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Costa Maya Newsletter> Archived Costa Maya Newsletters > Dec. 24, 2008 -

Costa Maya Newsletters: of primary interest to property owners from Mahahual / Majahual - Rio Indio - Placer - Uvero - Punta Herrera - Xcalak and other points along the southern coast of Quintana Roo

*******************Costa Maya Newsletter*******************
December / Diciembre 2008

Hi Costa Maya Neighbors-

I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and fabulous holiday season. Its been a long year with lots of changes. The Costa Maya has been suffering all year with no income for many of the people, no jobs and only the Cruise ship to look forward to. When the cruise ships did return, they have found that people are not spending like they used to. Still - people are working and moving forward and things are back to normal, although at a smaller scale.

Although things are slow due to the economy, there isn't a Costa Maya room to be had between Christmas and New Years - the hotels are full and people are already driving up and down the road hoping to find a room. People will be camping in their cars. The interesting thing is that although the economy here is so much better than it was a year ago after Dean, the patterns of tourists have changed. My hotel bookings are on track for before Dean, but my long term bookings are way down. This time of year, March would already be half full - but everyone seems to be waiting until the last minute to book. Many rooms in Tulum are up in the area of $400 a night. This is good for small places like us as people try to find less expensive accommodations. Its not hard to fill up a 6 room inn.

The rental of Homes has been very slow. I asked some folks who stayed in a Costa Maya house the past 4 years why they decided to stay at MBG this year and they said that they couldn't get enough people together to agree to come. I have been hearing that a lot. It is easy to rent out just a room for two persons. Gabe Zarnotti designed his new "Taj Majahual" so that he can rent out just the master bedroom and kitchen or individual rooms because they all have a private outdoor entrance. Casa Que Canta has created a similar design in his house where the second bedrooms can be rented out separately from the rest of the house. Las Brisas del Caribe has added a detached room that can also rent out separately. If your goal is to rent out your home, you might want to consider this type of arrangement. It does require a restaurant not too far away, but it won't take long for some more restaurants to pop up to service tourists on the beach. In the south end there are several restaurants, but up North there is Mayan Beach Garden Restaurant and Rio Indio Restaurant.

I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year. Feliz Navidad y próspero año nuevo!

Marcia with Baracuda

Past newsletters can be found at NEWSLETTER ARCHIVES

PS There are still a couple of vacancies in Christmas, but not much. Contact me if you are looking for Christmas accommodations.


MESSAGE BOARD DISCUSSION: Speed Traps in Playa del Carmen!

Last week when heading up to Playa del Carmen I encountered a novel event - not only was I pulled aside for going only 97 in what I thought was a 100 MPH area, but there was no extortion attempt. I was given a ticket. There was clearly a speed trap set up with officers radaring everyone. Has anyone had this happen? What did your experience? This is clearly a money making proposition for the city of Playa del Carmen. Has any one else had a similar incident? Please log onto Costa Maya Live and share your experience!

Just Chatting

Mahahual/Majahual - Costa Maya Updates

Gas shortage

Mahahual ran out of gas early in the morning of Dec. 23. That same day, other gas stations in the area were running out of Magna and selling only Premium. I've tried to identify the reason, but the "word on the street" report coming over the radio is that a freighter delivering gasoline to the entire Yucatan Peninsula caught fire and when asked when the area will have gasoline the answer is "quien sabe?" (who knows?). I had guests leave early yesterday as they panicked and feared that they wouldn't be able to get gasoline and make their flight on Christmas day. I'm sure this won't go on long and they will be diverting gas from other areas. The question will be how long this will take to get gasoline here. If you are traveling in the area, please keep a full tank. Mahahual will surely be one of the later areas that are supplied with gasoline.

There seems to be plenty of diesel for generators, busses and trucks.

ADO promotes the Southern Quintana Roo.

