Alltournative Jungle Maya Expedition
Outdoor Adventure in the Riviera Maya
Billed as an “eco-archaeological expedition,” Alltournative’s Jungle Maya Expedition is an adventurous 8-hour tour tailor-made for serious adrenaline junkies. Picking up from hotels in Cancun and throughout the Riviera Maya, the socially responsible company transports guests to Rancho San Felipe, where they lease prime Yucatan property from a Mayan family and hire indigenous locals as guides.
Our day began with snorkeling in the Nohoch Nah Chich cave, the entrance to one of the world’s longest underground rivers. The Sac-Actun river system stretches more than 138 miles, of which more than 95 miles have been explored and mapped.
Photo provided by Altournative
These caves been featured in National Geographic documentaries and Planet Earth, and it’s easy to see why. The brilliant blue waters and spectacular stalactites and stalagmites are positively otherworldly. The swim was a bit dark and claustrophobic for some in our group. But our guide, who carried the only flashlight, was great about pointing out tiny fish and bat colonies, and telling us about the amazing archaeological finds that divers had made there.
Coming out of the caves into the midday sun was a bit of a buzzkill, but we quickly set off for a 30- minute hike through the jungle to find huge Mercedes Benz Unimogs. These monolithic ATVs are renowned for traversing even the harshest of landscapes. Riding up and down trails strewn with huge rocks, fallen trees and potholes felt like being on some massive rodeo bull. Afterwards, our relaxing swim in Yaxmuul- a natural underground pool- was blissful by comparison.
Photo by Bret Love
Our lunch was equally refreshing, featuring scrumptious traditional dishes. Famished after several hours of exercise, we gorged ourselves on empanadas, Achiote-spiced chicken, and sweet horchata. After several servings, we felt ready for just about anything.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature proved to be more than up for that challenge. As we geared up for a mountain bike ride through the jungle, the skies suddenly rained down a hellish tropical deluge. As I struggled to keep my glasses and camera dry, a pedal fell off my bike. Fortunately, one of the guides traded with me, and the rain began to let up as we soared through the forest canopy on a three zip-line circuit.
Photo provided by Alltournative
Next thing you know, we’re strapping ourselves into harnesses so tight I thank the heavens I’m not interested in having more children. Then we’re leaning back over a 50-feet drop into an ancient Mayan cenote, with some of the most beautiful aquamarine water I’ve ever seen. My heart is beating an insistent tribal rhythm in my chest as we gradually rappel down, eventually easing into cool, refreshing waters and lazily floating away the afternoon.
Cenotes were considered sacred by the ancient Mayans, so it seemed appropriate when we ended our day of adventure on a more spiritual note. As the sun set, we made our way down into a dry cenote, where we met a Mayan shaman. He greeted us in his native tongue and gave us each a handful of herbs. After putting coal into a chalice, he passed it around so we could add our offering, saying a prayer to the gods for our safe journey home. With the blazing fire, the jungle surrounding us, and the sacred incantation, it was a transcendent moment to end an amazing day that none of us would ever forget. –Bret Love
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