|Yes, I took this. With a 7.1 MP point-and-shoot. It's impossible to take a bad shot of such gorgeousness.|
In my 25, almost 26 years of existence, I have never beheld such beauty as is found in the Caribbean. Waters so blue and so clear you can see straight to the bottom. White sand so soft it feels like you're walking on brown sugar. Tropical trees abloom with flowers of every hue. It was magnificent to experience it in person.
We had booked a few shore excursions to keep us busy on our cruise. The first was the Cheeseburger Reef Kayak and Power Snorkel experience in Grand Cayman. I'm not gonna lie -- this sounded much more exciting than it actually was. I imagined a tranquil kayak ride to a remote but shallow stretch where the fish swam in abundance in warm, clear water. Well, to begin, the power snorkel feature was broken (we were supposed to have handheld motors which would help propel us downward faster than our own legs can) so we missed out on that. They DID refund us a portion of the excursion price, but once we got out to the reef I realized that bit of equipment was kind of necessary. This Cheeseburger Reef was located out quite a ways from the shore, near the spot where the cruise ships were tendered. This made for choppy, deep water which was difficult to tread. I did see a lot of fish but I started choking down sea water and got queasy pretty quickly. I hopped back in the kayak after about 20 minutes and didn't get out again.
Before returning to the safety of my kayak, I graciously allowed Dill to get some shots of me "snorkeling." I'm a buffoon. But there you have it.
Soon thereafter, we kayaked to an old shipwreck, but I couldn't bring myself to get out of the kayak for fear I would unexpectedly feed the fish with the contents of my stomach. So Dill took our underwater camera down to get some shots.
Boat remnants + colorful fishies
After that mild disappointment, we decided to take a taxi to Seven Mile Beach. This is the famous white-sand beach you see in commercials and stuff. It really is gorgeous but freaking crowded. I bet you can't spot where I Photoshopped out the guy in the Speedo!
Actually, I kinda suck at Photoshop so I bet you totally can.
By the way, I totally look like a redheaded Michael Jackson circa 1992. It's all good.
In Cozumel, we had originally planned to take a 45-minute ferry to the mainland to hike through a cave that had an "amazing secret river" running through it, but I saw that for the same price we could do a dolphin push, pull and swim thing and that sounded more fun/less traumatizing to me. We rescheduled for the dolphin adventure but we had a lot of time to kill in the morning since we could only get the afternoon excursion by the time we re-booked. We shopped around Cozumel first. I got a lot of Spanish practice. It was kinda fun. We bought a few too many cheap Mexican toys and knick-knacks for the kids, knowing full well they would love them.
So, we were walking down the streets of Cozumel just outside the terminal when I saw a guy across the road renting bikes out. I yelled, "¿Cuántos?" and he showed me 10 fingers. I also noticed he had a tandem bike. DUDE. This was so happening.
So, we got over there and realized he spoke limited amounts of English while I speak limited amounts of Spanish. He and I managed to communicate; then, we paid him and he told and showed us where to go if we wanted to hit the beach. Afterward, he started to get the single-rider bikes out but I stopped him. "No, Señor--" and while gesturing toward the tandem bike with a huge, enthusiastic grin on my face"-- júntos." Together. He informed me that would be a terrible idea but I insisted. So he got us across the street and then watched as we roughly attempted to board the tandem bike. It was quite comical, except for the fact rapidly-moving cars were literally inches from plowing us in the behind at any moment.
After we nearly wobbled straight into oncoming traffic several times, the bike man chased us down and said, "No -- I get you two bikes." No argument from me, Señor! We followed him back to his stand, mounted our safer separated bikes, and headed down the road toward the beach.
Let me tell you something about Mexico -- you can't ride on the sidewalks, there is no bike lane and vehicles kinda do whatever the crap they want. So, here we were, trying to keep up with the flow of traffic on super-heavy mountain bikes that we'd never ridden before in a completely foreign place. And it was MY IDEA. Me, the one who was too scared to walk 600 meters on a guided tour through a "secret river." I wonder which activity has a higher probability of death? My heart pounded the entire journey as cars, Jeeps and mopeds frantically whizzed by on my left. On the right -- a thick, impassable forest of trees. No shoulder to be seen. I felt like I was a contestant on The Amazing Race, only there were no cameras following behind and I could actually die. Talk about an adrenaline rush. One I don't recommend for the faint at heart.
We somehow made it the seemingly-eternal 6 miles to the beach without a single scratch (just a bruised butt for me thanks to the scant padding of the seat). We spent maybe 15 minutes there before realizing we had to go back for our dolphin excursion, and this time it would be mostly uphill. So back on the bikes of terror we went. I actually felt a lot more confident on the return trip. We arrived at the bike stand and the man was visibly pleased to see that the gringos had survived. He was probably more relieved his bikes hadn't become twisted pieces of scrap metal.
I'm sad I didn't get any pictures of the bike scenario. It was probably for the best.
I didn't know what to expect from the dolphin excursion since Dill had informed me he'd already done one in Jamaica and it was "super-lame." But I did know it cost a whole lot and it was supposed to be 3 1/2 hours long so I was banking on a good time.
We gathered with the rest of the excursion group and took a taxi to Dolphinaris, the place where the encounter takes place. It was a really nice facility, adjacent to the ocean. Immediately I could see all the cute dolphins swimming around and doing tricks for people. I was so excited for our turn!
Since we couldn't take pictures during our encounter, I took some of the group ahead of us. From what I could tell, it was gonna be neat.
We got all prepped to go into the water and then it was our turn. The water was FREEZING but I was giddy with delight. I've loved dolphins since I was a kid and now I got to pet one, kiss one and RIDE ONE. Good thing my genius bike idea didn't kill me beforehand.
Dill tried to stealthily take pictures of me while I had my turn with the dolphin. This was when I was dancing with our dolphin, named Nautica.
The coolest part was by FAR the ride. I had to swim waaaay out in this pool, maybe 25 yards or so. Then, I had to float with my left hand straight out to the side. As I did this, Nautica quickly swam up from behind and flipped over so she was belly-up. She then offered me her fin; I had to quickly grab both fins and then she pulled me across the pool, belly to belly. It was crazy! She went so fast. It felt like a jet ski.
We spent about an hour total interacting with the dolphin, petting her, learning about her life span (40 - 60 years with human care), diet, teeth, ears, blowhole, etc. At the end, all of the dolphins in the pool came together and did some jumps and fun tricks, including waving "goodbye" with their tail fins. But my favorite part was definitely the kiss. So glad Dill snapped this picture of a picture at the photo kiosk. The dolphin people wanted $50 and my firstborn child for it. NO LIE. (Ok, I'm lying about the firstborn part.)
Say it with me: AWWWWWWW!
Next time I'm in Cozumel, I'm gonna wear a shirt that says, "Ride dolphins, not bikes." Much safer mode of transportation.