Eco-Archaeological Park Considered for San Pedro

Marcos Constandse, along with a small delegation from Xcaret, an eco-archaeological park near Cancun, Mexico, visited San Pedro this week in hopes of finalizing plans to create a park in San Pedro similar to Xcaret. Xcaret, which means "inlet" is approximately 45 miles from Cancun, Mexico, and is set on 99 acres of wild, lush land. The park opened in December of 1990. three million tourists pour into the Cancun/Quintana Roo, area every year. Xcaret does not offer accommodation. The park is easily accessible from many Cancun Hotels. Xcaret tours are offered by most hotels. For $49.00 US per person a bus will pick you up from your hotel and take you to Xcaret. The $49.00 US covers the bus and the entrance fee into the park which is $30.00 US. Extra fees are charged for horse back riding, diving and swimming with the dolphins.

Set amidst important Mayan ceremonial centers, the Caribbean sea and abundant wildlife Xcaret offers: a museum, botanical garden, wild bird breeding aviary, dolphins, archaeological zones, artisans, Mexican charro equestrian demonstrations, aquarium, caves, Papantla Flyers, musical events, butterfly pavilion, cultivation of orchids and mushrooms, Mayan village and Xcaret at night, which offers great light shows and theatrical events, dancers, singers, musicians and folklorical presentations. The park is equipped with restaurants and bars. You can swim and pet the dolphins, go horse back riding, bird watching, snorkeling and diving. There is an information center, bathrooms, gift shops and diving equipment rentals.

Xcaret is open from April to October, Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and on Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. During November to March it is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and on Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Xcaret has another branch called, Xel-Ha which is located several miles south of Cancun on the coast. Xel-Ha does not offer all the attractions Xcaret does, but it has its own unique features -a lagoon, caves, beaches and several diving areas.

One of Xcaret's most popular programs is the dolphin show. The show comprises of several well trained dolphins who entertain and greet quests. Visitors can pay a fee and swim, pet and dive with dolphins at Xcaret. The dolphins were captured from the Cancun area and were trained by experts in Cancun. Xcaret offers an extensive and educational program to the children in the Quintana Roo area. The schools participate in a three day program in which they learn about dolphins spend time and swim with these placid and intelligent creatures. The park offers this program free of charge to the schools in the hope that the children will learn ecological consciousness and will strive to preserve and value the beauty of their land.

Marcos Constandse along with his wife, Inna; their son, Oscar; partner, Adan Zurbia and Educational Organizer for the Dolphin Program, Gabriela Garza Servin, over the last week visited San Pedro to start their plans to bring a eco-archaeological park to Belize. Marcos Constandse's plan is to open a small park with dolphins as the main attraction. There will hopefully be a bird show and possibly a folklore show. As time moves along and if the park flourishes, it will be expanded. Constandse's wish is to have San Pedranos working with the dolphins and working in the park. Dolphin experts will be brought in from Mexico to train the dolphins but in the future he hopes that several San Pedranos will learn to train and work with the dolphins.

Constandse plans to start the ball rolling in February, if all goes well. "I am very comfortable here in San Pedro. We have gotten a lot of support from the authorities and the Hotel Association because we feel that the this park business will compliment the natural resources of the country. It is an opportunity for vacationing people to spend more time here and to come here. Normally the government and the association fight to bring people here but they should fight to keep them here and to have them spend more money in San Pedro. If a visitor is going to spend four days, work to have them spend five. If they spend $1.00 then they'll spend $2.00. Invest not to bring more people, but invest to keep the ones you have to stay longer. We have seen this work in Cancun and we have seen a 40% increase in the time that tourists spent in Cancun. The average time a visitor spent used to be three days, now it is up to five and hopefully it will continue to grow." Marcos also expressed his plans to develop a tour to San Pedro and the park from Cancun, Mexico.

Gabriela, who is in charge of the educational program, explained that it was one of the most, if not the most important aspect of the park. In this program they spread environmentally conscious information to students and they bring knowledge to children who have never seen or experienced contact with dolphins. Gabriela's program, although fun, is geared to awareness and understanding.

Constandse agreed that the program was very important and that it would be extremely beneficial to the children of the country. Children from all over Belize will be able to learn about dolphins and experience these friendly animals in an educational and exciting setting. Another aspect of this program is the training of high school student to participate in the dolphin program and help with the dolphins. Teenagers will learn the simple principles behind the training and care of the animals.

Zurbia, one of the dolphin program owners and organizers, was extremely optimistic about their plans to bring a small Xcaret to San Pedro. He mentioned several times that San Pedro reminded him of Cancun before it became so large. Zurbia hopes to visit San Pedro many more times and even expressed his longing to live in San Pedro. In jesting, the group mentioned that because of San Pedro's beauty it was very likely that all the tourists that visit Xcaret and Xel-Ha might not want to visit there any more and will want to come only to San Pedro.

Marcos is not certain as to where the park will be located on the island but he plans to get every thing organized before he and his delegation leave on the 17th of January to go back to Cancun. If all their plans are not finalized, they will return to San Pedro next month.

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