TripAdvisor Review: Alltournative Mayan Encounter

This week’s review, posted to TripAdvisor, details the fun we had going on a Mayan Encounter with our tour guide, Rodolfo:

My husband and I went on the Mayan Encounter in April 2010, and had a fabulous time! Our guide, Rodolfo, had a great sense of humor. He also made sure to keep the youngest member of our tour (about age 9) safe and engaged.

The day started with a trip to the ruins at Coba. We were the only two people in our group who opted not to rent a bicycle or take a “Mayan Limousine” (bicycle taxi) out to Nohoch Muul. If I had it to do over, I would have gone ahead and spent the extra money for the taxi. While the walk wasn’t difficult, it took up valuable time — we had just enough time to walk out, climb the stairs, take a few pictures, and come back, and we were the last ones back to the van.

After the ruins, we headed to the Mayan village, where we stowed our gear and went for a walk in the jungle….

I also brought a waterproof camera with me, and was discreet about photographing, as there are Mayan photographers with Alltournative that take photos during the activities. Rodolfo asked us, in his own dry and amusing way, not to interfere with the photographers on-site. He also made it clear that he wouldn’t be climbing down into any ravines to fetch lost cameras. I believe his quotable on the subject was, “Too bad, so sad.” Cameras ARE allowed, but you bring them at your own risk.

Rodolfo and the Shaman

The activities aren’t necessarily done in the order they’re listed on the Alltournative website: we rappelled into the cenote first (after being purified, of course), then went down the zipline, then went canoeing. The rappelling was the most nerve-wracking for myself and my husband, but also very high on the fun factor (for me, anyway). The most dangerous, though, could well have been just walking in the jungle! It had just rained, so the ground was slick, and there were rocks and roots everywhere. My husband and I were glad to have worn our hiking sandals, and I would encourage anyone going on this tour to consider a pair. I would have been uncomfortable in closed shoes, especially with either damp socks or no socks at all after swimming.

The rappelling could have been disastrous, but wasn’t: at the very bottom, as I was settling into the inner tube that was waiting for me in the cenote, my hair got caught in the hooks and ropes of the rappelling harness. The native guide in the cenote called up to the people back at the top of the rope, and they hauled up on the rope just enough to free my hair. An incident that could have ruined my entire vacation in a very major way ended up being just a 30-second blip in the fun.

The zipline was brief but enjoyable. We each got a helmet and a wooden stick to be used as a brake. For those of us larger types, the brake didn’t seem to do much, and the photos of us at the end of the zipline were basically us with expressions of abject horror that we WEREN’T STOPPING — but there was a foam sleeve around the zipline at the end that finished the braking process, thankfully.

The canoeing seemed to be just a timesink — something to allow the staff to finish up the meal preparation and photo transfers — but it was relaxing and enjoyable nonetheless. It had been years since either I or my husband went canoeing, so just tooling around a lake was fun and relaxing.

The Mayan meal was simple and delicious: chicken, beans, empanadas, tortillas, rice, and flavored waters (I’m a big fan of the tamarind water).

Mayan Lunch

After lunch, we got to view the photos taken by the staff. There were a few that were well-composed and better than your average snapshot, but a single printed photo cost $20, and even the package deals (digital photos on CD) were entirely too expensive. I’m glad I brought my own camera, but disappointed that the staff photos were so overpriced.

On our way back, Rodolfo took us past the Alltournative shop for a “technical stop” and a round of tequila shots (for those of us of age). Unfortunately, he didn’t mention that he wanted to do a toast, so one person grabbed her shot, and the rest of us followed suit while Rodolfo was away from the table for a moment. When he came back and saw that we’d already finished our shots, he seemed very disappointed that we hadn’t gotten to toast our day together, “but this time we do it the American way, no?”

Overall, this was a great way to try some new things, see some amazing and beautiful sights, and learn about the Mayan culture. To Rodolfo — I had a great time, and I hope you weren’t too intimidated by my TripAdvisor hat. I wasn’t really a “secret shopper.” 🙂

Diana at Nohoch Muul