ASCENSION & ESPIRITU SANTO BAYS, YUCATAN, MEXICO
The area surrounding Casa Blanca, Playa Blanca & Casa Redondo is wild, virtually uninhabited and extraordinarily beautiful. There are miles of shallow bays, secluded mangrove-rimmed lagoons, white sand beaches, and dense coastal jungle. Once you have explored its vast tropical landscape and experienced the exquisite isolation, it will remain with you long after you have boarded your plane and returned home to civilization.
Ascension Bay and Espiritu Santo Bay
Together, Ascension Bay and Espiritu Santo Bay are as close to paradise as you will find anywhere. They possess a unique combination of environments which create the ideal habitat for a wide variety of animal life and sea life. In essence, it is a great home for game fish.
The vast estuary/flats system and adjacent reef are the basis of Casa Blanca's & Playa Blanca's pristine, and highly productive fishery. Shallow-water coral species demand a very stable environment with precise water temperature and consistent water depth in order to flourish. This is why large barrier reefs, like the Palancar Reef that parallels Casa Blanca's & Playa Blanca's coast, are so rare. Palancar is second only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef in size.
Casa Blanca Fishing Lodge
Unless you have been there it is impossible to imagine a place like Casa Blanca... the vast bays, the immense expanse flats, hidden lagoons rimmed with mangroves... an endless, isolated world of turquoise shallows, it seems. Pelicans and frigates hover above the island catching the rising currents of air; herons and ibis wade and hunt the shorelines. Rays and lobster track the bottom. Barracuda hang motionless... and then are gone. And again and again, passing like a cloud over the flats, come permit and bonefish in schools, pushing water, tailing, cutting their own curious paths across the sand, through the turtle grass awaiting your cast, your strike. It is hard to imagine the surge of adrenaline as you lift your rod, the line sizzling through the water. It almost seems as if time is suspended. It is a moment impossible to forget. An image that stays with you, in the mind's eye, long after you have put away the rod and returned home to civilization.
It has been said that Casa Blanca has the world's largest population of permit. It is not extraordinary to get within casting range of twenty-five to fifty permit in a single day. As most anglers know however, they are not easy fish to catch and can be incredibly frustrating.
Having spent ten years trying to land one, I had an unbelievable experience at Casa Blanca this past February: I caught four permit in one day. The first three came within an hour and a half of leaving the dock that morning and we spent the rest of the day looking for tarpon, to no avail. Upon returning to lodge that evening, there was much revelry (I think I ate a scorpion pickled in tequila) and story telling. Another guide/host, Steve Hilbers of The Big Horn Fly Shop, congratulated me on my four fish and then told me what his one day record for permit at Casa Blanca was: ELEVEN!
Around midnight, I was persuaded by another guest to try to catch a tarpon off the dock and achieve a Grand Slam'. I grabbed my nine weight Sage and went down with him to see what was around. Sure enough, a small school of tarpon was milling about, just off the edge of the dock light's circular beam. My first cast caught the thatched roof of the dock's palapa, but the second got an immediate take. I set the hook and the fish jumped four feet out of the water, sending the fly straight back at me (pretty standard). I quickly checked the fly - it was the same one I had caught the three permit on earlier that day, a tan kwan with a striped tail - and sure enough the school came back into view. I waited for them to complete their long, repetitive loop so I could throw at them head-on and, just as they turned towards the dock, I put the fly right in front of the lead fish. I made one strip, felt a strong take, and set the hook with a yell. The fish didn't jump however, but screamed off in the direction of deeper water instead. After a twenty minute battle which pulled me off the dock and into the water, it turned out to be another permit and the biggest of the day!
This place is truly magic...
The lodge itself sits on Punta Pajaros , on the northern tip of Isla Punta Pajaros, a small coastal island in the western Caribbean. Here, at the mouth of Ascension Bay, where the reef that divides the sea from the bay begins to bend inshore, you will find the lodge's white buildings clustered amid the palms on a white sand beach. It is as remote and pristine a location as you will find in this hemisphere. Yet to get to Casa Blanca it is only a short flight to Cancun and a fifty-five minute charter flight down the Yucatan coast. Once you land on the air strip and make the run across the inlet by boat, sliding through the narrow mangrove channels that lead to the bay, you truly are as far from the world and as close to "the way it was' as you will ever be. "Far from the world", but not far from the necessities of civilized man.
"A room with a view"
Since the Carribean is only 100 feet away, that is the only kind of room you will find. They are large and well appointed with tile floors, mahogany shutters and very spacious baths.
