For the vast majority of mine and hub’s relationship, we’ve had a long running ‘thing’ with turtles, so much so that they featured fairly heavily in our wedding theme:
We’d planned and attempted to book trips to Mexico for about four years by the time we finally made it, always being thwarted last minute with prices suddenly shooting up or something falling through finance-wise, but we were adamant that we’d go, for so many reasons. Not least for a visit to Akumal.
This seaside town, on the Riviera Maya, translates as ‘Place of the Turtle’ and was immediately on our radar as soon as we first started looking. We KNEW we just had to do it. I hope, one day to do the same with other animals too- dolphins etc. Doing it with animals in captivity just isn’t the same! I don’t mind captivity as long as it’s in the animal’s best interest, but too many places are just tourist-traps hell-bent on making money.
On a tangent, one place that ISN’T like this is Tulum Monkey Sanctuary, which has been taking mistreated/ unloved animals in for years and has recently had to start opening its doors in order to keep paying for upkeep and improvements. Sadly, the owner was killed a few years ago so they need all the support they can to keep their refuge going! If you’re in the area, I massively recommend stopping by there! John is great and you have the opportunity to donate to something great, whist also enjoying an informative tour from the charismatic John (below) and getting up-close and personal with some of their creatures. You’ll also get chance to swim in their on-site cenote too :).
Anyway, we took a taxi down to Akumal on a couple of occasions, doing a guided tour initially (for the reef area and to see more rarities such as barracuda :/) and then enjoying some leisure time hunting down the wild sea turtles by ourselves.
Here’s a little something I wrote as a model for my year 10 group when we arrived back:
Adventures in Akumal
The heat of the Mexican sun beats down on my flesh, sizzling like bacon on a lazy Sunday morning. The rush to remove my dress and thrust my water shoes upon my feet is a hasty one and I find myself stumbling over myself.
Racing to the crystal clear ocean, I drink in my surroundings: the postcard-perfect pure white sands, too soft to even build a sandcastle; the golden orb, so bright that it makes everything glow and shimmer; the sapphire sky, dotted with rare candy-floss clouds that occasionally collide, creating shapes that reflect our innermost thoughts.
Meeting the cool water, I plunge myself into its embrace, revelling in the relief from the sun’s harsh rays. I lower my goggles over my eyes and place the snorkel into my mouth, desperate to enter my soothing underwater world. As soon as my face meets the surface, I notice life swirling around my legs: magnolia fish, blending effortlessly with the colour of the sand that radiates in the beams that shine down and fragment through the liquid.
Leisurely flexing my feet, I glide through this seemingly undiscovered world. As the sand falls away beneath me and the shades turn from soft, untainted creams infused with sunshine to darker blues spattered with crystals that move and dance with the waves, the wildlife intensifies surrounding me with marine creatures of every shape and colour: cobalt Tangs, tiger-striped Sergeant Majors, horrifying yet minute needle-fish. Reaching the coral, we find the fish too shy to venture from their stony castles, lapping and swaying in time with the waves. Moving in unison, as one, as if puppets connected by an invisible string.
And then we finally stumble across one.
A mighty, stoic, giant.
The movement of this incredible beast mesmerises me and I feel tears spring up beneath the constricting plastic that has enabled me to enter this incredible world.
This creature, that I have longed to swim alongside for so many years, drifts along the ground, chomping on the aqua-marine foliage that juts out of the golden sand so unnaturally. Its mouth, a vice grip, tears at the grass before peacefully swooping up to the surface for a lung full of fresh air. I want to reach out, want to touch the mottled shell, the leathery flippers, the silky underbelly. But I resist.
He’s right beside me now; we’re both peeking our faces out over the precipice of the underwater world: breathing deeply, eye to eye. The vivid shades of turquoise contrast starkly against the deep browns and blacks that mark the turtle’s face and back. The horizon line, dotted with the emerald green palm trees, blends into the natural blue of the sky: a sky like any other. The stark juxtaposition of these natural sights and colours, conflicting with the inexplicably magical cerulean glitter that surrounded me and the phenomenal experience that I was witnessing was almost too much to bear.
As one, our faces hit the water and once more I am transported into a world tinged with every shade of blue imaginable and spotted with darting flashes of scarlet and tangerine. The ombre shades of tiffany suffuse my senses, momentarily distracting me from the focus of my visit.
Quickly as he had arrived, our comrade departed, elegantly sweeping his fins from side to side, as if dancing or a bird in flight. His speed surprised me and despite my desire to follow I drifted back towards the shore, knowing that as much as I loved this world, I would only ever be a guest within its borders.
All of the animals we saw in Mexico was definitely a highlight, aided by the fact that we were staying on Eco Resort, Sandos Caracol, a resort set back into the jungle (as opposed to many other resorts along the coast that have hacked away at it) and so have regular visits from Spider Monkeys who are passing through, and have families of tejons and mapaches (raccoons and coatis) living in the grounds. Then there’s the two burros, several parrots and a couple of native dogs that are on site. They also offer a complimentary romantic ride through the mangroves, which Adam and I did on our wedding anniversary (bottom left).
We also loved our trip to Tulum ruins. Breathtaking. But I got eaten to death- despite wearing repellent and leggings! The buggers love me!!! The feeling isn’t mutual…
What are some of the things on your bucket lists? And has anyone managed to tick some of theirs off?