Woman riding dolphin

Catamarans, Snorkeling and Dolphins [in the coral reefs]

UPDATE:

April 2020

Since I wrote this article, it has since been made abundantly clear that dolphins and other water animals are not treated as well as we might think.

After this article came out, an acquaintance asked me if I would please share the plight of dolphins in a video, and to bring it to the attention of others. I was happy to do so. I do not condone cruelty to any animal or person. I cannot change the fact that I took part in this but I can give you more information so that you can make your own decisions.

I love catamaran cruises and so far have been on four, one in the Dominican, two in Costa Rica, and one here in Mexico. While they were all fun and different, I really liked the last one – we got to meet and swim with Dolphins and do a bit of snorkeling.

We booked our tour, Delphinus Puerto Morelos, through our good friend Samuel Gonzalez who looked around for the best deal for our party of four.

Our day started out early (I was up at 5:30!) and our taxi picked up our friends and us about 7:45 a.m. We made our way to El Cid Resort in Puerto Morelos (part of the world’s second-largest barrier reef) where we would board our boat in a marina bay inside the resort. Waiting for the boat to arrive gave us an opportunity to relax, enjoy coffee/drinks, have bio breaks, and just take in the view and snap a few pictures.

 

El Cid Resort Marina

Marina, El Cid Resort, Mexico

Getting Started

Soon our boat arrived and we climbed aboard. We were directed to the front of the boat and asked to take a seat. Our group was a mix of a couple of families and us.

 

Catamaran, Puerto Morelos

Catamaran – Puerto Morelos, Mexico

We started off with an orientation by ‘Danny’ who was very passionate about the ocean and couldn’t stress enough the importance of taking care of it, especially by not throwing plastic bottles in the water.

Did you know… that every day an estimated 8 million pieces of plastic pollution ends up into the oceans. In 2016, a world population of 7 billion people, produced more than 320 million tons of plastic! Every year, marine plastic pollution kills one hundred thousand mammals and turtles and one million sea birds!

Early this year, 50 marine mammals washed up on U.K. shores, all containing plastic in their stomachs. A lot of these animals included dolphins. While the dolphin is an extremely intelligent animal and not likely to eat plastic, they are susceptible to contamination through other animals that have ingested plastic products.

We learned Danny had left his home in Mexico for seven years to go to Brazil to become a Marine Biologist. You could feel his passion and dedication as he talked.

I know you want to hear about the snorkeling and dolphins and you will, but I think it is important to understand the importance of taking care of our dolphins and other species as well as our oceans.

Two Mandatory Rules

To go snorkeling there were two mandatory rules.

  1. NO SUNSCREEN – Danny was emphatic about this and practically begged everyone not to wear sunscreen; if they already had it on, he asked them to please remove it.

Swimming with sunscreen causes chemicals such as oxybenzone to seep into the water; the corals then absorb it which then causes a disruption in the reproduction and growth cycles.

And, chemicals that are released while swimming or showering (travel through sewage systems) are considered bigger than climate change is causing coral reef damage.

  1. RESPECT THE CORAL – There were some valid reasons for this.

Touching them can cause damage to the reef itself but because it is sharp, it can cause injury to you such as scrapes, cuts, and other injuries.

Another very big reason is that we are in danger of losing our coral reefs. In fact, it is predicted that coral reefs could be gone in 30 years! Besides snorkelers and divers causing damage to the coral reefs, there are natural occurrences that can destroy the coral.

Coral reefs off the coast of Quintana Roo Mexico are under threat from sargassum which has been an ongoing problem for a few years, and an aggressive bleaching situation which causes them to turn completely white.

According to the Director of the Puerto Morelos National Reef Park – Maria dell Carmen Garcia Rivas – 30% of coral colonies died during a four-month period due to coral bleaching which is caused when the water is too warm.

To put in perspective how serious this is, the Director states an entire coral colony off the coast of Quintana Roo, which has taken thousands of years to form, can be killed in a single month due to this bleaching.

As he was wrapping up the orientation, Danny asked if everyone who was going snorkeling knew how to swim outside of a swimming pool and everyone eagerly nodded yes. However, we learned later that one of the young women did not swim very well, never swam in the ocean, and couldn’t see her hand in front of her face without her glasses. I marveled that she was still keen ongoing in spite of this. It later turned out she did very well and had no issues.

Relaxing

After we anchored, our group divided into two – those who wanted to snorkel and those who just wanted to stay behind and relax.