"A well stocked bar"
In the main lodge you will find the bar and a very accommodating bartender as well. After a full day on the water, it is a perfect place to relax and talk about the ones that did not get away.
"An imaginative menu"
As you might expect in the Caribbean, the house specialty is fresh seafood - lobster or snapper or conch. You will always find the day's catch simply and skillfully prepared. Chayote, Jicama, Habaneros - the native fruits and vegetables are presented to please you eye as well as your palate.
Playa Blanca Adventure Resort
Imagine for a second a tropical island, far from the beaten path... no maddening crowds, just miles of empty white sand beach... and turquoise water. Imagine the sound of the waves on the shore... the breeze in the palms... and attentive hosts to cater to your needs.
You will discover that time moves slower on a tropical island... in fact... sometimes... it even... stops. Playa Blanca is the perfect antidote to civilization. Relaxing is an avocation - beachcombing, an event. A place where the cares of everyday life quickly fade away.
At Playa Blanca, there are many other activities besides fishing - you can explore Mayan ruins, kayak a secluded lagoon riverways, snorkle a hidden reef, watch turtles nest on the beach, or just relax by the pool.
Or...you could choose to do absolutely nothing at all. Opportunities for "nothing" abound. You could simply gaze at the transparent turquoise waters. Let the trade winds blow through your hair. Lounge in a hammock. Marvel at the empty white sand beaches. Or, just lean back and sip a cool refreshing tropical drink.
Every room is a "room with a view"...a beautiful view. Playa Blanca's accommodations are single standing & duplex upscale island cabanas. All rooms are complete with two queen size beds and designer private baths. Decor is simple, yet stylish enhancing your surroundings. All rooms at Playa Blanca have a "water" view and access to miles of white sand beach within steps of your front door. Playa Blanca has no neighbors, there is just tropical paradise as far as the eye can see...blue sky, white sand, palm trees and turquoise water.
But, if you have an urge to mix with other guests, the hotel's bar and restaurant provide the perfect spot to mingle and to talk about all the things you did (or did not do) each day. The bar is well stocked and the service is unsurpassed. As you might expect, the chef's specialty is fresh seafood - simply , skillfully and artfully prepared.
Just a short distance to the north of Playa Blanca sits our most private destination Casa Redonda & Casa Redonda Suite.
A large round house with thatched roof, Casa Redonda has two large bedrooms with king beds, ceiling fans and a private, Italian marble bathroom/shower for each room. There is a gourmet kitchen as well as a living room / dining room located seaside. It has a beautiful deck overlooking the Caribbean. Located on 15 miles of private beach, Casa Redonda is perfect for travellers who enjoy their privacy.
Casa Redonda and Casa Redonda Suite offer extremely comfortable accommodations. Both are self sufficient facilities with technologically advanced solar powered system providing such amenities as 24 hour electricity, refrigeration and purified water.
Coffee, tea and freshly baked sweet breads will be delivered to your rooms in the mornings, all other meals will be taken at Playa Blanca's island restaurant, located just a short walk down the beach. Or, guest may choose to have our own private chef prepare all or some of their meals right there in Casa Redonda's gourmet kitchen. And be served, seaside in their own private dining area with spectacular view of the Caribbean.
Casa Redonda Suite is a one bedroom suite IDEAL for honeymooners and couples looking for that special private island getaway. Casa Redonda Suite features a large spacious bedroom with a king bed and ceiling fan, a beautifully appointed bathroom with Italian tile and a soaking tub/shower surrounded by an assortment of fresh tropical flora. The Suite also boasts a large wooden deck surrounded by lush tropical landscape, overlooking the beach with fabulous views of the Caribbean.
Sian Ka'an... Birthplace of the Sky
All three lodges are on the southern edge of Ascension Bay, in the center of one of the world's largest protected wild areas - the Sian Ka'an, Biosphere Reserve. This pristine reserve covers over 1.5 million acres and completely surrounds Casa Blanca, Playa Blanca & Casa Redondo. Sian Ka'an has also been designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site.
The Mayan name "Sian Ka'an" literally means "the birthplace of the sky". The local Mayans say that their ancestors believed that, in the beginning of time, the sky was created in the area surrounding Casa Blanca & Playa Blanca. In fact, you can still see evidence of the Mayan temples which once stood where Casa Blanca & Playa Blanca stands today and several others dot the island. After spending some time on the bay and on the beaches, with their immense expanse of sky and clouds and turquoise waters, you will see why the Mayans held it so dear.
