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Save $600 off for late sign-up discount!
Imagine snorkeling and swimming alongside the largest fish in the sea, the magnificent Whale Shark! We do just that off Holbox Island on the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Although massive at 30 to 40 feet and about 9 tons, Whale Sharks are docile and gentle fish that ignore our presence as they continuously filter feed at the surface of these rich waters. We charter our own speedboat and two local guides to offer you maximum time in the water over four days so you have the opportunity to get to know them well. Reminescent of a Caribbean island, Holbox Island is covered with white sand beaches and surrounded by warm waters. We will be based in a quiet beachfront lodge on Holbox, within walking distance of the quaint village with its delicious food and family-oriented culture. Our tour also includes a day-long guided tour of the famous Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. We will also visit Bird Island (Isla Pajaros), a small island that is refuge to thousands of shorebirds and seabirds such as Frigate Birds, White Ibis, Reddish Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Boat-billed Herons, and Flamingos. Come with us to experience the Whale Shark and this charming island.
Cost: now $600 off for late sign-up discount: $2,950 $2,350 per person double occupancy. Not including airfare. Review cost details.
Leader: Debbie Thompson plus local guides.
Group Size: 7 participants, not including leaders.
Number of Days: 8, including estimated travel time.
Conditions: A non-smoking for people interested in close-up views of of Whale Sharks and spending the maximum time in the field.
Update: This itinerary was updated in September 2011.
|July 10||Arrive in Cancun, Mexico for overnight at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel near the airport.|
|July 11||Visit Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. Courtyard by Marriott.|
|July 12||Morning drive then ferry to Holbox Island to check-in at the Paraiso Del Mar lodge on the beach. Late afternoon tour in Yalahau Lagoon that includes Bird Island to see unique shorebirds and seabirds.|
|July 13 - 16||Four exciting days snorkeling with Whale Sharks. Paraiso Del Mar.|
|July 17||Early ferry and drive to Cancun airport for travel home.|
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July 10, Tuesday: Fly to Cancun, Mexico for overnight
Fly to Cancun, Mexico, for overnight at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel just ten minutes from the airport. See complete flight information. Transfer to the hotel using the Marriott's complimentary shuttle service available from 5 AM to 11 PM. All meals today are on your own.
Lodging: Courtyard by Marriott, Cancun. Included meals: none.
July 11, Wednesday: Excursion to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza and Ek Balam
A trip to the Yucatan wouldn't be complete without a visit to the fascinating Mayan ruins located there! After an early breakfast, our driver will pick us up in a comfortable van for our day-long visit at two Mayan ruins. The drive will take us about 2-hours and we will get an early start to arrive at Chichen Itza when it opens. We will travel down the nicely paved toll-road through interesting Yucatan dry forest. To enhance your visit, local guides will explain the architecture and history at each of the ruins and then you will have some time to explore on your own or to browse the souvenir vendors. Please note that there is a small charge of about US$4 to bring a video camera into each of the ruins.
Chichen Itza is a large archaeological site built by the Maya civilization that rose to prominence in about 600 AD. Just before 1000 AD, the Toltecs from Central Mexico arrived and made Chichen Itza their capital, resulting in an interesting mix of Maya and Toltec styles of art and architecture. The most famous icon of the ruins is the step pyramid Temple of Kukulkan, often referred to as "El Castillo" (the castle). These most famous ruins were excavated and restored in the early 1900s.
We will enjoy a typical Yucatecan lunch at a local restaurant after our visit to Chichen Itza; drinks are on your own.
After lunch we will drive about an hour back towards Cancun to visit the ruins at Ek Balam. This city flourished at the peak of the Mayan civilization, from about 600 to 800 AD serving this populous and prosperous region. The pure Mayan architecture here differs from Chichen Itza since it was not influenced by the Toltecs. The largest structure here, known as the Acropolis, contains a 15-foot jaguar's mouth with intricate carvings. Here you will be able to climb on the ruins for a closer inspection of this interesting art and perhaps see Chichen Itza in the far distance from the top of the Acropolis.
Our Mayan tour over, we will drive the rest of the way back to Cancun. Dinner is on your own.
Lodging: Courtyard by Marriott, Cancun. Included meals: breakfast and lunch.
July 12, Thursday: Transfer to Holbox Island and visit to Transfer to Holbox Island and visit to Bird Island
This morning we will leave at 8 AM to drive about two hours from Cancun to the small town of Chiquila where we will boat across Yalahau Lagoon a short distance to Holbox Island, perhaps seeing a pod of Bottlenosed Dolphins on the way. The main mode of transportation on this small island is golfcart, and we will take several golfcart-taxis to the Paraiso Del Mar Hotel located on the beach just outside of the town center of Holbox Village. You will find Holbox Village very charming and within walking distance of our hotel.
