Nature: Cheaper Than Therapy

Published: July 22nd 2016
Edit Blog Post

"Take a quiet walk with Mother Nature. It will nurture your mind, body and soul'. ~

Come away with me, to a place that is serene, filled with nature, and overflowing with beauty. Brimming with flora and fauna (plants & animals), teeming with ponds, lagoons, underground rivers, cenotes, wildlife, & luscious mangroves. The air filled with hummingbirds, bees, and dragonflies; dragonflies in almost every color of the rainbow - red, purple, blue, green...(Did you know that dragonflies follow the same flyways as migrating birds, often traveling 100 miles in one day?) Poor dragonflies - "don't get no respect" as per comedian Rodney Dangerfield 😂

Being in the Riviera Maya is like being revitalized. Perhaps it's the glorious tangerine sunrises, or the way the sun sashays in for a final appearance at sunset and has the clouds go all purplish/pinkish like backup performers. It's a free show every night.

Perhaps it's the stunning wildflowers and the flowering red trees you see on your morning walk that make you catch your breath. (Mom & I have stopped to admire them on our daily walks in Playa, & I really hope she joins us here this winter.) Or perhaps it's the sea shells that dot the beach that make you gasp with delight when you find one.

It's a place where the turquoise ocean waters are so vivid they look surreal. Where shores curve into stunning green lagoons with refreshing coves and trickling inlets. Where waves crash mightily against rocks and cliffs. It is the land of far horizons. It is the land of long stretches of soft white beaches. It is the land of the 2nd biggest reef in the world; it is the land of ancient Mayan rituals.

It renews your spirit, makes your energy pulse, and makes you ultra aware of every sound and sight. It tickles your skin & it lights up your face. This place has a way of tapping into all of your senses; takes you to a heightened level of consciousness. You can feel the negative energy washing away. (Which this 'Type A' personality welcomes!)

It is the land of the most welcoming fun fabulous people who make our time here extra special. It is the Yucatan Peninsula where nature and culture are clasped hand in hand. And it is best shared with loved ones...


And then we found ourselves in a place so unique, which includes all of the above and then some. Where you are pampered, and your every need is met. If you read my previous blog, we booked a stay at the Fairmont Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen, and it was like we stumbled onto the fountain of happiness and drank thirstily from it. But what separates this place from the rest, is this is NOT a busy party resort but more like a nature reserve.

It took approximately 10 years to build the FM Mayakoba and it was one of the first tourism developments in Mexico that had a good environmental overview and plan. The developers worked with a team of eciologists & biologists to help architects and designers preserve the flora and fauna of Mayakoba's freshwater lagoons and mangroves. They painstakingly transplanted thousands of native trees and flowers to preserve the environment. Unlike Cancun's huge resorts that destroyed the mangroves which in turn damaged the reef, this project was all about sustaining the environment. Mayakoba’s plant nursery which is overseen by a team of biologists is home to some 300,000 native plants, and local wildlife, including turtles, monkeys, egrets, flamingoes, bees and iguanas who continue to inhabit this magical land. Kudos to these developers for protecting this sprawling nature reserve.

When we booked our stay, we partook in the 'Appetite for Luxury Package" which had us enjoying a unique culintary experience along with premium beverages. Keep in mind, I had been stalking this place for a while. I knew if I were to stay anywhere other than the company condo, it was going to be this place. When I saw this unbeatable offer for a date I'd already be in the Riviera Maya, I jumped on it! Great deals don't fall in your lap; you have got to do your research, and be on the lookout.

This is not a buffet spot with long line-ups with food sitting under heat lamps for hours. This is not a place where the restaurants serve up the same-old same-old every day. In fact it is not really an all-inclusive resort. You can rent your accommodations and dine from the restaurants á la carte & pay as you go. We opted for the AFL package and it was superb. Many guests who did not have this package wished they had spent a few more pesos to get the package. Turns out we did have an 'appetite for luxury'! Let's put it this way, at every turn Marth and I were ducking behind palm trees high-fiving our good sense to book this place. (Then we'd walk out nonchalantly like we were very used to this level of 'everything'...}

