Facing Fears in Central America: Climbing Tikal and Swimming with Sharks

Climbing up and feeling a little shaky was all worth it

Travel can really make you face your fears and take you out of your comfort zone. It challenges you by putting you in different situations and with people who push you. In Central America, I faced two of my biggest fears by climbing Tikal and swimming with sharks. Here is what I wrote on the road: I’m feeling very proud of myself and our group today. Over the past week we have all faced fears and really pushed our limits with things that scare us. It hasn’t been something I was expecting but its such an exhilarating feeling to say we’ve done it. I have a real knee-shaking, heart-racing, tear-inducing fear of heights and so did one or two of my fellow travellers. We challenged this when we went to Tikal.

At the Entrance of Tikal National Park

At the Entrance of Tikal National Park

 

Our group walking on dirt paths through the dense jungle at Tikal

Our group walking on dirt paths through the dense jungle at Tikal

First glimpse of the temples in Tikal National Park

First glimpse of the temples in Tikal National Park

The temples were incredible and the setting couldn’t have been better. Suddenly in a opening of the jungle trees, you glimpse the first temple and it is breathtaking. Towering above us, they were dominating features and it began to feel like you could step back in time.

View across the main complex in Tikal National Park

View across the main complex in Tikal National Park

Climbing halfway up to look across at the main complex gave a fantastic view. I loved exploring and being able to walk around these ancient ruins. The views from every angle were spectacular!

Climbing up onto small platforms and up ancient steps to explore Tikal

Climbing up onto small platforms and up ancient steps to explore Tikal

 

Tikal Archaeological Site

Tikal Archaeological Site

It soon became time to face the tallest temple and set off up the wooden stairs to the top. I was really nervous and I know a fellow traveller Sam was terrified of heights. Our tour guide Alex asked us to push ourselves and face our fears. Off we went and…

Our tour leader and group members getting to the top of Temple IV at Tikal

Our tour leader and group members getting to the top of Temple IV at Tikal

We all made it to the top! It was a big step for me to do this even feeling so scared my legs shook. My heart was pounding and occasionally I would look down through a gap and get a jolt of terror but I kept going. This made me feel very proud.

Climbing up and feeling a little shaky was all worth it

Climbing up and feeling a little shaky was all worth it

 

Standing at the highest point of the Tikal Temple IV! For someone who is scared of heights, I was very proud of this moment.

Standing at the highest point of the Tikal Temple IV! For someone who is scared of heights, I was very proud of this moment.

During our snorkelling tour, we went to Shark and Ray Alley. This was the second stop and I was last in the water! I’ve always felt nervous about getting in the water with big fish and mammals so the nurse sharks (although they have no teeth, still looked menacing!) and stingrays were a challenge. We had some people in the group who didn’t swim or didn’t feel very confident but before long we were all jumping in! The sea life was well worth the nervousness with brightly coloured fish, big eels and gorgeous turtles. Its been a dream of mine to swim with turtles so it was incredible when we finally spotted one cruising along.

This was our home for the day and sitting up top in the sun was glorious in between snorkelling

This was our home for the day and sitting up top in the sun was glorious in between snorkelling

 

I took this photo just before I got in the water. I was praying the shark would be friendly!

I took this photo just before I got in the water. I was praying the shark would be friendly!

The water came alive as soon as our boat stopped. Large shoals of fish were swimming around next to the boat and then we all started to point out the unmistakable outline of sharks. They were quite small and relatively safe but I’d never swam with anything so big before.

So proud of everyone for getting in even though a few were really anxious (myself included). Travel is about challenging yourself

So proud of everyone for getting in even though a few were really anxious (myself included). Travel is about challenging yourself

I can swim and generally go swimming every week but for someone who doesn’t, getting in the water is a very daunting experience. Life jackets were worn and we had a safety ring but it was definitely a big challenge for our non-swimmers. Hugely proud!

So many sharks and fish swimming around, it was amazing. I can't believe I really experienced it!

So many sharks and fish swimming around, it was amazing. I can’t believe I really experienced it!

 

Swimming so close to sharks was pretty exhilarating!

The sharks were inquisitive and swam up really close. It was the first time a lot of people on our group had been so close to a shark

 

Snorkelling in paradise! Shark and ray alley was teeming with sea life and the tropical water was stunning

Snorkelling in paradise! Shark and ray alley was teeming with sea life and the tropical water was stunning

 

Lots of sharks and big fish, fantastic experience

Lots of sharks and big fish, fantastic experience

I think its safe to say we all had a brilliant time challenging ourselves in Central America and the fear was worth it in the end.   Have you been swimming with sharks?  Have you climbed Tikal?  Or maybe you’ve challenged yourself another way, let us know!

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