The Sian Ka'an reserve contains 22 registered archaeological sites. Two of these are just down the beach from Casa Blanca & Playa Blanca. Both have small, "late" Mayan temples which are believed to have been built around 600 to 900 A.D. One site is named Chac Mool. It overlooks the beach on the Caribbean side of the island and consists of two temples and several other buildings which appear ceremonial in nature. The other temple, Tupak, was built on the water and can only be reached by paddling though the mangroves and lagoons which surround it. Its foundation is made of ancient conch shells and coral rock which elevate it just above the water. Other residential sites are scattered throughout the jungle.
The abundance of marine and wild life in Sian Ka'an, also, is hard to imagine until you have seen it for yourself. You can find over 325 species of birds, from Hummingbirds to the rare six foot tall Jabiru, the world's largest flighted bird. In the back of the bay are manatee. Four different marine turtles nest on the beaches: Loggerhead, Green Sea Turtle, Hawksbill, and Leatherback. The species of fish in Ascension Bay and on the barrier reef are too numerous to name. One visiting writer was so amazed by an afternoon in the bay, that he compared it to wading in a knee-deep aquarium. The fishing is not bad either.
A "Biosphere Reserve" is a relatively new concept in conservation where the goal of protecting the environment is integrated with certain compatible human activities. The "biosphere" is literally the thin layer of the Earth that supports life. It consists of the ground, water and air... lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. A reserve is designed to protect and conserve this fragile portion of the Earth's mantle. But, in a "biosphere reserve", conservation is not conceived of as a total prohibition of human presence, but rather as a rational, long-term, sustainable use of the natural resources.
Science and Education
Biosphere reserves are broken up into three distinct zones, each of which allows varying degrees of human interaction. The central zone allows no human activities which would affect the area in any way. There are several islands in Ascension Bay that fall into this category. They are major nesting sites for sea birds such as Boat Billed Herons or Frigate Birds.
The second zone allows minimal human activities with very limited use of the natural resources. Here, human presence is permitted as long as it does not affect the area's natural balance; one such activity that falls into this category is Casa Blanca's & Playa Blanca's "catch and release" sport fishing. Zone two also allows eco-tourism activities such as Casa Blanca's & Playa Blanca's popular bird watching and nature tours.
The third zone incorporates permanent human habitation and increased, (but sustainable) resource use. The small lobster fishing village, Punta Allen, on the north side of Ascension Bay would be a good example of this category. This village existed before the establishment of the reserve. So, instead of displacing the fishermen, the reserve has worked with them to manage the lobster fishing in a way that preserves the lobster population and sustains the fishermen's' income. Today, the area's lobster population is Mexico's most stable, yet the area still produces over 75% of Mexico's commercial lobster catch.
The ultimate goal of all biosphere reserves is to eventually build land management programs where man and nature can coexist without resource abuse, yet maximizing the productivity of the area.
Quintana Roo and Its Mayan Roots
Casa Blanca, Playa Blanca and Sian Ka'an are located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo on the Caribbean side of the Yucatan Peninsula. Quintana Roo encompasses approximately one-third of the Peninsula and shares its borders with Belize and Guatemala to the south, and the Mexican states of Yucatan and Campeche.
The original inhabitants of the Yucatan were Mayan Indians who emigrated from Belize during the 8th and 9th centuries A.D. As early as the 1st century, these people had firmly established a sedentary, agricultural life-style. By the time the Mayans arrived in the Yucatan, their culture was one of Meso-America's most advanced and prolific, with a highly organized governmental structure complete with city-states and sophisticated trading systems. At the height of the Mayan Empire, there were separate "dynasties" stretching from Yucatan to El Salvador and Honduras. The total population has been estimated as high as 15 million.
Unfortunately, the proliferation of the Mayan culture was to be cut short by the European "discovery" of the New World. The Spanish conquest almost completely destroyed the Mayan communities and for all practical purposes the entire civilization. In their quest for gold, the Spanish ruthlessly killed large numbers of Mayans, but, the real conqueror of the Mayans was not really the Conquistadors. It was the European diseases they carried. Since Mayans had never before been exposed to European diseases, they had virtually no natural immunity. It has been estimated that some 8 to 10 million Mayans died from plagues of small pox, measles and other infections.
Today, Quintana Roo is home to the last remnants of the Mayan culture. Many locals still speak a dialect which is very similar to that spoken before the Spanish conquest. There is even a local radio station (Radio Maya) which broadcasts in Mayan several days a week.