I enjoyed a few glasses of the finest bubbly which I usually don't order at a restaurant due to its price. The quality of the food was outstanding along with the aesthetic presentation. The servers offer food & wine pairings as well, and the seafood, extremely fresh and perfectly prepared. Many restaurants get the preparing of seafood and fish so wrong... And they DO NOT nickel and dime you here. (And even better, you don't wear those annoying resort bracelets here). This place is all about class; even if they do let the likes of Marth & I in 😊

Erick who checked us in, happily arranged a boat tour through the lagoon waterways for the next morning. There was only Marth & I, and a family of 4 from NYC. Our guide had a particularly keen eye for spotting the beautiful wildlife which make their home within these grounds, waters and mangroves. Our tour was 45 minutes on a lovely electric boat which does not wreak any havoc on the eco-system here. The electric boats are so quiet that they do not disturb the birds or species found in this plentiful habitat. Perhaps a little known fact, but when there's an algae overgrowth they send in people to gently remove it by hand so they don't disrupt for example any nesting turtles or fish. We saw them dive down doing this on our trip. Ssssh...that's how quiet their work is.

I can't say when I last had an experience as moving and perhaps relaxing as this. Our package deal already had us googly-eyed, especially our casita on the lagoon, but free wildlife tours via lagoon waterways? If it gets any better than this it's probably illegal. Add in biking through nature trails stopping on bridges to see to see the lagoon river float by, hear the birds, and hear...well nothing but the sound of nature. Butterflies would flutter by, and little iguanas would move quickly away into the trails. I saw little hummingbirds & colorful butterflies whiz past. Spider monkeys are found here as well last sighted a few doors away from us. Peaceful and so serene. Pricless.

As we traversed the waterways, and spotted the different species of birds, my first thought was it's almost hard to believe that this is wildlife and not a case of captivity. They could charge a lot of money for this tour which is complimentary, and so very much appreciated. When you see this kind of beauty and preservation, with the end result being all these types of species thriving, you have to give thanks to Mother Nature's nurturing and the dedicated staff at the Mayakoba for their ongoing preservation efforts. Salud.

I need to fast forward to Weds. morning to combine both of our boat tours. Marth and I took part in another boat tour called Mayakoba Connexion. This tour runs through all the waterways that connect the three luxurious sister properties, and it is a nature tour combined with information about the best of the best in all inclusive living which includes the Rosewood & Banyan Tree Mayakoba.

This was a bigger boat, which included a captain (Orlando) and a well-studied guide named Claudia. They coasted into the dock and it turns out that we had a private tour. No one else was on the boat which can accommodate at least 25 people. Marth and I felt heaven-bound to have all of her expertise to ourselves. (Had we been a bit later after breakfast the boat would've been packed). We were doing that donkey grin thing again 😉

With our cameras primed to go, we got to see some unusual things such as newly hatched heron babies sitting on their mom's back in a mud-based nest. I have never seen anything like this before. The guide's voice would get really excited when she spotted something like this because once hatched, these baby birds are gone within a very short period of time. Then she pointed out a nest up in a tree, and we saw little newborn furry herons with their skinny yellow legs learning to walk. They were SO cute. The vast variety of birds found here is beyond imagination. It's rare to see a crocodile, but the keen eye of the captain found a baby one up against a rock. They blend in with the algae so kudos to Orlando for spotting it. I tried to capture it but you have to be quick to do so. (Marth & I had a small squabble about her bringing her big tablet to take photos. I have my small Canon camera and she's got this big TV blocking my shots. To know us is to love us 😉

If the guide or captain spotted something, they turned off the boat, and we drifted and caught pictures. At times I felt the need to wipe my eyes as little tears of joy wet my eye lids because it was such a beautiful experience. I couldn't help but think how excited my hubby Al would be to witness all of this. He is a birder, nature lover, and takes beautiful photos...While I'm no Al, I think my little camera tried really hard though!

