Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Little Love for the Sargasso in the Riviera Maya

Anyone who has traveled to any beach destination in the Caribbean this year has noticed the abundance of seaweed on our shores, Riviera Maya beaches included. We have seen a huge increase in the amount of sargasso on the beach, more than I have seen in my almost 12 years here. While tourists complain, I have to say, let's show a little love and respect to nature, there are GOOD things to be said about this natural phenomenon.

"The Sargasso Sea" is an area of the Atlantic Ocean roughly 1100 kms wide and 3200 kms long, home to the seaweed called "sargassum". There are no physical boundaries to the sea, only the currents of the Atlantic mark its boundaries. Christopher Columbus reported on the vast expanse of seaweed on his 1492 crossing to the new world, erroneously thinking it meant land was near.

So why the heck is there SO MUCH SEAWEED this year? My research came up with a lot of speculation and no real answers. Changing climate, changing patterns of the sea, pollution, rising sea temperatures, nobody can nail it down to just one reason, it just IS. Who are we to question Mother Nature?

The sargasso is a vital eco-system unto itself, home to many species of ocean life. Sea turtles rely on sargasso for protection from predators as they make their way through the oceans. It is a floating refuge for crabs, shrimp, and a wide variety of fish who take advantage of the rich feeding ground and use it as a safe place for breeding. When the sargasso washes ashore, it nourishes the beaches and prevents erosion, as well as creating a food source for birds and other beach creatures.

Is the sargasso a danger to humans? NOPE. Some people may have an allergic reaction to some of the critters that live within (insects etc after it is washed ashore) but the seaweed itself is harmless. You can walk on it, pick it up, swim through it and enjoy knowing what an incredible source of life it is. It is not slimy or "icky" when fresh, though when it dries it can be a bit crunchy underfoot. The resorts of the Riviera Maya and Cancun have crews working throughout the day to try to clear the beaches, but it really is a Sisyphean task.

So while some may not think it's pretty (up close it's lovely really, like little bunches of teeny tiny grapes) and it may interfere with your picture-postcard vision of the beach, it is a natural and integral part of a healthy ocean. So let's show a little love to the sargasso, get past our human need for "perfection" and salute the plant that brings LIFE to the sea and our beaches.

What are your thoughts and experiences with sargasso? Let us know in the comments!

(photos property of  CancunCanuck © , shot with GoPro Hero Silver, please do not use without permission)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Deep Sea Fishing with Aquaworld Cancun

Fishing, pesca, fish, fishety fish fish lure tackle fish line fishery-doo-da-day. Max is a pretty good little conversationalist for ten years old but as of late, he's a one track wonder. FISHING. I have mandated "NO Fish Talk" time at home to save my sanity during dinner, but he just can't help himself and it is inevitable that I will hear all about how to fly fish in Florida or hand jigging in Cuba or the correct way to remove a hook. Mmm, tasty dinner convo.

Of course, as much as the FISHFISHFISH talk can get tiresome, I am also a mom who likes to see her kid happy so I was grateful to the fine folks at Aquaworld Cancun when they offered us a chance to go deep sea fishing. 

Growing up on the Great Lakes, I was always happy to be on a boat and have my line in the water, but this was my first time on the open sea going for the "big ones". Max and I invited our friends along for the ride, arriving at the Aquaworld Marina at 7 am for an early start. We were all "newbs", looking forward to adventure!

Captain Luis greeted us warmly and got us underway for the 45 minute trip to his "secret spot". There was a fishing tournament that day and he was concerned we would have too much competition for the fish, but we were determined to reel in dinner, at the very least a little snack.

The ride was a bit bumpy, a bit swirly, the captain called it "blender sea", but we all held on to our breakfasts (I do recommend being prepared for some seasickness, no matter how great your sea legs are). Almost as soon as the crew got the lines in the water, they had Max in the fight chair, reeling in this little beauty! She was smaller than we were looking for and was promptly returned to the ocean to swim another day.

The beautiful Fernanda reeled in our first keeper, a black fin tuna! I think the crew got a kick out of all of us being more interested in taking photos than actually fishing, the price of being social media addicts, er influencers on the job. I have to say, in the rolling surf with wiggling and jumping fish, taking photos was a bit more challenging than our dry land work.

Next up was Miguel, one of my favourite bloggers in Mexico with La Vida es Viaje! Even with his wobbly, not so sailor-y legs and seasick tummy, he reeled in a gorgeous mahi mahi!

The final big fight of the day was all about Max and a Great Barracuda. Approximately 25 lbs and 47 inches, this fish full of teeth was a doozy of a catch! The crew tagged the fish (whom Max named "Luis" after his new best friend the captain) and released it back to the sea as part of the Gray Fish Tag Research program. Max will talk about this fight for the rest of his life, though I suspect "Luis" will get bigger and the fight will get longer with each telling of the tale. 

video captured by GoPro #goprogirl

We were all super content and ready to head back to shore after our big time adventure. We were pretty darned excited about the fresh catch we had in the cooler, particularly after Marhu put out the call to a chef friend to put his culinary skills to work. Mahi mahi in an achiote marinade and a seared tuna salad finished off our day in a most perfect and delicious way.

