Pros: Great scenery, charming guides, ancient sites.
Cons: Tour way too short
On our recent cruise (epinion on ship to follow) Cozumel was one of the ports of call not canceled due to a mighty trio of hurricanes, that chased us around the Caribbean.
Susi and I had decided before the cruise not to sign up for any of the shore excursions, I guess it was a wise choice considering we never got to stop at two of the ports. However the night before we were to dock in Cozumel, I got leafing through the booklet of tours, and the horseback riding tour really lit up for me. Not that I can say the same thing when I broached Susi with this funtastic idea. In her defense she did agree. Here's a little how this whole idea panned out.
Di - Wow, look at this brochure, a horseback riding tour.
Susi - (Gulp) horseback riding, are you sure? OK this is what they call a compromise right?
Di - Really laughing hysterically, yes it's a compromise. I pay and you ride.
I immediately raced to the pursers desk hoping this tour was not already booked solid. It wasn't, the price was not outrageous, eighty-one dollars a head. So back to the cabin I strolled with two tickets in hand for the AM excursion. Yehaw!
Fortunately for both of us, it was not one of those tours that left at the crack of dawn. We were to meet on the pier at 10:45 which was perfect considering we never saw the inside of the cabin any night before two in the morning.
Of course being the time conscious, and often refereed to as the anal on time nut, we were on the pier at 10:00. So we walked into the shops at the end of the pier, but bought nothing, we were getting ready to giddy up, Yehaw!
We strolled back to the designated meeting place, saw the tour guide, well, we figured it was him he was dressed in jeans, boots, cowboy hat, and was holding a sign in the shape of a horseshoe with the tour name painted on it. See how clever we are?
Of course we too were decked out in our jeans and long sleeve shirts, and I must admit sitting on the pier waiting to depart was a bit warm. Finally we were on our way to the bus that was going to drive us to Rancho Buenavista. We loaded into the air conditioned (cough) bus. Perhaps it was, but everyone was still sweating like hogs. Perhaps, this was a preconditioning to our few hour horsey ride through the jungles. Aldo was the name of one of the tour guides and bus guide. He repeated his name once more saying it was spelled A-L-D-O, not A-L-P-O. His side kick was Effie, who turned out to be our guide, he was adorable and had a wonderful sense of humor.
Once reaching the ranch they had free cokes or corona beer, for a few minutes before it was time to saddle up and head on out. I downed two quick cokes, ran to the potty and was set to go. Our group gathered around as Effie was going to give some quick tips and advice on the art of horseback riding. He first asked that our group of twenty or so fall into lines as beginner, intermediate, or advanced rider. I fell into the center line of intermediate, where else would you expect a Libra to be? Susi had fears she'd be the only beginner, her fears were soon put aside when all but three folks drifted to that line.
Effie dismounted his horse and began a quick instruction class. Pointing to the horse he said "This is a horse, he has four legs, one head, a tail, and is equipped with a Mexican saddle which is similar to a western saddle but the horn is larger, and the reins are not separated but joined, and the knot is where you hold to get your horse going in the direction you want." He mounted and gave a quick example. Once again off of his steed, he looked at the beginner line and laughingly said "comon folks we don't have that many dead horses" Of course being the shy one Susi says "Well, I never saw a horse before, so reserve one of the dead ones for me." A nervous laugh ensued, for one beginner knew they had no chance of securing a carousel horse.
Yours truly was picked to mount first, and on the horse Effie was riding no less. Actually I was thrilled this one time, at being picked first because it gave me more time in the saddle. It also allowed me to move to the rear as Susi mounted to get a quick picture off, at least she was smiling. I think she was smiling, I know I saw a lot of teeth (smile) In no time at all we were off on our journey. It was breathtaking, Susi had said she had wanted to see the Mayan Ruins, but neither of us was up to hiking on that particular excursion. This riding tour took us by many of the ruins, caves, carvings, sculptures, and housing huts of that time. So seems we both came out winners.
In the cleared areas of the jungles, there were signs posted "galloping at your own risk" I took full advantage of this and yehaw, I was off. Several times after these spurts of energy I turned and went back to ride with Susi. I can remember one occasion giving Susi's horse a smart snap, and it was Hi Ho Susi. At that moment I would have given my kingdom for a movie camera. Actually several times she jumped that horse off of the carousel and galloped along the trails. It was not totally dead, it would gallup just not for long periods.
Along the trails I saw some of the biggest lizards I had ever seen, they were everywhere. Effie informed us the locals considered these lizards as, Mexico's squirrels.
Once the ride was over we returned to the Cantina for more free cokes and beer. It was here one of the ranchers put on an excellent show of trick roping. Really impressive. Now, the ride is over, the show is done, pictures bought, beer and cokes consumed it was time to re-board the air-conditioned bus. Amazingly it seemed a lot cooler than the trip to the ranch, perhaps because we all were a tad bit warmer than the trip over.
As we drove on this what seemed to me a one way road, I saw a car coming towards us. Amazingly it zipped on by us, two lanes, who would have guessed? Effie, the endless charmer was asking who wanted a beer? Only this time there would be a two dollar charge. He said drinking on the road was against the law, but as everyone knew "Mexicans never obey the law." This caused an eruption of laughter in the bus. A few bought the beer, and no kidding less than a minute later, Effie shouted hide the beer, cops. Sure enough one drove past us.
I hated for the day to end, and was ready to go again right away. My riding partner (no names to protect the innocent) said it was fun, "but somewhere out there I lost my right boob and left thigh, another ride, another time." I can live with that, a compromise.
We made friends with several people on the cruise who opted and enjoyed the other tours offered. I can only add here what they are, and what our traveling companions had to say about them. They all sounded great but if I ever get back to Cozumel, Aldo and Effie here I come.
Other tours offered:
Snorkeling at the Xal-ha Lagoon, where tour goers got to see the natural limestone formations. I did not talk to anyone who did this trip, but the short film footage shown on board, did look inviting.
Fiesta Party Boat, a day trip to Playa del Sol which is one of Cozumels beaches. We did meet some folks that went on this. They said the scenery was beautiful, the sand and beach unsurpassed, the music loud and non stop, as were the FREE drinks. This was a tour for the young, the drinkers, or a combination of both. Susi and I fell way short in both categories.
Dolphin Encounter, this looked to be a very interesting tour per the video shown. However, this tour they say had been booked several months in advance, so there were no openings for swimming with the dolphins.
Passion Island, is a privately owned beach of the cruise line. They supplied transportation to and from the island. Lunch was also supplied as were drinks. See a theme here? Cruise line guest + tour = drinking.
Personally, I can only highly recommend the Rancho Buenavista tour. Whoda thunk Susi with equestrian blood running through her veins?