How I became a Nature Geek in Tulum | Nature Tour Guide Story
Hello everyone, this is Dario here.
I’m a nature tour guide. Owner and operator at Nature Geek Squad and Mein Mexiko (this second one being our German-speaking tour company). I want to share with you a bit of what it means to me to be at Nature Geek Squad and why we want you to be part of it. I was born in Guatemala, Guatemala in 1980 and lived there during the first stages of my life.
At 5 years old, my family and I moved to Germany, where we resided for 5 years, while going to school, becoming part of a non-latin society and of course, learning how to speak German. Once I turned 9 years old, we all moved to Mexico.
When I arrived, I couldn’t really understand my family, but soon enough, my broken Spanish improved and I adapted to life in this country, now my country. We went up north first, to a small Mexican town called Monclova, Coahuila, where my grandparents from my mother’s side took us in and we realized how hot it can be there and how extreme mosquitoes are.
I also learned that cockroaches can fly for a bit and even bite you! I also realized how good homemade Mexican food tastes and how this culture represents friendliness. With extreme temperatures, like in the desert, the northern part of Mexico is a pretty harsh place.
Our next move came soon after. My parents, who decided to build a house in Guadalajara many years before, took us to this really Mexican city. A unique place, with a great climate (back in 1989) and plenty of attractions. Between colonial buildings, parks, forests surrounding the city and even a canyon, this city changed my view of Mexico.
I was privileged to be able to assist a private German school and to continue speaking this language as well as meeting incredible teachers, who awakened my interest in science, particularly in Chemistry and Biology. As I grew older, I started to become interested in traveling around Mexico. I helped other kids at school, tutoring them in different subjects and helping my mom bake for bake sales to make an extra income to be able to pay for my trips to some amazing places around Guadalajara and the state of Jalisco.
From the largest lake in Mexico, the lake of Chapala, to waterfalls, like the Salto del Nogal, to Mazamitla and Tapalpa, the forest highlands of Jalisco, to the Pacific coast beaches of Sayulita, La Llorona, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, and plenty of other beaches in between. I learned how to snorkel and took up mountain biking. This is how I escaped the city life.
When I turned 19, I went to study an engineering degree in Environmental Biotechnology. This changed me completely. I finally learned what I needed to know. I needed to be in nature, with nature, to protect it, to teach about it, to learn from it and to show others its beauty. I also met many people, who joined me in culinary experiences, living an incredible nightlife scene in the city, as well as traveling to other states and even countries.
I visited Idaho, Seattle, Germany, Switzerland, Baja California and the Yucatan Peninsula. I learned how to dive, studied coral and fish and even taught environmental sciences, biology and chemistry at a local private school in Guadalajara. All this time, I just loved discovering new places. I loved camping and being alone.
It was 2007. I had been working as an environmental engineer for a couple of years, when I met a girl, who laughed with me, danced with me and made me want to share a life with. Linda, from Austin Texas, who was visiting Mexico for a student exchange Spanish program with a local university, fell in love instantly with this place. We went to the Mexican Lucha Libre events, visited the downtown areas of Guadalajara and were hanging out a lot.
She had to leave soon, but would come back over and over again until we decided to be begin a serious relationship and move together. This girl was to become the mother of my child and the right partner for all the adventures to come.
I visited her in Austin, saw the green belt, the bats by town lake, the beauty of enchanted rock, swam in the natural springs, and went to concerts and live music events, enjoying the hippy vibe of this unique city in the U.S. She finished her Spanish degree and we had only one goal in mind at the time: To live in Mexico and absorb the life and culture, while enjoying the nature of a new place.
Playa del Carmen
We picked Playa del Carmen, which one of my good friends from university moved to . I found a position as a German-speaking nature tour guide with a local tour agency immediately. With them, I was kayaking, hiking in the jungle, ziplining, visiting cenotes, snorkeling in caves and the coral barrier reef. I was so excited. Soon after, Linda became a cave tour guide in an underground cave system called Rio Secreto.
We were having a great life, when suddenly in 2010, the Avian flu hit and tourism disappeared for the first time for us. Luckily, I found a volunteering position as a bay patrol in a place known as Akumal the turtle bay.
At Akumal, located in between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, I began as a volunteer. Volunteers were able to receive training in specific tasks, such as monitoring turtles in the bay, registering visitors and applying an environmental education program, as well as taking part in the bay patrol’s equipment maintenance. Laying on the beach, enjoying some in between rests was also part of it.