ADO bus stations will be running advertising for the Southern part of Quintana Roo. This will include the Costa Maya, Bacalar, Chetumal and Carillo Puerto as destination spots. If only they would allow you to book a bus ticket on line all the way to Mahahual! This is geared to Mexican audiences in Yucatan, Campeche, Quintana Roo and neighboring states. The goal is to familiarize people with the area. Mexicans for the first time in the year after dean outnumbered Americans staying in Cancun thanks to similar marketing campaigns.

Message from the governor

Cost of Gas: While the cost of Gas in the rest of the world has gone up and down like a roller coaster, gas in Mexico has been consistent, although it has inched up quite a bit lately so that a liter of gas is now 7.3 pesos a liter. Because gas has gone down elsewhere, the cost of gas in the Belize free zone is now much cheaper and there has been a decline in gas sales in Chetumal as people go to Belize to buy gas. In a speech, the Governor emphasized that have held telephone conversations with officials of Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and the leader of the petrol stations in the South Zone to see about moderating the price in the southern part of Mexico to compete with the price of gas in the free zone. A few years ago, the cost of gas in Chetumal was less than all of Mexico for this reason.

Development on the Costa Maya: The governor also mentioned the development of the Costa Maya and assured that despite the signals sent by Fonatur in the sense that they will not support the Costa Maya project, the State Government will seek strategies to consolidate plans to develop the area despite the economic crisis. He acknowledged that next year there will be a decrease in the arrival of cruise ships in Mahahual, although he stressed that the activity will still be better than last year and no major lines have cancelled completely.

Mahahual's first newspaper - Visor

Mahahual now has its own local newspaper, the Visor. While it includes news, the twice monthly magazine style Visor also carries tourist information, colorful stories of local people and the history of the area. The paper will be distributed for free in ADO bus stations, local hotel and restaurants, with larger distribution in mind, such as the airport and the cruise ship pier. The newspaper is in Spanish with one page in English. The goal is to publish the entire newspaper in both languages.

The fledgling paper is looking for advertisers to help sponsor it. Simple page advertising rates are as follows (in PESOS). You can contact the paper at 044 983-1234123 (from Mexico) or 52 983-1223123 or via email at for this or for special promotions:

  • Full page - $2200 per issue
  • 1/2 page, $1150 per page
  • 1/3 page $800
  • 1/4 page $600
  • 1/6 page 400
  • 1/9 page 300
  • Inclusion on the Costa Maya map $350 for 4 issues
Take a peak at the first issue!

December Holidays - Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe

December is a busy month in Mexico as a number of holidays are strung together starting early in December with Dia del Guadalupe and continuing on through January 6 with the day of the kings.

If any of you are traveling in Mexico during the second week in December you will know the joys and pains of the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico. Pilgrims from around the country converge at the famous basilica in Mexico City, where the revered shroud displaying the image of the Virgin is held. The Virgin appeared to a Mexican Native, Juan Diego, in 1531, asking him to build a church for her on Tepeyac hill. She asked Diego to pick some flowers in the cold of winter and give them to the bishop when conveying the Virgin’s request. Diego carried the flowers in his cloak, barefoot running for many miles and when he got to the bishop and let the roses spill out in front of him, a wonderful image of the Virgin was emblazoned in the shroud.

Yearly his trek is repeated by thousands of Mexicans who run along the sides of the roads in week long journeys across the country. Great respect is offered these runners who are often accompanied by police cars and given free food, drink and lodging. The "painful" thing about this is that it really affects traffic as cars work to pass the runners safely.

Guadalupe runners

Playboy got into the spirit of our Lady of Guadalupe by featuring model Maria Florencia Onori posing as the Virgin wearing nothing but an angelic white cloth on the Mexican version of the Magazine. The front of the magazine stated "we love you Maria." The release was timed for the day before Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. As you can expect, there were protests, the official "forgiveness" statement and lots of magazines sold as a result.

Please be careful if you plan on traveling this time of year so that you can avoid any potential accidents.