Over the course of these 2 tours we saw the following:

• White egret
• Northern Jacana
• Green heron
• Limpkin
• Moor hen Duck
• Baby crocodile (2ft)
• Cormorants (ole blue eyes)
• Turtles & baby turtles
• Yucatan Jay
• Orange Oriole
• Frigates
• Chachalcasa
• Kisadees
• Black bellied whistling duck (Not sure if this is what we saw)!
• Little terns
• Huge pelicans
• Grackles / mockingbird
• iguanas of all sizes

Having our marine guide to ourselves, we were able to ask her so many questions and one in particular that I asked is what is the most unique bird you have ever seen and she said she's only seen it once and it is a Grey-Necked Woodrail. It is a colorful bird & also called the most attractive bird of the Mayakoba. Its legs are coral red, a yellow beak, red eyes, and its body is a mix of browns, greens, and rust. We saw the picture of it on the boat in their book of Yucatan birds and when you see it you almost gasp at its color! (I posted a picture from James Batt's 'Birds of Mayakoba". He is known as the 'birdman' of the Mayakoba, and has produced books of his photos which are outstanding.)

After asking the concierge about buying the book valued at $25US, he (I think his name was Carlos?!) delivered it to us while we sipped a drink in the lounge. Complimentary from the FM Mayakoba. Again, not trying to repeat myself but HELLO, they just kept on raising the bar during our stay. We love the book & it's now on my livingroom table.

So we coasted along the waterways alongside the lush green mangroves, on the watch for a new bird, turtles, fish etc. The waters so green and crystal-clear that I could take a clear picture of fish many feet down. The cicadas singing, the birds chirping, the trees rustling, and a rare experience, a hole in the lagoon called a crack where the ocean bubbles up bringing the sea salt water into the fresh water. This is called brackish water; a combination of both these waters. She also showed us where a cenote was; it's freshwater from an underground river and we could tell the difference as the water was extremely turquoise.

Claudia also did a little ceremony of sorts with us. She produced a seed, and you are to talk to your seed, make a wish, and then throw it in the mangroves to prosper. Some part of my DNA is now nestled and hopefully thriving in the mangroves of the Mayakoba.

In trying to label the birds for this blog to make sure I had things down pat, I asked Marth to make sure all was good. At one point I asked her "Is that a cormorant bird with the duck's feet"? (It's not like I'm all that familiar with them). And Martha actually says, "I can't tell because it's wearing shoes". OK - What the??? A bird wearing shoes? I know the wildlife is like something out of a Disney movie here, but the ducks are certainly not wearing shoes. Once I picked up on her 'joke of the day', Martha laughed to kill herself for half an hour. I guess she was trying to see if I was paying attention while working on my blog. 😉

If you've never seen one of these amazing birds here goes. They have such amazing blue eyes that they call them 'ole blue eyes'. The cormorant has big black webbed feet like ducks, but unlike ducks, they have no oil in their feathers and then must dry them by fanning them out so they are actually quite the show-off when standing on a dock or post. We witnessed it, and it was just magical. And let's also be clear, they do NOT wear shoes.

We landed at the exotic Banyan Tree Resort; a sister property and the
utmost in luxury. We were given 10 minutes to visit the property as they docked to invite guests onto the boat. Given we'd been out on the water for over an hour, and Marth had gotten a few bites, we decided we'd enjoyed this second boat tour tremendously but would take the golf cart shuttle back. We did walk around the Banyan Tree resort and it is so exceptional. Exotic Asian influences. Very private, very calm & peaceful and let's just say for those that can afford discerning tastes. The lobby bathrooms here knock me out with their luxury so I can ONLY imagine the guest villas? Imagine is all I will ever do unless I win the lottery but a girl's gotta dream.

On one of our rides back by golf cart transit, we asked about any bees on the resort property and our driver said yes, the 'melopina' stingless bee. These social bees collect honey and live in hives, but have no venom, and cannot sting. While they lack the ability to sting, they defend themselves in a variety of other ways, including biting, pulling hair on the body, getting into eyes and ears, and spitting irritating acidic substances on intruders that cause painful burning sensations. (Reminds me of a kid I once knew in elementary school.) These bees are much smaller than European honey bees, and produce far less honey as well, but they are a very important part of the eco-system here and throughout the world, and we need to ensure they keep on buzzing for our longevity.

