Category Archives: Nature

Sometimes a traveler just wants to get out and explore nature. Find out ways to enjoy nature.

Marrakech Morocco in Pictures

We arrived to Marrakech late at night. We spent the subsequent three days wandering the Medina and Kasbah, making our way through the chaotic, and labyrinth like alleys of the city.

Marrakech

Fountain in Le Jardin Secret

One of many small fountains utilizing the original waterworks in the recently restored Le Jardin Secret riad.

Berber Whiskey

A warm glass of “Berber Whiskey” – mint tea – at Terrace de Epices. The drink was very good, though we found the mint tea offered far less frequently than we had been led to believe we would.

Narrow Medina Alleys

The interior alleys, removed from the main bustling streets, were very serene. If you aren’t careful, it’s very easy to get lost in the maze.

Arabesque Door Arch

Intricate woodwork, plaster, and marble carvings of Arabesques create an archway in the Ben Youseff Madrasa (Quranic School) in Marrakech, Morocco.

Arabesque Carvings at Ben Youseff

More outstanding Arabesque carvings within a doorway in Ben Youseff Madrassa.

Windows in the Courtyard

Windowed rooms overlook the interior courtyard of Ben Youseff Madrasa, covered in Arabesque carvings.

Derb Deffa ou Rbaa Street

Derb Deffa ou Rbaa Street was a prominent road that primarily sold clothing. It became quite busy as the day went on.

Roof Top Terrace

Our riad provided a private rooftop terrace, a relaxing respite from the chaos of the streets below.

Jewish Cemetery

The Atlas Mountains loom in the background above the white stone coffins of the Jewish Cemetery in the Mellah District of Marrakech, Morocco.

La Bahia Palace Silhouette

A quick rest in a side room of La Bahia Palace within the Kasbah of Marrakech.

Kitten in El Badii Palace Ruins

A kitten rests on a stone ledge in the Sultan’s residential area in the ruins of El Badii Palace.

Kasbah Rooftop with Koutoubia

A terrace view of the Kasbah from El Badii Palace with Moulay El Yazid mosque rising in the background.

Central Gardens of El Badii Palace

Interior gardens within the ruins of El Badii Palace.

Storks Nesting atop the entry to El Badii Palace

Storks nest atop the entry hall to the ruins of El Badii Palace.

Jemaa el-Fna

Jemaa el-Fna square in Marrakech comes alive with vendors each day and night. Here we found a quieter corner away from the chaos.

Farside of Koutoubia

Koutoubia mosque is an ancient mosque, that unfortunately cannot be visited by tourists. However, you can still wander around the outside.

Koutoubia Gardens at Sunset

The sun begins to go down in the Koutoubia mosque gardens.

Koutoubia Mosque

A view of Koutoubia Mosque and its small cemetery.

Koutoubia Streetside

A view of Koutoubia Mosque from Jemaa el-Fna square.

Ceiling Lamp at the Artisans' Ensemble

Intricate design and carvings make up this interior corridor at the Ensemble Artisans in Marrakech.

Ceiling Designs

A ceiling lamp is suspended below intricate floral Arabesques in the Ensemble Artisans.

Cousous Tangine with Prune Roasted Lamb

A traditional couscous tangine with prune-roasted lamb and vegetables.

A Small Corner in Jemaa el-Fna

Mid-morning in a tucked-away corner of Jemaa el-Fna square.

The Spice Souk

A vendor adjusts some of his wares in a spice souk within the Medina of Marrakech.

Lamps, Bags, and Baskets

Early mornings are the best time to capture calm in the streets of Marrakech.

Cats Await the Butcher

These hungry cats awaited scraps from the butcher every morning that we passed them.

Morning in the Souks

Light filters through the covered streets of the Medina.

Mosaic Floor

Light falls across mosaic tiles in Le Jardin Secret.

Alley in the Medina

A quiet side alley off of one of the main streets within the Medina.

El Badii Palace Doorway

An archway entering the Sultan’s residential quarters in the ruins of El Badii Palace.

