Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula: Off the Beaten Trek

Dividing the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea and encompassing Mexico’s three westernmost states, the Yucatán Peninsula offers much more than its famous white sand beaches and all-inclusive resorts.

Where else is it possible to skin-dive with a huge school of whale sharks, walk in the footsteps of the ancient Maya, swim in crystalline cenotes, stroll through colonial towns layered in history and tradition, explore pristine, protected reef systems and encounter American crocodiles in the wild—all in the same trip?

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Divers encounter a curious nurse shark in Banco Chinchorro’s protected waters.

 

Beyond the high-rises of Cancun, the Yucatán is geographically, biologically and culturally rich, home to the Maya Lowlands and numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, as well as protected biospheres, marine parks and wildlife corridors. The second-largest barrier reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Reef, stretches along its western coastline, providing myriad diving opportunities—the best of which are not found in the well-known (and often overcrowded) tourist areas. Miles of underground river systems, accessible through cenotes, are hidden beneath the jungle, creating seemingly endless options for cavern and cave diving.

Kirsten Clahr, general manager of German travel agency Extratour, explored just a few of these places on a customized, small group trip she led recently with Yucatan Dive Trek.

“The whole trip was just amazing—such a big variety of things to see and do. Our company’s aim is to go off the beaten track. We take our clients to remote areas where they will experience something new, and that’s exactly what this trip was about.”

– Kirsten Clahr, General Manager, Extratour

 

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Shipwreck dive in Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve

 

Getting off the beaten track in Mexico requires local knowledge, connections and know-how. And although she is an avid diver and experienced world traveler with 20 years of tour industry experience, Kirsten had never been to any of the places on her itinerary previously—in fact, she had never even heard of some of them prior to reserving the trip. Yucatan Dive Trek and its sister operation XTC Dive Center arranged everything in advance, also providing end-to-end trip support.

Kirsten said, “When I was booking this trip, some of our guests told me, ‘we don’t need a tour guide,’ but I convinced them of the value.'”

“Our guide was there not only to drive us around and translate, but to show us the most interesting places and take us to the best restaurants—places we would never find on our own—so we could relax and enjoy the experience without worrying about the next stage. For me, it was a very relaxed trip—normally I am the tour guide!”

Even if it were possible to arrange some of the pieces independently, relying on local guides enriches the experience and smoothes out logistics, not to mention supporting the local economy—a value that should not be overlooked. Extratour’s trip focused heavily on diving of course, and their private dive boat was often the only one in sight. There were several professional photographers in the group, including Kirsten’s husband, Beo Brockhausen, and she reported they were “especially happy” to have access to pristine, uncrowded dive sites and unhurried encounters with wildlife.

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The untamed waters off the Costa Maya, just a few hours’ drive from Cancun, offer untouched reefs and abundant wildlife—but you have to know where to go.

 

The next few posts will follow Extratour’s custom itinerary “Best of the Yucatán,” from diving the remote reefs of Xcalak and meeting the crocodiles of Banco Chinchorro, to exploring the jungle ruins of Calakmul and colonial Valladolid, to diving the “magical cenotes” and getting up close with the largest congregation of whale sharks in the world. These are just a few of the unique experiences that Yucatan Dive Trek can organize for small groups, families or individuals.

Take a look at Kirsten’s trip highlight reel below (complete with mood-setting Caribbean soundtrack), and stay tuned for new posts featuring Xcalak Reef National Marine Park and Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve—both about as far “off the beaten trek” as you can get.

 

“Best of the Yucatan” highlight video courtesy of Kirsten Clahr

 

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Kirsten and Beo at Calakmul with Yucatan Dive Trek, looking over the jungle from the top of an ancient Maya pyramid.

Kirsten Clahr is the general manager of Extratour, a specialty travel agency based in Göttingen, Germany. An avid diver herself with nearly 20 years of industry experience, Kirsten is always looking for new and exciting destinations off the beaten track. She particularly loves underwater encounters with wildlife.

Beo Brockhausen, Kirsten’s husband, is an accomplished underwater photographer who often joins her on trips and shares his photography advice with her groups. His work has appeared in well-known magazines such as Unterwasser, Atlantis, and Tauchen.

Kirsten and Beo contributed photos and video to this series of posts, featuring a custom “diving-culture-adventure” itinerary operated by Yucatan Dive Trek.

 

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Yucatan Dive Trek is a full-service tour operator based in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, catering to travelers who seek authentic experiences and one-of-a-kind encounters. We specialize in unique diving holidays, organizing and customizing trips to the best destinations in the region—in and under the water as well as on land.

Please contact Yucatan Dive Trek for more information.

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