MEXICO B FIELD COURSE


LENGTH: 6 Days/5 Nights

FIXED DEPARTURE DATES: Jul 18-23. Other dates available upon request.
*Other dates for individuals, families and groups, including WINTER INTERIM BREAK and SPRING BREAK, available upon request.

*Our standard MEXICO B FIELD COURSE itinerary can be modified in content and length for SPECIAL INTERESTS and NEEDS.

*SEA KAYAKING is also available in Mexico. Please contact Rainforest and Reef prior to arrival by e-mail: info@rainforestandreef.org or call toll-free: 1.877.255.3721.

*FIELD COURSES for those with SPECIAL INTERESTS, such as BIRDING and GARDEN GROUPS are available upon request. Sample itineraries can be seen at http://www.birdingtours.org (being updated), http://www.gardentours.org (being updated) and also http://www.rainforestandreef.org (being updated). Please contact Rainforest and Reef for details and pricing by e-mail: info@rainforestandreef.org or call toll-free: 1.877.255.3721.

*SPANISH IMMERSION PROGRAMS for individuals/groups are also available in Mexico. A sample itinerary can be seen at http://www.iwanttolearnspanish.org (being updated) and also http://www.rainforestandreef.org (being updated). Please contact Rainforest and Reef for details and pricing by e-mail: info@rainforestandreef.org or call toll-free: 1.877.255.3721.

BELIZE: Belize, Central America is located south of the Yucatán Peninsula and connected to Mexico by the Tulum Corridor. An extension or combination of Belize can easily be designed with any of our Field Courses in Mexico’s Yucatán upon request. Please contact Rainforest and Reef for details and pricing by e-mail: info@rainforestandreef.org or call toll-free: 1.877.255.3721.

HACIENDAS of the YUCATÁN and CAMPECHE: The Yucatán Peninsula is famous for its colonial Haciendas. Some include Chunchucmil, Chunkanan, Ochil, Petac, Puerta Campeche (State of Campeche), San José Cholul, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Temozon, Teya, Uayamon, Xcanatun and Yaxcopoil to name a few. Any of these can be booked upon request. Please contact Rainforest and Reef for details and pricing by e-mail: info@rainforestandreef.org or call toll-free: 1.877.255.3721.

FIELD COURSE COST: 980.00USD per person. Based on a minimum of 10 full-paying participants. One Group Leader FREE for the ground portion of our MEXICO B FIELD COURSE with 10 full-paying participants. Cost is based on triple and quadruple occupancy. Double and single occupancy available upon request, usually at an extra cost.

Note: For individuals, families or groups of less than full-paying participants, please contact Rainforest and Reef for pricing by e-mail: info@rainforestandreef.org or call toll-free: 1.877.255.3721.

Includes: All INSTRUCTION and BI-LINGUAL GUIDE SERVICES; all MEALS and LODGING as stated in the itinerary; all GROUND and WATER TRANSPORTATION within Mexico; all ENTRANCE FEES to NATIONAL PARKS and OTHER SITES.

Does Not Include: ROUND-TRIP INTERNATIONAL AIRFARE to Mérida, Mexico; INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT DEPARTURE TAX (USD per person); GRATUITIES and PERSONAL ITEMS.

INTERNATIONAL AIRFARE: Rainforest and Reef uses consolidators/wholesalers for all of our GROUP and INDIVIDUAL airfares. We are therefore able to offer the LOWEST RATES available. Please contact Rainforest and Reef for details and pricing by e-mail: info@rainforestandreef.org or call toll-free: 1.877.255.3721.

ITINERARY:

MEAL CODES: B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner

Note: On the MEDICAL INFORMATION FORM that you will be receiving shortly after registration, please make us aware of any special meal requests and/or dietary restrictions….vegan, vegetarian, etc., that you or members of your group may have. We will be pleased to fulfill your requests/needs.

