Thursday, February 25, 2016

Absolutely Hooked! Review: Spear Fishing Today in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Spear fishing playa del carmen

Last week while in Playa Del Carmen, Nick and I had the opportunity to try out something brand new that very few people have done in their lifetime. This unique activity - definitely worth experience anytime you are in the Playa Del Carmen area - is spear fishing! If you have seen the James Bond movie, this is exactly what you should be thinking of. It is a combination of fishing, hunting, snorkeling, and so many great things.

playa del carmen spearfishing

In any case, Nick, myself, and two other guys in our group decided one afternoon to try out spear fishing. We met Leo, the founder of Spear Fishing Today, right on the beach in Playa. After a cold morning on the water, the guys all decided to go rent wet suits in order to stay warm while spending the afternoon in the water. After this, we loaded up and headed out into the ocean to give spear fishing a try!

After one of the first dives. It was a COLD day out, thus the wetsuits! That is Nick's frozen & exhausted look.
Once we reached our destination, Leo asked each of the guys about their experiences with fishing and knowledge of Caribbean fish. As the three guys in our group were brand new beginners to spear fishing, Leo talked for 10 to 15 minutes on safety procedures and best practices while spear fishing. For myself, somebody with no experience whatsoever spearfishing, I had initially been worried that it could be dangerous, especially with a group of beginners. After listening to the safety talk and instructions, I was impressed with the system that SpearFishing Today had worked out and how well they took care of their customers. In any case, after the instructions it was off into the water the guys went!

spearfishing in playa del carmen
The boys headed out to the first site! Water is absolutely beautiful!
For those unfamiliar with spearfishing, essentially what you do is have a mask and snorkel, along with a spearfishing gun. In pairs, you take turns with the gun and dive down into the water, looking around for fish. When you see one, you wait until it approaches you or you get close enough, and then - bam! - you are able to shoot your spear at the fish in hopes of getting it. Of course, most fish will fight back, which is why in deeper waters your gun and spear will be attached to a buoy.

In any case, enough from me - let's hear about the experience from Nick!

Nick is quite excited!
To say that I was excited about spearfishing would be a complete understatement. I love to fish and also love to hunt, and as Samantha mentioned earlier this seems like a great combo of the two. Leo who is a native of the Netherlands is absolutely amazing in everything he does and his attention to detail is top notch.

As Samantha also mentioned it was myself, and two other guys from our group. There was also a more advanced spear fisherman named John who joined us on the trip. I paired up with John and the other two guys from our party paired up. We all suited up and followed Leo into the ocean. We started out in a fairly shallow area so that we could get the feel of things and I think Leo wanted to make sure that we were comfortable in the water. I had done a fair bit of snorkeling before so this was very similar. Just float on the surface, put you face into the water and breath through a tube. I quickly found out that I had pretty good lungs and could spend a fair amount of time underwater checking out the coral structures where fish like to hide.

Myself watching John dive down. It was impressive to see how far down he could get! Thats a sunken ship below him!
We used the "buddy system" at all times. When John was underwater with the speargun I was watching him and following from the service. When he would surface, he would pass the gun to me and then I would take a big breath and it was my turn to dive down. I was amazed at the amount of life there was under the surface. It was like swimming in a tropical aquarium. While diving, I was able to see barracuda, trigger fish, grouper, parrot fish, pufferfish, manta rays, and sting rays - and this is all in addition to the beautiful coral reefs! When spearfishing, it is important to note that it is very selective. You do not shoot beautifully colored reef fish, sharks, rays etc. We are only after appropriate sized game fish (basically anything that is silver or white).

spearfishing playa del carmen
On the way up with a triggerfish in tow!
I left my hand in this shot to give you an idea. And right now, John was probably only 15 meters down!
One of the highlights of my trip was seeing the manta ray. It was just on the edge of my vision, and I looked below me. All of a sudden I could see this huge manta ray, swimming on the edge of this coral reef with a steep drop off. It was almost majestic to watch the manta ray float by me and then down into the ocean's abyss, and made me feel absolutely tiny. Definitely one of the coolest aspects of spearfishing is that not only are you able to hunt/fish, but you are also able to have cool experiences like this and see unique aspects of the ocean you might otherwise never get to see.

spear fishing in playa del carmen
You can see the second shot being performed!
Leo with the barracuda
The second fish of the day!
After about 30 minutes we all felt comfortable and went out a little deeper to a sunken ship. At this location the water was so blue and beautiful and we could just barely see the bottom. After some time, we were able to shoot a very nice barracuda. After we got the barracuda, Leo made the most amazing ceviche for us on the boat and we had an amazing lunch before heading back. Leo gave us some large filets from the barracuda to take home. We ended up giving our fresh fish to the security guard at our condo. We told him to come over when he got off his shift. He showed up promptly at 7pm and was so happy to get the fresh fish. As you know, Mexico is a poor country and our whole group was happy to give him our fish. He didn't speak a word of english but his gratitude was amazingly apparent.