Naturalist Jim Conrad - backyard nature

I'm a very lucky person these days, as I have a Naturalist hanging around Mayan Beach Garden. Jim Conrad just lucked upon my web site and wandered into Placer a couple of weeks ago. He has traveled extensively around Mexico and the Yucatan, cataloging and identifying plants, animals,and insects and has just arrived here on the Costa Maya where he is absorbing the marine life we have here. When he arrived with his backpack and southern drawl, I didn't quite know what to think. He said he found me because I had good pictures of Che-chen on my web site and he had just tested it on himself recently to see if indeed the specimen he was looking at was Che-chen. It was ;-).

So now Jim is camping out on the beach in his tent, studying species here and teaching Spanish lessons to my staff in the afternoons. Better yet, he is publishing his Backyard Nature newsletter from Mayan Beach Garden and the Costa Maya. The reason this is so cool is that he is identifying species some of us might never think about as beneficial. For example, he pointed out the benefits of the black sea grass that washes up in abundance with the turtle grass. Jim is an accomplished writer and now internet developer with thousands of pictures and information about animals, plants and other items in nature on his web site.

Jim has kindly allowed me to quote from his newsletter below:

GHOST CRABS (I think this may be the same crab that Polly and I are both frustrated with!):

Ghost Crab "Just about anytime during the day as you're walking along the beach or the scrubby rise between the ocean and the mangroves, but especially at dawn and dusk, you see the white, black-eyed, fuzzy legged crab. About the size of a saucer, this is the Atlantic Ghost Crab, sometimes referred to as a sand crab, OCYPODE QUADRATA. You can see in the picture that one of this species' claws is larger than the other. This points to the fact that the genus Ocypode resides in the same family as fiddler crabs, the Ocypodidae, famed for having a single claw so large that it looks like the crab is playing a fiddle.

In the short time I've been here I've learned three things about our ghost crabs. First, they dig deep slanting tunnels into moist sand (four-feet deep, at a 45° angle, I read), and if a favorite ornamental plant stands above the tunnel the digging's disturbance may damage or kill the plant. Second, ghost crabs eat an enormous variety of foods, such as the blackened, brittle, dried leaf the one in the picture is munching on, and; third: If you're jogging down a road at dawn and come upon a ghost crab, if it figures it can't outrun you, it'll stand its ground and try to face you down, holding its white claws before it like a judo expert keeping his dangerous hands out front. In dim dawn or dusk light, the white claws are very conspicuous, almost seeming to glow. A good-sized dog wanting badly to sniff the critter, seeing the spectral white claws brandished before him, cedes his sniffing rights.

Many crab species are aquatic, but Ocypode quadrata is beautifully adapted for life on land, only occasionally returning to water to wet its gills. Ruppert & Fox in 1988 published a work describing how the species also can moisten its gills by extracting water from damp sand, using fine hairs near the base of its walking legs to wick ground water up onto the gills through capillary action! The species also must be close to water at mating time, for its females release their eggs at the water' edge." (Copyright - Jim Conrad 2008)

Jim publishes his newsletter every Monday - you can subscribe to it on his web site,

Jim is also a philosopher, and if you have ever seen the Costa Maya sky at night, you will appreciate Jim's sentiment:

"This week the ever-waxing gibbous Moon increasingly bleached the night sky but, still, one morning about 2 AM when I needed to exit the tent to pee, the tropical night sky was beautiful beyond description. Stars were so bright that it was hard to pick out constellations and each individual star twinkled almost violently. Usually the starry sky looks like a flat, black blanket overhead through which pinpricks of sunlight penetrate, but that night the sky drew me into its profound depth.