DAY 1 ARRIVAL. Following your arrival at Crecencio Rejon International Airport, 6 miles southwest of Mérida in the heart of the Yucatán Peninsula, you will be met by our Mexico B Field Course Staff and transferred to your hotel. Dinner and overnight Mérida. D

Note: You will be met outside of Immigration and Customs by Rainforest and Reef Staff. They will be holding a sign.

DAY 2 MAYAN SITE of CHICHÉN ITZÁ-ACTIVITIES in the COMMUNITY of EK-BALAM-SWIMMING/SNORKELING in a LOCAL CENOTE-RAPELLING. Following breakfast today, our group will depart for the famed Mayan site of Chichén Itzá, located 114 miles east of Mérida. Upon arrival, we will stop at the Visitor’s Center where there are several informative displays, including a model of the city and a placard with a brief description of the city's history. Chichén Itzá, the ancient city whose name means "in the mouth at the Itzáe's well", is thought to have flourished between 800 and 1200 A.D. It was the center of political, religious and military power in the Yucatán, if not all of SE Meso-America. Chichén Itzá was a large city with a great many inhabitants distributed throughout the Archaeological Park. People had relatively easy access to fresh-water coming from a variety of nearby caves and cenotes. The city itself is divided into two principal areas, Chichén Viejo (Old Chichén) and Chichén Nuevo (New Chichén). Chichén Viejo was founded around 400 A.D. by the Maya and governed by priests. Here the architecture is characterized by many representations of Chac, the Mayan “rain god”. Chichén Nuevo began about 850 A.D. with the arrival of the Itzá from Central Mexico. The city was rebuilt by the Itzá and is characterized by images of the god Kukulcán, the “plumed serpent”. Around 1150 A.D. a new wave of Itzá took over the city and ruled for another 150 years until Chichén Itzá was finally overtaken by the rival city of Mayapan. The Itzá were politically and commercially more aggressive than the earlier Mayan rulers and the city's history under their rule was marked by many bloody battles. Chichén Itzá was abandoned suddenly around 1400 A.D. perhaps because of internal fighting or for lack of food. There are many theories on this issue to this day. After lunch, participants will travel to the community of Ek-Balam and stop at a complex operated by a cooperative of Mayan farmers. Here we will participate in a variety of activities with local families. We will travel to a local cenote to swim, snorkel and cool off. Participants will be shown how to rappel and take turns getting to the pools here using this technique. Dinner tonight will be local Mayan cuisine. Overnight Ek-Balam. B L D

Note: Cenotes (say-NO-tays) are deep sinkholes formed by water percolating through the soft limestone above. Water that gathers in each cenote is a crystal clear, turquoise color with some pools being over 300 feet deep. Stalactites and stalagmites commonly form inside and are true natural works of art. In many, holes in the ceiling allow sunlight to filter in, giving each site a surreal appearance and feeling. There are over 3000 cenotes in the Yucatán. In some, a rare species of eyeless black fish known as "lub” is found. Swimming, snorkeling or diving in many is possible. Being the only source of fresh-water, cenotes were sacred places for the ancient Maya. They also represented the entrance to the underworld.

