ($.80 USD) per person to watch him feed raw chicken to a crocodile from a stick.  For me it was the first time seeing one in it's native environment and probably was the most exciting part of the day.  Although the crocodile was still young (roughly 4 feet), the guide showed us his finger which had been bitten off by a similar-sized one.  It did not stop me from foolishly putting my hand in the water and tempting the gator closer.  I am very practical in many senses but do have my moments of stupidity.

We left Coba as darkness was setting in, picked up John and Diane in Tulum and headed to the open air Zebra restaurant on the beach in Tulum.  Amid cool ocean breezes we dined on delicious fish and meat dishes and spectacular Margaritas and other mixed drinks.  For dessert we relaxed on beach chairs along the shore and ate up the night sky which was littered with bright stars and vibrant views of the Milky Way.  It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.  As an extra treat on our way out of Tulum we dodged blue crabs scurrying across the road.

Next time we return to Coba to visit the other 3 cenotes, we would certainly love to revisit Cenote Tamcah-Ha, especially so Allan could partake.  We highly recommend it to any of our Playa del Carmen rental guests.

The Sign Indicating the Coba Ruins and Cenotes

Me at the Tamcach-Ha Cenote

The Roof at the Tamcach-Ha Cenote
The Tamcach-Ha Cenote

Me at the Tamcach-Ha Cenote

Marilou, Neil, Jane and Marge at the Tamcach-Ha Cenote
Neil and I at the Coba Lagoon

Me at the Coba Lagoon with Crocodile in the Background
Neil at the Coba Lagoon with Crocodile in the Background
The Gentlemen Who Feeds Crocodiles Shows Us His Missing Finger
Crocodile at the Coba Lagoon
Blue Crab Running Across the Street in Tulum

1 comment:

Debi Williams said...

great blog post- thanks!