Akumal is a small beach town nestled between the popular tourist destinations of Playa Del Carmen and Tulum along the Riviera Maya on Mexico‘s Caribbean coast. While I have been to this region of Mexico several times, I never thought to stop in Akumal until my most recent trip. After asking locals for snorkeling recommendations, I was consistently told that I could never expect to see as many sea turtles as I would in a matter of breaststrokes from the shore of Akumal.
When I arrived at the beach, my “common sense” told me that it wasn’t really possible. The beach was littered with sunbathers emerging out of the hotels that line the coast, and the waters were packed with small fishing boats and snorkelers. How could turtles be casually hanging around all this activity? I gave it the benefit of the doubt and took the plunge.
I swam as far away from shore as was safe and saw nothing but an infinite field of kelp and felt disappointment. I decided to turn back. Then, all of the sudden, I saw three turtles feeding! It was incredible and as I kept snorkeling around I came across at least a dozen more. Completely unfazed by human presence, I swam alongside one for several minutes that had two remora fish attached to it. I even saw a sting ray and a fairly large barracuda.
I’m told the turtles tend to stick to the northern section of the beach and you really don’t have to swim out too far to encounter them. I later learned that Akumal means “place of the turtle” in the Mayan language.
Photo credit: Marisa Marchitelli