Gran Cenote Adventure in Tulum

After watching another beautiful sunrise at the beach in Tulum Casey and I met our friend, tour-guide Blake, who is taking us to the Gran Cenote, on the road towards Coba from Tulum.

We made our way along the Tulum Beach road past a little ‘pueblito’ of palapa shops selling t-shirts and local carvings and out through the Tulum jungle reserve in his dune buggy. After that we drove another 7 minutes north towards the Coba ruins through virgin jungle on a road which was barely a paved goat’s path a few years ago.

It’s only a little sign that warns the speeding drivers that they are about to pass one of the best cenote snorkeling spots in the Yucatan.

Casey, Blake and I entered the cenote park through a palapa-style entrance beside a sleepy guide. It was a beautiful short stroll along a pebbled garden walkway lined with local flowering shrubs. The Riviera Maya is rich with a wide variety of plants and flowers. There are an estimated 20 to 30 thousand different species of plants growing in Mexico, which is considered to be one of the most floristically diverse countries in the world.

We arrived at the top ledge looking into a breathtaking tropical sinkhole oasis. The Gran Cenote was formed over a period of thousands of years when rainwater wore away the limestone making its way back to the sea.

As we walked around the lip of the cenote I heard some scuba divers getting suited up on the island in the middle of the sinkhole, talking about exploring the tunnels snaking off from the main pool. There are hundreds of miles of divers ‘line’ in the Riviera Maya tunnels.

I have been in many cenotes before, but most were in out in the sunshine – this one was like entering the yawning mouth of a prehistoric rock creature … and right where the throat should start I took a deep breath and plunged downwards, not expecting the small cave above the water to suddenly expand into an arena the size of a small stadium, filled with stalagmites and stalactites.

The bubbles from the diving group swimming below me rose up and I watched the group enter one of the tunnels near the bottom. I have heard of divers finding completely blind fish in those tunnels that after millenniums of years in the dark have lost the ability to see.

I spent the next hour swimming around the island and I peered into more tunnel entrances with lots of colorful cenote fish swimming in and out of the rocks. All in all it was breathtaking.

On the dock after the swim, my tour guide Blake, who I now consider a good friend, told me that the Mayan name for Gran Cenote is ‘Sac Aktun’, which in english means ‘White cave’, possibly because the island was formed when the cave’s thin roof collapsed thousands of years ago letting in the sunlight.

I heard some young children snorkeling and I thought what a sacred and special place for parents to bring their children on holiday.

I closed my eyes and felt thanks that I had the opportunity to live in and experience such wondrous beauty tucked away in the virgin jungles of Tulum.

Until next time…

Ek Balam - 'Black Jaguar' ancient Mayan theme park UNVEILED


Only 15 years ago a wondrous ancient Mayan city named Ek Balam was recovered and presented to the world as another treasure recaptured from the ravages of time for modern adventurists to explore.
Ek Balam is the name of the ancient cluster of pyramids and building and it means ‘black jaguar’ in mayan, and when this pueblo was inhabited earliest in 100 B.C. in was surrounded by a jungle ruled by the mighty black jaguar.
The fact that most of the sculptures and decoration of the site were not affected by time and are well preserved makes Ek Balam special for that reason. Scientists estimate the site will be as large or even larger than its neighbor, Chichen Itza.
I went with my mum Casey and Casey's new boyfriend and his daughter for a little holiday to Ek Balam to see what all the fuss was about, and we are so glad we went. Before we left I did some research on the internet.
Ek Balam is a site composed of many temples, two palaces and a large pyramid in the center of the city.
One of the main buildings is one of the largest Mayan buildings ever recovered; it is the Acropolis measuring almost 500 by 200 feet with a height of almost a hundred feet!
When we arrived of course the first thing we wanted to do was climb the 102 stairs to the top of the pyramid, but the view and fun-scary coming down was worth it! From the top of the pyramid we could see the ruins of Coba that are 30 miles away!
This main building is believed to be the tomb of the ruler of the city around 800 A.D. named Ukil-Kan-Lek-Tok. (Mayan divine snake head) The Acropolis has a large entrance built to represent a portal to the next world.
Unlike many of the other ancient pueblos in the area, Ek Balam has a defense wall surrounding the city, much like the Tulum ruins near the Coco Tulum where I am staying.
There are many ‘sac-be’s’ ( white roads) connecting Ek Balam to Chichen Itza, Coba and other local pueblos used by farmers and traders of honey, corn, wax and cotton produced in the area.
We went for a drive in the area and went to visit Maya at her house in Ek Balam... Casey bought two turkeys from Maya's aunt for our little farm at home. I don't think we are going to eat them, but I am nervous because Casey named them, 'Thanksgiving' and 'Christmas'.
It was a great little Easter vacation trip, and it was great to get to know Casey's new boyfriend and his daughter, too.
I love living in the land of the Maya.

