Calakmul – A Real Jungle Adventure
Part 1 – A Jungle Hotel
A blog post by Greg
When we began the research to start booking our Mexico adventure (which would become our video, Mexico: Mayan Mystery and Marine Majesty), one of my main goals was to find a remote jungle ruin to visit. In my mind I had visions of Indiana Jones at the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Felicity was looking through the Lonely Planet Guide when she found a place named Calakmul – at that point in time little more than a word on a page – and we began to look at visiting, and whether it would be possible to get to the site during our time in Mexico.
To begin with we would have to drive quite a long way out to the Calakmul Biosphere, a jungle filled biosphere reserve covering nearly 2,800 miles, including the Calakmul Archaeological Zone. It feels a world away from the tourist metropolis of Chichen Itza, with its crowds of tourists in beachwear bussed in from Cancun, and even feels a long way from the jungles of Palenque which, although they felt so remote, had a huge row of large hotels leading almost right up to the entrance of the archaeological site.
When Felicity found a hotel for us to stay in, the website ‘warned’ that it is 36 miles from the nearest petrol station (which seems even further to us as it is longer than the whole way across the Isle of Wight), and about 60 miles from the nearest reasonably sized town. It may surprise you that the hotel’s website has ‘warnings’ – but this hotel wanted to make it clear that it was decidedly in the jungle, and so you couldn’t expect everything you would in a city hotel. They actually say on their website at one stage:
“From what you have read to this point, it may look like we are trying to scare you away. On the contrary, this is a wonderful/magical area. We just want you to be prepared before coming here.”
As you can imagine, with the way Felicity and I enjoy adventures and avoiding the crowded ‘touristy’ areas as we go, the ‘warnings’ of how they were remote and didn’t have all the mod-cons and a string of shops, bars and restaurants nearby just made us want to stay there even more.
Even on arriving at the hotel, a mile into the jungle from the road, we would then have to drive over an hour further into the jungle to reach the ruins of Calakmul itself.
There was no question that here we had discovered our remote jungle ruin, and fast forward from the planning stage to our arrival at our hotel in Calakmul to see a slightly overexcited Greg driving along a jungle road and pulling up at the entrance to the Hotel Puerta Calakmul.
‘Hotel’ doesn’t really do justice to the place we had arrived at. Yes, it has a reception, rooms and a restaurant, but not in the traditional hotel style. The reception is a covered hut beside the carpark, and from there you are taken through the jungle to your ‘room’. The rooms are actually wooden cabins in the jungle, with no glass windows, just mesh to keep out the worst of the insects.
This led to a wonderful feeling of experiencing sleeping outside in the jungle, while at the same time being comfortable. To be laying in bed and listening to all of the sounds outside, and to feel the warm jungle air blowing through.
To my mind it was better than camping in a tent because it felt as though you were completely open to the jungle outside. For Felicity it was better than camping in a tent because… well, because it wasn’t camping in a tent! We could spend time outside in the hammock, and time relaxing inside the cabin, and the whole time we could hear the sounds of the jungle all around us, and it was beautifully peaceful.
The restaurant, a short walk along a pathway, was of a very similar style. On one side it had the bar, offices and kitchens, while the three other sides were just discreet mesh walls allowing unrestricted views of the jungle. It was a civilised way to feel a part of the jungle, so we could sit here, miles from the nearest town, enjoying the jungle surroundings but also enjoying tortillas, enchiladas, the odd beer and wonderful hospitality – we were on our Honeymoon after all!
All of this, and we still hadn’t made it into the jungle to search for wildlife, or visited the Calakmul ruins yet. Which will take place in our next posts!
If you are interested in learning more about the hotel we stayed in you can look here. Just to be clear, we haven’t been paid to promote them or anything, we just really enjoyed the experience!
For now, thanks for reading, and safe travels!