Kneeling in the sand at my tent's entrance I grew vividly aware of being a passenger on Spaceship Earth voyaging through space. I was on this little planet surrounded by an enormity of dead, cold emptiness and, beyond that, the innumerable stars of our own Milky-Way galaxy, maybe most of them possessing their own planetary systems, and beyond all those stars lay innumerable completely different galaxies, each galaxy itself engendering innumerable stars, and all those worlds both in our own galaxy and those beyond our galaxy potentially harbored life, or maybe something more wondrous than life.

Long I knelt amidst the voyaging, sparkling animation, the churning, spiraling enormity of possibilities, and I was glad, glad to be witness to what was going on, and humbled to be part of it. "

Turning an invasive species into a Christmas tree- CASUARINA EQUISETIFOLIA

Every year at Christmas, I go through the same painful process of looking for a good christmas tree.They do have live christmas trees that you can purchase, but they are so dry by the time they make it to Quintana Roo that I can't bring myself to purchase them. I'm from Seattle, and every year we would go to a tree farm and pick out a live one and cut is down. It would last forever. Here in Mexico you need exactly that quality in a tree.

Australian Pine
Picture courtesy of Jim Conrad

I have been eyeing the Australian pines (CASUARINA EQUISETIFOLIA) for a few years, but they seem to have such limp branches, but the "needles" are long and beautiful.

Shortly before Christmas this year, the norfolk pine I had been nursing all year succumbed to root-rot from over-achiever watering on the part of one of my new staff members, so I was forced to rapidly come up with another solution. The Australian pine seemed like a good last minute candidate. Furthermore, it is an invasive species that the Mexican biologists would encourage us to eradicate from the area. Up in the Sian Ka'an, they have "ringed" the adult trees and you can see stands of dead Australian pines.

After doing some research I found that indeed this is nasty species. Prior to Dean, there were a few places that had towering pines along the beach road. They were in the most part destroyed. At the time I was quite sad to see the height and shade gone. What I didn't know was that the storm spread thousands of tiny seeds everywhere - even in areas that had none of these trees, like in Placer.


Australian pine closeup
Picture courtesy of Jim Conrad

You can see by this close up that the needles aren't really like pine needles. The species has no pine smell and as far as I can see, no pine oil or the type of sap that pine trees normally have. According to Jim, on the phylogenetic Tree of Life this family stands close to oaks, birches, walnuts and beeches.

Even if they spread, you might ask why are these trees so bad? Isn't good to encourage the growth of any trees? I've listed some of the reasons below.

My GUILT-FREE Christmas tree!

Austrailian pine Christmas tree

  1. It produces chemicals that inhibit the growth of other species. Once Australian Pine gets established it tends to form pure stands with few other plants able to survive near them, and offering relatively little food and shelter to wildlife. Dense stands of Australian Pine look lush and green, but ecologically they are deserts.
  2. It is listed as a Category I invasive exotic species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. Possession, collection, transportation, cultivation and importation of Australian Pine are prohibited by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. (These descriptions are from Jim Conrad's Dec. 19th 2008 newsletter)

I found out more information on CASUARINA EQUISETIFOLIA as I was doing research. I found out that they do have some good points. They make good fire wood, are fast growing and hold down sand, making them a good candidate for places like the Sahara - but not for the Costa Maya. If you have these on your property - borrow a machete and hack them down - or turn them into Christmas trees!

I also found out the CASUARINA EQUISETIFOLIA makes a great candidate for Bonsai. I have two more Dean volunteers growing in my back 40 meters. I think I will trim one back and shape it for next years Christmas trees and perhaps transplant one of them into a pot for Bonsai training.


Holiday festivities at Mayan Beach Garden,

Per normal, Mayan Beach Garden will be open all of the holidays. The following occasions will have special menus with traditional Mexican and American foods.

Christmas Eve Buffet Dec. 24
Christmas day dinner Buffet Dec. 25
New years Eve Buffet Dec. 31
Day of the Kings Jan 6th

Since Mayan Beach Garden serves a "meal of the day" you may decide you want to know what the menu is before coming here. If you are in the area, please email me and I'll send you a week's worth of menus.

