At the not-so-ripe age of 39, I finally got my PADI dive certification in Taganga, Colombia, and proceeded to dive 40 more times over the next two years. These aquatic adventures included swimming alongside giant manta rays at Nusa Lembongan (Indonesia), through a pack of menacing sharks at Sipadan (Malaysia), with large sea turtles near Roatan Island (Honduras) and down the surreal Blue Hole off the coast of Belize. With such an emphasis on an activity I wanted to do my entire life, it sounds like I became an instant scuba junkie, but I actually came to think diving is a bit overrated. Not a popular sentiment I agree, but I usually don’t see that much more at 120 feet with an oxygen tank than I do at 30 feet with a mask and snorkel. That said, a boat-less dive in Tulum completely blew me away, and the water had little-to-no visible fish.
When it comes to pre-Columbian Mexico, most people think of the Aztecs since their former capital is now Mexico City, but the Maya occupied southern parts of the country that included the Yucatan Peninsula. The most iconic Mayan ruin is El Castillo temple in Chichen Itza, while backpacker-friendly Tulum boasts ruins directly on its white-sand Caribbean beaches. Though not as touristy as Cancun, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen to the north, Tulum arguably outshines them all with beachfront archeology, alluring blue waters and outstanding restaurants like Hartwood and Gitano. The Yucatan also boasts numerous underwater cave systems called cenotes (pronounced “say-no-tayes”) that divers can explore. I booked one such adventure with an Australian-raised Slovokian divemaster named Tomas Kuzela.
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