Woman on boat, lifejacket

Our Friend – Stacey – Getting Ready to go Snorkeling

The group that stayed behind included one young girl, my husband and myself, our friend Kent from Nicaragua who was visiting us for a month (his wife Stacey decided to go snorkeling) and Noel, one of the boat crew. Noel had a long conversation with Kent; it turns out his family nominated him to always be Santa because of his name, even though he was born in May.

The snorkeling group, led by Danny and “Captain Banana,” put on their masks, lifejackets and climbed into another boat, carrying their fins, ready for their adventure.

The day was a beautiful clear sunny day, temperatures in the high 20’s (80’s + Fahrenheit). Those of us who stayed behind were quite content to just relax, drink some water (and other beverages) and just soak up the sun. It was a beautiful, peaceful time.

Man on boat, a drink

Hubby Relaxing on Catamaran

All too soon, the snorkeling group arrived back, smiling and a bit tired from their excursion but happy.

We had some lunch, snacks, and drinks, listened to music, and made our way to the Dolphins.

Riding with the Dolphins

My husband chose to stay behind and to keep an eye on things so the three of us made our way to the pier.

I am not a swimmer and even though we were told everyone would be wearing life jackets, I was still very nervous and wasn’t convinced I wanted to do this. However, when I saw the dolphins, I changed my mind. I did have one scary moment in the water when I couldn’t get my feet to do ‘down’ and was starting to panic.

The guide was very calm and asked me my name. Then he said, “Look at me, Mary Ann, and just do what I tell you.” In no time I was in the ready position and two dolphins swam up to me and placed their fins in my hand. That moment was incredible! I think the pictures paint a better picture than what I could tell you, judging by the smile on my face.

woman riding dolphin

Me with the Dolphins

 

Woman riding dolphin

Woman patting a dolphin

man patting dolphin

My Friend Kent

man and womenn with dolphin

                                      Getting Splashed by the Dolphin                                   Me & my Friends Petting the Dolphin

Speaking of photos, I read many reviews about people saying how expensive they are and, they are right. I was very lucky that my good friends Stacey and Kent decided to buy them and share it with me. They did not even want me to pay for my portion. Thanks, guys!

Iguanas

Iguana among the rocks

Just as we were leaving, we saw some iguanas in amongst the rocks. Notice how they are camouflaged – we almost missed them! This one looked like he was posing for me.

LOTS TO DO!

Xcaret offers you 10% off booking online for their optional activities at Cancun and Riviera Maya such as snorkeling. If this isn’t your thing, they will be offering their Christmas packages soon – relaxing massages, exploring nature, interacting with sharks, gourmet dinners, kids adventures, fast boating on the Adrenalin, or parachuting – fun for everyone!

Final Thoughts

It was an awesome day and trip all around with some wonderful memories, riding on the catamaran with the wind in my hair, and smiling the whole time. More importantly, it stressed to me the importance of taking care of our reefs and oceans.

Now, if I could just muster enough courage to go snorkeling!!

Have you had the opportunity to swim with the dolphins? What did you think?  Would you recommend it to others? Let us know in the comments below.

 

two golden retrievers, lying on floor

House Sitting in Ontario [St. Catharines]

Our house sitting is now over for this season. Altogether we had 10 house sits including a 4month one for a repeat client in Ottawa.

Our 10th and last house, also a repeat, was in St. Catharines Ontario – only this time, the owners’ lost one of their beautiful dogs, Stanley, and added a new addition, Tucker who was only 11 weeks at the time and a companion to Sophie, when we arrived.

St. Catharines, Ontario

St. Catharines is the largest city in Canada’s Niagara Region and the sixth largest urban area in Ontario. It boasts 96.13 square km of land and is situated 51 km south of Toronto across Lake Ontario, and 19 km inland from the International boundary with the U.S. along the Niagara River.

It also has a nickname – The Garden City – because it has 4 km of parks, gardens and trails.

In 2016, the population was 133,113.

Port Dalhousie, St. Catharines

The area we stayed in was called Port Dalhousie (pronounced duh-LOO-zee) and has a lighthouse and pier and a very popular beach located at Lakeside Park.

When we house sat here last time it was during the Niagara Wine Festival and we took in the Montebello Park Wine & Culinary Experience and Centre Stage, bought a passport to a wine tasting tour (8 wineries), and checked out the Lakeside Park Carousel which has been beautifully restored and has 68 animals in all (including horses, lions, goats, camels and giraffes) and it cost only 5 cents a ride!

This time, though, we were a little ‘busy’ and decided to focus on our sit.

Meet the Family

OUR HOSTS

It was wonderful to see Tom and Liza again. They are a fun couple, easy going and great conversationalists. They made us feel so welcome and treated us like friends and once again Tom cooked us a great meal for our first evening there, sharing wine and conversation with us.

