After being invited to spend the day at Tulum beach, I thought I had seen all the paradise that Mexico had to offer. That is until I discovered Akumal bay. Mexico has endless white beaches with the bluest waters. Tourists from all over the world come and relax on the sun loungers. They eat at restaurants overlooking people building sandcastles and paddling. Akumal is not like these other beaches, here you will find yourself sharing the sea with one of the oceans most beautiful inhabitants.
During my short time in Mexico, Akumal soon became a must see after hearing it is a turtle reserve. The opportunity to go swimming with these amazing creatures is something I couldn’t miss, as this would be completely impossible back home. Other members of the group we were travelling with told us how amazing it was. With one full day left in the country we made it our mission to spot some turtles! Me and my partner jumped once more into a ‘collectivo’ and this time we ended up exactly where we wanted to be. I’m putting this down to the car being full of other tourists going to the same place. Unlike last time when it was just us and we ended up the complete opposite of where we wanted to be!
When we arrived at Akumal we made our way down the main street. This is lined with various souvenir shops and a supermarket, as well as endless groups of people wanting to sign you up for turtle snorkelling tours. At the end of the street there is the Diving Centre. Here I learned that there are two beaches. Half Moon Bay is the quieter of the two and doesn’t have any turtles in the water. I would recommend going here if you’re not that interested in going swimming and seeing the turtles. It is also a good opportunity to get away from the crowds that take over the other beach. The main Akumal beach is through the Diving centre. This is a lot busier and you have to make your way through the gatherings of tourists wearing orange life jackets, who are getting ready for their turtle tour! One friend from our group recommended visiting the beach at 8am. She said the tour groups aren’t on the beach at this time so you would have the water all to yourself. It is also quieter for the turtles so they are more likely to make an appearance.
We had lunch at the restaurant on the beach, which I believe is a hotel establishment. It is mostly used by the people staying there, nevertheless we were treated to a delicious and authentic Mexican lunch for a reasonable price. Afterwards we walked down the beach and found a more private spot under a palm tree to shield us from the sun. Then we debated whether or not to do a tour. If you’re staying in the area for your entire holiday then by all means I think it’s worth doing. We were travelling to other places so wanted to save money. We opted for a cheaper solution – I walked back up the main street and found a shop that sold snorkels. They cost around 300-350pesos (approx. £10.). Being frugal I went even cheaper and just bought some goggles and a separate tube to breathe through.
Upon making it back to the beach I strapped on my goggles and waded through the water. You have to go pretty far out and it’s hard without a life jacket so I only recommend doing this if you’re a strong swimmer. I also had nothing over my nose so every time I put my head under the water to try and spot a turtle I had a rush of seawater going up there, which wasn’t a pleasurable experience – I suppose that’s what I paid for though. After about 20 minutes, zero turtles spotted and getting very tired of swimming I was starting to lose hope, but I knew if I swam back I would miss out on seeing one. I was determined to get what I came for. I saw a group of people with lifejackets on nearby shouting to each other. They were obviously part of a tour and where there’s a tour there are turtles! I swam near enough to them and dived under the water again.
(Photo Credit: Hannah Kent)
There before my eyes was a sea turtle. I was surprised at how big it actually was. It lounged on the sea bed lazily eating the plants, completely unbothered by the fact it had about twenty pairs of eyes staring its way. The group moved on after a couple of minutes but I was too intrigued so I stayed and watched my new turtle friend. After a while the sea water was getting too much for me so I decided to have one last dive before returning to shore. When I went back under, the turtle swam up a couple of meters from me and then just like that it was off and I swam back to the beach to share the story.
It was an amazing experience and I really recommend visiting Akumal because the chance to see the turtles isn’t something you should miss. However, if you’re going freestyle like I did then make sure you’re careful around the tour groups. Don’t go and join the group, they have paid for a guide and you haven’t. Do what I did and swim on the outskirts of the group so it doesn’t look like you’re trying to get a free tour. You still get amazing views of the turtles!