Best Books for young adults are historical fictions!

11 Reasons Historical Fiction are the Best Books for Young Adults
The 'best books for young adults' are historical fiction and here are ten benefits for encouraging your young adult to read historical fiction.
Statistics show that children’s brains have a natural ability to absorb new information as part of their developmental growth. As we age the speed at which we learn slows down. While your family is young is a good time to encourage the development of the following qualities:
1) KNOWLEDGE -  It will have obvious benefits as your young adult will retain more knowledge and start life with a good grasp of dates and periods of the past.
2) IMAGINATIONS  - As they sense reality in the past, their imaginations will grow.
3) APPRECIATION  - They will learn an appreciation of the past which will spill into the present
4) RESPECT - They will learn a new respect for the passage of time and will learn to respect the future
5) WISDOM - It will make them wiser as they witness the hypothetical thinking or not from the past. Learning from past mistakes will take on a greater meaning for them
6) ENGAGING - Young adults will learn that history is engaging. Characters from the past weave an entertaining illustration around lifeless facts making history a lot more multi-dimensional that a long string of facelss facts designed to make exam time more difficult.
7) MEMORY -  Your young adult will become more proficient at creating instantaneous story 'cues' to remember facts later.
8) DISCERNMENT - It will also teach them to be discerning, when they see how the past can be altered with the flick of the writers pen or the command from a king for example.
9) RESPECT - It will teach appreciation for the aging process and respect older people
10) ROLE MODELING - Helps them shape how they develop. The characters from the past are excellent role models for young adults. Their variety of designs and temperaments offer a wide selection for young adults to model themselves after.
11) ACCOUNTABILITY - Helps them decide what lifestyle might better suit them or not when they are adults. Watching the outcome for others can help shape the young adults accountability for their own actions - NOW!
Check out, smashwords and any institution carrying historical fiction books and help your young adult get a head start in life!

Teens ~ How to Prepare and What NOT to Wear on Your Mexican Jungle Tour WITHOUT BOUNCiN' YOUR STYLE

Landis and Casey Grace wrote an article for!&id=6710280and decided to share it here, too, for readers that are coming to the Mayan world in the Yucatan.
Here it is ~

Teens (and adults, too) ~ ziplining, hiking and cave snorkelling in the jungle is no excuse to look slade!
Any day trip you make in the Yucatan, Mexico, home of the ancient Mayan, whether it be tripping around Chichen Itza, hiking through the Tulum jungle or ATVing along ancient Mayan sacbe’s, it is rad to be as chillin’ as you can and not packin’ the kitchen sink.

Being a local in the jungles and beaches of the ancient Mayan world all my life and knowing a lot of adventure guides I have written “What to prepare and what NOT to wear” guidelines that are shared in two parts.
My name is Landis Grace and welcome to the jungles and adventures of the ancient Mayans.

1) DO NOT bring a huge backpack that is ugly and makes you look like Marco Polo. In a style that matches your swimsuit bring a small stylish backpack or even a beachbag with long handles that you can use like a backpack. I like the small backpack better because it has pockets but the beach bag will do, too. As long as it matches your swimsuit.

2) DO NOT bring your wallet. Wallets are heavy – Put the cash you think you will need for the day (preferably pesos but American dollars are accepted mostly everywhere), some ID like your health card or social insurance card and a credit card in a sandwich size ziploc bag to keep it dry from the water bottle, wet towel or even in the unlikely event of rain. Leave your important identification like your passport and the rest of your cash in the safe in the hotel. Don’t bring another smaller purse to put in the big purse – it adds unnecessary weight and if you have two purses your ‘purse-instinct’ might let you leave one of them somewhere.

2) DO NOT wear hiking boots – they are UGLY, HEAVY, TAKE WAY TOO LONG TO DRY AND YOU WILL NOT NEED THEM! DO wear some nice sandals, of course comfortable without tall heels so you can walk in them without socks, yuck, and the best would be some that could get wet and would dry quickly… leather is okay, but leather doesn’t usually dry fast ~ even though the weather is perfect here in Mexico there are the odd puddles ~ and you want to be able to happily stomp through them not worrying about the state of the shoes afterwards! The jungle is the place to get back in touch with your inner child, not spending the day in wet leather hiking boots!

3) DO NOT get caught with uncharged batteries or a full chip on your camera or phone! Make sure you charge up everything the night before you leave – and download any photos you don’t need ~ you don’t want to be fumbling for your battery or deleting photos to make room as that spider monkey whooshes past you on your jungle walk! And – ziploc bag the stuff you don’t want to get wet!

