This is the longest I’ve ever gone without posting a blog, but I thought of it everyday.  Life got very busy (there was much diving involved) and then I went on a trip and remembered some things about myself.

I remembered that when I go on trips, or adventures, I always leave with the intention of coming back with trinkets for my loved ones, and then always return empty handed.  Well, not completely empty handed.  I have some scattered photographs, and stories for those who want to hear, and little gems of places to go.  I find that I can’t bear to buy little useless things, when the beach calls, and I imagine them shoving whatever I buy into a drawer and forgetting it, and I yawn and walk away.

These gems, sometimes they’re found in travel guides, but mostly not.  They are hard earned, sometimes very difficult to get to, and well savored upon arrival.  They are the tasty morsels of life, the places kept guarded from the sea cows of the resorts in an effort to maintain their purity.

I happily share these gems with friends, because they enrich my life.  The friends I make along the way, the friends I see there, the feelings I feel outweigh the fear that some unworthy being will come and throw his coke bottles into the ocean and drive his Suburban down the dusty dirt roads, and insult the people who live there.  The people I tell often will never go anyway, they just love to hear the tall tales, the secret beaches, the forgotten stairs, and the terrible mosquitos who waged war.  It’s enough for them.

So let me share a gem with you today, as a peace offering for my long absence.  It’s not a secret gem, but it’s a good one.

On the Atlantic side of Mexico, in the state of Quintana Roo, there are very many lovely beaches.   Many people find resorts in Cancun, and stay.  Many young people bus to Playa del Carmen, and stay to get drunk.  Many people will only stop at towns that are big enough to be seen on maps in bus stations.  But it is the in between where the shining gems are hidden.

A rare sight for a Merbabe, watching the sun rise over the Caribbean Sea in Tulum. Us Southern California residents watch our sunsets this way. Photo credit to Mario Chow photography.

Many people have heard of Tulum, there are Mayan ruins there, white sand beaches, and aqua oceans. But even smaller than that is Akumal.  Akumal lies in between Playa del Carmen and Tulum.  It is a diving destination, but I do not recommend it for diving.  It too has white sand beaches, and aqua ocean, sea grass, and sea cow tourists (although not very many).

I offer this gem for another reason.  “Akumal” roughly translated from the Mayan language, means “place of the turtles”.  And it is the place of the turtles.  I recommend showing up here with mask/snorkel/fins, walking out onto the white sand and into the water.  Swim out for less than 4 minutes, and you will surely see your first turtle.  Probably 2 to 3 meters deep, you will see a green sea turtle feeding on sea grass.

Nom nom nom

They graze like cows, fairly oblivious to the people around.  If you are a strong swimmer, or a decent swimmer even, don’t wear a life vest, so you are able to free dive down and see them at close range.  So long as you are not touching or harassing the turtle, it’s fine, and they will ignore you and continue grazing.  Bite, chew chew chew, bite chew chew chew,  3 or 4 minutes of feeding, followed by a quick surface interval for a breath, return, bite, chew chew chew, bite chew chew chew.  Big sea turtle eyes gaze at you, “calm as hindu cows”.

Just cruising along.

In a 30 to 40 minute period of snorkeling and free diving,  we saw maybe 15 turtles.  If there are too many people watching one turtle, swim a bit to find another.  We also saw two southern rays, and snorkeled a sorry bit of lifeless reef.  But it was the turtles that made that afternoon another wonderful gem in Mexico.

happy diving, my friends.


I know what you’re thinking. My hair looks really good in this shot.

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