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Swimming with Sea Turtles at Akumal

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We were floating on our bellies in the waters of Akumal Bay while, just a couple meters below, giant turtles grazed on sea grass. It was an experience that instantly joined the ranks of my all-time favorites.

Turtles Akumal

We had been skeptical upon arriving in Akumal, a small town just north of Tulum. Yes, our friends and acquaintances had raved about it, but really: a place where you can swim with sea turtles? For free? I’ll believe it when I see it. We expected that Akumal would prove to be just another tourist trap on the over-developed Costa Maya.

At first, our fears seemed to be borne out. Akumal is swarming with foreigners, and to get to the beach you have to fight through an obnoxious lineup of salespeople hawking special tours and experiences. But the beach is free. And despite the crowd, we had no problem finding a relatively quiet area.

We spread out our towels underneath a palm tree. So far, so good. But still, we were distrustful. We’re just going to swim out into the water, and presto there will be sea turtles? Just like that, grazing and unconcerned by our presence? Yeah right! We grabbed our snorkel gear and swam out into the bay, and almost immediately we found sea turtles. Just like that.

So many turtles! And so big! I chose one and swam alongside it for awhile, watching as it ate. Occasionally, it would run out of air and slowly climb to the surface. Such moments which were exhilarating, since it truly didn’t care about my presence, and would come so close I could have easily reached out and touched it.

We stayed in the water for almost two hours. You might think that watching turtles eat grass would quickly get old, but it didn’t. While in the water, we saw some coral formations and families of colorful squid. But the stars of the show were the turtles… such beautiful, peaceful creatures, simply watching them made me content and relaxed. Akumal is a special place in the world. If you’re anywhere near the area, swimming with the turtles is an experience you shouldn’t pass up.

Location on our Map

-Video and photos taken with this Underwater Camera

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February 10, 2014 at 4:13 pm Comments (3)

Isla Mujeres’ Garrafón Castilla

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When you’re on Isla Mujeres, there’s really only one decision with which you’ll need to trouble yourself: of all the tantalizing options, where should you plop down your butt for the entire day? We chose Garrafón de Castilla, a small beach club on the southern end of the island.

Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling

Garrafón de Castilla is named for the reef just offshore, and is not to be confused with nearby Parque Garrafón. The latter is an expensive theme-park type experience, featuring attractions like zip lines and swimming with dolphins. Garrafón de Castilla, on the other hand, is a small beach with snorkeling and a 50 peso ($4 USD) cover charge. Sand, water and sun is all we wanted.

Our day at the beach went like this: lay on a chair, snorkel a bit, lay on the chair some more, eat, snorkel, and chair (this time falling asleep). Perfect. The snorkeling was a lot of fun; despite its proximity to shore, the reef is in decent condition. We saw lobsters, a manta ray and too many colorful fish.

No really, there were way too many colorful fish. The club sells fish food along with its snorkel gear and so, even though we weren’t feeding the fish, they’ve come to recognize snorkeling humans as floating feed machines. It was initially cute, but quickly got weird, and then kind of scary. I could not escape this swarm of little yellow fish, and they were starting to look impatient.

Still, too many fish is hardly a real complaint, and overall Garrafón de Castilla offers a wonderful day out, especially considering the price. If you’re looking for a relaxing spot to chill out in the sun, you can’t do better than this.

Location on our Map

I took the underwater video with this camera!

Garrafón Castilla Snorkeling
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January 9, 2014 at 7:19 pm Comments (0)

Puerto Morelos: Chilling in the Shadow of Cancún

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After a week in Mérida, we took our first road trip, venturing east to the neighboring state of Quintana Roo. But unlike the majority of visitors to Mexico’s Caribbean coast, our destination wasn’t the party mecca of Cancún. Instead, we hopped a bus headed for the quiet village of Puerto Morelos, about a half hour south.

Puerto Morelos Yucatan
The Leaning Lighthouse is Puerto Morelos’ most well-known sight

With an agreeable blend of locals, expats and tourists, the small town of Puerto Morelos is found directly between Cancún and Playa del Carmen. But in spirit, it’s worlds away from either. No clubs in Puerto Morelos will blast their speakers until dawn, and there’s not a theme bar in sight. And since we were hoping to complete a scuba certification course, a task requiring a lot of study, work and rest, the relaxed vibe was exactly what we wanted.

Puerto Morelos is split cleanly in half by the highway which runs north-south along the coast. The side closer to the beach is the tourism zone, with restaurants, souvenir shops and a large population of American and Canadian expats who have moved in for good. The other half, referred to as La Colonia, is where the majority of locals live. We were usually on the beach-side of town, but spent our nights in La Colonia, in the Casitas Kinsol. The division between the two sides of town is real; moving between them requires a trip of two kilometers through a swampy marsh, but a taxi only costs about 25 pesos ($2 USD) each way.

Although we eschewed our characteristic program of sightseeing in favor of learning how to dive, we became very familiar with Puerto Morelos during our week there. It’s not a town which will appeal to those looking to dance the night away, enjoy a luxurious weekend at a high-end hotel, or mack on sexy bikini bunnies. But if you want a quiet vacation on a gorgeous beach, delicious and affordable food, friendly locals and excellent diving, you could hardly do better.

Location on our Yucatán Map

Great and affordable place to stay in Puerto Morelos

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Casitas Kinsol
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December 4, 2013 at 3:19 pm Comments (4)
Swimming with Sea Turtles at Akumal We were floating on our bellies in the waters of Akumal Bay while, just a couple meters below, giant turtles grazed on sea grass. It was an experience that instantly joined the ranks of my all-time favorites.
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