At the time, my future wife and I would go to nearby beaches, taking advantage of all the free time in our hands. We enjoyed travelling to Xpu Ha beach, which still remains nowadays as one of our favourite places to go to, to snorkel a bit directly from the beach or just to hang out at the beach and enjoy the spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
Another beach, which has turned into a conservation area, protected by the State government is Xcacel-Xcacelito. Closer to Tulum, this beach is known as a turtle nesting protection area. This bay also has great snorkeling possibilities, is still in it’s natural state and has opening and closing hours, plus a small tax to cover when visiting.
Just a couple of minutes norht of Akumal, staying on the beach road, there is another site that is quite interesting. Yalku, a freshwater outlet into the sea, connecting with the cenotes from inland. This place was also quite a spectacular spot, since the fish variety and population allow a great snorkeling day. Nowadays, they charge an entrance fee and life jackets are required.
Other places we could go to while I volunteered, we started exploring afterwards.
Soon after a month, I was hired to be in charge of volunteers and to take over tasks in research, and work as a park ranger, and the best part, I lived with Linda only 600 ft from the bay. We lived barefoot and in our bathing suits. What a great time we had! Living among turtles, with other like-minded people around us and watching the sunsets on a kayak far from the shore.
We loved this place, but the day came when we had to leave it. That’s another story. I needed to see more. I wanted to explore more places, learn more about the wildlife in the area. I became a nature tour guide again. This time I freelanced as a Whale Shark tour guide, a nature tour guide at Contoy Island, and a cave guide, working for several companies that required my help.
As a tour guide, you have to be on call, waiting for companies to send you information about the tours to come the next day or week. You prepare all the items and you have to know the place.
Sometimes, waking up at 4:30am was necessary, in order to pick up people in the hotels surrounding Playa del Carmen or Tulum, to take them to a Whale Shark Tour. I remember smiling at all of my tourists extremely early, welcoming them, while they looked at me with a terrible early morning face. Of course, soon after a coffee, things were running better for everyone.
Other places I really enjoyed were all the natural protected areas. One of them, south of Tulum, is called Sian Ka’an. With jungle, lagoons, mangroves, a part of the Mesoamerican Coral Barrier Reef, Seagrass beds, a fishermen village and cenotes, it became my favourite spot. I had some of my wildest wildlife encounters of my life right there. Incredible views and some of my best memories happened there.
I learned how to speak French and Italian and about the culture of these incredible people. Every day I had the opportunity to talk to new people, to learn from them , to admire them. Every day I showed all these people a bit of my home. My Mexico.
Linda and I had heard so many stories of backpackers and travelers, that we decided to drop everything and do it ourselves. 2013 was the year of our longest trip. We packed, we left and we started an incredible journey to South America. Starting with Colombia, moving to Ecuador and Peru, then to Chile and finally Argentina.
We stayed for a year and a half exploring these countries, living with locals, learning about permaculture, conservation and working remotely as translators and in Peru as teachers at an English and German school. Surrounded by mountains, ancient cultures, glaciers, and amazing wildlife. Latin America is just spectacular.
We came back and in 2015 we decided to work for ourselves. We moved to Tulum and started our own tour company, Nature Geek Squad. We were the guides and we worked for ourselves. Only private, small, custom tours. This lifestyle allowed us to have a lot of free time, so that I could join the Red Tulum Sostenible, where I volunteered to monitor illegal dumpsites and even got paid to work as a waste management supervisor in festivals and for some small hotels and restaurants.
We also went with a friend once a week volunteering for a non – profit called Jaguar Wildlife Center working with trail cameras to spot wildlife and learning about critters. Long night walks, cave exploration, swimming at the reef and jungle exploration was our life.
Of course, years later, we decided to have a kid. Right after that, COVID came and it took over everything we had worked for. But we were happy. We could still visit the jungle during COVID! We lost our customers, our tours, everything. We started looking for alternative jobs teaching English and Spanish online and as an Environmental Engineer.
But as soon as the pandemic ended, I couldn’t avoid wanting to return to what had become my life’s passion. To show people from all over the world our country, help others, and to create awareness about nature as a nature guide and as an environmental advocate.
- In January of 2022 we moved to Guadalajara looking for better chances of an income and to visit family. I met with Daniel Baldamus, who had owned Mein Mexiko for years and was one of the most amazing guides I had met in the Riviera Maya. We decided to find an investor and create Nature Tours Mexico by Nature Geek Squad. We want this. We love this.
We created a company that can provide rural and nature tourism in different languages, through two branches. Mein Mexiko and Nature Geek Squad. But we want to help others as well. We want local guides to have more opportunities and rural communities to grow. At the same time, we want our tourists to become environmentally conscious and create alternatives for all budgets.
I want you to enjoy it with us. I want you to meet our guides and our local friends. So what do you say? Sign up for your first Nature Geek Squad tour and come experience what began my passion for nature and culture in the Yucatan Peninsula and Mexican Caribbean area.
See you soon amigos!