4) DO NOT go without food! We have precious sugar levels to keep up! There is no reason why we have to starve waiting for the lunch stop. When you are booking your trip ask if lunch “comida/komeeeedah is/es incluido/inclueeeedoh”. Even if it is, it will probably mean a designated stop at a designated time so until then you might get hungry. Try to take small snacks from your hotel the morning of your trip to suffice on the bus, or between the opportunities of finding a snack or lunch stand. Grab some hard snacks like apples, cookies or oranges from your hotel, and have everything pre-washed with bottled water if it hasn’t been already. You can do like the Mayans and pre-peel the oranges so all you do is eat from the bag. Don’t bother with food like bananas and grapes as they get soft and squishy in minutes in the Mexican heat! Once you are inside a lot of the ruins, there may be no time nor availability for food.

5) DO NOT dehydrate! Grab a lime or two from your hotel and squirt some in your water bottles ~ it tastes better. Maybe even add a little sugar. And this is another hint – a lot of people like to freeze their water bottles the night before, but I do not recommend this – first off, it will go from being frozen to lukewarm very fast and in the meantime unless it is in a ziploc bag it will make a mess in your beach bag or backpack with the condensation. Leave it room temperature, that is the best for your stomach anyways. (the plastic bag is still a good idea anyways though)

6) DO NOT have streaky makeup ~ no, no, no ~ chicas, this is why waterproof mascara was invented – in another small plastic bag bring a small mirror in a crash-proof compact, waterproof mascara for touchups, lipstick (that matches your swimsuit and backpack) and a couple of paper napkins for sneezing, cleaning or wiping. If you are a fashion queen you could bring a hair brush, but a small one. Bring some extra hair elastics.

7) DO NOT bring a huge container of sunscreen! Transfer a small amount of sunscreen into a small plastic bag or small bottle. Start the morning with some on, and you won’t have to reapply until mid way through the trip, and probably only once.

8) DO NOT eat food from vendors that cannot be cleaned by you. Some of the local people will be selling food like bags of peeled oranges, pineapple, or peanuts outside the entrances of most of the ruins ~ I have personally eaten those but I wash fruit first with my bottled water. Peanuts in the shell are better or course. Unless you are starving though, best not to chance anything. Its not necessarily a cleanliness issue, because I am fine with all the foods I eat here in Mexico, but when I go back to Canada every summer my stomach feels queasy there for awhile - so I think it is just what we become accustomed to - so don't take a chance if you don't need to.

So now you know what your backpack is filled with for your trip. – camera, phone, plastic bag as wallet, plastic bag with a small amount of sunscreen, water bottle, compact, tissue, lipstick, mascara, maybe a hairbrush, elastics and for the first half of the trip anyways, apples, oranges and cookies. Not bad.
You are probably thinking what about towels, and swimsuits and changes of clothing and all that stuff?


There are a few realities of touring in the Yucatan, in Mexico.

A day trip is not the time to be spending lining up in the ladies washroom to squeeze into your swimsuit in a public washroom or changeroom, or to be lugging huge wet beachtowels around.

This is how you do it. There are some variations, but basically it is the same theme.

1) DO wear your swimsuit underneath your clothing. If you feel better wearing a one piece bathing suit, then I recommend this - find a bathing suit that looks like it is a one piece, but it actually two pieces. That way, if you have to go to the bathroom it won't be so difficult and you will be more comfortable if you can open your suit at the tummy to let the air in under your shirt if it gets really hot.
Now if you have a personal hygiene issue with wearing your swimsuit, here is the trick - wear a small minipad in your swimsuit and just before you go swimming, remove it and put it in some toilet paper and a baggie until you get it to a garbage.

2) DO bring a pair of underwear with a matching bra (preferably without underwire), that is sexy and colors matching your outfit just in case someone sees them! Anyone who sees them will definitely know you have got it goin' on! Put them in a larger ziploc bag, the ziploc bag you will put your wet swimsuit in if it doesn't dry before you get back on the bus.

3) DO wear a comfortable easy to wear something on top of the swimsuit. This is what I like to do because it is so easy. I love those throw over dresses that you can buy in the shop in the hotel. They are different styles and colors and they basically get thrown over your swimsuit. Easy. Pick one that matches your swimsuit, beachbag and sandals. Obviously don't get a super long one - not good for climbing ruins and things if you are planning to do that. Just the usual length you wear - remember you have your swimsuit on - and it will match your dress if anyone sees it.

