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TIPS FOR VISITING MAYAN RUIN SITES
Rent A Bicycle At Coba
At Coba, rent a bicycle. The main temple/pyramid is a long walk through the jungle and the bike ride will save you lots of energy. Many people think that the walk would be "nice" however if you climb to the top of the great pyramid then you will be tired and wished you had a bike to get back on.
Take water with you because many of the sites do not have a store.
Know Where You Are Going
Always stay on main paths. Never wander into the jungle thinking you may see something off the beaten path. At popular ruin sites there are usually lots of tourists and staff walking around but at some of the remote sites some times you could be the only people there.
If you get lost in the jungle it is difficult because often you cannot see the sun so it is extremely difficult to get your sense of direction. Paths crisscross into a maze that can take you deeper and deeper into dense uninhabited jungle.
Bring a working compass or GPS with you. A whistle can also be a good thing if you get lost or separated from your group.
It is better to wear hiking boots/shoes or running shoes instead of sandals. You get better traction climbing stuff and you do not want to fall down off a temple.
Bring your own tissue paper and be prepared to use the bush.
If you saw a jaguar during the day you would be one of the lucky few. Jaguars hunt at night and generally sleep all day.
You have to be cautious where you swim if you are in the jungle. If there is nobody else swimming and no locals around you may want to think twice about jumping into that beautiful lagoon. A crocodile can lay submerged quite a long time waiting for you.
Make sure you bring extra film with you at each ruin site. Do not leave your film in the car because the trip back can be time consuming and extremely aggravating on a scorching hot day. Some times a small site that is only listed as a 2-hour visit may have many photographic possibilities while a larger site has less. Don't forget to bring an extra battery.
The First Picture
Every ruin site has a main entrance sign that makes an excellent photo for your scrapbook to help separate the sites you visit.
If you smoke, carry matches or simply money you may want to bring some plastic baggies with you. On a hot day spent out in the sun you can perspire to the point of getting soaking wet. This also means anything in your pockets also get soaking wet. Especially if there is high humidity.
Most sites do not have vending machines, stores or restaurants. If you want to eat you must bring your own food. Some sites have picnic tables for this.
Tarantulas live in small holes and can move quite fast when provoked. If you start snooping around the sides of some mounds watch where you stick your fingers.
Swimming Hole Scam
This is not widely practiced however it could possibly happen to you. Some ruin sites have cenotes or small natural pools to swim in. Here you may find lots of young children playing and swimming. Some of the little rascals will wait for the "gringos" to leave their valuables on a rock while they wade out into the water. Right in front of your eyes they will walk over grab your stuff and run away.
Staff and security do try to stop these kids from doing this but they are clever and figure out ways to outsmart security.
The Sign Says
If the sign says to keep off, keep off. You can get kicked out of a site for disobeying the rules and if they have to call the police you will have much aggravation on your hands.
Best Time To Go
The earlier you visit a site the more wildlife you will see. Once the mid-day sun comes many animals seek the shade to cool down.
The best place to find birds is along an army-ant trail, generally at the front. Birds prey on fleeing insects. Watching the army ants is quite interesting as well.
Some sites have passageways, rooms in temples and other interesting things that require mobile lighting.
Save your site ticket to put in your photo album.
You would never encounter this with a certified guide [see guides] but some unscrupulous persons acting as guides will drop real artifacts on the ground and pretend to find them. You of course will be interested. They will then tell you about their amazing collection of things they have found. They propose to show their collection to you when you return to the entrada. When you get there they do indeed bring out their collection, much of which is fake junk or real stuff but recently made. This can be anything from black jade necklace beads to small figurines aged to look authentic. They will then offer to sell an object to you at an amazing price because they have to get some money that day to buy something. It's a scam.
Climbing Coba's Great Pyramid
If you are afraid of heights then you should think twice about climbing to the top of this structure. Once you get up there you have to climb down, which is the hard part. If you hang around and sit at the top of the pyramid long enough you will see some pretty hysterical people. Some people get so terrified that they become paralyzed and cannot move. You see them hanging on to the temple at the top trembling with fear.
There is a rope that is attached to the top and runs down to the bottom but this rope is useless because it is flimsy and stretches. If more than one person is hanging on to the rope it sways in more than one direction. There really is no help for you to get down and if you have an accident then getting you out presents a logistics problem and you could be in trouble.
For some people climbing the pyramid is not a problem, in fact we race up and down the structures and have even come to the conclusion that the people who built these structures could possibly have had actual races, probably for children to run up and down the pyramids. It is a lot of fun and we cannot see why this form of competiton would not have taken place.