Our driver courteously takes us to a little area where we can see some of these bees in action. These little bees were flying in and out of holes of hollowed-out logs suspended by thin wires. Apparently the Mayakoba wanted to help combat Colony Collapse Disorder by placing honeybee hives on hotel rooftop gardens and other onsite locations. Fairmont was the first luxury hotel brand to develop onsite honeybee programming and is now considered the leading hotel company in this area. These not only provides the bees with a huge home area to pollinate but the chefs use the harvested honey for their onsite bars and restaurants. ) We tried some and it was bee-licious! 😊 We thanked our driver profusely for taking us out of his way to experience such a thing. I am totally fascinated with bees so this was just another reason to love this place.

We enjoyed another night of dining, being pampered and listening to a jazzy sax player in the lobby bar. What a way to end the night; excellent service, exotic cocktails, (a non-alcoholic blackberry smash that was to die for, along with apple pie and homemade vanilla ice cream to top off the night). They put as much attention into their 'mocktails' as they do their cocktails which is fantastic for those that avoid alcohol. Clearly I am not one of them - bring on the bubbly, ahem.

When we got back to our casita, the bed was turned down with 3 red hibiscus flowers on the pillows with a note from our room attendant Rudy. It was a tiny hand-made 'worry-keeper' doll tucked into a blanket and inserted into a little envelope. The note said: Dear Sally, tell the little doll your worries, then put it under your pillow, then sleep peacefully and the next day your worries will be gone. Isn't that THE most thoughtful gift to be left? This little sweet doll made me think of my children & then I had to send them messages to check-in that they were all OK. This Rudy knows me too well... (*Note the doll is hand-made in Chiapas which is the south eastern part of Mexico).

They also leave a little postcard "pleasant dreams" on your bed every evening with a picture of a bird on the front. On the back they list the weather for the next day and then a little "Did you know..." about the bird on the front. I kept the cards. Frankly I kept everything they gave us that highlighted our stay in the smallest to the biggest of ways...(All of a sudden I feel like an ambassador for the FM Mayakoba but ahem, I could be. Please contact number is...hahaha.) I'm not easily impressed. I was very very impressed.

Over the course of the two days, we got to know the staff. In particular Silvia Luevano who is the Fairmont President´s Club Manager who was so gracious and made the birthday hoopla happen 😊 And Erick Viera who upgraded us to the casita, and then made our day by allowing us to stay the extra night in the same casita. I name them (and others) because what makes a vacation experience pop is the staff, without a doubt. I would take a so-so meal with great friendly service over a 'wow' meal with unattentive service.

These people are the best at what they do; however, I gotta tell you, they ruin you for reintegrating back into the real world. Thanks alot! Reality will bite when no one is delivering me exotic cocktails and leaving flowers on my bed with sweet notes...wah.

Upon check-out, Sylvia introduced us to MariCarmen who is the Public Relations Manager there. She offered us a drink from the bar and then we sat down for a fabulous chat about our recent experience there, about my blogging, about her travels to Canada, and her work for the Mayakoba. She was so gracious, welcoming and informative about all they do there for eco-sustainability, marketing, events, social media etc. She gave me her card, and told me to email her when I was coming back so she could give me the full tour around. I really look forward to that. Al & I are celebrating 20 years next year and I think it's safe to say, that we will be spending a few days there.

If the Mayakoba's philosophy is to treat their guests like they are all royalty, take it from me, they accomplished that and more. I use words to write professionally and personally but at one point I had to dig down deep to find more superlatives than just gorgeous, beautiful, amazing, fabulous, attentive, superb, scrumptious when describing our experience.

We left feeling like we had been away for a week instead of two days. How often does that happen? We weren't dejected and sad to leave, we were relaxed and satisfied like 'hey we got the chance to do this without taking out a mortgage'. We felt so well-taken care of, embraced in the culture of Mexico from the food to the art, to the decor to nature and the majestic tropical surroundings.

Sylvia arranged a taxi for us which brought us right back to our condo. It was so nice to be so close by and not have to fly out on a plane. Upon arrival back at the condo, a few people asked where we had been and I replied, 'We've been to paradise"...wink wink. We entered our condo, went out onto our balcony and said 'hello ocean, we're back!". (Thank you Tonya for providing me with such amazing accommodations. I hope I'm worth it. I gotta get back to work and earn the visits to this condo and keep my job!)

As I wind down my blogs, thanks for the nice comments and for following along. If my blog was entertaining, you need a life. If my blog was boring, get a life! HAHA. Just pulling your leg or can you feel it or are you wearing duck shoes? (Heh heh).

