My First GoPro Video: Snorkeling with Whale Sharks in Mexico

Several months and several posts ago, I discussed my experience snorkeling with whale sharks for the first time (a bucket list item) and promised an accompanying GoPro video once it was edited. Well, long overdo, here is the video! Enjoy!

 

Bucket List Item Completed: See a Whale Shark

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Earlier this week, my friend and I had several days off and wanted to head somewhere new. We researched many options, but were leaning toward a scuba-related trip, preferably one with sharks, as an early celebration for Shark Week next month. During our research, we found that July is the peak season for whale sharks at a little island (only 7 miles long) called Isla Holbox (pronounced “hole-bosh” rather than “hole-box”) in Mexico. We looked into lodging options, which were affordable and plentiful, and the tour was reasonably priced as well. We decided to go for it. Using our travel perks, we flew into Cancun from Miami. The island is a few hours north of Cancun and a ferry is required in order to get to it. There are a couple of transportation options, so we decided to take the easier route and arrange a shuttle directly through the whale shark tour company. It was $65 per person (cheaper with larger groups) and included pickup from the airport, a shuttle ride of about 3 hours to the town of Chiquila, ferry ride to Isla Holbox (about 30 minutes), and a taxi to the house that we rented. The other option is to arrange for a taxi or shuttle to the bus station from the airport and take one of three daily buses to Chiquila and then purchase a ferry ticket to Isla Holbox. There were many affordable hotel and rental options on booking.com, so we found a house that a woman rents out, called Casa Francesca, which was only around $150 total for 3 nights (split between two people). It was a good 15-20 minutes from the main village by foot and it lacked A/C, but it was a nice, simple getaway steps from the beach. It had a nice rooftop for laying out with great views of the surrounding area. It was also a great spot for stargazing at night! The tour was booked for the following day, so we walked along the beach, relaxed in the hammocks at the house, and explored the town, ending the day with some great Mexican food and Sol beer on the beach on the first full day. Our tour (http://www.holboxwhalesharktours.com/) was booked for 7am on the next day and was $120 per person, which included snorkeling gear, plenty of time with the whale sharks, snorkeling at a nearby reef, lunch at a small island, and a boat ride by an area populated with flamingos. It was worth every penny. We brought our GoPros along and got some amazing footage (not too bad for our first time using them!). The guide was wonderful and the groups were small enough so that we had plenty of one-on-one time with the sharks. We saw a number of whale sharks, both from the boat and in the water. The ones that we saw were around 25 feet, though they can reach lengths of around 40 feet. They come to this area during the summer to feed on the plankton (they are harmless to humans and feed more like whales than sharks) and swam a lot more quickly than I imagined! I tried to keep up with them while in the water as much as I could in order to get some good footage. Here are some pictures from the trip, and I will try to update this with a GoPro video once I figure out how to best edit them!

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Florida Trip Recap

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As I mentioned in a previous post, my friend and I ventured to Florida last weekend for some scuba diving and snorkeling. Here’s a summary of our trip:

We had about a 9-hour drive to our first spot in Florida: Devil’s Den Springs. Along the way, we got a little distracted and stopped at “South of the Border,” the ultimate tourist trap. We walked around to stretch our legs, took some pictures of the countless tacky animal statues, and grabbed coffees for much-needed caffeine boosts.

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I, however, also wanted to take a tour of the Reptile Lagoon, which boasts being the largest indoor reptile exhibit in the United States. As a huge fan of reptiles, I wanted to make an effort to stop in there; I’d say that it was worth it. After our unintended stop, we stopped in Savannah, Georgia (a stop that we had originally planned on doing); this was about our halfway point and it was a good time for lunch. We had lunch at a small French bistro and tried our first macaroons. The weather wasn’t particularly great, but we decided to walk by the river and take in some of the scenery.