Just 26 miles long, Holbox Island is separated from the mainland coast of Mexico by shallow Yalahau Lagoon. Most of the people of Holbox Island make their living fishing. It is common to see fishermen walking through Holbox Village with their catch of the day or carrying their nets. The streets of Holbox Island are made of white sand, common of Caribbean islands, and there are very few cars. In spite of Holbox' natural beauty, inaccessibility has left it unspoiled by mass tourism.
We will arrive at the hotel before check-in time to drop off our luggage, relax in the open-air hotel lobby, and swim in the pool if you desire. You can also enjoy lunch in the dining room or at the bar alongside the pool; lunch is on your own today. The rooms will be available to check in by 3 pm.
In the late afternoon, at 4 pm, we will depart for a tour in Yalahau Lagoon that includes Bird Island (Isla Pajaros), Passion Island, and Yalahau Cenote. Only 200-feet wide, Bird Island is a small island in the shallow area of the Yalahau Lagoon that is a refuge to thousands of shorebirds and seabirds. Viewing terraces and walkways are used here to see and protect the birds since many of them are in danger of extinction. The more populous bird species include Frigate Birds, White Ibis, Snowy Egrets, Double Crested Cormorants, Reddish Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, White Pelicans, Gray Pelicans, Boat-billed Herons, the occasional Wood Stork, and Caribbean Flamingos. Many of these birds reproduce on this island covered by cacti, mangrove and brush. Around 40,000 flamingos visit this area from April to October to feed. The island is also home to iguanas, boa constrictors and other snakes, a variety of insects, Horseshoe Crabs and other diverse creatures. The real thrill comes at sunset when the resident species fly-in to the island to roost. Our tour will also include a stop at Cenote Yalahau, often called "the fountain of youth", where we will have a chance to swim in its cool and refreshing spring-fed sweet water – so don't forget to wear your swimsuit and bring a towel. We also have the option to stop at Passion Island, a dreamy out-of-the-way refuge in the lagoon.
Dinner is on your own tonight and the remaining nights on Holbox Island. There are many dinner options here. Our hotel offers a dinner buffet that you may choose. You can also walk (or take a golfcart-taxi) about 10-15 minutes to charming Holbox Village where you will find a choice of delicious locally-owned restaurants. On the way to the village, you may decide to stop at a kiosk on the beach to enjoy the sunset and a margarita. Covering only several blocks around the town square, the main business district of Holbox Village is easily found and navigated. The square is vibrant and alive with families and residents strolling the pedestrian-only streets where you will find restaurants, souvenir shops, plus ice cream, food and dessert carts. Most restaurants will take US dollars, credit cards or, of course, Mexican Pesos.
Lodging: Paraiso Del Mar, Holbox Island. Included meals: breakfast.
July 13 - 16, Friday - Monday: Snorkel and swim with Whale Sharks
After breakfast at our lodge each morning, we will ride in our speedboat about one hour to the feeding grounds of the Whale Sharks, perhaps watching dolphins and rays on the way. Our two expert local guides, one captain and one in-water guide, know these waters very well and the general location of the sharks each day. We will spend the entire day on the water. Even though our boat has an awning providing sun protection, you will want to come prepared with sunscreen, lip balm, hats, and a long-sleeved shirt. Lunch and drinks will be provided on the boat.
About snorkeling with Whale Sharks: Once we find a shark, our captain will maneuver the boat into position and let us know when the time is right to jump in the water along with our in-water guide. Once in the water, the in-water guide will help you maneuver to the best viewing position, which is swimming and snorkeling alongside the gentle shark, as it filter feeds plankton at the surface. You will be amazed at the great views of this animal and its behavior as it completely ignores your presence. Regulations permit only two tourists plus a required local in-water guide per shark, so we will all take turns. We charter the entire speedboat, so enjoy unlimited sessions with the sharks, unlike other tours that limit your sessions to only two. The waters around Holbox Island are very calm to just a bit choppy, so seasickness should not be a problem. Even though the waters are warm, you will be most comfortable wearing a wetsuit, either short- or full-length, providing you with sun protection and enough flotation, so you don't have to wear a lifejacket. (If you don't wear a wetsuit, you will be required to wear a lifejacket that may inhibit your maneuverability). It is best to bring your own snorkel mask and fins to ensure the best fit, but our boat also has equipment you can borrow (although not in every shape and size).
We will return to our lodge in late afternoon or early evening each day in time to freshen up for dinner. Dinners are on your own.
Lodging: Paraiso Del Mar, Holbox Island. Included meals: breakfast and lunch.
