Last time, I wrote from the Internet café aboard the Grand Princess, during a cruise from Galveston to the Western Caribbean. I received a lot of mail regarding the impoverished school I mentioned seeing in the Costa Maya port of Majahual, Mexico.
Two letters came from folks who had actually visited the same school to donate school supplies, during their port calls. They described their encounters with the delighted children and teachers, and I'm certain that was a port call that will never be forgotten. Bravo!
Another gentleman wrote to say that he had invested in the development in the area, and listed numerous projects underway or planned that he said would transform the region into a major attraction. I subsequently tracked down a representative of the Mexico Government trust that is developing the region, and he told me that the same trust that developed Cancun is behind Costa Maya. In the next 10 years, there are plans for resorts, restaurants, and an international airport. He said the development will be done in a low-impact, environmentally friendly manner, and that the area will ultimately be positioned as an ecotourism destination. Look out, Costa Rica.
From Majahual, the Grand Princess sailed to Belize City, where my son and I jumped on a bus and headed into the jungle to try ziplining. After a 90-minute ride, we reached a mountainous area and stopped at a ranch called Jaguar Paw. We hiked a short distance into the dense forest, met our guides, and slipped into our harnesses and helmets.
In case you have not tried it, you begin your ziplining adventure by climbing to a narrow, wooden platform at the top of a tall tree, and jumping off. Suspended from redundant cables, you slide through the tree-top canopy to the next platform, and repeat.
At Jaguar Paw, the course encompasses 2 parallel hillsides. On a slide between two trees on the same hill, we were 15 to 35 feet off the ground. On long runs that crossed the valley between the two hillsides, I heard we were as much as 75 feet above the ground. I can't say for sure, I was looking straight ahead.
These long runs were particularly intense because we could not see the destination platforms when we started our slides. Fortunately, a guide slides first on each segment, and it's reassuring to hear him call back from the distant foliage, indicating that 1) he is still alive and 2) he is ready to receive the first guest.
During slides, you control your own speed by squeezing the cable with a gloved hand. Brake too much and you stop your slide still dangling over the ground and must pull yourself hand-over-hand to the platform -- not for the faint of heart. Brake too little and the guide will try to manually slow you down when you reach the platform.
Freeze up and fail to brake at all and the tree at the center of the platform will bring your slide to a swift conclusion.
After all the runs at Jaguar Paw, guests and guides rappel 30 feet down from the last platform. I'm quite sure that tidbit wasn't in the shore excursion description.
I'd have to give ziplining in Belize a 10 on the exhilaration scale, though it's obviously not for everyone. Hard to believe it was just another day on board the Grand Princess.
Chairman & CEO
Vacations To Go
Grand Princess Cruise, Part 1: The Children of Majahual