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Take the Family › Writer’s Favourite Family Holiday: Yucatan, Mexico

Writer’s Favourite Family Holiday: Yucatan, Mexico

My son spent a lot of time in rubber rings in Mexico’s Yucatan. Bobbing, attached by a rope to a dive boat, in the gentle swells off Tulum Bay. Floating, excitedly, through the fresh green water and jungly canyons of the Xel-Ha marine park. Idling down a lazy river through the mangrove swamps, fresh shoots ambling past us. He was two at the time, so he did wear armbands as well…

It was a fortuitous holiday, the Yucatan. Full of serendipity and unexpected pleasures; one of those holidays where not planning really pays off. This was back in those early, magical days of the interweb, when you could pick up a last-minute charter flight at an absolute steal, provided you were flexible on dates. I was self-employed, which meant I did not have to pre-book holidays. So £125 for a flight to Cancún, Mexico, not only seemed like a bargain, it was a bargain. Even in 2003.

I’d heard some very good things about Tulum, two or three hours down the coast from Cancún. Somebody said you could get a hut on the beach – with hammocks! – for £3 a night. Granted, there was no electricity. But exploring by torchlight and living by candlelight is a great adventure for any child. And even today I’ll take falling asleep in a hammock to the sound of breaking waves, take opening the door to sand and blue sea over electricity and suchlike mod cons.

And, wow – the things we did! There were Mayan ruins. Coral reef. Limestone caves. Jungle! Monkeys! Pyramids! Iguanas, with spiky crests! Hibiscus, orchids and the cornucopia of tropical flowers.

And other, anarchic bonuses. The green coconuts that a young Indiana Jones type, rising three, could persuade the local gentlemen to fetch for him. On request, they would scale a tall palm, select a coconut, then hack it open with – how cool is this?! – a real machete. Sometimes they would even let him help with the cutting. And them there was the band that gigged nightly at the place down the beach, who were more than happy to allow a just-past-toddling boy a drum solo at the end of the night…

It was in Tulum, as we lovingly recreated the pyramids of Chichen Itza in golden sand and pastel shells, that I realized I wanted this sort of quality time a lot. I wanted to go with the flow. I wanted to take time out and travel the world. I wanted to sit with my son watching blue land crabs scuttling out of the jungle and be in the moment without feeling pressed for time. Seven years on, we’ve finally done it. We still love rubber rings, but armbands are no longer required.

By Theodora Sutcliffe

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