My wife and I did 2 tours with Mayans Explorers in March 2012, the "Mayan experience tour", and the "cool tour". They were both great tours, and both were full day tours.
We booked the tours online with Gudelio about a month or so in advance. tour prices vary based on the number of people (at most 12 in a group), we were open to sharing with other folks, and we let Gudelio know which days we would be able to do the tours on. We communicated in email and he was always very prompt responding to emails.
From the email and their website, I had a very good idea of what to expect and where/when to meet.
We stayed on Cozumel, so we took the ferry to Playa del Carmen, and we met up with our tour guides right at the entrance to the ferry on both days., they were there waiting for us when we arrived. We had the same driver for both tours, Diago, he was very friendly and was a very safe driver.
The Mayan experience tour went to the ruins at Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, and also did some swimming at an underground cenote. Our tour was with one other couple. Our guide Luis was very knowledgeable and was interactive during the long drive from Playa del Carmen to and from the ruins. The tour is an all day (12+ hours), we arrived on the ferry at 7 am and I think we ended up taking the 8pm ferry back to Cozumel. We don't do cruises, but I'm assuming it is too long to do from a cruise ship, but it is a great way to spend the day if you are staying on the mainland or staying on Cozumel.
Water, lunch in Valladolid, and snacks during the drive were included.
One of the other people on the tour had trouble with her knees, and Diago came and helped out on some of the ruins in case she needed a hand.
It is a long drive, and they were very good about checking whether we needed to hit a rest room along the way. There are rest rooms at the entries to both of the ruins sites and at the cenote.
What we brought for the Mayan Experience tour:
- camera for the ruins (a camera with a wider angle for the ruins, and longer zoom for birds if you are into that). I also brought an external flash, this helped get some better shots of the stucco work at Ek Balam. Luis knew that I was into birding, and he tried to see if we could find a MotMot at a spot where he has seen them before, we did see one flying there, but I didn't get a shot of it...). I also used the flash to get some shots of the bats in the underground cenote :-)
- Good walking shoes, there is a good amount of walking, and optionally climbing at Ek Balam if you choose to. The stuccos are definately worth climbing up to see there.
- A bathing suit and towel for the cenote.
- sunblock is a good idea
- We didn't have any issues with mosquitos. March is the dry season there, and during the day we didn't see any.
- Note that there are some bee/wasp nests in the ruins, I got pretty close to get some shots of them and they didn't seem aggressive, but you will want to be aware when walking in the ruins if you are allergic to bee stings (non of us were stung).
The "Cool Tour" went to the ruins at Tulum, snorkeling in Akumal bay (sea turtles), and went to Tankah (swimming in a cenote, zip-lines over water, canoeing). William was our tour guide, and Diago drove again for this tour. William was very knowledgeable and also was engaged during the entire tour. On this tour, we were with one couple with no kids, and another couple with 2 kids (guessing they were between 5-7 yrs old). Diago came along on the tours to help with the children (they had them on a boogie board when snorkeling).
This tour is most of the day and is a little shorter than the Mayan Experience tour (less time driving). We arrived just before 8 am on the 7am ferry from Cozumel, and I think we were back in Playa del Carmen in time for the 6 PM ferry.
The snorkeling in Akumal bay was really nice. The bay itself is pretty well protected and it wasn't rough there. Your mileage will likely vary on what kinds of critters you will see when snorkeling, but we saw 3 sea turtles, a sting-ray, and loads of various fish there.
The reefs there were really nice. There is a locker, changing area, and rest rooms there.
When snorkeling we all stayed together as a group for the entire time.
The ruins at Tulum and the shoreline are definately worth seeing. They gave us about an hour or so free time and you can go swimming if you want at the shore there. We mainly walked around and enjoyed the views.
Tankah was nice, we did some zip lines over water, did some canoeing
What we brought:
- regular camera for the ruins at Tulum, a good zoom for zip-line shots and birds, etc...
- underwater camera, the water is very clear there and I was able to get some nice shots.
- good walking shoes are a good idea, there is some walking at Tulum.
- sunblock. We picked up some biodegradable sunblock in Cozumel before we went to Chankanaab park there so we used that.
- swim-suit and towels.
- We didn't need bug repellent this time of year, but I suspect that it wouldn't be a bad idea to have some other times of the year when at Tankah.
- They provide all the snorkeling gear if you don't have any, we brought our own equipment. For a vest, I think the shop there gave folks a life preserver style vest, so if you want to dive underwater, you probably should bring your own inflatable vest (so you can deflate it when you want to go under to check something out).
I haven't had time to identify the birds I got shots of yet, but basically we saw: Lots of orioles (Chichen Itza), motmot flying (saw one at Chichen Itza, and one at Tulum), lots of turkey and black vultures all over, a few woodpeckers, lots of grackles, some humming birds, some cormorants, and other waterfowl. In Tulum, there was a lineated woodpecker eating ants in the roof of the entry building, so when you get to the model of the ruins in the building look up, he may still be around there :-)
We definately recommend Mayans Explorers, we had a great time on the tours.
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