Review and Update
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Less than half a year ago, the two hotels Mawimbi and Casa Las Tortugas on Holbox were destroyed by a tragic fire at the end of November 2022. In the meantime, a lot has happened on the small island in Mexico, which we would like to report on here.
The Consequences of the Disaster
The damage was and still is enormous. In addition to the high financial loss, it was above all a tragedy for the owners to witness how large parts of their previous life’s work were lost at a stroke. Although fortunately no people or animals were seriously harmed, many personal belongings and documents were irretrievably destroyed in the fire. The previously beautiful tropical garden surrounding the buildings has been severely thinned out and will take years to regain its unique Caribbean ambience.
The operation of the restaurants and beach clubs had to be stopped and thus there was literally overnight no work and no salary for the each about 50 employees. At short notice, a fundraising campaign was launched via social media, which was at least able to alleviate the situation somewhat for those affected.
Little is still known about the exact cause of the damage. The only certainty is that the fire started on the palapa roof of the Casa Las Tortugas hotel and that the flames spread to the Mawimbi hotel due to the unfavorable wind at the time. Expert reports have been prepared, but it is still unclear who is to blame for the accident and to what extent insurance companies will pay for the damage. Those who are familiar with Mexico can easily imagine that it may take some time before the case is finally resolved.
Cleaning Up and Replanning After the Fire
For several weeks after the fire, the immediate area and the remaining parts of the buildings were still covered in a layer of black soot that was difficult to remove. And yet, shortly after the initial shock, cleanup and planning for reconstruction began.
Architects and construction companies were hired, bringing in countless truckloads of building materials. Of course, as a result of the painful experiences at both hotels, greater care is now being taken to ensure that the new buildings are so fireproof that such an incident cannot happen again in this way. The previous palapa roofs are being replaced with concrete structures that match the design or are being built with other materials.
The Beach Clubs and Restaurants Are Open
After all, both beach clubs were able to reopen as early as the beginning of 2023 and have been in operation ever since. The Barquito restaurant from the Mawimbi Hotel, which was saved from the flames, and also the Mandarina Seaside, which belongs to Casa Las Tortugas, are open and offer their usual delicious food, drinks and tasty cocktails during the day and in the evening in a moodily illuminated atmosphere.
The beach clubs can be used at any time for a small fee compared to other beach clubs (400 MXN, or 20 USD/18 GBP) per person at Beach Club Mawimbi) without the need to consume anything, and in addition to sanitary facilities they offer top service. However, during the day there is still some noise pollution to be expected, as construction work is going on in the background. This should improve considerably shortly, however, as the rough exterior work is almost complete and the less noisy interior work is due to start soon.
The Reopening Is Already Being Planned
Many lovers of the two hotels, who already want to plan their vacations now, are asking for a date when they will be reopened. Unfortunately, there is no binding answer to this yet. After our last conversation in March 2023 with the still visibly sad owners of the Hotel Mawimbi, Onny and Carmello told us that they plan to partially open the hotel in July and fully open it in November – as long as nothing unforeseen happens.
Although the exterior work is currently progressing rapidly, it will take much more time and effort to restore the interior to a standard that will satisfy their claim to be one of the best boutique hotels on Isla Holbox.
Update November 2023: Hotel Mawimbi has been rebuilt and as announced is fully open since November 20th. Reservations can be made directly through the Mawimbi website or Booking.com. Hotel Casa Las Tortugas is also nearing completion. It will reopen on January 15, 2024 and bookings are also being taken through its own website and the Casa Las Tortugas page on Booking.com.
Until then, one will probably have to be patient for a while and consider other hotel alternatives if necessary.
The Authorities Have Reacted
One of the biggest shortcomings of the whole tragedy was that until the time of this fire disaster, Holbox did not have its own fire department. It has happened several times in the past that the easily inflammable palapa roofs caught fire and caused considerable damage. Recently, at the beginning of February this year there was another major fire on the roof of the Edelyn restaurant, centrally located near the main square, which spread to the neighboring House of Culture and destroyed both roofs.
At least a permanent fire department has finally been established on the island. The swanky fire truck of the “Bomberos Holbox” stands conspicuously and ready for action at any time on the main square directly in front of the mayor’s office and the police station.
There seem to be lots of operations. Surprisingly often one sees and especially hears the monster with sirens and loud diesel engine racing over the sandy streets. One wonders whether it is really necessary so often, but the Mexican authorities currently want to show their presence and prefer to move out once too often than to be pilloried for inactivity. It is to be hoped that it remains with this mechanism and the appropriate attention.