NEW ROOMS at Mayan Beach Garden.

I've had people ask if I could put pictures up of our new rooms. Of course, that makes way too much sense - so here they are! There are more images on the web site.

crafstman style bed Craftsman style bed
view View from beach view deck
Those of you who have watched me put together this mosaic will be happy to know that I finally finished it! and is part of the private veranda entry for one of the new rooms.




The other morning, the dogs were barking and really kicking up out in the back garden. Not unusual as my neighbors have cats that like to torment them from the other side of the fence, you know the ner -ner -na- nar- nar can't get me taunt. That's OK but this was early, too early, before my neighbors were up and about so I went out to quiet things down.

The cat ran at the fence, I couldn't see just what made my three dogs jump vertically one after another until a large, long, black (I think) snake rushed across my bare foot. I was so amazed I forgot to do the vertical jump!! All four of us retired to the house very quickly, best to give slitherers some getaway time!!

Coming back across the bridge to the pueblo I stopped to watch a Great Blue Heron alight on a log in the river. The river is a tan co lour, seepage from the mangroves and mud in the the lagoon, a beautiful contrast with the lush green of the mangroves along the bank. So anyway, there I am sitting on the quad enjoying the sight and a Snowy Egret swoops in front of the log and settles down to fish, it's a perfect picture. Of course I don't have the camera with me! As my eye gets accustomed to the colors I notice a foot with claws on the log, the opposite end to the Great Blue Heron. A perfectly camouflaged crocodile that must be two and a half meters is laying half in the water half on the log, asleep in the sun.

crocodile I rush off home and return with camera, the birds have moved but here is the croc picture. It stayed around the log for a couple of days, till Vicky co-owner of Arnoldita the pig (who's pen is on the bank nearest the croc log) saw how big it was and feared Arnoldita was going to be a croc snack. She threw a stone into the water near the log and disturbed it, we watched as it swam lazily up into the lagoon.

In the February Newsletter I wrote about finding and planting Sea beans then watching them grow 5 inches in a day. In my own little jungle area in the back yard, these vines have clambered all over everything, the fence, hotel next door, and the banana trees. I said then that I was waiting for them to flower. Ta Ra they have blooms. Lots of them up in the 'canopy' a greeny yellow, finger shaped with 5-10 blooms on one stalk.

pier xcalak Does anyone know what this flower is called? I call it the Beautiful Yellow Flower from Bacalar. There is a big patch of them growing beside the road as opposite the soccer field in Bacalar so I stopped by the side of the road and asked the owner if she had seeds or young plants, (well at least I think I did with my atrocious Spanish) she sold me 10 seedlings, by the time I got home most were dead. This is the lone survivor. Help please.
Spider It is pretty neat living in amongst the critters here. According to the Internet search I did these are garden spiders. They have the most amazing patterns on them. I had three webs, a bit like the three bears, a big one with a big spider, a medium with medium spider and a teeny weeny one with a microscopic spider. They all wove zigzag patterns into the webs. Now there is a big spider, a teeny weeny spider and this, which I think is an egg case. Do you think the big (Momma) spider got a little peckish after ?? I am thinking cannibalism!!
carolers Just so you know we have Christmas here, the children from the kindergarten have been singing carols at doors. Amazingly they ALL sang and it was really sweet. The three dogs and I sat on my house step and listened to the preciouses. Here is a photo of some of them.


The editor of this newsletter (me) makes no claims that the information here is completely true. I am not a news reporter, Spanish is not my native language, the newspapers are notorious for not verifying information and this is not my primary business, but rather a service to the neighborhood. If you find something untrue PLEASE let me know and I will print a disclaimer. I try to verify the information but even the newspaper prints up rumors, so I can only report what I read and hear.

Unless otherwise stated, all content is copyrighted by MMB Contractors Inc.

Until next month,
Best wishes from your neighbor,



Updated: 24-Dec-2008

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