Yucatan Peninsula II - The Ocean Front

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Before we dive into the water, let me first tell the corrupted cop story. If you rent a car and you look like a tourist, you will almost certainly be stopped by a Mexico cop. In our way from Cancun to Chichen Itza, a motorcycle cop jumped out of nowhere, knocking our window and signaled us to stop. The reason? "The speed limit, 40, you, drive 45!" "But we're just following other cars..." "I test you speed, you drive 45!" "But I was..." So it goes on and on. You got angry with him, he's not gonna back off, "Go to station, you want to go to station?" Think you can reason and appeal in a police station? You're more likely to be surrounded by more corrupted cops. So I took out a $20 bill, squeezed out some smile and said sorry, first time to Mexico. He refused for two minutes, quickly grabbed the bill, and smiled at us through his thick mustache. So for $20 we're exempted from the law, at least temporary. He followed us for another couple of miles, probably to make sure other cops won't trouble us. Well, maybe we shouldn't complain, $20 is actually reasonably-priced. I heard that things could get much more expensive near the US border, especially when you drive a US-liscenced car (at least we rented the car in Mexico). A trip to a police station near the border can easily cost you a few hundred bucks. So folks, have your $20 bills ready.

Anyway, we left that all behind once we got to Xel Ha, an ecological water theme park. Built around a lagoon rich in fishlife, the park is a natural aquarium, with all kinds of water activities available. Just look at that calm, crystal-clear, turquoise water fill with colorful fishes, tempting isn't it?

Swim with Dolphins. Qing is too chicken (shame!) to get intimate with these lovely creatures, so all the pix are mine.

They call this the Sea Trek. It's for lazy people who want to get under water but don't like diving and snorkeling. Basically you wear a heavy helmet with air supplies and walk under the water. Fishes swim by, gosh, so many of of them, right in front of your nose.

Let's have a little marine biology lesson. From left to right: Yellowtail Snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus, 2 pix); Sergeant Major (Abudefduf saxatilis, the name must come from the five black stripes, 2 pix); Horse-Eye Jack (Caranx latus, 2 pix).

More. A Stingray (Dasyatis americana, 2 pix), which has earned a monstrous reputation with the crocodile hunter Steve Irwin's tragic death. Actually, they are gentle animals. Steve's accident involves "extraordinary bad luck," when he got too close to a stingray and the barb in its tail (the venomous "sting" that give its name) went up and penetrate his heart. Stingrays usually don't hurt people, let alone fatal injury. In the 3rd pic is a Cubera Snapper (Lutjanus cyanopterus); I can't find the names of the fishes in the last 2 pix.

Coral Reef is disappearing. See, it's global warming...

This dive picked up a Stingray and let us touch it. To my surprise, its skin feels like sand paper.

The diver continued to play with the stingray. It was heart-pounding when its long barbed tail swish across our face. In the last pic, we discovered the diver's secret power of conducting the movement of stingray. He applied some substance on his glove that attracts all fishes, and he put his hand on the stingray's mouth (at the bottom) to guide its movement.

The rest is all snorkeling time spent on chasing schools of fishes, big and small.

More fish lessons. From left to right: Blue Tang (Acanthurus coeruleus, 2 pix); Doctor Fish (2 pix);

More: Blue-striped Grunt (Haemulon sciurus, 2 pix); Ocean Surgeonfish (Acanthurus bahianus, 2 pix).

Here're some of the species I couldn't recognize.


Next stop, Akumal, a small town on the coastline of the Caribbean, some 50 miles south of Cancun. So we kept on snorkeling.

We were quite fortunate to bumped into a giant Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). It was feeding on the sea weeds. But it's so fast, disappeared in a blink of an eye.

Global warming left dying Coral Reef everywhere... Coral is very sensitive to temperature. At rising temperature they first "bleach" due to loss of algae that live inside the coral. Without these algae, the whole coral ecosystem may eventually collapse. Look what we've done...

So of the familiar and some not-so-familiar fishes.

After a few hours in water, a hot hearty Mexican meal on the beach is the best thing in the world you can ask for.


Cancun. A pretty and popular tourist town. Somehow it wasn't too appealing to us, feel like another Miami, filled with fancy semi-luxury hotels. It's a nice rest stop though, after all those driving trips.

A walking on the beach in the morning.


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