Day 7 – Myrtle Turtle

Akumel Bay, Quintana Roo, Mexico – 22nd June 2021

Today I am going swimming with Turtles.. how exciting!! The unexciting thing is it’s another longish drive.. oh well.

Arrive over an hour early so plan to have some lunch before I have to meet up with my group. I receive a message from the guide, Uriel, to introduce himself and tell me where to meet him. When I get to the meeting point, there is nothing there, it’s just a road.. I can see some buildings in the distance so I head for them. I am waved down by a chap at the side of the road, he asks me if I am here for a tour, yes, who is your tour guide, Uriel.. he looks blank.. what time is your tour? 1 o’clock.. oh ok you can park up further down the road there’s an archway go through there and the car park is there, also there are good places to eat. Ok thanks

I drive down the road and under the arch as instructed and find there are a number of car parks… but which one is the nearest to the meeting point? I drive a bit further and can see I am now in a residential zone so I pull over to message Uriel and ask where is the best car park. He replies asking where are you? I reply I am near the meeting point. He tells me to go back to the meeting point and he will see me there, what car are you driving? I give him the information and make my way back. I drive slowly so that he can stop me, but no one does and then I am passing the MP and going over a bridge that spans the motorway.. ok so I turn around and go back. Just as I come off the bridge another man waves me down… I pull over and it is Uriel, fab. He asks me how long I am staying? “Oh… I don’t know maybe a few hours”, “No, I mean here on holiday”, “Oh I see, well I am flying out on Thursday… why?” “To be honest it is not good visibility today. I have been out this morning and I did see turtles, but the water it is very cloudy today so do you want to come back tomorrow?” “No, I can’t… but it’s ok am happy to carry on this afternoon”. “Well, I am sure we will see turtles, but maybe not so good to see other fish and the coral reef” “That’s fine, can’t be helped. So shall I come back here at 1pm?” “Well did you want to go now or you will eat something?”, “Yes, now is good… do you have another group now?” “No, no group just you, it is one to one.. private” “Wow, well that’s great, yes let’s do it now if you want” “Ok great.. I will guide you to the car park, will you give me a lift?” ‘Yes of course”

He goes off to get all his stuff and the snorkel gear and we go to find the car park. Uriel explains that the car park is 50 pesos, but I can park all day if I want to stay and enjoy the beach; also there is a 20 peso deposit for the locker key, the cost of the locker is included in the price of the tour, I will get the deposit back when I return the key. We will then go to the changing room and he will then tell me about what we are going to do etc.

I am a little surprised to be given a large padlock rather than just a key, which I have to sign for of course and then we make our way to the changing rooms. Uriel explains that I must put everything in my locker and don’t forget to remove my sunglasses and watch, unless it’s waterproof. I will need to wear a lifejacket as it is mandatory.

Once I am changed he takes me over to a large map on the wall and explains where we will swim. The areas where we will see turtles are protected so one can only swim there with an official guide. It’s important to remember that this is the turtles natural habitat, it’s not a zoo. We will not follow the turtles and when we see them we will stop swimming as this might frighten them. We will not touch the turtles, this is a big no no, we must be respectful of the creatures. He then asks if I am a good swimmer? I’m ok, I can swim. Have I snorkelled before? Yes many, many years ago. He explains that if I feel tired he has a large float that I can hold on to and he will pull me. Ok.. good. He hands me a mask and snorkel tube and then gives me a mouthpiece that is obviously new and still in the cellophane wrapper. I attach the mouthpiece to the tube and then notice some people in a group are applying suntan lotion. I have not put any on because my understanding is that you should not use any as it damages the environment, but maybe it will be ok so I ask Uriel if it’s ok to put some on as it is very hot, (it’s the middle of the day). He says not really but if you want to put a little bit on. I think he can see how milk bottle white I am on my shoulders etc. he probably feels sorry for me. I quickly put some on my shoulders, upper arms and neck; I can’t reach my back of course.