I thought that Max would be wiped out and fall asleep quickly after the early start and all the excitement of the long day, but getting him to bed was a bigger battle than reeling in a barracuda! He couldn't stop talking, fish fish fish, but when he said "Thanks mom, this was the best day ever, you are the best mom ever and I love you so much!", I decided he could talk about fish as much as his little heart desires.

** The fishing excursion was provided free of charge by Aquaworld Cancun but all opinions are strictly my own.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Vallarta Adventures - Extreme Canuck

I received the invitation to travel to Puerto Vallarta on a Thursday. Friday I had the Aeromexico tickets ready to roll. Saturday, a trip to the emergency room in extreme pain. Wednesday travel across the country, three flights and four airports, with a bag packed with more meds than anything else. And so began my press trip to the fabulous tourist destination of Puerto Vallarta.

My physical health was NOT going to stop me from enjoying this visit, I grit my teeth, smiled through the pain and met my fellow travelers at the Casa Velas boutique hotel for our first dinner before crashing out after a long day of travel. 

We had an early start the next day and I was mega excited about the agenda. The adrenaline-junkie in me was ready to take on the Sierra Madre mountains on the "Outdoor Adventure" tour with Vallarta Adventures. I took my antibiotics and skipped the pain meds (wanted to be fully alert) and we headed to the marina for the first leg of the trip on an inflatable boat.

 I'm on a boat!

As the boat approached Boca de Tomatlan, the clouds rolled in and it began to rain. I jumped up and down and clapped like a hyper little girl, ziplines in the rain, extra fun! (No sarcasm, really!) After landing on the beach, we transferred to our next mode of transportation, the military-style Mercedes Unimog that would bring us up the mountains. We passed through small pueblitos, drove up narrow bumpy roads past waterfalls, through mud and floods, seeing the lush green mountains peeking through the mist and fog. 

We arrived safe and sound though a bit wet to the base camp of the Outdoor Adventure. I had a good giggle when one of the tourists with us mentioned her extreme fear of spiders and the guide pointed to one huge web and its weaver, then another, and another. He told us that these were "Golden Orb Web spiders" and that the golden-coloured silk of their creations is so strong it can be used in body armour! The girl with arachnophobia was less impressed than I.

 The Extreme Press Team
We donned our gear, the typical harnesses of zip-lining (note, always wear LONG shorts, the gear can chafe and ride!), helmets and a chest harness. Oooh, chest harness. Did I mention that my health issue was a large abscess in my boob? Yeah, chest harness. Suck it up girl.

My girl Pistola in the misty mountains

We still hadn't reached the peak of the mountains, the only way up was on the back of a mule. The friendly guides told us they chose our mules based on our personalities, they made a good match with me and my spunky "Pistola". She and I had a long talk about life as she trod through mud, over tree roots and around boulders. A lot of wisdom in that sweet girl, you take the load life gives you and you keep moving up and forward. Stop to eat the flowers once in a while. I'll never forget those moments together dear Pistola...sniff...

Upside down, tandem, rainy day zip-lining aka Heaven

Rappel down a 35 meter waterfall

The rest of the day was pure exhilaration. Some of the longest and highest zip-lines I have ever experienced, going FAST and getting pelted with raindrops. Rope bridges and wooden bridges that creaked and swayed as we crossed over rivers. The incredible rush of rappelling down a roaring waterfall. (I screamed "Otra vez, OTRA VEZ!" when I reached the pool at the bottom, I wanted desperately to do it again). We finished up with a water slide so extreme we had to wear a hockey helmet with a face cage to do it.

The boat ride back was a wet one, pouring rain and getting dark, we all huddled under rain coats and kept our heads down. In my little tent of shiny yellow poncho, I took some time to think about the experience. And I smiled and my heart raced and I forgot all about the pain in my breast for a while. And my relationship problems, money troubles, life complications, they all slid away. These are the kind of days I live for, when I am happiest and free. Exploring new places and embracing challenges like a warrior princess damn it. And Life. Is.Good.

I am home in Cancun now and recovering from the emergency surgery I was forced to undergo on my return from Vallarta. And feeling like a champion for not only pushing through the pain in Vallarta, but enjoying every minute of the journey, fevered and vomiting but living on FULL. What was supposed to be a "work" trip to discover the Pacific side of Mexico turned into a life event that changed my view of who I am and what I am capable. of. I will always be grateful to Vallarta, muchas gracias, there will forever be a "pata salada" part of me now, and that is a marvelous gift indeed.