La Bahia Palace Ceiling Lamp

A lamp hangs fro the ceiling of a room in La Bahia Palace.

Wooden Door at Ben Youseff

A wooden door is surrounded by mosaic designs and plaster designs at Ben Youseff Madrasa.

Dorm Room at Ben Youseff Madrasa

Interior room overlooking the central courtyard at Ben Youseff Madrasa.

Medina Streets

A woman walks down the street carrying wares on her head, as we exit the narrow alley from our riad in the Medina of Marrakech.

Evening in the Medina

On our final night, the moon rose above the Medina streets as the the sun set and the locals headed home or towards Jemaa el-Fna.

Chacmool at the National Anthropology Museum Mexico City

National Anthropology Museum Mexico City

The National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City is an excellent way to discover the human history of Mexico. From the dawn of the human species until the modern day, it covers everything. It was for this reason – that it would inform our travels – that I insisted the museum be one of the first places we visit during our trip to Cuidad de Mexico.

Getting to the Museo Nacional Antropología

Chapultepec Park

The National Anthropology Museum is in the Chapultepec Park district of Mexico City. It is on the north side of the park, above Lago de Chapultepec and Paseo de la Reforma. Its location makes it an opportune destination for entire day’s outing – we combined our day with Chapultepec Castle.

Statue of a Runner

Need to Know:

  • Address: Av Paseo de la Reforma & Calzada Gandhi S/N, Chapultepec Polanco, Miguel Hidalgo, 11560 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
  • Hours: 9 am – 7 pm (Closed Mondays)
  • Entrance Fee: $70.00 MX pesos. (~$3.70 USD)

Finding Your Way

The museum is very large and has a large avenue leading to it. There are also signs throughout Chapultepec Park that will direct you where to go. Opposite the museum, is a large pole and demonstration ground. Here we witnessed an indigenous ceremony where drum and flute players hang by their feet upside down while spinning to the ground.

Musicians Dangle While Playing

Upon entering the front building you have three options:

  • Left: Gift Shop
  • Right: Special Exhibition
  • Center: Permanent Exhibition

You cannot have backpacks, bags, etc – luckily, the museum provides a “coat storage” for you just behind the gift shop. After that, you can proceed towards the right side of the entrance building where you can purchase your tickets and receive a map.

Entry Building

The Museum

Designed in 1960, the museum is – to say the least – huge. With 23 rooms, each covering a distinct aspect of Mexican heritage, culture, and history, the establishment is the most visited museum in Mexico.

The museum began in 1790 and expanded and moved numerous times over the following centuries. For a while, the collection was housed in Chapultepec Castle, before settling at the current location.

The current design is that of a horseshoe around a large central pond. The buildings are two stories with a courtyard accessible from the bottom floor.

Anthropology Museum Courtyard

Inform the Rest of Your Travels

As I stated above, a big reason I wanted to do the museum, and to do it early, was to inform the rest of our time in Mexico. Our plan was to visit Teotihuacan the following day and Templo Mayor sometime soon after. These massive archaeological sites, I thought, would be better appreciated if we knew about them beforehand. I was right.

Teotihuacan Scale Model

When we entered, the ticket master handed us a map, and circled a few key exhibits. As it was a little bit later in the day, we would not have the time to see the whole museum. You will need at least a whole day to see everything – however, you can still get a great experience even if you only see half. If you have the time and interest, you could spend a second day there too!

We spent around 4 hours in the museum. All the exhibits were kept in top shape, and were highly informative and interesting. One aspect that we particularly enjoyed was how the bottom floor exhibits had their own outdoor exhibit portions as well. These gardens gave fresh air and a more authentic presentation of the artifacts.

Cave Paintings

We put our focus on the Mayans, Olmecs, Aztecs, and Teotihuacan, as well as on the Oaxaca region. Though, we did still manage to see the majority of the museum. It does not disappoint at all.

Exhibition

Human Sacrifices With Jawbone Necklaces

These human sacrifices were found at Templo Mayor. Their hands were bound behind their backs, and were wearing necklaces made of human jawbones.


