Xcaret, Eco Park In Cancun

Xcaret (http://www.xcaret.com) is an eco park that offers visitors that opportunity to explore Mexican wildlife and history in a fun and interactive environment. The name means little inlet in Mayan and refers to the small bay that was once an important port for sailors transporting goods around the Yucatan peninsula. It was also the port, known as Pole, from which the Mayan people would travel to the small island of Cozumel in order to worship the goddess Ixchel. Attractions such as snorkeling, scuba diving, cultural shows and various tours are enough to keep everyone happily occupied for an entire day.

Underwater tours, dubbed 'Ecotours', are arranged everyday and suit every need from those who can't swim to experienced divers:

Scuba diving

Certified divers can discover the magnificent reefs just offshore, swimming with the hundreds of exotic fish that live in the coral. Beginners can take basic diving courses, lasting an hour and half, in calmer waters. This course does not earn you a certificate. Tours are one and a half hours and limited to 12 people per group. Participants must be ten years of age or older and must be able to swim.

Snorkeling

Xcaret is prime snorkeling territory with a tranquil lagoon, a calm bay and two underground rivers to explore. The lagoon branches off into smaller waterways with hammocks placed among the trees along their banks. More adventurous visitors can explore the underground rivers with their spectacular caves, sinkholes and rock formations home to a myriad of tropical fish. Both rivers reemerge near the mangroves where a small group of flamingoes have made their home.

Snuba

A combination of snorkeling and diving, this underwater activity involves breathing through a long tube connected to an oxygen tank that floats on the water's surface. Snuba gives you the freedom to descend to depths of the 20 feet (6 meters) without having to take an expensive diving course.

Sea Trek

An ideal choice for those who can't swim, sea trekking uses a helmet with air tubes for oxygen and some heavy diving boots. This leaves the visitor free to stroll along the seabed, at a depth of up to 16 feet, in slow motion and watch the fish swim by.

Xcaret provides a unique opportunity to swim with dolphins. Kept in a specially adapted enclosure, resembling their natural habitat, the dolphins are free to interact with their visitors. Unlike swimming with dolphins in the wild, these dolphins are trained to jump over you in the water, push you through the water, give you a kiss and 'sing' for you. This will set you back $115 per person for one hour of playtime. A dolphin swimming program specifically aimed at young children is offered at a cost of around $58 per person for 30 minutes.

For the more serious marine enthusiasts a fee of $195 gives you the chance to become a dolphin trainer for the day. You are shown how to feed, train and look after the dolphins. The price includes entrance to the park, a uniform, food, photo, video and a certificate at the end of the day.

Xcaret Park has a theatre capable of seating 6000 people for evening shows featuring Mayan warriors and priests from ancient times. Various cultural traditions and ceremonies are depicted in these evening performances; such as the Papantla flyers who perform some fantastic acrobatics in honour of the Sun God.

Other attractions include an aquarium, butterfly pavilion, a wildlife enclosure filled with birds, a mushroom farm and a deer shelter. A separate section called Jaguar Island allows visitors to view these impressive large cats through telescopes. There is, of course, a beach with all the usual amenities such as beach chairs and the added bonus of hammocks strung to palm trees. Guided tours of ancient archaeological sites and a replica of a typical ancient Mayan village give visitors an insight into how Mayan people used to live.

Xcaret is a fantastic place to take the kids for the day but it is not the place to go for a taste of real Mexico. It is a very commercialized and popular tourist attraction which means it can get extremely crowded at peak season.

Park admission fees include some basic activities as well as the equipment needed. They also include use of beach umbrellas, hammocks, chairs and rubber tubes. The basic admission fee is $49 for adults and $25 for children.

For further information on admission fees and complementary packages visit the Xcaret website.

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