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Summer is whale shark season in the Mexican Caribbean

A huge shadow on the water, dappled blue-grey skin and the flick of an immense tail, the whale sharks are here. In May the gentle giants of the sea make their way to the Mexican Caribbean. Reports start to come in from yachtsmen who spot them and whale shark watchers prepare for their own amazing natural encounter with the largest fish in the sea.

What draws whale sharks here? The answer is food. Whale sharks migrate thousands of miles through the oceans, moving between feeding grounds during the year. From mid-May to mid-September they gather in large numbers in the Mexican Caribbean to feed on the plankton that blooms in the sizzling summer temperatures. Marine biologists working in the area have also discovered that they are partial to the eggs of a fish called the bonito or little tunny.

The whale shark feeding grounds lie to the east of Contoy and Isla Mujeres and in the Gulf of Mexico near Holbox and Cabo Catoche and are part of a marine biosphere reserve. There may be hundreds of whale sharks skimming the ocean surface to filter feed on the plankton in what scientists believe is the largest gathering in the world.

The sight of a whale shark as it placidly swims by your boat is an incredible experience but it gets even better. Accompanied by an expert guide you can also swim alongside them as they feed, an emotional once-in-a-lifetime experience.

On the boat journey out to the whale shark area, there’s the added thrill of spotting wild dolphins and sea turtles. Huge manta rays also gather to eat plankton alongside the whale sharks and sometimes breach the water surface in spectacular flight.

Book your summer whale shark trip

Guided small group eco trips to the whale shark feeding grounds are available during the summer, starting in June. Ask your Concierge to help you book this incredible ocean-going adventure and remember to wear a rashguard, sunblock is not allowed for the protection of the animals and the sea.

 

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Travesia Sagrada Maya, Sacred Mayan Journey to Cozumel

With the first rays of the sun on May 17 in the bay at Xcaret, a fleet of Mayan canoes will set sail to a chorus of chants, drum beats and conch horns. They are embarking on a journey to the sacred island of Cozumel to worship at the shrine of Ixchel, the goddess of fertility. It is the Travesia Sagrada Maya, the Sacred Mayan Journey, the representation of an ancient Mayan pilgrimage.

   After six months of dawn training sessions, 380 oarsmen are ready to board their canoes for the Travesia Sagrada Maya. They will be following the sea route taken by ancient Mayan pilgrims who traveled from all over the Yucatan Peninsula to the sacred island of Cozumel (Kuzamil) to worship at the shrine of Ixchel, the goddess of fertility, childbirth and the moon and tides.

This is the thirteenth year of the Sacred Mayan Journey, which is the representation of a pre-Hispanic pilgrimage and rituals from the Late Post-Classic period of Mayan history (A.D. 1250-1519. The temples of the ancient Mayan port of Polé lie within Xcaret Park. Once a trade center, it was one of the departure points for pilgrimages to Cozumel.

The pilgrims make landfall on Cozumel at Chankanaab Park at around 1 p.m. and make their way to the shrine of Ixchel where they make offerings to the goddess.

The morning of May 18, they set sail again heading for the mainland with Polé in their sights. A cheer goes up from the shores of the bay when the first canoe of returning pilgrims is spotted and they are greeted with great joy.

The Travesia Sagrada Maya originated as an initiative from Grupo Xcaret to restore an ancient tradition and every detail has been carefully researched to make it as authentic as possible.

The oarsmen come from the Riviera Maya, Cozumel, Cancun, Yucatan and other parts of Mexico and they are joined by expats that have chosen to make their home here. This year, there are 36 foreign rowers from 14 countries, including France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, United States and Canada.

Some 250 dancers and musicians from Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, the Zona Maya in southern Quintana Roo and Xcaret reenact ancient rituals in Polé and Cozumel, portraying the goddess Ixchel, priests and priestesses, the ruler and his court, merchants and villagers.

If you would like to witness the Sacred Mayan Journey ask your Concierge about trips to Xcaret.

 

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Quintana Roo State Tourism Board Launches Guest Assist App

The Quintana Roo Tourism Board has launched a Guest Assist App as an information source to help visitors. It has a directory of emergency numbers, Consulates and embassies and useful advice and a link to a 24-hour Call Center with bilingual staff.

Guest Assist is available for download in Google Play and Apple Store and online at www.guestassist.mx

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Cancun to become a plastic-free zone

Cancun will soon become a plastic-free zone. In March the municipal government unanimously voted to ban the use of plastic bags, cutlery and straws and polystyrene glasses and containers in local businesses. Once the initiative is approved it will be published in the Official State Gazette and will become effective 90 days after that, giving local companies a chance to switch to eco-friendly alternatives.