Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mexico Trip

I apologize for being really slow to put anything up on the blog lately. It's been a really busy winter and work's been keeping me away from the fun stuff. But, things are looking better now, so I figured I'd start getting caught up.

At the beginning of January, my whole family (neices, nephews, and all) plus Kim headed down to Cancun for a week. This is significant for a couple of reasons: First, I'd never been to Cancun before and hadn't stayed in an actual resort in more than 15 years. Second, my family hasn't done a vacation together since I was about 8. It was definitely very different from my normal solo or 1 friend backpacking trips, but it was more fun than I was expecting.

We stayed in a huge mega-resort (see photo) that had pretty much everything you could ever imagine, plus a couple of things. I checked out some of what it had to offer, but Kim and I tried to get out and try more unique activities when we could. These included a lot of scuba diving, a snorkel trip that involved driving tiny little speed boats through Mangrove channels and then ocean swells, a trip to the ruins of Chichen-Itza, cliff jumping in a Cenote (freshwater cave), and more. We had a great time.

These are the pics from the non-diving stuff. In order to keep the number of pics in each post manageable, I put the dive pics in two seperate entries. Hope you like 'em!

Cenote Cave Dives

While I was down there I did one of my favorite dives yet - a Cenote cavern dive. We did 2 tanks in the Chac-Mool Cenote, about 45 minutes from Cancun. The dives are known as much for the amazing light show coming from the cave openings as for anything else. It really is breathtaking to come through a tunnel and see beautiful shafts of blue light. It looks completely unreal and you'd swear it was the special effects for some movie.

The water was very warm - 75-78 degrees according to my computer. Most of the dive was freshwater, but there are places in the caves where the saltwater from the ocean backs up the river and lingers. Because of that, we crossed the Halocline (division between salt and freshwater) several times. Each time we would go nearly blind because where the two waters converge becomes very blurry and hard to see through, like olive oil trying to mix with water. One diver said it reminded him of looking through the heat waves rising off hot pavement, only more intense. The other crazy thing about crossing the halocline is that your bouyancy changes drastically. You are almost twice as bouyant in the saltwater as you are in the fresh, so you had to take care to keep from rising into the ceiling in the saltwater or descending into the stalagmites in the freshwater.

Speaking of Stalagmites, there were only a few of those, but there were lots of stalagtites hanging from the ceiling. most were small (under 1'), but there were a couple rooms where they grew to 10' or more. It was pretty cool. There was even one huge room (maybe 80' feet long and 40' high) that had an air pocket at the top. That's the photo you see of me floating with my mask off. That air pocket was at one of the farthest points we entered. It was pretty cool.

Cancun Reef Dives

While I was there I also did three dives on the reef just a couple miles out from Cancun. I wasn't expecting much, but all three dives were amazing. The coral was bright, colorful, and healthy and we saw lots of cool critters, including a green sea turtle, barracudas, a yellow ray, and tons of reef fish.

To make it even cooler, my first reef dive was with Kim, my brother, and two of my nephews. They were all doing a "Discover Scuba" class and I tagged along for the open water portion. All of them did great, and Kim's even talking about getting certified now! The only catch was that Kim's rental mask kind of tugged her face into a constant look of shock... It made for some great pictures, though.