More fun south of the border

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

At the very tip of the Yucatan penin-sula is a beautiful hotel built along the lines of a Mayan structure. Its architecture is an homage to the people who lived in the area 3,000 years ago. It is Dreams Cancun, and because of its location at the "end" of Mexico in the southwestern direction, it is bordered by the turquoise Caribbean Sea. The sun has bleached the sand to a white powder. Everything is perfect on many levels. Honeymooners and retired couples love it, but families have the most fun of all.

I was invited along with travel writers from around the world to attend the launch of Dreams Cancun's "Dolphinus" program. It was a chance to swim with the dolphins and I happily accepted.

The month was June and no doubt about it, Cancun is hot. As Matthew Broderick said in the movie "Biloxi Blues," "It's Africa hot!" By the time I was shown to my room, I was soaked to the skin. It was after lunchtime and I realized I was hungry. I was eager to explore the premises, but I was reluctant to go back out just yet.

The dilemma was solved by a soft knock on my door. It was a lady with a big bowl of fruit and a bottle of ice-cold champagne, along with a welcome note from the hotel management. I thanked her as she uncorked the champagne and set up table service for me. It was, in that instant, "comfort food."

I wandered out to the balcony overlooking the dolphin pool to enjoy the champagne. The dolphins were at play, jumping in and out of the water as the trainers put them through their paces.

That evening, the writers gathered in a rooftop party room for introductions and more food. We were then ushered into a delightful restaurant, where we enjoyed a steak dinner. Then it was off to the hotel's nightclub to watch a dazzling performance by a Cuban band. Cuban music is very popular in all of Mexico. With the colored lights and salsa music, it was a fine way to top off the evening.

But the biggest thrill of all came the next morning. After a fantastic breakfast in a tent specially set up for the occasion, we heard some welcoming words and were instructed as to when it would be our time to swim with the dolphins.

Later, in a special room, we were divided into groups and given life jackets. We were shown a movie about dolphins and an instructor told us what was considered proper visitor etiquette when we entered the dolphins' domain.

As soon as we entered Dolphinus, two very friendly dolphins greeted us. We had been told they loved to be stroked. The dolphins weaved around the seven of us as we ran our hands over their sleek backs. We enjoyed it as much as they seemed to like it.

The instructor told us to line up at one end of the pool and to shout a word (which I no longer remember). The dolphins were nowhere to be seen. As we yelled the word, the dolphins shot from the water behind us and over our heads to dive into the water once again. All I can say is it was thrilling.

We were in the water for about an hour as the trainer put both the dolphins and their visitors through exercises designed to delight all of us. The animals danced for us, waved to us, kissed us, and gave us rides across the water as they pushed the bottoms of our feet with their snouts. It was an experience I will never forget, and one I highly recommend.

I spent the next day and night at Dreams Tulum, about a 25-mile trip from Cancun. It's a new property, and to say it is beautiful is just to say too little.

I took a taxi to see the Mayan ruins at Tulum. I had no idea the Mayans were so sophisticated. They devised a calendar that is said to be more accurate than the Gregorian calendar. They were expert astronomers. The guide showed us the tiny holes in temple walls where on a particular night, the moon sent a beam through the opening to illuminate a religious icon on the opposite wall. It made me want to learn more about the Mayan culture.

So, there you have it: two very different Mexican cities plus Tulum, where you can spend a few days with your family and make memories to last a lifetime.

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