Day 29: Swimming With Turtles

Tues. 11th September 2012

Not too stressed are we?It was going to be such a simple day. We packed so much in yesterday, that we thought we would scale down our plans for today and just go to Dos Ojos (two eyes) cenote for some snorkelling. Then, Miraslava had her input to our plans!

She was of the view that if we were going the 2okm or so to Dos Ojos, then we should also go to Akumal (and possibly 1 or 2 other places as well) as they were so close by – and also because we could use our (rented from Miraslava) snorkelling kit there too. In Akumal we would be able to swim with turtles – yes, they really were there. We left with two strictures from Miraslava ringing in our ears:

a) Don’t pay for any tours, do it all yourself and don’t be a “gringo”’; and

b) Don’t come back if you don’t see any turtles.

Collectivos - lined up and wanting your businessJust as with our journey down from PdC to Tulum, we decided to take a collectivo. These  minibuses run on the main road between Tulum and PdC (and then on to Cancun). They have  no schedule, but they run every couple of minutes and can be flagged down anywhere and will drop you anywhere (indeed they are quite persistent in touting for your business). They are used by both locals and tourists, and are cheaper than taxis and the regular (ADO) buses.

The one disadvantage of the collectivos is that they don’t deviate from the main road and so we were dropped off at the entrance to the spur road off to Dos Ojos by the ticket entrance booth. We were just setting off on our 2km walk to the cenotes when a car stopped and the driver asked us if we wanted a lift. She immediately became our friend and by the  end of the day became just about our bestest friend ever!

Eerie swimming in Dos Ojos cenoteSwimming in Dos Ojos was an eerie experience. Unlike yesterday’s cenotes, they were not completely underground – though divers can see and explore a lot more than swimmers. I don’t have many regrets about our trip to date, but seeing a procession of divers going into both of the cenotes did make me wish I had tried harder to set up a dive.

Still, snorkelling was a good option and we were able to see and explore a lot. We were very glad that we had hired masks and snorkels from Miraslava – we were able to see so much more than if we had just been swimming. One of the two eyes only had a small area for snorkelling, but the other was much bigger and we could swim almost all of the way round the ‘iris’ of the eye (with the pupil being nearly an island in the middle).

The water so clear it was all different shades of blue, in some places shallow, in others it must have been 10m or more deep. Sometimes you could see daylight flickering through holes in the walls underwater and sometimes flashes of light from divers torches. We also shared the cave with bats (indeed one part of it is called ‘bat-cave’) – it was a bit disconcerting seeing them flit around overhead.

As we were leaving a couple of hours later (where did the time go?) we bumped into our new friend again – not only did she offer us a lift back to the entrance but as she was going to PdC, and Akumal was 10km in that direction, she offered to drop us off there. What a star. Thank you so much.

A full range of activities!Having got to Akumal our first priority was lunch as it had gone 2pm. Tempting as it was when the waiter asked “mas cervezas?” we had Miraslava’s threat about not letting us back if we had not seen any turtles, ringing in or ears. As she had said, there are “guided” tours where you swim out and look for turtles – and we saw several groups of a dozen or so head out.

We ignored the tours, grabbed our snorkelling kit and headed out. The left hand end (as you look out to sea) of the bay is protected by a reef some 300m – 400m off shore and so the water was very calm and relatively shallow. At first we headed over to where one of the organised groups were as there seemed to be a bit of shouting and making a fuss. Sure enough, we saw our first turtle there. It was only a foot or two long and two or three other people fussing about it and so it swam off – they can swim much more quickly than humans!

The beach at AkumalWe then decided to head off our own way to see if we could do better, and shortly came across two more turtles – both much bigger than the first and with the larger one being something over 1m long. He(?) also had two fish attached to his shell (Lampreys?).

We then spent 15 or 20 minutes just floating in less than 6’ of water watching the turtle graze on the grass-like weed on the seabed. He was quite unperturbed by our presence. Every few minutes he would swim up for air – often so close that we could have (but didn’t) reached out and touched him.

When he came up for air, he would poke his whole head above the surface for a breath, then poke up once again for a second time before diving down again. His companion fish would swim round and underneath him, and then when he went back down to the sea bed, they came back round and settled on his shell again. All this was happening so close to us and with the water being so clear and shallow, we had a really great view. An incredible experience. Thank you Miraslava for being so firm and clear with us – we were glad we did it, and glad to know we would be let in to our room that evening!

PS – Sorry there are no turtle pictures, I must get a waterproof case for my camera!

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