Since there wasn't a road connecting the Yucatan Peninsula to Mexico City until the 1930's, the area evolved somewhat independently from the rest of the country. The culture is more Caribbean than Mexican. Many of the locals think of themselves as Yucatecas first and Mexicans second. This is not to say that they are not patriotic Mexicans, but rather, that Yucatecas possess an independent point of view. Once, when a well known American writer asked one of the Casa Blanca's & Playa Blanca's Mayan guides if he had ever been to the U.S., the guide replied that he "had not" and that, in fact, he had "never even been to Mexico".
CASA BLANCA / PLAYA BLANCA / CASA REDONDO 2005 RATES:
One Week Itineraries, Saturday - Saturday:
All prices include R.T. air charter from Cancun to the Island. Deluxe seaside accommodations, all meals, snorkeling, wind surfing, sea kayaking, bicycling, natural history excursions, birding, unlimited use of all recreational equipment, non-bottled beverages. Fishing rates include guide & boat beverages. It does not include alcoholic beverages, use of the phone, laundry, guide service and staff gratuities.
Partial Week Itineraries
Itineraries for partial week packages should begin or end on a Saturday. The lodge will not accept reservations which span a Saturday since this would eliminate the possibility of booking two full week packages. Additional air charter charges will apply for groups for which extra flights are required. See Air Charter Surcharges.
Air Charter Surcharges for all Late Arrival, Early Departure & Partial Week Itineraries
The cost of the air charter from Cancun to the island is included in the rates on the Price List, but these rates apply only to flights on Saturday. For itineraries requiring travel on days other than Saturday, there will be a surcharge based on the number of passengers on the flight. These surcharges will apply to all late arrivals, canceled or delayed airline flights, early departures from the lodge and to all partial week itineraries. 1 pass = $400; 2 pass = $200 pp; 3 pass = $134 pp; 4 pass = $100 pp.
Fishing / Non Fishing Package Supplement
Anyone reserving space for a Non Fishing guest and a Fishing guest, sharing a room / single boat, must add $400.00 to the DO Fishing rate.
Tarpon Lagoon Fishing
The Tarpon Lagoon fishing is very limited and is NOT GUARANTEED. Requests for Tarpon Lagoon trips must be made prior to your visit and will only be considered upon receipt of all monies due paid according to policy.
Recommended tip for a fishing guide is $40 per day per boat. House/staff tip is $12 per day per guest or $80 for the week.
All guests should book flights to Cancun, Mexico. From there, Casa Blanca will provide an air charter which will fly you directly to the lodge. Guests making their own flight reservations must plan to arrive in Cancun no later than 2:30 p.m. and schedule their return flight no earlier than 12 p.m. noon in order to make connections with the air charter. Any flights that do not fall within this time period must be approved 30 days in advance by the lodge and may result in an air charter surcharge. The charges are listed in the pricing literature. All airline or private flight itineraries must be supplied to the lodge 30 days in advance of your arrival in Cancun.
Casa Blanca, Playa Blanca & Casa Redonda transfer all guests from Cancun via private air charter on Cessna 206's. Each plane can accommodate 4 to 5 guests plus our pilot. The flight to & from Cancun to the island is approximately 120 miles or 55 minutes.
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT ALL FLIGHT INFORMATION IS SUBMITTED ACCORDING TO POLICY IN ORDER TO INSURE THAT ALL OUR GUESTS (ARRIVING & DEPARTING) ARE PREPARED FOR PROPERLY.
Private air charter flight schedules are customized each week according to the information provided by arriving & departing guests. The established day of travel is Saturday. Any air travel on a day other than a Saturday is subject to an air charter surcharge. Private planes are not allowed to land on our airstrip. Private planes must land in Cancun and be transferred to the island by one of our charter flights. Please read more about Travel Information follow the links to Trip Planning & Flight Information to learn more details.
You must supply proof of citizenship to obtain a Mexican Tourist Card and to enter the country. The Tourist Card application is issued at the ticket counter by airlines that fly into Mexico. Just fill it out while in flight and present it along with your proof of citizenship to the immigration officials when you arrive in Cancun. For proof of citizenship you can use one of the following: 1. Valid U.S. passport (check expiration date); 2. An original or certified copy of a birth certificate (photocopy not acceptable); 3. A current U.S. voter's registration card. If you use a voter's registration card or a birth certificate, each must be accompanied by a valid driver's license. Be sure to have one of these documents with you. The tourist card will be checked at your first point of entry. The immigration official will retain one copy and give you the other, which you must surrender at the airline ticket counter when you check in for your return flight. Keep your copy (Tourist Card) in your possession during your stay in Mexico. No visas or inoculations are required for U.S. citizens. A Mexican departure tax is payable at the airport when leaving Mexico. Some airlines include this as a prepaid part of your ticket. Please check with your travel agent or carrier to verify this.
