I’ve swam in a lot of bodies of water, but probably the most beautiful was the water in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The beaches were great, but the coolest place to swim was the underground rivers.
We went to a nature park called Xcaret, where you could rent snorkeling gear and go through the underground rivers, which are also called cenotes. The cenotes were formed when the peninsula was lifted from the sea. There are 2,500 cenotes in the Yucatan. The Mayans called the cenotes, “dzonot,” and believed that cenotes were gates to the underworld.
It felt weird and scary being in the cenote because it was dark a lot of the time and when you looked down it was creepy. When the light came through holes in the roof the water was a really clear turquoise. It was really hot outside, but the water was cold. They said it was 75 degrees. I got used to it about halfway through the river.
At the end—before the river came to the ocean—we started to see a lot of colorful fish. The water there was a mix of fresh water and salt water.
After we came out of the river we went to snorkel at the beach. There we saw more fish and saw people walking on the bottom of the bay with helmets like in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” I wanted to do that too, but it was too expensive.
The park was big and it felt like you were in the jungle. There were a lot of captured animals like, dolphins, flamingos, pumas, jaguars, parrots, macaws, monkeys, bats, manatees, stingrays, toucans, butterflies, tapir, reptiles, deer and some other ones. It makes me sad to see all those animals in captivity.
At our hotel, the Paraiso Maya, I saw a lot of animals that were wild and not in captivity, like iguanas and animals called coati. Coatis look like lemurs with long ringed tails, but are fatter, have longer noses and have big claws. The coatis were waiting for people walking between the pool and the beach, hoping to get food, even though a sign says you shouldn’t feed them. A few people fed them, me included.
I learned the hard way why they say not to feed them. One time I was the only one around and they were all coming toward me because I had food. One grabbed my leg and I had to push it away with my foot. Someone came by and told me that last year a girl had her finger bitten off. I can see how that could happen. One bit me on my finger, but it was a baby without teeth. That was lucky.
Another cool creature we saw was a tarantula. It was crawling on a path at one of the Mayan ruins we visited. It was huge and I thought it was awesome because its butt was orange. But in a way, I didn’t like it because orange is UT’s colors and I like Texas A&M.
Being in the jungle with the animals and the underground rivers was a great experience and I learned a lot too.