“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” Mary Anne Radmacher
Bacalar is an area in the very south of Quintana Roo just a couple of hours drive south of Tulum and not far from the Belize border. Whilst it’s famous in the region for its enormous blue lagoon, it’s an area that is still unspoilt and unknown to many tourists. I was desperate to see the lagoon for myself after overhearing someone talking about it on Holbox Island, and so I should have jumped at the chance when I was invited by a couple of the Mexican guys I’d met in Tulum. The girls had left and so I found myself umm’ing and ahh’ing about going overnight because I didn’t really know these people very well nor what the set up would be when I was there. But I realised that I had to stop allowing worry to take over my mind, especially if I wanted to see the lake for myself, and so I set off in the car with two of my new friends.
These friends were also business partners who had just bought a piece of land in the jungle facing the lagoon. They are going to build eco-friendly luxury villas there. Whilst there is the small town of Bacalar, the rest of the lagoon is surrounded by a wild jungle, most of which is a protected area because of the nature it is home to. We drove as far into the jungle as we possibly could before we met with a biologist and another couple of people who were going to show my friends the area of land they were buying. So untouched was the land, that our guide had to bring a machete and cut a path through the overgrown trees and shrubs so we could get through it. ‘God damn it’, I thought once again as I lamented my lack of mosquito repellent; with every step we took we were disturbing them and they were feasting on me. Aside from mosquitoes, the jungle was fascinating. I saw blackberries the size tennis balls hanging from the trees, the most enormous butterfly I’ve ever seen whose wings were black on one side and a bright metallic-blue on the other, and our guide said that last time he was here he’d seen a family of twenty monkeys. It was as we were walking through the middle of the jungle that I was told that the area is also home to jaguars. One thing I’ve learnt about Mexicans, is that they mention the presence of deadly animals in such a casual manner.
“What do you mean there are jaguars?” I said aghast, “won’t they attack us?”. I was trying to think back to the relevant episode of Planet Earth and what information I had learned about these deadly creatures. “Don’t worry”, I was told by my amused friend, “they don’t come near humans, especially ones in groups, as they’ve learnt it’s safer not to.”.
The mosquito ridden path eventually led us out to the lagoon, and it was beautiful. I found myself trying to count the number of blue shades I could see as we stripped into our swimwear and jumped in. The lagoon was very calm and shallow and it stretched for miles. The ground was incredibly squelchy, and at times my legs would disappear into the mud up to my knees. It was at this point, knee-deep in the mud, that one of my friends decided to let me know that there were crocodiles in the lagoon! “Jesus Christ!” I shouted as I scanned the mangroves where the lagoon met the jungle. Thankfully we didn’t encounter any of those monsters although my eyes were on constant high-alert, much to the continued amusement of my friends. They told me a story about a friend of theirs, a Mexican wildlife photographer who went into the water to capture a sequence of images of a pier. Click, click, click, went his camera and as he looked into its viewfinder to check the last image, he noticed a crocodile right in front of him moments from attacking him. He grabbed his tripod and ran and luckily escaped death, and in the sequence of images you can see the crocodile slowly getting closer to him. The photo is now titled “Alive” and is hung in his gallery in Tulum.
Once the meeting had finished, and my fear of crocodiles was well and truly solidified, we headed back through the jungle and arrived at an eco-friendly hotel called Rancho Encantado. I am told this is the best play to stay in Bacalar, and as we walked through the grounds it was really beautiful although a lot of it was under-development (this is something I’d gotten used to from travelling Mexico in September as it’s the low-season). I could hear the waves of the lagoon as we ate lunch and the sun shone on the water making it appear almost metallic, like mercury. I saw wooden swings in the water, and there were hammocks under a wooden hut that sat over the lagoon.
It was here we met up with a group of about ten people, mainly couples, who we would spend our next two days with. We sat around the hammocks, playing music, eating and drinking until it got dark and my eyes couldn’t stay open any longer. Admittedly I drifted in and out of the conversation due to my lack of Spanish, but I looked around and felt incredibly happy. Everyone was engaging in real conversation as we drank. We spoke about travel, politics, movies and everything in between and there were no phones in sight. It was nice. I know I’m a total romantic in the way I view the world, but there was a magical and calm energy in Bacalar that made me feel creatively inspired, and I dreamt of building a house there where I could sit and write facing the blues of the water.
One of the guys in our group turned out to be a Mexican actor and as a result the mayor had kindly lent him his jet-ski, which was lucky for me as I got to take a tour of the lagoon on the water. The lightest parts of the water were incredibly shallow, and so we would jump out and swim (although I always kept my eye out for any sneakily-approaching crocodiles), and the deeper parts of the lagoon were incredibly dark. We passed boat tours, and people on kayaks although it never felt busy. If you are looking for a place to get away from it all, then I can’t recommend you visit Bacalar enough.
And as we drove back to Tulum, I felt pleased that I had been given the opportunity to go on this adventure. Bacalar is a peaceful haven, and I can’t recommend it enough that you visit, it if you’re looking for a place to get away from it all.