Temple Reconstruction

A reconstruction of an Aztec temple in one of the many outside exhibits. This is a part of the Tenochtitlan exhibit.

Statue of a God

A stone carving of an Aztec God.

Aztec Sun Calendar

Arguably one of the most recognizable artifacts from the Aztecs – the great stone sun calendar is a huge monolithic carving.

Scale Model of Templo Mayor

A scale model replica of the Templo Mayor complex. The ruins of the complex can be seen in Centro Historico.

Jaguar Statue

The Jaguar is an important animal in the mythologies of the Aztecs.

Stone carving

The Mesoamericans were highly skilled stone workers.

Textiles

Second-floor exhibits display more modern items. Here, we viewed the traditional dress and textiles of the region.

Skeletons

Death was a very important part of the cultures of Mexico and Central America.

Do Visit The National Anthropology Museum

Olmec Stone Head

I really don’t think I can emphasize enough, just how impressive the museum is. It’s excellently curated and should keep you occupied the entire time you are there. The displays are in Spanish, English, and Nahuatl – so don’t worry about understanding if you don’t speak Spanish.

Kyle and Bri
~K~

Rio Secreto : Playa del Carmen Mexico

There are numerous activities to enjoy while in Playa del Carmen. It has essentially been turned into a tourist playground of Mexico. Swimming, snorkeling, diving, ruins – you name it you can find a way to do it within close vicinity.

Where does Rio Secreto Operate?

Rio Secreto is situated directly across the street from the massive eco-park Xcarat. Whereas Xcarat has transformed into a massive waterpark, Rio Secreto retains more of its natural charm. We found Rio Secreto to be a great balance between campy fun, and authentic experience.

With that being said, Xcarat is a completely awesome experience, and I highly recommend it. I have been there many years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, it will be far more crowded and developed – though still loads of fun.

Benches at Rio Secreto

Rio Secreto Entry Sign

You can find it at:

Puerto Juárez, Km. 283.5, Carretera Federal Libre Chetumal, Ejido Sur, 77712 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico

Ticket Booth at Rio Secreto

It’s hours and prices can differ by the season, and so you should check for you specific times at: www.riosecreto.com. However, it always operates at least:

Sunday – Monday: 9AM – 2PM

While we can’t say that Rio Secreto falls into the category of budget travel activities – it is still certainly on the cheaper side for the region. If you can, try to arrange for your own transportation to cut costs.

Parking lot of Rio Secreto

A Recent Discovery

Rio Secreto speaks to the mystery of Riviera Maya. It was only discovered in 2006 when a landowner was chasing after a lizard and accidentally discovered the opening to a cave. What he discovered was a vast underground river and cenote complex.

Researchers and explorers then entered the caves and began mapping what would turn out to be an immense system. It was quickly developed into an ecological preserve and attraction. Tourists are able to visit about 10% (don’t worry, it’s huge!) of the cave complex, while the other 90% is preserved. All proceeds go towards further protection and understanding of the cenotes and underground rivers.

I’m In! So What Is Rio Secreto?

Rio Secreto is Spanish for “Secret River”, and it is exactly that. The whole of the Yucatan is made of very porous limestone and has no surface rivers. However, it is filled with thousands of cenotes, which are sinkholes that open to underground rivers.

In the native Mexica cultures, most notably the Maya and Aztec, the cenotes were the openings to the underworld – Xibalba. And here, you get to enter the underworld and explore the flooded rooms and rivers beneath the surface.

The Experience

Our experience was pretty awesome. We were in Playa del Carmen for a family wedding, and we went with my parents, aunts, and uncles. It begins with the standard tourist fare type stuff. We checked in, had a video introduction that went over the basic history of the place, and then we were divided up into small groups for our guide.

Our Guide Starting the Tour

A roughly twenty minute bus ride deep into the jungle brought us to the main entrance to the caves where we were then given the run down.

Rio Secreto Bus

First thing, no sunscreen or lotion of any kind. This is important for the ecology of the river system. Lotions introduce chemicals to the environment and can damage the cave formations. Plus, you’re underground – so it’s totally unnecessary.