DAY 3 MAYAN SITE of EK-BALAM-FLORA and FAUNA of EK BALAM-SAN FELIPE-RÍA LAGARTOS BIOSPHERE RESERVE-NIGHT VISIT to RÍA LAGARTOS. After breakfast this morning, we will take a Guided tour of the Archaeological Park at Ek-Balam. In Mayan, Ek-Balam means "black jaguar". This site is thought to have achieved pivotal status in the public affairs of the eastern Yucatán and judging from its monumental architecture, it was most likely an extremely influential Mayan city. Its central plaza, bordered by three massive ceremonial structures, is quite impressive. The complex also features a number of smaller temples, altars, and living quarters. The chief pyramid, known as “the Tower”, is comparable in size (100 feet high, 517 feet long and 200 feet wide) with the northeastern Yucatan's most remarkable Mayan buildings. The central plaza grouping is encompassed by two low walls girdling 310 of the settlement's overall 2500 acres. As recently as 1987 a pre-Spanish road network, was uncovered and found to fan out to distances of up to a mile or more. Recent research shows that the site was inhabited from as far back as the late Pre-Classic and Early Classic Periods (100 B.C.-300 A.D) and up until the time of the Spanish conquest and colonization. The peak of Ek-Balam's development has been traced to 700-1000 A.D. Ek-Balam may have been the nerve center for local agricultural output and management in pre-Spanish times. Today, the area still produces large volumes of corn, wax, honey and cotton. The decline of the settlement might have been due to gradual depopulation beginning in about 1200 A.D. By then building works had dropped to record low levels, involving only small temples or shrines erected atop Classic Period stone platforms. Once again, there are many theories regarding the cause of Ek-Balam’s decline and eventual demise. While here, our Guides will also be on the lookout for the wide variety of flora and fauna found at Ek-Balam. Our group will then transfer to the quaint and picturesque fishing village of San Felipe, located on the northern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. It is known for its delicious seafood and houses, which for generations have been built out of wood. San Felipe is one a number of small villages in the region where the traditions of Mayan culture are still very much alive. We will then travel to the nearby Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve. Here participants will explore the Reserve by boat and on foot. At Ría Lagartos the currents of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico merge into a turbulent stream of turquoise and green colors, which work their way inland to form beautiful estuaries and fresh-water lagoons (rías). The Ría Lagartos and Ría Celestún (west of Mérida) Biosphere Reserves combine to protect over 265,000 acres of near-pristine estuaries, mangroves and tropical forests. Both Reserves, although 140 miles apart, biologically link vital stop-over points for over 300 other species of birds, including Herons, Ducks, Gulls, and a number of migratory Wading Birds. In the winter months it is thought that ~90% of all Pink Flamingos in the world, more than 20,000, migrate to Ría Lagartos and Ría Celestún. These areas were given Biosphere status, the highest level of protection in Mexico, in 1979. The beaches of the Reserves are the main nesting areas in Mexico for the endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle. Other endangered species such as Jaguar, Puma, Ocelot, Margay, Marsh and River Crocodiles also find refuge here. Ría Lagartos is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse areas on the Peninsula. The Reserve has been threatened by cattle ranching and salt mining, which can have drastic impacts on wildlife habitat and pollute waters through improper waste management. The organization PiP (Parks in Peril) has hired and trained a Reserve Director, Rangers, purchased vehicles and made signs for the Reserve. PiP has also assisted local partner organization Pronatura Peninsula de Yucatán in efforts to protect Ría Lagartos. Late this afternoon, we will return to our hotel in San Felipe for an excellent fish dinner. After dinner, we will return to Ría Lagartos in hopes of hearing and seeing nocturnal animals. Overnight San Felipe. B L D

DAY 4 ARCHAELOGICAL ZONE of UXMAL-CAVES of CALCEHTOK-NIGHT HIKE to the CAVES in SEARCH of BATS. Today, our group will drive to the famed Mayan site of Uxmal (oosh-MAL), located ~50 miles SW of Mérida. Bring a camera, the buildings here are very photogenic, a hat, sunscreen and good walking shoes. There is a small museum and auditorium at the entrance. Uxmal (OOSH-mahl) means "'built three times" in Mayan, referring to the construction of its highest structure, the Pyramid of the Magician. The Maya would often build a new temple over an existing one, and in this case five stages of construction have actually been found. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is one of the best restored and maintained ruins in the Yucatán and certainly one of the most magnificent. At its height, from 600-900 A.D., it is thought to have been home to ~25,000 Mayans. Indications are that its rulers presided also over the nearby settlements in Kabah, Labná and Sayil, and there are several sacbeob connecting the sites (white, long and straight roads built to connect temples, plazas, and cities). Carvings most commonly found here and common to Puuc architecture, include serpents, lattice work and masks of Chac. Chac was the god of rain, greatly revered by the Maya at Uxmal because of the lack of natural water supplies. Instead, it was necessary to collect water in cisterns, built in the ground. The proximity of the Puuc hills did mean, however, that comparatively rich soil from the hilltop forests was washed down the slopes during rainstorms, making the area one of the most successful agricultural regions of the Yucatán. Evidence here suggests that Uxmal collaborated politically and economically with Chichen Ítza.

