Monday, 29 August 2016

Why you shouldn't feed or touch marine life...

Lonely squid in a big ocean
Diving everyday I see some of the most amazing things, sharks, turtles, eels and a number of itsy bitsy teeny things that not many people take notice of; but we are strangers in their least we should be.

There are so many things changing within the ocean from temperature rises, pollution, over fishing and so on, that scientists are even seeing animals adapting to different environments and eating species they normally wouldn't (google sealion eats sunfish).

Hawksbill turtle a bit unsure about my intentions. 
I'm not going to lie, there have been numerous occasions I've been right over top of a sea turtle watching it chomp away at coral and I've thought 'just a little touch'...'it won't hurt'.... but then why?

What will I gain from touching the turtle?
Will I scare it away or make it have a bad day?
If I touch it, will it be worth it?
Is being this close to an amazing animal and observing it's behaviour not enough?

I can still say I've never touched one.

Where I work in Cozumel, Mexico, we are lucky that where we dive is all a Marine Park area. The marine park rules include no fishing, no touching or feeding, no knives and no gloves; but there's always somebody who wants to break the rules.

One of my favourite things to see underwater. Purple Crowned Sea Goddess, Nudibranch. 

I think one of the worst inventions is the gopro (wait, wait, wait, let me explain). First of all, I have one, so it is not the item itself I have a problem with. It is the people who use them without working on their skills first.
I've seen people with 4 dives to 4000 dives and I can tell you, it doesn't matter how much experience you have if you don't put effort in to improve yourself. Before you even consider bringing a camera on the dive you should be able to complete dives without touching anything, either with hands or fins, and be able to maintain neutral buoyancy throughout a dive. Too many times I see people touching corals or chasing animals for the 'perfect shot' and honestly, not many photos turn out great anyway. The animals and the coral come first. Always.

A customer snapped this picture of me before we jumped in! 
At the pier I also see people sneaking water bottles filled with bread to feed to the fish. Feeding marine life means animals begin to associate people with food. I have seen this first hand with nurse sharks. I've seen a nurse shark harassing a diver on a dive who was holding a spear for lion fish hunting. Obviously this shark has associated people carrying this item with a meal; this particular time though, the diver did not have a fish.
Animals generally get their sources of food from multiple areas, by feeding them, they are only receiving it from one source interrupts their natural feeding cycles. By affecting their natural feeding behaviours, it can destabilize multiple ecological relationships. Also, I don't know about you but I haven't seen too many fish go to the supermarket for a loaf of bread. Processed wheat probably isn't the best thing for a marine animals digestive system.

Take selfies, don't touch :)
I have no idea why so many people have such little respect for something that covers most of the earths surface, that supports our life. Just remember, we are guests in the under water world....and uninvited ones at that.

*Whilst I feel on the fence about fishing, I support the fishing and hunting for lionfish, an extremely invasive fish in all international waters. 

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Chiapas, Mexico

Typical Mexican Churros Cart
In the job I do, it is really difficult to get time off. One amazing vacation Cleyon and I took was to Chiapas, Mexico. People often ask, "where do you vacation to if you live here?!". Answer: the mountains!!!

Enjoying some tasty tacos in Palenque
I grew up on farming land in the south of Australia which is also very flat, but there is something about the Yucatan Peninsula here in Mexico that makes you want to see a bit of an anything....

Palenque Ruins
Ruins in Palenque
Ruins in Palenque
On the steps in Palenque
Cley enjoying the view in Palenque
Walking through the ruins, Palenque. 
So, we went to the airport and flew to Villahermosa, Tabasco. Then an ADO bus/van to Palenque, Chiapas Mexico. I organised a place to stay but only for a night, one thing I've learnt is even when you look online at photos, you never really know what you're going to get. As I thought, we moved the following night to another hostel called Yaxkin Hostel.

Ruins in Palenque
View from the top, Palenque
The main attraction in Palenque are the ruins. They were beautiful, and of the ruins we had seen previously, we thought they were pretty big.
In the same afternoon, we also caught a ride out to some falls. So the ones you hear about all the time are Agua Azules and Misol-ha. BUT, I like an adventure!!! So I decided to check out one called Cascada de Roberto Barrios, it had better reviews on Trip Advisor and waaaay less visitors.

