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Akumal – Place of the Turtle

You might have heard the name Akumal a couple of times before during your travels. But have you ever stopped to think what akumal means? And moreover, have you ever wondered what’s like to be in an actual nesting ground and see hatchlings up close? This and more in our latest blog about Akumal and the spectacles that surround this beautiful tropical paradise. 

Akumal is a Mayan word that translates to “place of the turtles”. Native settlers recognize its significance since it’s a yearly hotspot for loggerheads and green sea turtles. This is due to the fact that not only do multiple species of sea turtles come here each year to nest, but Akumal is also home to a number of turtles who reside near its shores all year long. 

Since Akumal Bay prides itself in having good spots to see sea turtles, snorkeling and swimming with the turtles is practically a common tourist activity here, so long as you follow specific rules and guidelines to protect the reef and the animals. Once you agree to the terms and conditions as well as filling up some forms, you’re ready to go diving our reefs. And since some turtles prefer to spend their time around the area, you can bet you’ll be able to see some of them, maybe even up close.

One of the safest means to experience swimming with turtles is to hire a guide. This makes your chances of seeing a turtle and even swimming with them underwater a lot higher. But do take note that you should only hire a guide who is properly licensed and permitted. Always ask for their identification and if possible, supporting documents. When in doubt, it’s always better to look for other options. 

Diving with a Green Turtle is an amazing experience

Akumal’s Turtle Season

Turtle nesting season in Mexico is from May to November. During this time, female loggerhead and green sea turtles return back to Akumal to the beach where they were born and begin building a nest in the sand to lay their eggs.

Until now it’s still unclear as to how and why female turtles happen to go back to the exact beach where they are born. Some researchers suggest that it has to do with earth’s magnetic field that helps identify where the turtle will head back but it’s still up for much debate. It’s just another one of nature’s mysteries, and one that makes visiting Akumal a lot more interesting.

Once the hatchlings are born, they are susceptible to a lot of factors that surround them. This includes birds, wild dogs, crabs, and even human behavior. Our actions can have an adverse effect on the world around us, and that’s definitely true for newborn sea turtles looking to begin their journey. In order for you to get a better idea of how you can maintain their integrity, here’s a guideline we recommend you follow.

  • Noise: Noise from loud music, chitchat, and other sources can deter and stress out nesting sea turtles. Aside from that, it can also disturb hatchlings. To help in keeping the beach quiet, it is important to reduce the noise coming from your condo/villa and avoid playing loud music when you are at the shoreline.
  • Light: Artificial lights from poles, patios, and flashlights disorient sea turtles. When this happens, they tend to wander away from the shore which can endanger them not only from predators but also from dehydration. With that in mind, it is advisable to use turtle-safe lighting when walking along the shore at night. You can also reduce the brightness of the lighting coming from your condo/villa by closing the curtain blinds.
  • Obstructions: Chairs, tables, tents, and other items left on the beach can hinder turtles from nesting. Be sure not to leave anything near the shore that can pose a threat to the turtles and the hatchlings.

That’s generally what needs to be considered when visiting Akumal’s famous turtle nesting grounds. Conservationists have taken the initiative along with local government agencies to preserve the integrity of these endangered species. And as a part of the locale’s sea turtle conservation project, you will be handed a checklist and guidelines upon arriving. This way, you can help preserve the turtle’s population while ensuring the survival of their hatchlings.

Baby loggerhead turtles heading to the sea

Get Involved

As stated before, sea turtles are considered an endangered species, and therefore are protected. Which is why the Centro Ecological Akumal (CEA), an organization responsible for the coordination of the protection of the turtles is spearheading the movement to help preserve the species of turtles around Akumal. Since 1993, the group has founded several programs to maintain the natural habitat of sea turtles. Such programs are also focused on educating people on how to preserve the turtles and their hatchlings. Some of their programs include Adopt a Turtle, Adopt a Nest, Attend a Turtle Camp, and Become a Volunteer.

Volunteers

Witnessing turtle hatchlings making their way to the sea is one of the most exciting experiences that you can look forward to when visiting Akumal. However, such a process is dangerous to the baby turtles as some of them may not be able to make it due to unforeseen circumstances.

With that in mind, the CEA and other sea turtle conservation volunteers make it a point to patrol the beach. It enables them to check and record data regarding the nesting female turtles and hatchlings which in turn help them improve on how to prevent predators from posing as threats to sea turtles.

However, due to the threat of COVID-19, activities usually done during the day needed to be revisited since interaction should be kept at a minimum. That’s why a growing number of local residents are volunteering for both morning, and night patrols. This not only ensures that the nests are being protected from predators, but it also secures the safety of the volunteers.

These volunteers, in my opinion, with their consistent dedication are the unsung heroes of Akumal this year.

An Akumal Voluntourist ready to go to work to protect our turtles.
One of our Voluntourists ready the day’s beach patrol

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Akumal Escapes is your home away from home. Our Akumal beach front condos and villa vacation rentals provide  you with easy access to turtle nesting grounds that the region is known for. Learn more about us by clicking here.

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