We were well provisioned for, had an amazingly comfortable bed, and use of their awesome hot tub.

THE PETS

SOPHIE

Sophie is a beautiful 7-year old golden retriever who is very gentle and loves attention. When she sat by my husband, she would lift her paw up on his thigh and waited patiently for him to pat her. She is very sedate on her walks and LOVES her treats!

 

a female golden retriever

TUCKER

Tucker, also a golden retriever, is the new addition to the family. At 11 weeks old, as you can imagine, he had loads of energy.

 

golden retriever puppy

He is a gorgeous shade of golden brown while Sophie is much whiter in colouring. Sophie was like a patient aunt to him, allowing him to romp all over her, take her toys and sometimes not giving her any peace at all.

 

2 golden retrievers playing with a toy

I am sure she loves every moment of it though since Stanley, her companion for a long time, passed on.

Because of Liza’s patience and training, Tucker could already sit, stay and come when told. Walking him was a bit of a challenge as he was so interested in everything – including the big leaves that were blowing off the trees. Everything was new and strange to him! To make it easier on both dogs, we walked them separately. Tucker is very smart and will do well in puppy school which was scheduled for when Tom and Liza returned from their trip.

Sophie and Tucker managed to get into a few escapades during our sit such as getting very muddy on a couple of occasions.

 

2 muuddy dogs, deck

To share a little fun with our readers, we have added a conversation that we think Sophie and Tucker would have if they could talk to us humans and to each other.

 

SOPHIE

Something is going on, as the ‘fill-in’ humans that have been staying with us for the past two weeks are busy on their computers and phones, sorting things, doing laundry, packing up their big suitcases, because my regular human beings will be home from their trip soon.

This is the second time these ‘fill-in’ humans have substituted for my humans who went on vacation but what makes this time different is that a little while before my humans left they introduced me to a new house mate, an 11-week-old golden retriever named Tucker. The ‘fill-in’ humans refer to him as ‘the new guy’ or ‘Mr.T’ as he’s taking over for my previous housemate Stanley, who departed after a long, productive life.

The ‘fill in’ humans affectionately and rightly refer to me as “Aunt Sophie” to Tucker, but goodness I’m so tired in the evening after spending a good portion of my day playing/guiding him on daily life, teaching him the canine skills that he needs to learn and apply to get his way with humans, that I hardly have time to myself anymore or to nap during the daylight hours.

 

2 dogs sleeping

Everyone knows that puppy school is really for our humans on how to communicate with us dogs, however, when a dog manages humans properly life is a lot easier for everyone. I’m good on the leash; it’s the humans that’ll need to learn how to try and manage Tucker. Here is what I’ve been working on with Tucker to ensure he’s up to speed.

SOPHIE’S RULES:

  1. Walk slowly all the time you’re in the house, so when you do get in trouble, you’re less likely to run away and you come off as looking less guilty.

  2. Always turn your head or look away to the side when being scolded or reprimanded for something you apparently did.

  3. Never roll your eyes up when being scolded by the humans, as it can be misinterpreted as a sign of not caring, and it does show that you’re hearing them.

  4. When playing fetch in the back yard with your humans, get them to throw the ball at no higher than eye level. You accomplish this by merely sitting up, bending your head backwards for their first few attempts; if the humans can’t grasp the mechanics, just lie down and chew on a stick.

  5. When the humans feed you, no matter how hungry you are, never run to your food bowl…take your time, and give them a look back before starting your meal…just to make sure they know they did their job.

  6. When the humans are sitting on the couch watching TV you must put your head in their lap and just stare at them – stare at them for at least 15 seconds.

     

    Man petting a dog

  7. If #6 is unsuccessful, then place a paw on their leg quad muscle and gently pat it; if they don’t understand there’s something they need to do, such as feed you a forgotten treat, or a missed tummy rub appointment, then just back away, stare at them and pretend to sneeze.

  8.  After you’ve been outside for a while, upon entering don’t make eye contact with the humans, grumble a little, and go lie down, and of course in the kitchen when dinner is being prepared.

    puppy lying down

  9.  After you’re too big for your crate, establish a sleeping spot on the humans’ bedroom floor, but it must not be near the spot where I sleep – you cannot sleep there or too near to me….that is my spot; if you sleep too close to my spot, you‘ll be sorry.

  10. Remember that our humans have not had a puppy in their house since me, so it’s a ‘re-learning’ process for them too, even though you don’t know it.

  11. When something goes crash and we’re both nearby ….just look up, and since the humans are in their ‘questioning the suspects mode,’ just turn your head and look at the other dog.

