Port - Cozumel Rio Secreto on our own!
We have been to Cozumel many times before. We have already done most of the excursions that held some appeal to us. We were looking for something a little different and decided to go to Rio Secreto. http://www.riosecreto.com/ The reviews on Trip Advisor and CC were so favorable that this became a must do for us. RCL does offer this excursion on some sailings as the Amazing Secret River and Cavern. For some reason, they changed course and decided not to offer it for our particular sailing. We still really wanted to go, so I begin to research doing this excursion on our own. I knew the time schedule would be tight but thanks to daylight savings time. I felt it was doable.
We had hoped to catch the 7am ferry to Playa (8am ship time) however, we were just approaching to pier at 7:30. By the time we cleared customs and were able to debark (the Liberty docks at the International Pier) it was 7:50. We didn’t have to wait for a cab ($8 per cab) but it was still about 8:05 (ship time) by the time we reached the ferry to Playa. The ferry must have been punctual because we couldn’t even see it in the distance. So, we waited for the next ferry 9am (ship time). This was great because most of the ferry schedules posted online showed no 9am ferry (ship time). There was in fact one that day. The ferry ride ($13pp each way) lasted about 40 minutes. Cabs were plentiful around the Playa pier. We made the mistake of getting a van to take us ($20 per cab) we later found out that we paid a premium for the van ride. An ordinary cab was ($13 per cab). We were pulling up at Rio around 10am (ship time). We booked the 10am tour (Cozumel time) however, we were glad to see that that was flexible. There were two tours about to depart when we arrived and we were able to join in with the 9am tour (Cozumel time).
The tour started with a brief video about the caves. Then we boarded another van which took us closer to the entrance. The van ride was very bumpy. I think every pothole in Playa must have been on this route. Anyway about 10 long minutes later we arrived. Along the way there were signs warning about wildlife, snakes, jaguars and coyotes etc. I’m thinking jaguars??? Do they like caves?
Our tour guide – Alfredo was there to greet us. He ushered us to the lockers to store all our belongings. Warning to all camera junkies (myself included) no cameras are permitted. They do have a photographer that follows you the entire time and takes your pictures. They are available for $$$ at the end of the tour. Then we donned their wetsuits, water shoes, life vests and helmets. A short 5-10 minute walk later we were descending into the cave.
I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to some things. I don’t like to swim when fish are around me (snorkeling is out of the question. I don’t even swim in the ocean.) You know how people say the animals are more afraid of you then you are of them? Not true in my case. I’m more afraid of them then they are of me. Also, I describe myself as having claustrophobic tendencies. I am fine with elevators and things like that, but if I had to crawl through a 3ft by 3ft tunnel. I’d have a problem. So you might be wondering why in the world I would even be on a tour like this? So was I the second we took our first step down into the cave. Seriously though, some of my best experiences have occurred when I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. So, I try and do that from time to time. I also discovered that the darkness of the cave exacerbated my fears. I began to think maybe I had seen Alien v/s Predator and the Cave too many times to complete this tour. All these fears joined together and stopped me dead in my tracks.
Alfredo noticed the sheer look of terror on my face and tried to calm me down. For a brief minute I considered returning to the lockers to wait for the tour to end. The beautiful, well lit, shots that you see on Secreto’s website….all flash photography. There is NO light down there! It’s a cave so I knew there would be limited lighting, however this was total darkness. Other than the flashlight our guide was carrying and the lights mounted to our helmets we were in total darkness. At one point when we turned off all of our lights we literally could not see our hands in front of our faces. I’ll admit the first 15 minutes or so I didn’t notice any of the caves beauty. I was just scared and cold. After I got used to it though, the cave was really amazing. All of the stalactites and stalagmites, the crystal clear water. It was definitely an amazing sight. I was glad we didn’t have our 6yr old with us though. I think she would have been too scared to make it through the tour. There was a lady who couldn’t swim on the tour. Swimming isn’t necessary. The life vests are all you need to float your way through the tour.
We were exiting the cave 2 hours later, about 11:30(Cozumel time). This is where there is also some flexibility for cruise travelers. They advertise the tour length as 3 ½ hours. However, the next part of the tour was the Mexican lunch, viewing the photos, liquor tasting and browsing souvenirs. It was easy to speed up this part of the tour to save time. We were more concerned about making the return ferry than participating in any of this stuff. So, we grabbed a quick bite, got a CD of the photos taken ($69) and headed for the return shuttle van. Once we were back at the entrance, they called a cab for us ($13) and we were on our way back. It was a 10-15 minute drive back to the ferry. We were able to catch the 1:00(Cozumel time) ferry. Once we made it back to Cozumel we walked to Punta Langosta pier and shops. We did a little shopping and then grabbed a cab back to the International Pier. I worried for nothing we made it back to the ship with over an hour to spare. Rio Secreto was an awesome experience definitely an excursion worth doing. In the end I was glad I conquered my fear. It was a once in a lifetime experience. I have never done anything like that before.