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.
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.
-Video and photos taken with this Underwater Camera