  12. When you dig holes in the backyard remember to lick your paws clean so the humans have less to towel off when you enter the house, otherwise they’ll give you a bath.

TUCKER AKA ‘MR. T.’

  1. When I want to go outside for any of the three P’s – Play, Poop or Pee – I sit by the back door and bark…wait 15 seconds, then bark again – whining doesn’t do anything – just bark, bark, bark…the noise will be a constant reminder and my humans will be trained well once they respond on the first or second bark…but no more than two barks.

  2. When I’m really bored I’ll pretend to go poop or pee in my bed, and then they’ll pick me up PRONTO and carry me outside!

  3. Snow is cold…..but fun!

     

  4. The ‘fill-in’ humans let me stay outside during the day when it was sunny and cooler so I could grow a heavier coat; that way I’ll be warmer in the winter time, as real dogs don’t wear doggy coats!

  5. When out for walks during the winter time I always go poop in the snow so it’s easier for humans to see where I did my business; it hardens faster so it’s easier for humans to pick it up.

  6. When out for walks I always go poop two or three times, so the humans remember to bring more than one doggy poop bag, otherwise they have to use their bare hands… (that’s so much fun to watch!)

  7. I always dig holes in the backyard, especially when it’s been raining as the humans will towel me off at the door, then they’ll carry me into the bathtub, and rinse me with water…that way I get to run around and splash in the tub, drink the water from the faucet and go pee in the tub….no harm is done as the bath water goes away!

  8. I give the humans lots of kisses and hugs, as they need to be reassured they’re doing the right things!

Now back to the ‘fill-in’ humans. We’re sad that they’re leaving as we were oh so, so close to getting them into our routines, and to react accordingly to our strategically used communication skills such as facial expressions, whines, patters, dances, and barking to get them up to speed. 

female and puppy, golden retrievers

Oh well……..next time!

I hope you enjoyed this article. We are now in Mexico for six months and will get back into house sitting when we return in May 2020.

Is house sitting something you have considered? If so, watch for an amazing Black Friday Deal coming soon!

Do you ever wonder what your pets are thinking, especially if they look at you a certain way? Let us know your experiences in the comments below. We would love to hear from you.

 

 

2 blue and white budgies

House Sit, Caledon Ontario [rural setting]

After our Mississauga sit we drove to Glammis to visit our daughter and family in their big home (built in the 1800’s), played with the new puppy Homer (a St. Bernard) and our 8-week old grandson, Quinn. The time went quickly and soon it was time to head to Caledon to care for two pets while the owners were off to New York for a long weekend.

This was my first visit to Caledon although we have been in Erin which is about 20 minutes away and has everything you could want including a bakery and a couple of vintage/antique stores.

Caledon

Caledon is a town in the Regional Municipality of Peel in the Greater Toronto Area. It is primarily rural; its major urban centre is Bolton on the eastern side adjacent to York Region. At the northwest is the city of Brampton. Caledon is also the largest city or town by area in the Greater Toronto Area.

The opulation in 2016 was 66,502.

Meet the Family

OUR HOSTS

Martina and Patrick were very gracious, friendly people who made sure we had everything we needed for our short stay.

Nestled on 15 acres, their location is stunning and we were lucky enough to be there during the height of autumn with the leaves turning orange, red, green and gold! A guest house, hot tub and pond completed the setting. For a winter house sit, the house is 5 minutes away from the Caledon Ski Club.

 

House, trees and pond

House, berries

 

The home itself is a renovated Victorian farmhouse. There were comfy beds, fireplaces and all the amenities we needed to make our stay comfortable. Martina paints and sculpts and you can see her ‘pieces’ throughout the house, adding to the décor and giving it a ‘personal’ touch.

 

Hen, leaves

Since there were also laying hens, fresh eggs every morning were a bonus and Martina told us to make sure we took some with us when we left. Yum!!

 

THE PETS

Pets included two dogs, 5 laying hens and 2 budgies.

 

2 blue and white budgies

Milo

Milo is a 15-month old black Bouvier who loves being outside and checking everything out. Even though there are lots of trails and he is used to roaming on his own, we put him on his leash for long walks just to ensure he didn’t take off on us. Milo is very gentle and loves attention.

 

a woman, a man and a bouvier dog

Lexie

Lexie is a little 12-year old Yorkie girl who, apparently, tolerates Milo and doesn’t really like dogs. Maybe she thinks she is human?! She liked to go outside too but not as much as Milo. She had a couple of favourite snoozing spots and was quite content to hang out in them.

 

dog on a pillow, dog against a wall

If Lexie and Milo could talk, we imagine the conversation going like this.

