Above: View from our canoe, Punta Laguna Nature Reserve, Tulum - ANDREW HARPER EDITOR

Archaeological Adventures in the Yucatán

Howler monkeys boomed from a ceiba tree as I hooked into a harness, preparing to be lowered into a cave half-submerged by an underground river, where the remains of ancient Maya lay hidden beneath crystal-blue water. It was the apex of an archaeological adventure I undertook while on the Yucatán’s Riviera Maya. Chablé Maroma and Etéreo, Auberge Resorts Collection each arranged unique experiences with excellent guides (a Mexico expert in the Andrew Harper Travel Office liaised with the hotels on my behalf). Both work with Dante García, the man who took us snorkeling amid the bones.

Chichén Itzá - Oreste Gaspari / Getty Images
Tulum - Sam Camp / Getty Images

A National Geographic-featured underwater archaeologist, García works with Maya villagers to shape expeditions like no others. He’ll take you by boat to Tulum, fly you in a Cessna to Chichén Itzá, scuba you through labyrinthine cenotes and send photos of it all afterward. For our daylong adventure, “Facing the Ancient Maya,” García and his photographer picked us up at Chablé Maroma and drove us two hours to Punta Laguna Nature Reserve, home to more than 300 animal species.

As a birdwatcher, I was thrilled. Canoeing across the lagoon with a local guide, we spotted egrets, ibises, kingfishers, anhingas and boat-billed and dusky-capped flycatchers. In the jungle, where spider monkeys swung beteween branches, we had our best sighting: a jewel-toned motmot, a striking bird with a bare tail that ends in a feathered medallion. García called it a sign that a cenote was near, for motmots nest within them.

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Above: View from our canoe, Punta Laguna Nature Reserve, Tulum - ANDREW HARPER EDITOR

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