2009 Mexican Eco-Blogging Green Adventure Xel-Ha Eco-Park
Posted Apr 01 2009 1:48pm
Set in middle of the Yucatan jungle, Xel-Ha (pronounced “shell-ha”) is a protected inlet set near Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. It is touted as being a natural aquarium park, and is indeed quite beautiful.
Talk about an up-close and personal view of ocean life! Snorkeling in the crystal clear ocean waters at Xel-Ha is very much like swimming in an aquarium. It is free of walls and glass panes, has no man-made lights or feeding mechanisms, and has over 70 species of colorful fish. Luis, being the strongest swimmer in the family, swam across the inlet and back to view some of the fish in the inlet which were as large as he is – bigger even. Absolutely amazing.
All the staff at Xel-Ha are extraordinarily helpful and kind. Our guides from Xel-Ha, Daniela and Delio, showed me a behind the scenes view of Xel-Ha which was r eally a tour of a lifetime for a greening expert. Their kitchen system feeds up to 11,000 people per day and features a fantastic organic recycling program whereby all the food waste is recycled and composted, even the meats and bones. You can see this demonstrated in the giant compost bin shown on the left. All paper, plastic, and metal is recycled on the property and I got to visit the recycling and compost system. Saitra Perez Cabrera is a biologist who runs the recycling and compost program. She gave me a marvelous tour of her facility and we bonded over our mutual love for composting. It was marvelous – here is a photo of us together in front of her compost area.
Xel-Ha also uses no drinking straws on the facility, which injure animals, and prints no visitor maps. If you are interested in finding your position within the park, you are encouraged to look at the large maps which are hung at regular intervals instead of using a printed sheet which must be thrown away. Below, you can see how large the eco-park facility is and get a view of the inlet.
More importantly, Xel-Ha works to promote community by educating both its employees and the surrounding cities on greening concepts. This has brought benefits beyond any expectations to the people who live here. Xel-Ha Natural Wonder Park carries out some awesome “green” programs and is the first park in Mexico to apply for the Green Globe 21 certification process, which aims to face environmental challenges, social and cultural aspects, and make the benefits of tourism reach local communities. The sustainability upon which Green Globe is founded resides in a simple concept: To preserve resources for future generations. Xel-Ha is truly working to make this happen.
While I was toured around the “behind the scenes” facility, Luis and my daughter swam in the inlet. Both enjoyed large salt water fish experiences and got to feed the fish by hand as well. We later went to visit and tour the plant nursery and a Mayan bee apiary, which is where a special stingless bee lives. The apiary features a Mayan style of caring for the bees. They hollow out logs and drill a hole for the bees to come and go like the photo to the left. We met a very dangerous ant which lives in the Yucutan peninsula called the “Tiger Ant”. Above you see a photo of the ant army. Their bite is quite painful, so we stayed well away from them.
There was nature all around us and at one point Daniela and Delio surprised us with a special dive underwater called “Sea Trek” – wow – it was absolutely unforgettable. We wore special diving helmets on our shoulders and were able to walk on the bottom of the ocean while breathing normally. It was a great way to touch nature. We were able to see hundreds of fish this way. According to the guides, my daughter was the youngest person to ever go on the Sea Trek adventure at age eight. She LOVED it and did just fine.
All of the family was very thrilled when we had the great privilege of swimming with and feeding large sting rays during this experience. Sting rays feel surprisingly soft when you touch them and are graceful – it’s like watching a dance when they swim together.
What a wonderful and amazing ocean adventure for my family to experience – you can see us all together in front of the inlet in the photo below. Watching the people of Xel-Ha care for the land, the ocean, and their community was both exciting and inspirational. They believe in leaving a legacy for all the world to see.
What are you doing in your community to make a green difference?
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