Slicing the barracuda up
Barracuda with ceviche ingredients
Work in process...
Completed ceviche! Just one of the small bowls we munched on!
On our way back in after eating the ceviche John was telling me that he was going back out again in 2 days and I really wanted to join. He said he was taking the ferry over Cozumel and the fishing there was very good. He talked about these "triggerfish" that were plentiful and very good eating. I spoke with Samantha and she gave me the go ahead so 2 days later I was on the boat again. I think it is safe to say that I have caught the spearfishing bug and I will absolutely be doing this at any and every tropical destination that we visit.

best spearfishing in playa del carmen
All of us with the barracuda!
And there you have it, from my hubby himself on his experience spearfishing! If you ask him, he will claim that I stole all of his words about the experience - but truly, I was just telling about my experience from above water watching the guys!

beautiful sunset on the way back home!
**Disclosure: We received a complimentary or discounted experience in order to facilitate this review. As always, this did not affect my review in any way and all opinions remain 100% honest!**

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Viva La Mexico : A Recap

Playa Del Carmen sunrise
stunning sunrises at our condo!
I'm back from sunny (or, as was the case of much of my trip, not-so-sunny!) Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. A few weeks ago it was decided that Nick and I needed to get out of dodge and soak up some rays. We planned the trip with two terrific couples that we know, and it was such a great getaway with them! Now that I am home - and busy like crazy! - it is time for a quick recap of our time!

best place to stay in playa del carmen
morning stroll on the beach!
We stayed at a gorgeous, beachfront condominium building located right off 5th Avenue (the main drag in Playa Del Carmen). The condo was spacious, but certainly the best part about it was the location and the infinity pool! Each morning I enjoyed watching the sun rise - and with views like the one above, how could you not?! Normally I try to avoid waking up early on vacation, but in this case it was well worth it.

best place to stay in playa del carmen
beautiful infinity pool leading up to the ocean!
The first couple days of the trip were spent relaxing and trying to soak up the sun - despite the cool weather. We did manage to catch a couple of $20 70-minute long massages on the beach (so amazing!) and a few amazing meals.

things to do in playa del carmen
Tour of an authentic, current day Mayan village
Our first outing was an incredibly unique and special tour by Local Quickies. In case you haven't heard of them, Local Quickies is a smaller group from Playa Del Carmen focused on providing unique, personalized excursions that take on a much more local feel (hence the name). We were told not to think of it as a tour, rather as an afternoon hanging out with friends- and really, this is what it felt like! We spent our morning snorkeling in Akumal Bay with beautiful sea tortoises, then got to go swimming in a private cenote, followed by time relaxing in beautiful Tulum and a catamaran ride on the largest catamaran in the Caribbean back home!

to do in Playa Del Carmen
Beautiful barracuda caught while spearfishing! 
The following day, Nick was beyond excited to go spearfishing with Spear Fishing Today. He loves both fishing and hunting, and had decided that this looked like a great way to combine some activities. Despite a rather cold start to the day (hence, the wet suits!) all of the guys loved their first time spearfishing and even catching a nice barracuda. One of the coolest parts for the guys is that part of the trip took place right outside of Xel Ha / Xcaret, so they were able to experience some great snorkeling as well! Nick enjoyed it so much that he even went out again a few days later and was able to get several other fish!

best restaurant in playa del carmen
check out those stalactites and stalagmites!
On Friday evening, both of the amazing couples we had traveled with had to depart and head back to real life, leaving Nick and I with a few days to relax on our own! Friday evening was spent visiting one of the most unique restaurants in Playa Del Carmen, and likely one of the most unique restaurants in the world! Alux is an entire restaurant that is situated in a cave, complete with stalactites and stalagmites - that are still actively growing! It was such a unique dining experience, and definitely one of the best restaurants in Playa.

to do in Cozumel
Beautiful buildings in Cozumel, Mexico
Finally, I had the opportunity to visit and explore Cozumel for my first time! I really didn't know what to expect when I was headed to Cozumel, as I know tons of people that absolutely love the town and other people that say it is simply a resort island. Personally, my one short visit to Cozumel was enough. While there were some beautiful buildings and great restaurants/bars, there really didn't seem to be anything that is absolutely drawing me back. Have you ever visited a place like this?

palm trees - this sight never gets old!
All in all, this trip to Mexico came at the absolute perfect time. With just two weeks left before starting my final semester of grad school and an impending move (that's right!), I definitely needed the time to relax. We were joined by two amazing couples and had the best time with them. So many fun activities were done, and I can't wait to fill you in on all of the details!