LEXIE & MILO

LEXIE:

My name is Lexie and my housemate is Milo, who I merely tolerate as he’s still a young dog, only 15 months old, but he’s finally learning that I’m the Queen of this household. After all, I am 12 years old! He’s not bothering me as much as he used to when he was a puppy, but I tell him time and time again to stop being a P.I.T.A.

We live with our humans on a 15-acre rural lot, in Caledon Ontario; it’s a great place, with lots of walking trails, a big pond (we don’t swim in it but we do chase after our humans on it in the wintertime when it freezes over).

 

Our humans are in New York City to see a play and other cultural events…the ‘fill-in’ humans asked them if an NHL or NFL football game was on the agenda, but apparently not.

After our humans left, the ‘fill-in’ humans moved up from the guest house to sleep in one of the bedrooms in the main house, which our humans remodeled – they know what they’re doing as they own a construction company for custom-built homes in Southern Ontario, so our house is really nice!

I liked the ‘fill-in’ humans right away as they were around the house most of the time, except to pick up stuff in Erin Ontario. They cuddled with me and fluffed up my spots, and rubbed my tummy the first night they stayed in the house while sitting on the living room couch.

 

man and a little dog

The ‘fill-in’ humans took us for lots of walks, gave us way more treats than what I was supposed to get, but it was so worth it! Actually, we went for three or four walks a day, which was nice, as without us the ‘fill-in’ humans would’ve been lost… or at least they’d be out for a long, long time.

 

a man kneeling beside a bouvier and a yorkie

At first, Milo was unsure of them, but he soon warmed up to them; he’ll explain to you in a bit. I also liked that I slept in my own space in my humans’ room while they were away, and slept so well, the ‘fill-in’ humans had to call me to go for my morning walk….imagine that!

MILO:

Hello, my name is Milo and I’m a 15-month old black Bouvier, who is officially the second-in-command at our humans’ home, although the humans know better. I am a big dog, but still a puppy, so I am learning how to train my human.

 

Bouvier dog in his crate

The ‘fill-in’ humans were good to Lexie and I and the man human took me for many walks, at first on my telescopic leash as he was unsure if I’d run away.

 

man walking with two dogs

After a couple of walks though we trusted each other and it was fun. We even went on a ten o’clock walk at night, as the sky was a clear, moonlit night, and it was easy to see around the paths.

Both ‘fill-in’ humans were nice to me – they gave me lots of pats and tummy rubs, and learned that when I sat in front of them and barked it meant that I needed to go outside to do my business. The ‘fill-in’ humans remembered that I loved to play toss and fetch with sticks – the man human found a fallen thick tree branch and cut it up into five separate sticks to run and fetch – we must have played fetch for a couple of hours each day. I was so exhausted in the evenings that I fell asleep behind the living room couch each night.

I noticed they helped with an unscheduled delivery of things needed by our humans’ son, so the man helped unload the truck, store it in the garage, and contacted the son to let him know it was there to be picked up.

Our humans’ kids dropped by throughout the weekend to pick up things, and meet the ‘fill-in’ humans, and they got along which was nice. Charlie brought his two dogs and we ran around for a while to ‘blow the stink off us’… and I got treats when I got back inside.

At first, I was skeptical of the ‘fill-in’ humans, but they were nice to us, took us for walks, brushed us and made sure we stuck to the rules.

 

man playing with 2 dogs

I had to sleep in the front hall, which I didn’t mind as I could keep an eye on things. Even when the ‘fill- in’ humans used the hot tub late at night under the stars, I sat by the door waiting for them to come in.

The ‘fill-in’ humans cleaned out the chicken coop, which apparently was much smaller than the one he cleans out at the farmstead in Glammis Ontario; it has 16 hens, one rooster, and four turkeys, so it takes him longer to do, but he did a pretty good job.

I did miss my humans, and late Sunday afternoon the ‘fill-in’ humans’ who stayed with Lexie and I the past four days at our house, got busy on their computers and phones, sorting things, and packing up their suitcases. The ‘fill-in’ humans left in the late afternoon, and our regular humans were home from their trip a few hours later, just in time to take us out for a walk.

I think the ‘fill-in’ humans miss us, even though there are a 3-month-old old Saint Bernard and two cats at the farmhouse they’re going to. I’d like it if they visited us next year when they return from living in Mexico!

Bye for now!

Lexie & Milo

Saying Goodbye

Even though this was a short house sit, we enjoyed every minute of it. We are winding down our house sits for the season, with one left in St. Catharines. If you would like to know how we come across these great sits, click here for more information.

Do you ever imagine what pets are thinking and what they would tell you if they could talk? Feel free to share your comments below.

 

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