Cley feeling like he was in Jamaica. Just outside Cascada de Roberto Barrios.
To get to Roberto Barrios, it was an adventure, with Cley and I giving each other vary wary looks the whole time. We had to get in the back of a ute with a tarp over the back as a shelter and seats on each side, but to find this truck in the first place was a bit of a challenge. Then, the ride took a lot longer than we thought. It is true that when people tell you an estimate of time here it really is "Mexican time".
Cascada de Roberto Barrios
Cley enjoying the water, Roberto Barrios. 
Roberto Barrios
On the road back into town, Palenque
We arrived, thankfully, as I was preparing an "I'm sorry" speech for Cleyon. When we got out, we paid a small amount, I think it was about 30pesos each to enter with a guide. We loved him, I wish I wasn't writing this 2yrs later so I could remember his name! We walked all around these beautiful falls, and jumped off the edges, hid in holes underneath and had a great time.

Fruit stalls on the street in Ocosingo. 

End of the day in Ocosingo. 

Church in Ocosingo.

Down an alley, Ocosingo. 
The next day we took an ADO bus/van from Palenque to Ocosingo, Chiapas. I'm not one of those people who get sea sick or car sick but I'm telling you that drive was pretty rough. It's about a 4hour ride up and down and around big mountains. PLUS speed  bumps! It was beautiful actually, but I was extremely happy when it was over. We walked into town, and found a hotel. We decided to go check out the ruins we heard about there, called Tonina.

Walking into Tonina.

Making friends along the way, Tonina.

Tha ball court, Tonina. 

The main pyramid from another small section. 

So much greenery all around. 

Getting lost in all of the passageways, Tonina.

The main staircase, still excavating parts, Tonina.
The three kings, Tonina.

The king in the middle, Tonina. 
I don't remember the entry fee but the ruins were, to this day, my favourite ruins in Mexico. They were just huuuge! We were two of very few people there, and only locals. We took our time walking up, only to be stopped halfway. The security guard told us they were closing, they close at 4pm. Somehow, I have no idea how, I convinced Cleyon to come back with me in the morning to do the top half; I had to see it from the top! I didn't realise how tired I was, I can still feel it when I look at the photos of myself haha. We made it to the top, the only ones there at about 10am. And the view was well worth it, as well as the feeling, with a cool breeze and only the sounds of the land around us.

Ruins, Tonina. 

Relaxing at the top, Tonina. 
The view from the top, Tonina. 
A moment at the top, Tonina. 

We came back into town, then got on the ADO bus from Ocosingo to San Cristobal De Las Casas, Chiapas. I didn't book anything for there before we arrived because I saw so many places online to stay. When we were in Palenque, we also met people who were coming to San Cristobal so I messaged them to ask where they were staying, we ended up spending a lot of time together.
One of the many churches, San Cristobal de las Casas. 
Another church, San Cristobal de las Casas. 
Church at the top of a hill, San Cristobal de las Casas. 
Outside another church over looking the city, San Cristobal de las Casas. 
We stayed at Rossco Backpackers hostel. The climate there was incredible, so nice and cold; San Cristobal is 2,200m above sea level. It was such a nice break from the heat of the Yucatan! We spent our days walking around the town, visiting the churches, trying different foods and drinking wine.

Driving above the clouds to Canyon Sumidero.
Tired eyes, relaxing on the river, Canyon Sumidero. 

We also did a day trip to Canyon Sumidero which was gorgeous. It is fairly narrow but the cliffs surrounding it reach up to 1000m high. The boat ride was so calm and just so relaxing I could have fallen asleep, which sounds kinda bad, but it was amazing. All of the wildlife was incredible too....except the crocodiles...not a fan of those guys.
Crocodiles, Canyon Sumidero.
Cley loving the crocodiles! 

Canyon Sumidero

Incredible views, Canyon Sumidero.

Waterfall along the walls of Canyon Sumidero
Early morning for another adventure at Canyon Sumidero

In San Cristobal we went to the local markets and bought fresh ingredients to cook dinner at the hostel. We also went to an insect museum, Museo de los Bichos. The butterflies there were gorgeous, but the stand out was Cley making me hold a tarantula!! I don't consider myself scared of spiders, but I've seen tarantula bites and I really didn't want one. The owner, Jesus, ensured me that it was the sweetest of all of the tarantulas he had!
The 'friendly' tarantula at Museo de los Bichos
Feeling a little nervous with him on my shoulder...

Shopping in the markets, San Cristobal de las Casas.

I really didn't want to go back after this trip. We had met so many beautiful people and had such a relaxing time that I will always remember this vacation. And the 16hr ADO bus ride it took to get back to Playa Del Carmen haha.
Drinking wine and all rugged up, San Cristobal de las Casas. 

Boys drinking Mezcal in San Cristobal de las Casas.