Suitcase and World: Bahía de Akumal.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bahía de Akumal.

When we got to Akumal Bay, from Yal-ku Lagoon, the first thing I wanted to do was find the CEA office. I wanted to book our spots on tonight's turtle watch because you have to make the reservations in purpose - they won't take requests over the phone.  The office was marked on our Akumal map.  We just had to find it.   Obviously, I had forgotten just how small a place Akumal is because well, there it was, smack dab in the center of the small clump of buildings that sit along the beachfront.

For the turtles. We walked inside and there were people milling about.  I stopped someone who looked like they worked there and asked if they had any spaces for that night's walk and they did!!  Last night, they were fully booked.  Since CEA is a non-profit organization, they don't charge for their tours but they do suggest a *donation* of $15 per person.  I only had $20 bills on me so I handed over two.

We would have to be back at the CEA offices at 8:30 for the walk.  The instructions were to dress in long pants and long sleeve shirts to keep the mosquitoes off.  Neither one of us had either item of clothing.  We were to wear proper shoes like sneakers or close toed walking shoes.  Bro's hiking sandals got a thumbs up.  My sandals got an okay long as they weren't flip flops, I would be allowed to go along.  Flashlights.  Finally, something we got a passing grade on!

Ahhhh.....time to just unwind.  With our spot secured, we went off in search of lunch.  After several hours of snorkeling plus a bit of walking, my stomach was definitely beginning to growl.  There aren't a whole lot of *dining establishments* to choose from.  Located no more than 50 feet from the CEA offices was a restaurant located beachside.  Seemed like a good so we ended up there.  It was nice to sit for a bit.  Lunchfare was Americanized Mexican.  Ugh.  I was hoping for a taqueria and I got TGIFriday's.  So not happy. Luckily, the view of sea made up for it.

Food came, we ate, we paid, we left.  Next stop.  The Akumal Dive Shop. We wanted to rent gear to do more snorkeling.  Bro got the mask and I got the reverse full Monty - mask, fins and vest!  We stripped down to our swimsuits, piled our stuff into the rented locker and headed for the beach.

Walking towards the water, I was once again reminded why I liked Akumal when I first visited here 25 years ago - it's a small and quiet family beach.

There are no skyscraper condo buildings.  There are no grand hotels.  There are no shopping malls.  There isn't even a stop light in town.

On the beach, the only sounds you here are people talking and laughing and kids at play.   There are no speedboats, no jet skis and no parasailers.  Even sunbathers are far and few between.

We spent the next few hours snorkeling.  It was the perfect water/air temperature combination.  You, that temperature where you don't shudder either getting into or out of the water.  Perfect!

While we were in the, a local resident pointed us to spots where he said he had spotted turtles. We headed in the direction he pointed in and swam about.  Sadly to say, neither of us spotted any turtles.  We tried several different spots but no luck :-(

The dive shop was closing at 5pm so we had to keep a fairly close watch on time otherwise I could have stayed in the water until sunset.

Shortly before 5pm, we made our way out of the water and back to the dive shop.  We turned in our gear and got our stuff from the locker.  We had three and a half hours to kill before our turtle walk. No point heading back to Tulum so we decided to just spend the time in Akumal. We found a nice quiet spot on the beach and plopped ourselves down.

While my brother took a catnap, I flipped back and forth between people watching and daydreaming.  I was really beginning to relax.  Ahhh.....This is the life for me :-)

Turtle walk!  In due time, we headed back to the same restaurant for dinner and just before 8:30pm, entered the front doors to the CEA offices.  Others would trickle in and by about 8:45p, everyone had arrived - in total, there were of us.  Our guide was a young woman who works at the CEA.  Before our walk, we watched a brief documentary on the life and times of sea turtles. They are quite something.

The CEA volunteers also gave us small pieces of red plastic to cover our flashlight lamps with as turtles are startled by the *regular* light.  Bro had a bit of a challenge rubber banding his piece of plastic over the light on his Petzl headlamp :-)

 After our brief lesson, we joined our guide and three volunteers on their nightly walk to check turtle nests.  It was a moonlit night and we headed south on the beach, heading towards Tulum.  As we walked, CEA volunteers were already hard and work up and down the beach noting down observations on nests and turtles that had come up to the beach to lay their eggs.  This is their prime working hours - nightfall to day rise.  Those volunteers were also our scouts, alerting us to where there were turtles to be seen.

As we walked, we would occasionally come upon a turtle nest - marked by CEA volunteers to indicate species....which apparently they can tell based on the size of the hole and the tracks made by the turtle on her way to and from the water and nest.  Most of the holes were h-u-g-e....the size of a jacuzzi tub if not larger!!  There were nests everywhere and in some spots, it seemed like nests were one on top of the other!

We had to walk for quite a distance before we got word there was a turtle up ahead.  The rule is that you should not (in our case, cannot) approach turtle until she's in the process of laying her eggs.  At that point, she's focused on doing her *job* that she essentially stays put and that's when the biologists can go and gather their data on the turtle.

But, we had to wait. She was still digging her hole....not ready to lay eggs.  We just happened to be in front of a hotel and there were plastic chaise lounges on the beach.  I claimed one and laid back.  At that moment, it hit me that I was tired.  It had been a long day.  I closed my eyes and just listened to the sound of the waves and the chatter of the group.

All of a sudden I heard my brother exclaim, "There's one."  I woke up to see a ginormous turtle lumbering right past me.  She couldn't have been more than 2 feet from where I was sitting.  She continued her way up the beach.  Unfortunately for her, our group of 12 was joined by some residents from the hotel.  Nesting females are spooked by noise and light and despite our best efforts to keep everyone quiet, it was not quiet enough for her.  Before we knew it, she had made a U-turn and was heading back to the sea.  We watched her paddle back in disappointment.

I now pinned my hopes on the turtle who was building her nest a short distance up the beach from where we were sitting.

It was just not meant to be :-(  Back to waiting.  It seemed like an interminable wait and unfortunately, for us, it ended at around midnight.  We had to end our walk early because the next day would be our big whale shark snorkeling day and I wanted us to both get a decent night's rest.  So, we had to bid the group goodnight.

One final view of Akumal.  We followed our guide out to the front entrance of the hotel and she kindly called a taxi for us.  When we got back to our hotel room, there was a note taped to the door.  It was from Marty telling us that our whale shark trip was cancelled due as tropical storm that was bound for Cancun.  First, no turtles and now, no whale sharks.  Very, very disappointed.  On the other hand, perhaps this is an excuse to return to Akumal!

We returned to Akumal this morning, to do a bit of deep sea fishing before heading home.  After our fishing trip, we took a short walk on the beach, this time heading north towards Yal-ku Lagoon.  I wanted to check out the condos on the beach.  There were definitely some nice looking places for rent - everything from condos to bungalows on the beach.  I'm definitely going to check out the rental prices when I get home!

Eventually we turned around and when we got to a pair of cannons, I had my brother pose for a photo with Akumal Bay in the background.  The large thatched roof structure in the distance is the restaurant we had eaten our meals in.  I didn't realize I also had the video going.  Oops, my bad :-)

We decided to have one last dip in the beautiful turquoise waters of the Caribbean.  We rented a locker at the dive shop, tossed our clothes in and headed down to the water.  There, we just sat and chatted.  It was the perfect way to spend our last few moments in Akumal At 2:00pm, we had to leave Akumal for the airport.  I was really sad to leave....I just love it here.  I have to come back.  I just have to!