Travel

What We Did Instead of Swimming with Dolphins in Cozumel

Kun Che Mayan Ball Game and Lunch Excursion_Cozumel without swimming with dolphins

Two weeks before they’d fly down to New Orleans to meet me, before I’d call a Lyft to carry us to the port, and before we four would skip excitedly onto deck 3 of the Carnival Dream, my 10yo spent a handful of evening hours after a full day of school researching and producing a Google slideshow on animal welfare — for just-because reasons. The presentation climaxed with a call to action, an earnest plea for donations of cash and time, for the good of animals across the globe. That kid and her animals.

So yeah, a few breaststrokes alongside a dolphin in Mexico would probably have been neat, but there was just no freaking way.

Here’s what we did instead of swimming with dolphins in Cozumel

Kun Che Mayan Ball Game and Lunch Excursion_Cozumel without swimming with dolphins

We already had a beach day booked for Ilsa Roatan, Honduras that week and we Bogles can sit still on dry land or wade peacefully in calm waters for only so long — an additional beach day wasn’t an enticing prospect.

Kun Che Mayan Ball Game and Lunch Excursion_Cozumel without swimming with dolphins

I stared at my laptop screen, dispassionately scrolling again and again through the Cozumel excursion choices before the Mayan Ball Game and lunch experience caught my eye — looked colorful, could pop in a photograph, reviews were universally positive with the added bonus of many citing the quality of food and people involved, plus this excursion was priced fairly enough to take a gamble on it. So we did.

Kun Che Mayan Ball Game and Lunch Excursion_Cozumel without swimming with dolphins

Man, we are so happy we did.

Kun Che Mexican Dancing and Lunch Excursion_Cozumel without swimming with dolphins

The Mrs enjoys a virgin Piña colada.

A short walk from the colorful, boisterous pier led us to one of several long white tour buses — the kind you step up onto, the kind with cloth seats and metal foot rests, the kind with good shocks to soak up the many bumps of Caribbean back roads.

Kun Che Mayan Ball Game and Lunch Excursion_Cozumel without swimming with dolphins

The ride was pleasant, fairly brief, and not overcrowded so I was in good spirits already when rubber souls met dirt earth outside Kun Che, a park located at the oldest human settlement of the island “El Cedral” town.

Kun Che is a sedate, idyllic sanctuary and as such, we received a protective blessing from a Mayan shaman before kicking off the full experience.

Kun Che Mayan Ball Game and Lunch Excursion_Cozumel without swimming with dolphins

To be honest, I hadn’t a clue what was being said — she could have been putting a pox on us pasty white colonialists for all I know (and I wouldn’t have totally blamed her) — but the spiritual ceremony was enchanting.

The entire group of 25-30 sat speechless. Even the young people, whose natural inclination might be to squirm or fidget, remained still.

All eyes and minds were focused on the raw emotion and subtle movements of the Mayan woman leading us in prayer.

Kun Che Mayan Ball Game and Lunch Excursion_Cozumel without swimming with dolphins

The Mayan ball game advertised at the top of the excursion marque followed. And it was awesome.

Pok Ta Pok is bit of soccer mixed with hacky sack and a dash basketball tossed in for good measure, however no hands are allowed to be used. There is a hoop, although situated at a completely different angle from bball, and the ball is round but otherwise, this sacred pre-hispanic ball game is unlike anything I’ve witnessed.

Kun Che Mayan Ball Game Pok Ta Pok and Lunch Excursion_Cozumel without swimming with dolphins

In the heyday of Mayan civilization the winning Pok Ta Pok team would be sacrificed. Winning, yes you read that correctly. It was an honor to be given to the gods and gods only like winners, ya know?

The girls enjoyed watching the action as well as the intense post-game fire eating ritual from their front row seats on the shaded concrete terrace of the small Pok Ta Pok arena.

A leisurely stroll deeper into the sanctuary led to a short lesson in all-natural corn tortilla making and a quick chocolate tasting, both in the cool shade of thatched huts.

My youngest was plucked out of the crowd to make, stretch and flatten a tortilla in front of fellow cruise passengers. Her tortilla was then filled with a delicious almond paste and, much to my surprise because she’s got a fair bit of food texture issues, the kid enjoyed it and wished she could have seconds.

Fear not, child, lunch is near!

While the Mrs and I chowed down on chicken tacos, vegetarian open-faced soft taco options of avocado and hard boiled eggs, with tomato and optional pickled red onions, were available for my little veg-heads. When they finished, friendly Kun Che wait staff made more of the non-meat delicacies and delivered them to our table as we all watched dancers perform with genuine glee.

Kun Che Mexican Dancing and Lunch Excursion_Cozumel without swimming with dolphins Kun Che Mexican Dancing and Lunch Excursion_Cozumel without swimming with dolphins Kun Che Mexican Dancing and Lunch Excursion_Cozumel without swimming with dolphins Kun Che Mexican Dancing and Lunch Excursion_Cozumel without swimming with dolphins

I’m glad we skipped the dolphin swim. I mean obviously, but an alternate, remarkable excursion experience helped give us no regrets.

Kun Che Mayan Ball Game and Lunch Excursion_Cozumel without swimming with dolphins

We couldn’t have selected a cooler Cozumel excursion experience during our Carnival cruise to the island.

We learned a bit, eat a bit more, laughed and interacted with sweet people who by all accounts enjoy their work, culture, island and country, and enjoy showing it all to visitors. All that sure as hell beats swimming with dolphins in Cozumel and the philosophical, ethical and animal welfare dilemmas associated with such a captive animal encounter.

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One Comment

  1. Reading this and looking at the photos, certainly seem
    as if you made the right choice.
    Love to follow along on all your excursions, they make
    me feel as if I am there with you.

joc