Whale Sharks

Residing in a world apart from our own, marine life has always been quite intriguing to us land-dwellers. All of the many sizes, shapes and colors of the different species of fish have been of great interest to us from the beginning of time. Whale Sharks are the largest existing fish and have been the object of fascination to thousands of divers all over the world, though many divers spend their entire lives trying to find one.

Whale Sharks are majestic creatures. These gentle giants swim with their enormous mouths open, gulping down plankton, small fish, squid and crustaceans along their way. They can open their mouths to up to five feet wide. They are the largest fish in the oceans and only a few whales are larger than them. They are cold blooded creatures and they breathe through their gills. Whale sharks can weigh over nine tons and grow up to 40 feet long. Amazingly, their skin can be over 4 inches thick! These fish have a two colored pattern of light spots and lines on a dark brown dorsal surface.
Whale Sharks
Whale sharks can be found all over the world. Popular destinations for travelers to dive with whale Sharks can be found in Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, South Africa, and Western Australia are a few countries divers go to find them. But they are easily spotted all over Central America. Cancun, Mexico, Belize and Honduras are just a few of the hot spots for spotting whale sharks.

Utila Island, off of Honduras, has been called the whale shark capital of the Carribean. Whale sharks have been seen there all year long. Though they can be spotted throughout the year, the best times to try to find them are March through April and August through September. A whale shark sighting usually involves finding just one, but it is possible to see five or more whale sharks in the waters around Utila.

Belize is one of the most popular spots in the Americas for whale shark sightings. Gladden Spit, located in the Belize Barrier Reef, is located 26 miles off the coast of Placencia. There are lots of whale sharks in this area during April and May, when schools of cubera snapper fish are actively spawning. Gladden Spit is a protected area. Rangers allow only six tour-operated boats at a time, making the experience much more intimate.

An important habitat for the whale shark is in the Gulf of Mexico. The major oil spill that resulted from the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon platform in 2010 in the Gulf still poses a critical threat to the whale sharks that reside in the region.

Whale sharks are harmless to humans. They are quite friendly and will often interact. They are very large creatures but are quite docile and serene. They will even allow swimmers to catch a ride with them, though this is discouraged by scientists, conservationists and researchers. Younger whale sharks can be especially playful.

It's vital for any diver lucky enough to encounter one of these animals to always treat them with respect. Whale sharks are an endangered species and it's imperative to their survival that they not be mishandled or harmed.


Chichen Itza Ruins, Mexico

Chichen Itza Ruins, Mexico (“at the mouth of the Itza well”), the ruins of a grand Mayan city, is a must-see for the Central American and Mexican tourist. Besides being the second most popular tourist destination, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007. This expansive compound makes up one of the most colossal Mayan sites.

Chichen Itza Ancient Ruins in MexicoAlmost a millennium before Columbus reached the New World, the Mayans were thriving on a limestone plateau on the northern Yucatan peninsula. The Chichen Itza ruins are surprisingly well-preserved and easy to reach from Mexico’s larger cities making this a ideal destination for travelers on low cost holidays. The remains of the theosophy of the Toltecs and Mayans display painstakingly artistic detail in stone.

Chichen Itza was built in around 600 A.D., and was initially intended primarily as a place of worship. In fact, it was the primary location of religious rites in the entire Yucatan. Its population reflected these spiritual origins. Chichen Itza’s population grew steadily until 800 A.D., when citizens abandoned all Mayan cities.

Ball Court entrance Chichen Itza Mexico mdTwo centuries later, different Mayan peoples resettled the city during the Mayan-Toltec era, and everyone moved west to Mayapan. No one knows why.

The ruined city’s favored deity is the plumed serpent Kukulkan, whose 78-foot high temple is the most famous in all of Chichen Itza. Unlike Egyptian pyramids, El Castillo (“castle”) has only four sides.

The Observatory Chichen Itza MexicoThe entire structure serves as a solar calendar. On every day, the sun shades a different step of the stairway to the apex (91 in all). Among other functions, the pyramid was an aid in the timing of crop plantings.

Besides paying homage to Kukulkan, the temple was built to study the cosmos, as was the Platform of Venus. This spiritual structure was named one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

Chichen Itza features a sports field abutted by shrines at its borders. Still other shrines exist in honor of revered animals, like the jaguar and eagle. The upside is that the athletes were proficient. The downside is that the city’s Toltec influences dictated that losing teams were often sacrificed to the gods.

El Caracol (“conch shell), an astronomical observatory was built here, with windows set into a stone dome, an amazing architectural feat. When Mayans looked through specific windows on exact dates, they could observe designated celestial bodies.

Chichen Itza is easily reached from hotels in either Cancun or Merida, the closest city. It white limestone and prevalence of white buildings have earned the Yucatan’s capital the nickname of the White City.

Although it showcases modern fashion and a unique flair, Merida also reminds the Mexican traveller of Colonial days. The town is remarkably compact, and it is easy to see the sights on foot.

The six million modern Mayans, although racially diverse, continue to honor the old ways, as they:

• Grow the ancient foods of tomatoes, squash, corn, beans and chiles

• Practice herbal medicine and eschew Western techniques

• Favor Mayan dialects to speaking Spanish

• Celebrate a mixture of ancient Mayan religious beliefs and Catholicism


Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

For those who need a fabulous getaway, guests need look no further than the beautiful shores of Costa Rica. This exotic country suits visitors of many tastes. Manuel Antonio makes for a great destination when traveling to Costa Rica, Pacific sea side village, Manuel Antonio is about a 2 1/2 hour drive south from San Jose.

Whether one enjoys great views, long walks, sandy beaches, or intense sporting opportunities, the city of Manuel Antonio has options for every person. For explorers and hikers, Manuel Antonio, which sits on a biological peninsula, provides a multitude of parks. One of the most well-known and gorgeous parks in Costa Rica is the Manuel Antonio National Park. This fantastic park dwells amid a section of the city that is dedicated to various productive activities, such as agriculture and tourism development. Manuel Antonio National Park hosts a plethora of plant-life that is displayed in not only one but two forests inside the park.

The most prolific species of plants in the primary and secondary forests are guácimo colorado, cedro maría, guapinol blanco, surá, guapinol negro, lechoso, cenízaro, and ceiba. Aside from the plants, the park also houses a myriad of wildlife. Several of the most common species that reside here are raccoons, coatamundis, agoutis, two-toed sloths, scarlet macaws, and white-faced monkeys as well as squirrel monkeys.

The spectacular views are speckled with many clear paths and quaint trails that are interlaced among the wildlife and plant-life to give visitors the most authentic view of Costa Rica.

In addition to the incredible sights in the Manuel Antonio National Park, the city of Manuel Antonio also provides other exceptional ways to relax. For those who would rather sit than walk, luscious water and bright sand lie close by. In fact, one can enjoy the warmth from several different beaches in the Manuel Antonio area.

Also, Manuel Antonio is completely unique in that it offers breathtaking scenes in conjunction with wild entertainment for the truly active person. Though the city is small, the events held here are anything but tiny. Manuel Antonio provides excellent connection to the great outdoors through surf tournaments, hiking, kayaking, sport fishing, and rafting.

Indeed, Manuel Antonio has a little something for everyone, from the outdoor trailblazer to the rainforest sightseer to the lover of warmth and sunlight.