July 17, Tuesday: Return to Cancun for Travel Home
After an early breakfast buffet at Paraiso Del Mar we will reverse our past transport to Holbox Island – take taxis back to the dock where a ferry will take us back across the lagoon and a van will drive us to the Cancun airport for your flight home. See flight information at the end of the itinerary.
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Payments and Cancellations: All reservations require a deposit due at the time of making the reservation. Upon receiving your deposit and reservation form, we will send trip materials with additional information to help you prepare for your safari. Until the final payment due date, deposits are refundable except for a cancellation fee of $150 per person. This fee may go toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip's departure date. There are no refunds given after the final payment due date. We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between now and the date of travel.
Now $600 off for late sign-up discount! $2,950 $2,350 per person double occupancy!
|Deposit - to reserve your space||$500|
|December 15, 2011 - second payment||$1,000|
|April 1, 2012 - final payment||remaining balance|
|Cost is per person, double occupancy.
For reservations made after the second payment date, the deposit and second payment will be due with registration.
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To Make a Reservation: Please contact us (there are many methods of contacting us) to assure space availability and to let us answer your questions. Then, print our reservation form, fill out one form per person, and post it to us in the mail with your deposit. Or fill out our handy online information request and we will send you more information.
|Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris
20800 Kittredge Road
Saratoga, CA 95070
|Toll Free: (800) 527-5330
Fax: (408) 741-0358
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Leader: Debbie Thompson is passionate about exploring and conserving wildlife and nature in all corners of our fascinating planet. She has been traveling the world with Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris each year for over 20 years, soaking up as much information as Doug and Gail Cheeseman can provide. Keen about giving back to nature, she serves on two non-profit boards: CarbonTree Conservation Fund and Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society. Using her long experience in high-tech to good advantage, she launched a new career and came to work at Cheesemans' to maintain the website, handle advertising, and help our travelmates' find the best tour for them. Assisting her on this tour are our two knowledgeable local Whale Shark guides who intimately know the waters and sea life surrounding Holbox Island.
Flight Information: Arrive in Cancun, Mexico (CUN) anytime on July 10 for an overnight at a hotel near the airport. Depart from Cancun sometime after 3 PM on July 17. Please let us know if you would like help arranging your international flights and we will put you in contact with our excellent ticketing agent.
Travel Insurance: Emergency Medical Insurance is optional, but encouraged, for this tour. Read about travel insurance and our recommendations and requirements.
Climate: Temperatures will be hot and humid during our tour of the Mayan ruins but we plan to arrive in the early morning during the coolest part of the day and we will be transported in an air conditioned van. Temperatures in Holbox will be hot but with a nice ocean breeze and it is a very pleasant temperature while with the sharks on the water, plus your room will be air-conditioned. The water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico adjacent to the Caribbean Sea are very comfortable, but you will be most comfortable wearing a wetsuit, either short- or full-length, providing you with sun protection and enough flotation, so you don't have to wear a lifejacket. (If you don't wear a wetsuit, you will be required to wear a lifejacket that may inhibit your maneuverability).
Seasickness: We will be in calm waters just off the Yucatan Peninsula so don't let a fear of seasickness prevent you from signing up! Read our suggestions for coping with seasickness.
Detailed information about your specific tour will be sent to you after you make your reservation with us. These trip materials include information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc. Please take a moment to read this important informtation upon receipt.
If you would like to be on our mailing list or request information, please use our online information request form or contact us to give us your name, address, email address and phone number. Please note we will never share your personal information with anybody!
Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris, Saratoga, California, act only as agents and shall not be responsible or become liable for any delay incurred by any person in connection with any means of transportation, nor for the loss, damage, or injury to person or property by reason of any event beyond the control of the agency or default of such agency suppliers. We reserve the right to cancel the tour prior to departure in which case full refund will constitute full settlement to the passenger. No refund will be made for any unused portion of the tour unless arrangements are made at the time of booking. All rates are based on current tariffs, exchange rates and fuel prices and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited. Baggage is at the owner's risk.
Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris is registered as California Seller of Travel #2063050-40. Registration as a seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California. Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris is a participant in the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation (TCRC). In event of a client canceling where a refund is applicable in accordance with the schedule above, or in the event that CES needs to cancel the trip, all payments for transportation or travel service not provided to the client shall be promptly refunded, unless the client instructs us otherwise in writing. All client payments are deposited into a trust account in accordance with California law. If for any reason a valid refund is not forthcoming, the client may request reimbursement from the TCRC within six months of the scheduled end of the tour. Please feel free to ask us for more information.
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All material © Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris.
All photos © Doug or Ted Cheeseman, unless otherwise credited.
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