After such an amazing beach on my doorstep for so long in Tulum, I couldn't go cold turkey so took myself off to the beautiful island of Isla Mujeres next (it's a tough life, I know). This place really is gorgeous especially Playa Norte with perfect, soft white sand. It's small enough to get to know it pretty quickly, but there are also enough cafes, restaurants and bars to keep you entertained for quite a while. I really liked bightly coloured cafe Manaña, with big high cellings, it's own small library, amazing sandwiches & juices & a fantastic atmosphere.
I had been told by many people that there was one place that I simply 'had' to stay on the island- Hostel Poc Na. And they weren't wrong, as hostels go this was not too shabby. It was right on the beach and had it's own beach bar which was one of the big party places on the island every night. During the day it was much more chilled, with free yoga lessons every morning and hammocks everywhere. I had also been told that the live music they have every night is amazing- I think the usual musicians must have had a few days off becuase to be honest it was truely terrible while I was there- enough to drive me and the Irish girl & her 2 friends who I'd teamed up with, out of the hostel every night until the DJ for the beach party started.
The main reason I'd come to the island was to swim with the whale sharks who pass through these waters at this time of year. So I took it easy on the margaritas and headed out for the early morning tour. To be honest I think all the tours are the same, but I went with Ceviche Tours who charged 800 Pesos (40 quid) for a half day tour. It included a quick breakfast before setting sail in search of the sharks. It took us about an hour an a half of high speed sailing (which didn't go so well for some of my fellow ship mates) but when when we got there my God it was hard to miss them. There were about 25-30 sharks some up to 12 foot long! The captain took three of us at a time snorkelling in the water to get a closer look. I thought you'd have to keep quite a distance from them but apparently not- my guide at one point pushed me so close to an enormous one that I was an arms length away from it's gills, which was mind blowing, but also a little terrifying as I then had to push back as hard as I could to avoid its incredibly powerful tail coming right for me! We got to spend quite a bit of time in the water, there were so many of them I was a little mesmorised. At one point I was engrossed in watching one small one swim away, only to turn around and see a huge one swiming right for me- their permanently open mouths are more than a little scary looking (especially when coming right at you) but in fact they are so docile and much more afraid of us, so this one at the last minute dived right before it reached me-phew!
After all the excitement, the captain took us to another beautiful beach to relax and swim in the turquoise waters. It was a great day overall made even more special by the lovely Mexican family on my boat who befriended me immediately and as my camera was acting up took loads of pictures for me. If you ever get the chance to swim with this incredible animals, definitely do it- one of the highlights of my trip so far!
So I got back to shore and checked out some more of the cute restaurants and bars on the island, but since I'd stayed so long in Tulum I was trying to be stricter with myself and decided I'd had my fair share of beautiful beaches for now and so was headed for city life. Next stop Merida!