I apologize for lengthy review - but please read through. We are very experienced travelers including Africa, Ecuador with Galapagos, Belize, etc. We cherish "off-the-baten-path" experiences.
The reason for our trip to Mexico was to swim with the Whale Sharks. We had done a lot research and read that Holbox is the place to go for easy access to whale sharks in season. So much so, that they offer complete money-back guarantee if the customer does not see whales.
Once we made CasaSandra reservation, I called to arrange a private whale shark trip but was told that we would do that when we arrived.
CasaSandra is charming upon arrival. Despite marketing to English speaking clientele - we were grateful that a member of our family is fluent in Spanish because most of the staff speak little English.
We felt manipulated from the start. They tried to put us in a non-ocean view although we had paid for 2 ocean view master suites. When we refused, they put 1 of our couples in a room over the kitchen - noisy and cooking smells.
The rooms had charm but...the windows and doors are not fitted...so many mosquitoes flying around including while using toilet...in shower and in bed. Get the picture?
We chose a private whale trip that was to include snorkeling coral reef, and flamingoes. We specified that the crew had to speak English, however only 1 of 3 crew did. Many things were not "right" from the beginning but let's focus on what happened with the sharks.
Once in the beat-up panga, we were told if would be 2 hours before we got to the whales! Old cushions thrown on side benches, nothing to cushion the blows to the back from waves, no toilet facility. We had traveled to Holbox (instead of Cancun) so that the time from land to the shark would be the shortest possible. It is shorter from Cancun!
Our crew brought us to a place with only ONE WHALE. We were VERY DISAPPOINTED. In all our research, these animals travel together and are rarely single. When we questioned our crew, we were told that we were "so lucky" because this whale shark was swimming slowly and allowing people to swim along-side without a problem. We asked – where are the groups? He told us that there was a group a little further away but that the water around them was “red.” He said something about the plankton dying and turning the water red. We let him know we were disappointed and had expected several sharks. But nothing changed what the crew wanted to do.
We are experienced scuba divers who spend a lot of time in the ocean. We love and are experienced with fish. It is our opinion that something was not right about the whale shark we saw. It likely was in poor health and that was the reason it was alone. There was no plankton in the water (yes, we know it is tiny and hard to see – but it still can been seen if the person viewing knows what to look for – and we do.) It was not eating. It was barely moving.
Then to our shock, the person who swam with us in the water as our guide to the shark (who did not speak a word of English), took out a fishing line with hook and bait WHILE WE WERE IN THE WATER AT THE SHARK!!! There was a Cobia fish swimming against the underside of the shark, and the guide used the hook to catch the Cobia, while it was close to touching the shark. COMPLETELY UNPROFESSIONAL….and, if the Marine laws are anything like the United States…..completely ILLEGAL. The guide risked snorkelers getting hurt, the whale shark getting hurt. When the Cobia was brought aboard the boat, it was quickly put into a cabinet under one of the seats. Later in the afternoon, we saw one of the crew, filet the fish.
We were upset but stayed quiet as we were very uncomfortable with the crew. As the boat left the shark, the guide kept telling us how “lucky” we were that this shark was slow. But we weren’t lucky – we had traveled a long distance from the North East coast of the United States for the opportunity to swim with whale sharks and this crew decided to take an easy way of doing things instead of seeking out a group of sharks.
Then they suggested that we skip snorkeling and fish instead. Everyone was given a line and the 3 crew members fished as well. We caught a lot of fish – way too much for ceviche for 7 people…yet we kept fishing. We have traveled a lot over many years – we knew what they were doing….they were catching fish to take home for their suppers.
A family member received a deep gash which needed to be flushed and bleeding brought under control. NO MEDICAL SUPPLIES at all onboard. Not surprised. But we know from experience what happens when bacteria from fish isn't removed from a wound. They flagged down another boat and borrowed their med kit.
They then took us into the mangroves telling us how peaceful and beautiful it is. It was beautiful but not peaceful….there were many other non-professional boats there pulling onto a sandbar. The crews all chatted with each other. A party!
We kept asking when we would see the flamingoes and told “next.” However, that turned out to be few birds on the shoreline while our boat stayed far from shore. Our guide told us that, when we get back to shore, we could rent a golf cart to try to get closer to the birds.
What a “rip-off.” .
We had spent thousands of dollars to travel and swim with the whale sharks and ended up with a very poor quality boat tour that ruined this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
When we told the hostess at CasaSandra, they didn't care. They told us how great it would be the next time we come back.
We rented the golf cart which then got stolen from in front of CasaSandra.
Their general attitude was "Oh well...."
Our hard-earned money and precious little vacation time blown because of very poor customer service.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- For a long time owner, Sandra, wanted to write by the sea. She went in search of a remote world, quiet, where the blue was obvious. One day, she landed in Cancun and the attraction of the Mayan land was overwhelming. She took a small plane and flew over the island of Holbox.Nothing was more attractive to her than the Feast of the colors of nature, barefoot fishermen with their gold teeth, women weaving hammocks or sheathed with their heels in the sand. "I want to do something here, " she said and began to imagine in her head this project now called "the hotel with a human touch" on this very beach.The land of more than 150 species of birds, whale shark, or Damero world's largest fish, mangroves in each corner, all were an inspiration to this artist.Then she wanted to welcome friends from around the world and to express, through a hotel on the island of Holbox, a point of view on life: "peace and art are a great treasure for humans. " Because of this she thought of a place that is romantic, sexy, creative, where the personalized, warm, rustic atmosphere in a luxurious twenty rooms that look to the sea, where one could meet the privacy and whims of its guests. All done out of love and passion. The same place where one can dream and create, and in the best case, where one can rest.The joy of giving and expressing a new way of caring for guests, has been the commitment of the hotel. Every detail has a reason: from the small art gallery with paintings by renowned artists to the beautiful furniture that inhabit the halls.Feelings, emotions, poetry, touches of color, aromas of black coffee, hammocks, fabric on the balconies, fluffy sheets, the sea at every angle, and romantic evenings create the magic of the "place of your dreams." ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Casa Sandra Hotel Holbox Island
- Casa Sandra Holbox Island