I promised myself I would take myself on a trip to a place I’d never been, to celebrate my newfound freedom, after a long and arduous divorce. Having traversed several continents except the closest: South America, I chose Tulum, Mexico. Its proximity and calmness was a good reason to spend a week alone recuperating in nature. Living in Austin, Texas brings me closer to South America in many ways, significantly to Mexico, whose influence is palpable in this border state. It feels almost traitorous not to visit and learn about the beauty – past and present, of this culturally rich neighbor.
Choosing Tulum was easy. I needed to unwind in a quiet, natural environment without the noise of daily life. Unencumbered, simple, remote, natural, without cell phone or internet connection, I went non-digital. I found the perfect locale: Cesiak – a gorgeous preserved wildlife refuge on a protected lagoon on one side with magnificent Caribbean ocean views on the other. http://cesiak.org
I like adventure and the unexpected. So when I arrived at Tulum via a coach bus from Cancun airport, little did I realize that the last leg of the journey would be like a trip in India. From Tulum city you must pass through a gate to Sian Kaan, where Cesiak is located. The road is not paved, as oil (tar) would leak into this sensitive protected wilderness area. What you get is a 3.5 km dusty potholed road that causes your stomach to jump into your mouth as your taxi driver unsuccessfully rollercoasts his way to Cesiak. It took about a half hour to traverse that road.
Upon arrival to my upgraded girl scout tent, I felt like a kid at sleep-away camp for the first time. I crashed on the bed crying out of relief and nervous excitement. I was on my own again, anticipating an unknown future. I was ready to dream my own dreams, alone in my sturdy tent. Held together by metal poles on thick wooden baseboards, the canvas is super strong to withstand hurricanes and strong winds, which shook the zippered flaps wildly upon my arrival. June is rainy season but I didn’t care. I sat for a good three hours in the semi-darkness meditating and thanking the Fates for bringing me safely to this haven.
There’s no electricity in the tent; instead you use lanterns and candles. Bathrooms and showers are shared with around 25 other residents. Be prepared for a rock hard bed with plenty of pillows to cushion your derriere.
The people working at Cesiak, who are mostly Mayan, were what made the entire experience unforgettable. I am in deep respect and humility because everyone I encountered was sincerely warmhearted and personable. I even learned a few Mayan words from Geronimo. I stayed for 7 days and 6 nights, leaving the property just twice.
The food was delicious and inexpensive. Mayan cuisine and Mexican fusion included locally caught fish accompanied by crushed pumpkin seed paste used as dip for fish tortillas with deep fried minced garlic in a syrupy, savory sauce. Breakfast for me was a simple mango and half a papaya.
Tours at Cesiak
I went on two: kayaking and a boat tour of the lagoon. It was a coincidence that I had the same tour guide both times. He was delightful, informative and animated. On the boat tour we floated down the lagoon for a bit on life vests. When I queried, “what would happen if a crocodile came?” The guide replied in all seriousness, “I’d protect you all and let you guys float first down the lagoon.” As if a croc would actually distinguish between Mr. Tarzan and us?
If you are a birdwatcher then this place is paradise. During the kayaking tour through the multi-colored mangroves, we saw green herons, egrets, turkey vultures, ospreys, white ibis, frigates and other species. One evening after 11pm we witnessed a parade of sea turtles laying eggs on the shore. Our guide was careful not to disturb them so we adjusted our eyes to night vision.
We even saw two sea turtles playing in the ocean during the day. Everyone was so excited, and one of the guides got out his handy telescope for the guests to see them. If you arrive in December, I’m told it’s a much more alive atmosphere for the birds are not migrating away from Cesiak- AND there’s no rain.
Federal Road (307) Cancun-Tulum, #68 Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Tel: (52) 984-871-2499 info@CESiaK.org