Friday, June 20, 2008 3:00 AM
In our efforts to design our own home we have been doing a fair bit of investigating. Much of this time has been spent visiting other homes in the area such as those being built in Sac Be and checking out what building materials and methods have been used in the construction of the buildings. While we are trying to employ as many "green" techniques in the design of the house and its systems as possible, we are both in agreement that the house should look like it "belongs" where it is and not like some wierd spaceship. Naturally, we want to make use of the stone that will be excavated from the property as the construction begins and retain as many trees and indigenous plants as possible. I had heard of a place in the jungle at Xpu Ha where the buildings had been constructed with local limestone and hardwoods and, while I had seen many photos of it online, I really wanted to check it out in person. Our friend Carl provided us with such an opportunity this week while we were out in Xpu Ha evaluating another residence for inclusion on our website. Playa being the small town that it is, it turns out that Carl is the primary caretaker, overseeing daily operations for this amazing jungle retreat Taninah. The property was currently being set up for an incoming group and he was more than happy to show us around the place.
Taninah loosely translated from Mayan means "the first house in the jungle". This labor of love is the creation of local businessman Marino Tomaselli and his wife Kathy. What was meant to be a private family home set on two hectares of land has evolved over the past ten yars or so into a full blown eco-resort. The compound now serves as a sought after vacation destination for family reunions and corporate team retreats. Capable of sleeping up to 38, this remarkable property with its hard working staff has drawn praise from guests and plenty of attention from the international media. There is a lovely pool flanked by an outdoor, palapa covered kitchen and dining area, a large American style hot tub, a professionally designed and installed 9 hole mini-golf course, archery areas, a basketball court, a soccer field, a fully equipped work out room with projection TV for movie nights, a padded kids play area, jungle gyms, zip lines.......ok, the list goes on and on and you can see it all on their beautiful website.
None of the enclosed rooms are air-conditioned but are naturally cool because of their placement in relation to the sun and wind patterns and the use of palapa roofs. In many of the bungalows, the walls are comprised of sets of handmade louvered "blinds", made onsite from locally harvested woods, covered with tight mosquito screen. In this way, fresh air is allowed to flow freely through the rooms. The systems on the property are powered by solar panels hidden in the jungle and a large generator. The bathrooms all have composting toilets and I was surprised to find that there was no odor at all.
My favorite part of the resort (if it's even possible to single one thing out) is the cenote. This enormous underground cavern is truly the most amazing feature of this property. The pictures, as usual, don't really do it justice.
Carl guided us through the cave and then showed us the Mayan artifacts retrieved from the cenote during its excavation. Several dive teams have been sent in to investigate the deeper underwater caverns and they have pulled out many pieces of gorgeous handpainted pottery. I can only imagine what it must have been like for Marino and Kathy's children growing up and watching this property evolve...all the incredible discoveries made along the way. While our home will not come close to the scale of Taninah, I hope we will be able to incorporate some of the unique design elements and eco-friendly systems into the plans for our property. If you are ever invited to visit this unique place, do it! Like we were, you will be amazed at what can be created in the middle of our dense Mexican jungle.