Even waking up was exciting! We had a simple breakfast of lactose free coffee, yogurt, and granola. While the driving remained a stressful and uncomfortable part of this vacation, all my troubles were easily forgotten as we grabbed the snorkel masks. We went to Akumal to see some sea turtles! This was not on my bucket list until 4 weeks before our trip when I even learned this was possible. We parked next to the dive shop at the beach, and paid $30 USD ($600 MXN) to have a guide take us to the water and help us spot some of these beautiful and peaceful creatures.
Due to its increasing popularity with tourists, snorkeling in Akumal is now restricted. The sea is divided into different areas with ropes, a large part of it remaining off limits to humans so the turtles have a safe space to live their happy lives in. There is also a limit to how many people can go in a day. The turtles are in danger of extinction, which I did not know until I was already looking at one in the water! We had to stay a meter away from them, but they of course, can free to come up to you and touch you.
I was so moved and ecstatic from this experience, I have considered getting a sea turtle tattoo since then. I have also considered getting a little sailboat or a wave tattoo. My connection to the sea and the memories I’ve made in it are so special, and my relationship with the beaches of the world just keeps on growing! I am becoming so passionate about the ocean, and saving what we can of our planet Earth.
Looking at the turtles feed on their algae, swimming swiftly, and looking so incredibly peaceful made me reflect a lot. They are literally in danger of disappearing from the world, and all the tourists around them must be annoying as can be, yet the turtles remain so poised and full of calm. I felt so much wisdom in their way of being. I felt grateful and undeserving of experiencing nature in a way that was unexpected to me. I never thought this would be something I’d get to do in my life.
From then we drove through the jungle some more and to a “cenote.” Cenotes are sinkholes which contain permanent water. They are all over the Yucantán peninsula. Cenotes were sacred to the Mayans, not only because it was their only source of water in the middle of the jungle, but because they believed them to be an access to the “underworld” where some gods and spirits reside.
We were unsure of which cenote to visit. We were only going to one, and we wanted it to be good. Besides, swimming in a cenote was my top dream of things to do while living in México, and I am so glad we chose Taak Bi Ha! Next to the more popular Dos Ojos cenote (which we drove past because there were a lot of people in line) we came across Taak Bi Ha on our way to a different cenote recommended to us. A little nervous to be driving in the middle of the jungle, and not 100% sure of where we were going, we stopped at this random cenote and paid about $15 USD to swim in it for as long as we wanted.
When visiting cenotes I highly recommend you snorkel and bring an underwater flashlight with you. This particular cenote was a cave which you access through a hole in the ground and down some man-made stairs. There were only two people in there when we arrived, so we were able to admire the still, clear water before people started swimming everywhere.
The water was cold, there were bats flying around, and the ambiance was solemn. I was both afraid and wary of any possible creature swimming the 10 meters deep water, and felt particularly uncertain about the underwater caves, which looked like infinite black holes. Luckily, some other people arrived with underwater flashlights, which made the underground caves look a little less scary. There were also divers, swimming through the pitch black tunnels.
We attempted underwater photography, which we also completely failed at. This cenote was truly a highlight along with the sea turtles. It was probably my favorite day of our entire trip!
Back in Playa del Carmen, we ended the night with some mezcal cocktails and guacamole at the beautiful Axiote restaurant. A little bit away (but walking distance) from the touristy streets, this restaurant is a must-stop of a nice night out. Not only did they make delicious cocktails, but their customer service was SO GOOD. I was so pleased with the bartender’s explanation of mezcal and tequila, and the waiter’s recommendations from the menu. We strolled around 5th avenue, which is definitely loud and full of lively bars and restaurants. It was nice to sit down for drinks and all, but the truly awesome moments of this trip were always spent under the sun.
*If you are passionate about preserving our ocean, consider donating to The Ocean Cleanup project. This cleanup is the only project I’ve come across that is truly capable of making a large-scale difference in our oceans by using clean technology to remove garbage from the Great Pacific in just 5 years!
Click here to check it out: https://theoceancleanup.com/
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