Thursday, February 5, 2009

Spring Broken?

In the battle for a dwindling reservoir of tourists, Mexico has left the Caribbean high and dry. My family voted with our frequent-flyer miles and the winner was Cancun. (There were no seats available to any other destination.) We’ll rent a car in March and head south along the coast. With a group including one tween, one teen, and my walker-wielding mother, we wanted multiple rooms with at least one on the ground floor.

None of us has been there before, but the so-called Riviera Maya is second-home to rafts of expats, and hence numerous opportunities for villa rental. I contacted several online agents. One of them—Janice Spate—actually called me at home to talk potential properties. I could tell from her area code that she lives in British Columbia but I didn’t ask for her story.

There are many fine and expensive possibilities on the Yucatan coast but we did not choose any of them, opting instead for a three-bedroom Akumal condo through an outfit named Cancun Steve.

Steve’s website is goofily charming, one of those artifacts of the Internet that disarm and discomfort simultaneously, complete with mouse-over magic tricks. I was curious enough to request his story, and here are the answers I received.

Q: Are you a one-man operation?

A: we have a team. a girl up in New York. 4 of us here in Cancun.

Q: Is your name really Steve?

A: my name is Steve

Q: Do you live in Cancun, or somewhere else?

A: I reside in Cancun

Q: Has the economic downturn affected business as much as it has in the Caribbean, where flights were cut 15%?

A: the recession has effected us all friend

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Catch and release in the home of the Khan

Many globetrotting anglers release all their fish as a matter of course. But acceptance of this conservation ethic varies significantly by country and culture. In Switzerland, for example, voluntarily releasing a legal-sized fish can leave you liable for prosecution. And in nearly all Asian nations (with the possible exception of Japan) catch-and-cook is the order of the day.

Thanks to an unusual coalition, however, catch-and-release has established its first stronghold in the land of Genghis Khan. Mongolia’s lakes and rivers provide habitat for many rare and unusual species, but the taimen, an extremely large and long-lived member of the salmon family, is the country’s most prized gamefish.

In April 2008, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced that local governments along a 200-mile stretch of an Amur River tributary have established the Asian continent’s first taimen sanctuary. Developed in cooperation with Montana-based Mongolia River Outfitters (my employer for the past three seasons), the agreement seeks not only to conserve taimen, but to protect an entire watershed. The new regulations allow international anglers to flyfish with single, barbless hooks, but restrict riverbank development and prohibit the use of motorboats.