We make our way down the beach and into the water, I am amazed at how warm it is.. excellent. Now Uriel gives me some instruction on the use of the snorkel and I put it in my mouth… except my mouth is too small, (oh ha ha). I have dentures and some other changes to my mouth since I was young so I am finding it hard to get the mouthpiece in properly; in fact every time I put my face in the water, sea enters my mouth… ugh! I keep trying and eventually it is ok so we start swimming out. Just a matter of seconds later the mouthpiece pops out.. OMG.. I stop to put it back in. This happens about 4 times and I think it is not going to work at all. Uriel suggests I stop swimming and hang on to the float, he will pull me, this might make it easier. So that is what we do. It does help because I can hold the float with one hand and adjust the mouthpiece with the other as required. Almost immediately after this we start to see fish, big bright blue ones and smaller yellow ones with black stripes.. zebra fish maybe?? I also see some fan coral moving majestically backwards and forwards with the current. Then Uriel waves at me under the water and points.. yes, yes there is a turtle.. it looks fantastic, I am overjoyed. It is swimming along serenely like we do not exist, which is the point really. Uriel then pops up and says.. “did you see it?” “Yes, yes absolutely fantastic” “It was a baby, we will see much bigger ones soon”. Well it looked bloody enormous to me. We swim around some more and see a few fish and some fan and other corals. Suddenly, Uriel pops up and says, can you see the cannon? No, where? Just below us, take a look. I put my face under water and there it is, I give him a thumbs up. We surface again and he explains that the cannon is from a Conquistador ship lost during fighting with the Mayans.. further out in deeper water there is a Conquistador wreck that you can explore if you go scuba diving. He explains that we will swim over to the next area as this is where there is plenty of seagrass, the main food for the turtles, and we can expect to see turtles grazing there. We swim for a while without seeing much of anything, the water is very cloudy with sand.. suddenly right below us is an enormous turtle, it is so big it has two very large sucker fish attached to the back of its shell. I am directly above it and as the water is only about 8 foot deep, am literally 2 feet away from it. The shell is a deep rosy red and the fish are like a very light silver green/grey… it’s absolutely amazing to be this close to such a fantastic creature.. then another one joins it, this one is even bigger! They have a couple of fish too and then a third comes, this one is slightly smaller and only has one sucker fish attached just under its left front flipper… I am ecstatic! This is so much better than expected given Uriel’s doubts. We are with this group for a number of seconds when biggie with the large suckers suddenly heads right towards me going to the surface for air, I have to literally spread my legs to let them through… wow!! I quickly get my face out of the water to see it break surface just 2-3 feet away from me… so, so fantastic. When I look down again they have been joined by a 4th smaller one, so that makes 7 turtles I have ‘swum’ with, just brilliant.

The group moves off and we do not follow them of course, we head off in another direction, but don’t see anything else of note. All too soon it is over… awwww.

We exit the water and head for the showers for a quick rinse off… mmm we didn’t actually shower before entering the sea, maybe I got the wrong end of the stick on that one. Anyway, I have had the most wonderful experience, one off the bucket list for sure, and all for the princely sum of £37, I mean just fabulous.

Of course, while we were swimming around I suddenly realised that I could have brought my GoPro, it is waterproof after all… OMG Pogs, what an absolute numpty!! So no piccies of the turts, but I do stay for a while and enjoy the beach…

There is a restaurant on the beach, good I’m starving. I enjoy a very nice plate of chicken quesadillas and the company of this rather ‘Game of Thrones’ ravenish compadre.

I get my bill and go back to the car ready for the longish journey back to Cancún. The drive it pretty uneventful other than to say there was another 20 minute traffic holdup due to road works. I have to say that even though some of the driving has been atrocious I don’t think I have heard one horn at all, I was just thinking this as cars were cutting in and out of the jammed lanes when I heard not one, but two horns.. just a toot or two, amazing.

Back at the house I am thrilled to be invited to share dinner with Mercedes and Sergio, how very kind of them. I have a delicious meal and then Mercedes and I take a constitutional around the wee square at the front of the property. I really enjoy walking and talking with her.

Back in my room and I realise I have been sunburnt… the backs of my thighs, shoulders and exposed parts not covered by my swimsuit are quite red and sore! I must have been burnt through the water, the salt obviously making it worse… it is actually becoming quite uncomfortable to sit – ouch!

Tomorrow is D’hobi Day; must get my washing done ready for packing. After that I’m not sure what I am going to do.. wait and see.

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