To ensure there are issues regarding this, you have to take a quick shower to rid your body of any chemicals and oils. The shower is water taken directly from the river which also gives you a quick feel for the temperature. It’s cold.

Equipment

No worries though, you are provided with a wetsuit. The water is around 72F, so it’s certainly chilly. And the tour lasts about an hour and half underground so you will most likely want it. If you have your own wetsuit, you might as well bring it. My aunt had one, and doubled up, which allowed her to stay quite warm.

As for us, we were still chilled at the end. Our issue lies in the fact that we’re both pretty thin. Because of this, the wetsuits didn’t fit perfectly and allowed for cold water to get in. But, it still works.

You are also provided with water shoes – a must. And of course, a helmet with lights – another must. If you wish, you can also take a walking stick. I did not, but was one of the only ones who did not. If you are not comfortable with your balance, you should take the stick. However, it can be very nice to traverse the caves without carrying anything.

You can put all your stuff in a locker, and all of this comes complimentary with your tour ticket. So you don’t need to worry about paying extra for storage or gear.

Changing Rooms

A Mayan Ritual For Safety

Once we were fitted, we were led into the jungle and brought to the first stop. A local man, who spoke Mayan (Nahuatl) gave us a traditional Mayan blessing. The blessing is meant to provide safety for those who enter the underworld.

In the blessing, we were taught how to say good day, or rather “good sun” in Mayan. I forget what it is now, sadly. But the meaning is important to the Mayans, as the sun was an important deity.

The man then burned sap from a local tree that gave off a sweet fragrance and signaled that we had been blessed. Now, we were ready to enter Xibalba.

Entering the Caves

A short walk further into the jungle, and we arrived at what appeared to be a small depression in the ground. However, once stepping into the hole, it becomes apparent that the cave is much more than it appears.

The path winds down until it meets a slowly flowing body of water. Stalactites and stalagmites stretch down and up respectively and create an enticing invitation to the wonders within. Our guide, instructed us to turn on our headlights and enter the water.

Into Xibalba

Our guide expertly took us into the caves and gave a thorough tour. He explained the hydrology and ecology of the region as well as it’s historical importance.

An interesting, yet important thing he showed us was our impact on the environment. By simply being there, we did contaminate the region. This was demonstrated by rubbing our noses to get naturally occurring oils from our skin, and touching the water. Immediately, the limestone particles repelled away from where we touched, and altering the chemical makeup of the cave system.

It was explained that we would only interact with a small portion – less than 10% – of the cave system. The money brought in from the tourism, would help protect the greater water system and further fund research and conservation. An unfortunate price to pay to protect the system.

As we swam, floated, and waded through the caves, a photography took many pictures. We did not get any though, as the price is expensive. Unfortunately, this means that we couldn’t get any pictures while in the caves themselves.

Rio Secreto

Courtesy: The Mayan Gate

A highlight of our cave experience was a moment of zen. We were instructed to lay back in the water, staring at the ceiling, in a circle. All the lights were then extinguished and we were left in complete darkness, with nothing but the sound of the water. We laid here here for several minutes before coming back to ourselves.

Back to the Surface for Food and Drink

At this point, we were all getting pretty cold. It was time to make our way back out. We exited via the way we came in, and the warmth of the jungle air was welcome. Upon exiting, we were given a taste of the local liquor, an anise flavored liquor to warm our bodies and spirits.

Rio Secreto Liquor

After changing back into our clothes, we then proceeded on to a complimentary lunch. It was nothing special, but better than I was expecting. Rice, beans, chicken, soup, tortillas, and a few sides were offered. While not amazing, it was hearty and satisfactory – and the hot sauce was certainly hot.

Buffet at Rio Secreto
Soup and Pasta

Once finished with our food, we pilled back into our van, and proceeded back to the entrance.  All in all, a great excursion. We would certainly recommend this for anyone in the region looking for a little adventure, history, or nature. It’s great for adults, families, and kids. And while not budget, it is certainly a cheaper alternative to the more expensive options in region.

~K~