Published On: Fri, Apr 15th, 2016

Hidden Sisal: An insider’s guide to a Yucatecan cenote tour by boat

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My hands hugged a warm mug of fresh coffee as I sat on the patio of Las Hamacas awaiting my tour guide. The leaves of palm trees danced with the soft whisper breeze as morning sun rays warmed my skin. Friends had asked me to join them for a chalana boat tour in the cienega (inlet). Curiosity had taken over my mind, and I sensed adventure with a promise of a newly discovered cenote.

Juan Carlos of EnsisalTours.com arrived promptly to the boutique bed and breakfast, excited to show off his outdoor playground. I had been to Sisal several times, and never knew the petén housed a secret cenote. A petén resembles an island, and in the Yucatán is considered a sacred place to ancient Maya, as a source for connecting to the origins of life. Historically known as a birthplace for animals, fish, and birds alike, a petén offers protection while one grows into its own.

A short drive along the coastline of Sisal, led us to a sand entrance to the cienega, where other guides awaited with small blueish chalanas (boats) we boarded eagerly. Each chalana had its guide who navigated through the waters with a bamboo oar. S,Slaaaaap as it entered the water, followed by swiiisssshhhh…swahhhhhh….slewwww, s,slaaaaap, s, s,laaaa… The reflection of the sky on the mesmerizing water made it feel as if we were floating on effervescent clouds. White pelicans graced our view, and sun highlighted the water splash drops left behind as they took flight.

It could only be described as magic, and the journey had just begun.  Approaching an island of mangroves and the chirping sounds of birds, I could not help but notice how many types of birds shared this space. Branches were filled with nests, and egrets were abundant. Glimpses of red cardinals, pink flamingos painting the sky with their long outstretched necks as they flew to their next feeding spot, hummingbirds, and dragonflies kissing the chalana. It was one of the most beautiful sights. We spotted Yucatán jays, ospreys or fishing eagles, and too many others to name.

Our navigator crossed the water filled with crabs crawling below, from the island to a canopied entrance of a stream. Stopping to point out a group of Mojarra fish, known as the fish of the cenote, he explained how its tail camouflages to the blue of the pristine cenote water. Heading up-stream in the perfection of fairytale-style beauty of nature, I pinched myself to see if this was real. A tall tree of life sprouted majestically from the waters of the cenote, reminding me of a hidden treasure.

It was simply breathtaking. Splashing and playing in the pure water, we let our guides go ahead as we thrill-seekers floated downstream. The experience was dreamlike, and something I wish I could personally show everyone. Juan Carlos had discovered something magical in Sisal, Yucatán, Mexico, and this serendipity was an unexpected surprise to me.

This Yucatecan Gondola experience is my idea of a morning commute. Birds, nature, and no traffic sounds. I can still hear the birds splashing across the water, and the flapping of their wings, and the embrace of the petén water’s spell. The chalana tour is a story-book in the making, and polaroid picture perfect.

Guide: Juan Carlos

Company: EnsisalTours.com

Sisal Tours Available: Chalana, Kayak, and Casa de Playa (Beach House)

By Miranda Allfrey for TYT

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Miranda Allfrey

Miranda Allfrey is an accredited International Travel Writer, with features published in The Yucatán  Times and Live and Invest Overseas. Discovering charming destinations for more than a decade, she  seeks out local experiences, culture, and delicious food wherever her travels take her. Miranda’s  personal travel blog, Cloud Surfing, can be found here- cloudsurfing.life

Favorite Beach (so far): Harbour Island
Motto: Dream Bigger!!
Upcoming Travel Plans: Thailand, Iceland, Budapest
Favorite Place to Write: Cloud Surfing at 30,000 feet
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