Traveling anglers have a lot to consider these days when deciding where to book their next trip. Unfortunately, more and more often, conversations about prospective destinations have nothing to do with the actual purpose of the desired holiday – the fishing. Whether is it politics, piracy, oil spills or swine flu, we spend a lot of time setting the facts straight about the reality of perceived threats that could derail a fishing holiday. Whenever these types of issues arise, we are forced to do our homework and present the honest facts to our traveling client base. Obviously, our goal is to promote and organize trips to locations that offer incredible fishing opportunity – but above all else destinations that are considered safe and civilized to visit.
As the violence along our border with Mexico has escalated over the last several months, we are once again called upon to provide an education and perhaps set the record straight on what is happening in Mexico – more specifically what is happening on the Yucatan Peninsula. It is no secret we have a vested interest in soothing the worry about visiting this part of the world as we send dozens of anglers to the Yucatan each season. Having that said, we would never send a single client to Cancun and onward if we thought there was any more danger in traveling here than what most of us risk by simply living in huge, crime ridden American cities like Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Los Angeles or New York.
The drug cartels in the northern states of Mexico are in the midst of a turf war that largely entails bad guys killing bad guys. While millions of Americans travel unharmed through the northern border of Mexico each year, I personally would not recommend it, and would not consider getting anywhere near cities like Juarez or Tijuana. Even cities like Monterrey are not safe – and the US State Department strongly discourages traveling there.
My Conversation with the U.S. State Department: Switching gears (and hundreds of miles) south to the Yucatan Peninsula… While I have had several reassuring conversations with dozens of levelheaded friends and business partners in Mexico, I thought it would be a good idea to chat with someone in our own government on the matter. I recently spoke with a representative from the U.S. State Department regarding violent crime, numbers of American tourists on the Yucatan, the presence of the drug cartels, and their stance of visiting the Yucatan states of Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Campeche. According to the agent I spoke with, while there is of course a drug presence on the Yucatan (name one city in North America there is not), there was not a single incident of drug related violence involving an American tourist on the Yucatan in 2010. There was of course some unrelated violent crime in Cancun – but all instances occurred in seedy bars, late at night, or in parts of the city you would not visit with traditional common sense. Over 2.5 million Americans traveled through Cancun Airport last year without a known Cartel related incident. Having had dozens of conversations with folks living on the Yucatan and wasting away hours on the Internet, I am unable to find any reports of drug related violence involving an American on holiday.
The theme that I gathered from my conversation with this particular State Department representative was to of course practice safe travel habits, but to consider the Yucatan a very safe tourist destination. Drugs travel through the Yucatan (just like everywhere else), but the violence occurs at the transaction point of the sale of the goods – near the border. The Yucatan not only has been spared the drug cartel violence, but it also has the least amount of crime of any sort in all 31 Mexican States.
The facts about visiting a fishing lodge on the Yucatan: Upon leaving customs at the Cancun Airport, you are in the hands of a lodge representative (in many cases the owner) who escorts you all the way to the front door of the lodge either by ground transportation of charter fight. When traveling south to popular destinations like Ascension Bay, you cruise at 100km/hour during daylight hours through the completely Americanized hotel zone of Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Mega hotels and Sam’s Wholesales dot the landscape. Upon arrival in Tulum you exit the main highway and enter the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve, a completely remote and desolate coastal national park. Dozens of boutique hotels and hundreds of sunburned tourists are scattered along the road riding bicycles or rented jeeps for the first dozen kilometers before entering the depths and safety of the jungle en route to the sleepy lobster fishing village of Punta Allen. Punta Allen is a town of 600 residents that sleep with the doors unlocked and children run in the sandy streets.
The Yucatan Peninsula is nearly 100% reliant on tourist dollars and is light years and a thousand miles from the drug cartel violence on the border and in Mexico City or Monterrey. While there is no hiding that the drug cartels in Mexico are ruthless, however electing not to visit the Yucatan for fear of violent crime is simply not founded. Crime is an unfortunate aspect of life in all parts of the world, yet the remote coastal regions of the Yucatan are further from it than my own home in Dallas.
I would take my three year old to a fishing lodge on Ascension Bay – and hopefully you won’t allow the sensationalist media or the uninformed to talk you out of it. Incredible fishing, kind people, and a relaxing tropical holiday await you there.