Significant structures to be observed here include:
The Pyramid of the Magician: Standing 117 feet high, this structure dominates the site as you enter the complex. Unusually built on an elliptical base, this pyramid is the result of five superimposed temples. Parts of the first temple can be seen when ascending the western staircase. The second and third are accessed by the eastern staircase, through an inner chamber at the second level. The fourth temple is clearly visible from the west side, a giant Chac mask marks the entrance and Chac’s mouth serves as the door. One must climb to the top of the east stairs to reach the fifth temple, where you can view the entire site. The view from here is well worth the effort. Use caution, the steps are extremely steep. In “Incidents of Travel in the Yucatan” John Stevens recounts stories of human sacrifices performed from the top of the fifth temple.

The Nunnery Quadrangle: This collection of four buildings around a quadrangle was named "Casa de las Monjas" (the nunnery) by the Spanish. The 74 small rooms around the courtyard here reminded them of nuns’ quarters in a Spanish convent. Each of the four buildings has a unique ornate façade and each is built on a different level. The northern building is the oldest and the grandest. Here you can see many typical Puuc embellishments, including Chac masks arranged one over another vertically, serpents and lattice work. The building to the east and closest to the House of the Magician is the best preserved, with a stack of Chac masks over the central doorway and serpents above the doorways to the left and right. It is thought to have been used as a school for training healers, astrologers, shamans and priests.

The Palace of the Governor: Regarded by experts as the best example of Puuc architecture in existence, the Palace of the Governor stands on an artificial raised platform and is thought to be one of the last constructed buildings on the site. It occupies 5 acres. The structure has a typical plain lower and a richly carved upper section. Amongst the depictions are serpents, lattices, masks and also a central seated god-like figure with a long plumed head-dress. The Governor's Palace is an excellent example of stone mosaic work probably created by hundreds of masons and sculptors.

House of the Turtles: Next to the Palace of the Governor and on the same raised platform stands the House of the Turtles, so called because of a frieze of turtles carved around the cornices. It was believed that turtles suffered with man during times of drought and would also pray to Chac for rain.

The Great Pyramid: Originally nine levels high, the Great Pyramid has been partially restored. It seems that another temple was to be superimposed on the existing structure and some demolition had taken place before the plans were halted, leaving the pyramid in bad condition. However, you can still see Puuc-style stonework on the facade.

Ballcourt: Uxmal also has a large ballcourt, enclosing a playing field that is 110 feet long and 32 feet wide.

Other Structures: These include the House of the Doves, the House of the Old Woman, the Temple of the Phalli and the Cemetery Group.

Following lunch, we will drive to Calcehtok (KAL-say-tock). Here, our group will have the opportunity to explore the Calcehtok caverns, also known as "Aktun Spukil". The caverns and complex cave system found here are considered among the largest in the Yucatán Peninsula. Calcehtok is derived from the Mayan "cal" (neck), "ceh" (deer) and "tok" (flint). It got this name in 1875 when a sculpted stone with the shape of a deer was discovered in one of its caves. Upon arrival, we will be met by one of the 75 grandchildren of the Mayan “abuelito” (grandfather) who discovered Calcehtok. Participants will then descend into the main chamber on an iron ladder. Once here, four different routes can be taken. The most interesting has ~1.5 miles of galleries, including natural formations called “the crocodile”, “the horse”, “the tongue”, “the mommy” and “the divine face”. These can all be seen in cave no. 4. An abundance of pre-Hispanic materials are found in all the caves here, including intact vessels of pottery. There are also chambers still waiting to be explored, which someday will add to our understanding of the Mayans that lived here. Archaeologists have found bones of deer and other animals, ceramics, quartzite hammers, arrowheads, human graves and more. After dinner this evening, we will return to the caves here, in hopes of seeing some of the thousands of bats that make this their home. Overnight Calcehtok. B L D