This blog is a journal for me, & for my family of all our adventures here. When summer turns to fall and it gets cool and dreary, re-reading some of my blogs helps keep the cold out and reminds me of such great memories we've had here. It sustains me through kids school projects, after-school activities, lunches, homework, and the general rat race till I get us all back here 😉

I won't see the family till early Monday, but darn it, I'm as excited at seeing them as I was to go on my big Mayan adventure. Thank you to my girls and Al for making this happen. When mom is 'happy'....well you get it. And thanks to Marth for being a great travel companion, despite some of the hijinks that I won't get into in this blog. I also look forward to celebrating some upcoming birthdays of some of my best buddies. Linda, Sue and Manon - all July babies. We need to make a plan. My backyard, I'm cooking and it will include some fine Don Julio 😊

Wishing you all memories that live on for a lifetime of whatever adventures you partake in. Keep a blog, journal or diary. Record your moments not only in pictures but in words if you can. However you do it, do it with all your heart!

I hope you enjoy the pics! You will have to hit next page to see all of them! I'd be more than happy to answer any questions about our stay at the Fairmont Mayakoba. I'd be more than happy to answer any questions about travel to the jewel of Mexico, the Riviera Maya. PS I am very honored to have had my blog listed for the Blog Treasure Hunt for the month of July nominated by Dancing Dave. (Tickled pink frankly).

Signing off,

The Mayan Queen & MJ Puffy (She's 'Puffy' due to a few bites she got on the boat trip!) Forget Puff Daddy...this is MJ PUFFY. Never a dull moment when you are on a Big Mayan Adventure with MJ Puffy...

Additional photos below
Photos: 47, Displayed: 37


22nd July 2016

Hola Sally
You have no idea how much I have been enjoying your blog.......last year I found myself getting jaded and taking all that the Mayan Riviera has to offer for granted and was even considering giving it a miss this winter after spending the last 15 winters I was getting restless and thinking I would search and seek out a "new paradise" but you have renewed my faith in all that I have loved about the Yucatan and now I can't wait to go back...... PS, your blogs have been very theraputic for me and have even put a smile on my face during my darkest hour........I suddenly lost my younger sister a few weeks ago and she was my sidekick and used to love joining me on my winter retreats to Playa, it will be hard to return this year without her......
22nd July 2016

Nature: Cheaper than Therapy
Hi Debbie, first of all my condolences in the loss of your sister. I know that darkness having lost my brother suddenly in 2010 & felt I could NOT come back here either. Like I profess, have your accommodations around here, but get out & partake in the nature part. It's endless as you know. PS the beaches are great this year. The sargassum which was troubling to all of the Caribbean is gone. This has had a huge upwing effect on the Riviera Maya; back to its old self. PS take care of yourself; grief is a rocky road. Hoping you can share the journey with others who loved your sister. Share the load. And thanks for your very lovely thoughtful comments. Sal :)
22nd July 2016

Thank you
Thank you for your kind words, I do have others to share this "rocky road" with but it's still a heartache and always will be....... Sounds like you scored the granddaddy of deals.....just curious what is the regular cost of a stay at the Mayakoba and if you don't mind me asking what was the special price they were running?
22nd July 2016

Not just looking...embracing
What a delight to read this blog that captures your excitement and emotions of embracing the wonders that opened in front of you. Too often the text of blogs are like too many portrait photos, where the subject is just looking but not engaging with the photographer's lens. This blog is a vivid example of what one misses if a blog is skimmed without reading the text. I feel it Sal...I get it...I relate to the vibe. Thank you for taking me there!
23rd July 2016

Not just looking...embracing
Dave you are the KING of blogs! I'm just a little cog in the wheel with my travel journey but so honored when I hear from you and Bob etc etc..! Your blogs from the 'internet scam romance', to your first trial as a lawyer, and 'how do we get out of this one' had me by the tail...I copied and sent them to my husband Al as I think we're made of the same cloth. I love your level of sarcasm, intuitiveness and deep emotion when you write. I'm learning from the masters on travel blog :)

Tot: 2.657s; Tpl: 0.079s; cc: 12; qc: 102; dbt: 0.0767s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.7mb