Currency in Mexico is a tricky one. I spent hours trying to decide whether to take dollars or pesos. My travel agent advised pesos, friends advised dollars and reviews online advised both – I was lost. In the end I settled on pesos, and was surprised at how easy the currency was to obtain, and the exchange rate at the time wasn’t bad either (around 20 pesos to the pound).
However, on arrival in Mexico, all the prices were in dollars and I had to triple convert to work out how much I was actually paying. Maths was not part of my holiday agenda! If I was to visit again, I would probably take a mixture of both. Dollars are more frequently accepted, and almost expected, in the key tourist locations and hotels, however, if you plan on experiencing a more authentic Mexico, and eating in some of the gorgeous local restaurants that are dotted around the less visited villages, then pesos would be the preferred currency.
Towards the end of my trip to Mexico, I had planned a day trip to Xel Ha. Xel Ha is a beautiful natural water park where you can snorkel, scuba, cliff dive and drift along the lazy river in a rubber tube. You can also swim with dolphins, which is what I had booked to do.
I had always wanted to swim with dolphins, but I had been put off the idea by the fact that the majority of opportunities to do this, are where the animals are kept in captivity, and small swimming pools. However, on arrival at Xel Ha, I was greeted by the magical display of two dolphins happily leaping into the air.
Although the dolphins are kept in a sectioned off area, they are outdoors, well cared for, and actually seem to be enjoying their cosy situation (not to mention the fact they have a constant supply of fresh fish to feast on).
I started the day wandering around the park, to get an idea of what was on offer. I then made my way to some lockers near the dolphin area and changed into my bikini, collected a towel and hired a snorkel (I decided I didn’t need flippers as I was not really much of a snorkeler!). As I had spent the morning visiting Tulum, I was starving and so I headed straight for one of the all inclusive restaurants, and tucked into a buffet lunch and a strawberry daiquiri.
Once my food had gone down, I headed towards the snorkeling area, put on my life jacket (required) and slowly descended into the water. I built up my courage (I am not the best in deep water) and left the steps behind me. As soon as I put my head in the water I seemed to forget how to breathe. I was gulping water, gasping and acting as if my body had forgotten its basic survival functions. However, as soon as I took my head out of the water, my body seemed to remember. Typical. After many embarrassing attempts at trying to use my snorkel successfully, I opted for old fashioned “hold your breath and stick your head in the water” technique. This seemed to work fairly well, and I was finally able to watch the diverse array of fish sauntering along below me.
I set myself the challenge of reaching an island in the middle, and I was so proud of myself when I did. I decided I needed a break and so put my feet down on the rocks, as the water was shallow near the island. My feet immediately slipped and I yet again gulped a large amount of seawater! After that I resigned to a deck chair along the water front and sipped another strawberry daiquiri. This was a much more successful use of my time!
My dolphin swim was at 2:30pm and shortly before this, I headed over to the dolphin area. I was a mixed bag of nerves and excitement. We were given life jackets and then shown through to a video area, where we watched a brief video about the dolphins, the conservation work Xel Ha does, and what you can and can not do when you are in the water. We were then divided into groups of about 5 or 6 and headed out to join the dolphins.
We entered the water and it was freezing! I was instantly covered in goosebumps. There were five people in my group, and we were all laughing amongst ourselves as our teeth began to chatter. We started off on a ledge, with the water at about waist height, and the dolphins came over, waved and introduced themselves. We then went out one at a time and the dolphins swam up to us and kissed us on the cheek.
The thing about swimming with dolphins is, the moment you interact with them you have this euphoric feeling, I was not scared of the deep water, I no longer felt cold, and I was the happiest I have ever felt. The dolphins circled and swam around us, we had a water fight with them (they won) and they jumped over us (again completely soaking us as they soared above us, before hitting the water in unison).
The highlight for me was having the dolphins swim up behind me, and me grabbing a fin either side, as they pulled me through the water. I may have swallowed a stomach full of dolphin water but I didn’t care. The finale to the whole experience was dancing with the dolphins, which was as magical as it sounds.