Note: Field Course participants should bring a good flashlight or better yet, a head-lamp for our caving adventure at Calcehtok.

DAY 5 CAVING at X-PUCIL-WALKING TOUR of MÉRIDA-FAREWELL DINNER. After breakfast, we will visit the cave of X-pucil, one of the largest in the Yucatán. There are varying degrees of difficulty in exploration available here, participants can choose which best suits their interests. After lunch, participants will travel back to Mérida. This afternoon will be spent doing a Guided walking tour of this marvelous city. Mérida, the capital city and cultural center of the state of Yucatán, is located in the northern portion of the Yucatán Peninsula. It is ~22 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. To the east is the state of Quintana Roo, to the west the state of Campeche, to the north the Gulf of Mexico and far to the south the state of Chiapas. Mérida was founded in 1542 by Francisco de Montejo, a Spanish Conquistador, and is centered around a downtown "centro" typical of colonial Spanish cities. It was built over the Mayan city of Ti'ho, which existed centuries earlier. Some carved Mayan stones from ancient Ti'ho are still visibly reused in some Spanish Colonial buildings. Late in the 19th century and the early 20th century, the area surrounding Mérida prospered from the production of henequén (also known as “sisal”, because it was exported from the port of Sisal, which for most of the 19th century was the most important port in the state). Mérida is nicknamed "The White City" both for the common color of its buildings and the fact that residents keep the city particularly clean. It was named after the Spanish town of the same name and its main thoroughfare, Paseo de Montejo, is lined with original sculpture. Mérida and the state of Yucatán are somewhat isolated from the rest of the country, and this is evident in many ways. The Conquistadors found the Mayan culture to be incredibly resilient, as their attempts to eradicate Mayan tradition, religion and culture had only moderate success. Many inhabitants today are Mayan descendants. The surviving remnants of the Mayan culture can be seen everyday, in speech, dress and in both written and oral histories. The Spanish spoken in the Yucatán is readily identifiable as different, even to non-native ears. It is heavily influenced by the Mayan language, which is still spoken by a third of the population although mostly in smaller villages. Yucatecan food has its own unique style, different from the rest of Mexico in many ways. It includes influences from the local Mayan culture, the Caribbean, Mexican, European and Middle Eastern cultures. Local dishes include, Poc Chuc, a Mayan/Yucatecan version of barbecued pork; Salbutes, soft, cooked tortillas with lettuce, tomato, turkey and avocado on top; Panuchos, pretty much the same as Salbutes, with the difference being mainly in that the tortilla is crunchy with refried beans spread inside; Queso Relleños, a "gourmet" dish that has ground pork placed inside of a carved eddam cheesse ball and served with tomato sauce; Relleño Negro, turkey meat cooked with a black paste of condiments from the region, served in tacos or sandwiches; Turkey, Lime and Tortilla soups and Escabeche, chicken cooked with condiments and onions. Habañero peppers accompany most dishes, either in solid or purée form, along with fresh limes and corn tortillas. Tonight we will celebrate our “farewell dinner” and overnight Mérida. B L D

DAY 6 DEPARTURE. After an early breakfast and farewells to your Mexico B Field Course Staff, you will be transferred to Crecencio Rejon International Airport, outside of Mérida for your return flight home. B

Note: Due to weather conditions and circumstances beyond the control of Field Course Staff, certain activities may be changed or done on different days in the best interest of the group.

 
 


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