4) DO add a pareo. Now pareos are called all different names depending on the country you are in, saris, sarongs, wraps, but here in Mexico we call them pareos. THIS WILL BE YOUR TOWEL. They are fairly inexpensive, very light, very absorbant and very versatile. They also make EXCELLENT souvenirs for your friends back home, too! They come in so many colors and you will be sure to find one in your outfit for the day colors. Or, if you are reading this in the planning stage, you can find a nice light fabric in your local fabric store that rocks and all you have to do is sew a hem on the open ends and you have a pareo. The pareo is so cool because you can use it for all kinds of things before you actually have to use it to dry off after swimming... you can drape it around your neck to carry it, and it will also absorb any perspiration you have, after all it is the jungle, chicas! Or, I know sometimes if the sun is out at chichen itza or the Tulum ruins it can get hot, so if you want, you can drape the pareo over your head and hold the two corners up, so you have instant shade! If you are getting sunburnt, you can wear it like a head scarf to cover your face and shoulders and its so light, you won't be like a furnace underneath!

If your dress you are wearing above needs a belt, voila, use your pareo!
If you need longer handles for your beach bag, use your pareo!
If you rent bikes in Coba Ruins for example, you might need an instant bungie cord to tie your stuff in the basket, use your pareo!
If you decide after all you will buy a huge souvenir for your friend back home and it doesn't fit in your beach bag, make a sling and carry it in your pareo!
You can see what I mean about pareos, right?

Even if you wanted to travel really light, you could use your pareo as your dress wrap, there are tons of videos on youtube demonstrating how to put them on.

5) DO wear shorts and a button up shirt if you don't want to wear a dress. Make sure they are light, and won't stick to your body when you get damp from walking or leftover swimming. I recommend the button up for two reasons - you won't get all tangled lifting it over your head and also, it gives you another option for ventilation if it gets hot - you can unbutton it and leave it open, because you have your swimsuit underneath!

I also recommend light shorts. Fitness pants can be good for two reasons - there is no bulky zipper and they dry really fast if they get wet. They cover more of your leg, so you won't have to worry about too much showing when you are climbing out on the swim ladders at the cenotes in your swimsuit. If you are going ziplining, having shorts on either by themselves or under the dress is a must, because your dress will be flying! Also fitness shorts are good because, without pockets you can't leave anything important in them that might fall out when you are ruin climbing or going in and out of buses. Best to have everything in your beach bag.

6) DO wear a hat! Like I mentioned a lot of the ruins are in the sun with very little shade, so you will want to have shade on your face for a good part of the time. Remember the light as possible suggestion, and try not to bring a light color as you will be sweating and taking it on and off and you don't want one of those unsightly sweat lines for all to see when you are off swimming. Also - good rule - don't buy a hat that says something spanish on it unless you TOTALLY know what it says! Sometimes hat makers can have a good laugh with what they put on unsuspecting tourists heads. Get the kind of hat that has the velcro hasp at the back, because if you decide to go for the tan you don't want it squished in your beach bag - just velcro it on one of the handles and carry it around. You might even want to have a safety pin to pin it there just in case.

7) DO wear sunglasses. I recommend the type that have the nose saddle holding them on, instead of the separate nose pads. You are going to be taking them on and off all day, for photos, for swimming, to see your camera lens in the sun, many many times, and those nose pad sunglasses always get caught in my hair, probably yours too. I highly recommend getting one of those cool croakies neck cords to hang them around your neck when you have to take them off and on all the time.
So now you are completely ready to show that being a traveling jungle girl doesn't mean you don't have it all together.

In PART 1 your stylish backback or backpack is filled so far for your day trip - camera, phone, plastic bag as wallet, plastic bag with a small amount of sunscreen, water bottle, compact, tissue, lipstick, mascara, maybe a hairbrush, elastics and for the first half of the trip anyways, apples, oranges and cookies.

In PART 2 we added your stylish undies and matching bra in a larger plastic bag and a safety pin. You will want to add a small non-transparent baggie to put your mini-pad in until you can throw it out. Your bag is still pretty light and you are not packing the kitchen sink. You will have time to enjoy the trip thoroughly and know you look stylish and like you have it goin' on.

You are matching and stylish from top to bottom, from hat to sandals.
If you have any more questions you need answered, just send me a note at and I will answer it for you!

Enjoy your trip!

Hurricane Rina

Here is a funny thing about the hurricane we almost had here... enjoy our laugh!

Join Landis and Maya on their Investigating Adventures!

Landis is a Canadian girl growing up in the wilds of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

She and her Mayan friend, who's NAME is Maya, too! can be found solving mysteries in the deep jungles of the yucatan, sleuthing over thousand year old ruins, or investigating caves and cenotes for buried treasure!

Whether they are helping release baby sea turtles on Isla Mujeres, or swimming with the dolphins near Cozumel, these girls are always up to some great fun while they solve some of the most baffling cases!

Come join the girls as they unravel a thousand year old mystery, like in the first Landis Adventure called

"The Secret At Chichen Itza!