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We eventually got back onto the road and I had to call Devil’s Den to get the code for getting into our cabin since we’d be arriving after 5:00pm. When I called, the woman that I spoke to had no record of my reservation and had just booked the remaining two cabins that day. I’m not normally one to be assertive, but being a small town, there were no other options for lodging unless we wanted to stay in Gainesville, which was about 45 minutes away. I politely told her that I had already given all of my information (including my credit card number) and that one of the new reservations should be modified or canceled, since I had booked before then and there was obviously a mistake. My friend and I even said that we didn’t mind sharing our cabin (which sleeps four) depending on the situation; we just really wanted a place to stay nearby. The woman was terribly sorry and ended up giving the original reservation to us. We arrived at our cabin around 11:00pm and went straight to bed after a long day of driving.

We took a brief walk around the grounds in the morning (which were beautiful), and then checked in to start diving. The staff members were extremely friendly and helpful! The cavern was absolutely amazing and is pictured below.

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Neither of us had done a cavern dive before, so this was quite the treat. The dive site is essentially a circle and is relatively shallow, with a maximum depth of 47 feet or so, though we mostly stayed around 30 feet. The visibility was great with views of stalactites and even some small fossils. Cave systems emerge from parts of the cavern, though they are blocked off with signs saying not to risk danger by going further. There were also a couple of short arches that we took advantage of swimming under for fun. After taking in the beauty of the site, I excitedly jumped into the turquoise water, camera in hand, only to have my underwater camera suddenly fail. After messing with it for awhile, it was clear that the seal had somehow broken. Desperate to photograph our underwater adventure, we drove to Walgreens to look for disposable underwater cameras, but they were out of stock. Luckily, a nearby CVS had a few and we each purchased one. We completed two additional dives that day and thought that we had gotten some pretty decent pictures. My friend is a newly-certified diver and was really looking forward to having some pictures of her while scuba diving. After a great day at Devil’s Den, we drove about 45 minutes to Crystal River, where we would be snorkeling with manatees the next day.

After checking into our hotel, we dropped off our cameras to be developed at the local Walgreens, so that we could gauge whether or not to purchase more of the cameras for our snorkeling journey the following day; I was debating whether or not to replace my digital one. We found an Italian restaurant for dinner and ended up having an unpleasant experience there (though I did learn again that I can be assertive when I need to be!). After dinner, we hastily drove to Walgreens to pick up our photos. The woman told us that she had some bad news and that none of the photos had come out. This was surprising since each of us had our own camera and they hadn’t expired, weren’t exposed to sunlight, and had no traces of water within them. Based on her explanation, it seemed that she had either made a mistake or that there was a problem with the machine, but she was reluctant to admit to either. We were skeptical and extremely bummed about losing our pictures, but realized that there wasn’t much that could be done about it. We were able to get a refund and purchased two new disposable cameras from the CVS across the street (we ended up not having any problems getting those developed at the end of the trip).

The next day, we had a great snorkeling trip with American Pro Divers. The tour was 3 hours long and we had plenty of quality time with several manatees. The snorkeling was done in shallow water of about 3-10 feet and I think that we ended up seeing five manatees in total — the last one was the friendliest of the bunch and let us rub his belly while he rolled around in the water.

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Following that, we drove about 30 minutes to Rainbow River for our final dive of the trip.The river was serene and we lucked out with beautiful weather.

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It was a relaxing drift dive down the river and we ended up seeing two turtles and plenty of fish (along with a small alligator on land!). My friend was finally able to get some pictures of herself while diving, so she was ecstatic.

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After the dive, we relaxed for the remainder of the day and traveled home the next morning. It ended up being a very enjoyable trip and I was able to cross off both snorkeling form manatees and cavern diving from my bucket list!

Plan a Fun Weekend

What are your plans for the upcoming weekend? Are there any free local events that you would like to attend? How about that museum that you’ve been meaning to check out? Find some time this weekend to do something that you’ve been meaning to do. Perhaps locate your bucket list and look into something fun within your budget! For example, I’m heading to Florida this weekend for my favorite hobby: scuba diving. I’ll be diving in some quarries and springs, but I’ve always wanted to check off “snorkel with manatees” from my bucket list, so I’ve made the effort to finally do so. I own snorkeling gear, so the cost of snorkeling at Crystal River with the amazing creatures will only be $30 ($50 if you need to rent gear). The local quarries and springs for diving only require small park fees. I’m driving down with a friend to save money on gas and we have found affordable lodging for our budget. I’ll let you know how the adventure goes!

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