Traveling With Minors
Children 17 years of age or younger entering Mexico accompanied by only one parent must have a notarized letter of consent from the other parent stating the child/children have his/her permission to enter the country. Single parents need a notarized documentation of divorce decree or death certificate of spouse. Minors unaccompanied by either parent require a notarized letter of consent signed by both parents.
If, when you arrive in Cancun, you find that your luggage has been misplaced by the airlines, you must report it to an airline representative before you leave the baggage claim area. If you do not, it is likely that you will not recover your lost items. Do not surrender your original baggage claim stubs when making a lost baggage claim with an airline. Insist that they make photocopies for their records. After informing the airline, report the loss to the lodge's local representative. He will forward your baggage to the lodge if it is found by the airline. We strongly encourage guests to pack lightly in soft sided bags to facilitate loading in the charter aircraft. If there is too much luggage, it will be transferred by truck and boat to Casa Blanca (4 hrs.).
In Transit Emergencies or Flight Delays
If you are forced to change your travel plans while en route to Cancun, you can contact a Casa Blanca or Playa Blanca representative at the telephone numbers listed below. In general, you do not need to report flight delays unless they will cause you to arrive in Cancun later than 3:00 p.m. The lodge's staff is in direct contact with the airlines and will be aware of flight time changes. If your flight is canceled, or you are forced to change flights, please call one of the numbers listed below to report your new itinerary.
If your delay causes you to arrive in Cancun later than mid afternoon, it is likely that you will miss all the scheduled air charters to Casa Blanca & Playa Blanca and will be required to spend the night at a hotel in Cancun. If this is the case, please contact Casa Blanca's & Playa Blanca's Cancun office as soon as you check-in to your hotel. Delays that require an overnight stay in Cancun will cause you to incur a substantial air charter surcharge. These charges are listed in the Casa Blanca & Playa Blanca pricing information.
Emergency Contact with the Lodge, Faxes
There is limited telephone service at the lodge. In case of emergency, call our U.S. office. A message will be relayed to the lodge. Also, our Cancun office can make radio contact with the lodge. Faxes can also be sent to the Cancun office for two day delivery to the island. Occasionally, quicker delivery is possible.
U.S. Customs Registration
To certify proof of ownership of cameras, jewelry or any other valuables you should obtain a U.S. Customs registration certificate from a U.S. Customs office before you depart the U.S.. This certificate can be especially helpful when reentering the U.S..
Arriving in Cancun
Upon arriving in the Cancun Airport you will be processed by Immigration. You will then claim your baggage. Next you will clear Customs. After customs, proceed to the Arrival Lobby. If you are scheduled to fly to Casa Blanca or Playa Blanca on your day of arrival, the lodge's local representative will meet you outside the baggage claim area. This area will be full of other tour operators, arriving passengers and is usually somewhat chaotic. The Casa Blanca & Playa Blanca representative will have a sign printed with "Casa Blanca" and a bonefish or "Playa Blanca" and a turtle. If you do not immediately see him, this means he is transferring other guests to the charter plane and will return shortly. This is a rare occurrence. Do not leave this area to attempt to find him. He will find you. The Casa Blanca or Playa Blanca representative will arrange for you and your baggage to be transferred to the General Aviation Terminal by car. The transfer will take less than 5 minutes. You will then board a plane and fly directly to the Casa Blanca & Playa Blance airstrip; The flight takes approximately 50 minutes. If more than eight guests arrive in a 2-hour period, the later arriving guests may have a layover of up to two hours in the General Aviation Terminal. The terminal has a very comfortable lounge and a small bar which serves drinks and sandwiches.
Staying in Cancun
If you plan to spend a night or two in Cancun before you go to Casa Blanca or Playa Blanca, no Casa Blanca or Playa Blanca representative will meet you when you arrive. You must arrange your own transportation to your hotel. There are a wide range of transportation options available in the airport. Please be sure to supply the lodge with the name of your hotel 30 days before you arrive in Cancun. The night before you are scheduled to take the air charter to the lodge, you will be contacted at your hotel by a Casa Blanca or Playa Blanca representative who will tell you what time to arrive at the General Aviation Terminal to meet your air charter to the lodge. You must take a taxi to the General Aviation Terminal. In Spanish the terminal is referred to as Aviacion General . It is located approximately two blocks north of the International Arrival Terminal. To contact the Casa Blanca & Playa Blanca representative in Cancun dial 88-88496.
Surface Transportation to Casa Blanca & Playa Blanca
Transportation would be a 4-6 hour drive to Punta Allen. You would then have a 1+ hour ride in a wet, open boat.
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