Hope everyone is having a great rest of their winter! Do you have any fun activities or vacations planned?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Why Blogging Is The Best Job Ever

Yep, I said it. Sorry full-time career, but as of right now, 100% blogging is the best job ever. Don't understand why? Well, perhaps you haven't started a blog. If only you had a blog, you would agree with this statement. Just take a look at this list of the 9 reasons blogging is the best job ever, and you will be sold!

1. I can blog anywhere. So as I am typing this, when it is currently -15°F (that is -26°C for the rest of the world), I don't have to leave my house today. Yes, blogging does give me an excuse not to leave the house. At the same time, I can do it from anywhere - meaning some of the more exotic locations that I've been working in include Thailand, the Dominican Republic, and yes, flying over just about any ocean in the world. Pretty awesome that I can blog anywhere I would like!

2. There is no dress code. This takes it back to that -15° weather outside - since I don't have to leave my house, I'm currently bundled up in my one-piece pajamas, and on top of that I have my full length robe on. #NoJudging, please. Very rarely do I actually type up my blog posts while fully dressed and ready to take on the world.

3. I get to work on my writing skills. I'll be honest, I never considered myself to be a writer for the first 23 years of my life. Once I started blogging though, it was a whole different game. Now I love to share my stories in a creative way, and to write however I feel. This is certainly not ever going to be a place where you see academic writing taking place (I get plenty of that in my MBA courses - 3 months left, BTW!)

4. You learn a lot. I've learned a ton about photography, framing, creating your voice, traveling the world, random tidbits when I'm researching anything I write about, and then a little bit about web design, HTML, and SEO. Just about every single post I write, I am learning at least several new things, and I know that these are skills that will help me out in the future. So, not only is blogging an awesome job, but blogging will also help you to develop career skills!

Working away while in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic!
5. I've networked and worked with companies and people from all over the world. Similar to being able to work from anywhere in the world, I've made successful partnerships with companies in Latvia, Sweden, Thailand, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and definitely right here in the U.S. How many people can say that they've worked with companies from around the world? Which brings me to my next point...

6. Blogging has, and will continue, to help me in my career path. I'll be honest, I don't have an exact idea of what I'll be doing 5, 10, and definitely not 15 years from now. Through blogging, I have a better idea of what I'd like to do- I'd like it to involve people, being in the tourism or travel industry would be ideal, and of course from my educational standpoint I love the marketing and customer service field. All of the skills that I've gained through blogging have helped me to receive various job offers, and I know that this blog will continue to help my career.

7. Blogging has kept a permanent record of my life, for myself and my family to look back on. Every once in awhile, I catch myself reading an old post of mine that I no longer even remember creating. It transports me to a different time in my life. Now, I'm fully aware that technically, for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes I should clean up my blog - but this is a part of my history now, and since my blog is for me and me only, it stays!

8. Through blogging, I've met 'friends' from all over the world. Everyone once in awhile in conversation, random destinations such as Poland or Iceland or Cambodia pops up, and I'm able to relate to the conversation and blurt out "oh! I have a friend that lives there!" Meeting all of these people has exposed me to so many different cultures and destinations - all of which I want to visit!

wine tasting while in Napa Valley! - all in a days work as a blogger!
9. The perks of being a blogger. I'm doing something I love - and it pays off! I started this blog several years ago simply to keep in touch with family and friends. Now, I've kept up with it because I love and truly enjoying doing it. More and more, I've begun accepting sponsored experiences and received payment for my work, and I'll be honest, a lot of my experiences are complimentary. Some might call these free perks, but I refuse to- I'm certainly working my tail off for them! Although, I can't lie, the money that I have been able to save by not paying for these experiences, or hotels, or upgrades, is quite nice!

For my fellow bloggers, what is the reason you love to blog?
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