Swimming with Sea Turtles – Akumal, Mexico

Akumal, the first resort town in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, remains a far cry from the hustle and bustle of its northern neighbors Playa del Carmen and Cancun.  Akumal means “place of turtles” in the local Mayan language.  I’ve snorkeled the reefs in Akumal Bay on multiple occasions.  This time around, we were in search of sea turtles so we had to focus our efforts elsewhere – beds of sea grass.

Akumal Bay, Mexico.

Two species of sea turtles, loggerhead and green, nest on Akumal’s sandy white beaches and hawksbill sea turtles can be found inhabiting coral reefs further offshore.

Juvenile green sea turtle swimming in Akumal Bay.

In the past few years, local tour companies have started offering day trips to swim with Akumal’s sea turtles.   Juvenile greens feed on beds of sea grass in the bay’s shallow waters, ideal areas for snorkeling.  We spent an early November day in Akumal and had the pleasure of encountering feeding green turtles every time we went in for snorkeling.

Juvenile green sea turtle in bed of sea grass.

Upon arrival to Akumal, check out Centro Ecologico Akumal’s visitor center where you can watch a short video on the importance of the bay to sea turtles.  Afterwards, a representative from the center can add you to a guided group.  Guided snorkeling tours cost $200 – $250 pesos and include gear.

If you opt to go snorkeling without a guide, be sure to adhere to the rules of responsible turtle watching.  Maintain a safe distance, keep observations to just a few minutes, don’t chase the turtles, and have a great time.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNeKlrTd3iA&list=UUxVYezF3TUICzDeJyHJDiEw&index=1&feature=plcp]

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