Hello friends! I know it has been a while since I’ve written about my travels. Lately, I’ve been trying to focus more on ‘helpful’ posts about things like simplifying my life and finding balance … but at the same time, it’s fun to talk about travel – right? After all, I believe in experiences over stuff, so I think sharing and celebrating these experiences is definitely worthwhile.
Especially this one. Seriously, I think that swimming with sea turtles in Mexico easily ranks as one of the top ten things I’ve ever done. Keep reading for all the details on how to organise your own awesome adventure, plus some adorable pics of sea turtles and even a video! ?
(PS: if my travel stories aren’t your thing, don’t fret – a heartfelt post about self acceptance is coming your way Sunday – stay tuned!)
SWIMMING WITH SEA TURTLES IN MEXICO
We swam with sea turtles in Akumal, on the Yucatán Peninsula. It’s a tiny town, about 20 minutes north of Tulum or a half hour south of Playa del Carmen.
You can take a collectivo from either town for roughly 20 pesos (a collectivo is like shared maxi cab.) They run constantly between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, all going via Akumal – just let the driver know where you’re going and they will tell you when to get off. You’ll get dropped off on the motorway but it’s only about a 15 minute walk to the coast – just follow the crowds!
If you’re not comfortable getting a collectivo a taxi will cost you roughly 200 pesos.
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Walking towards town you’ll be bombarded by ‘helpful’ locals offering to sell you tours or rent snorkel gear. (If you have your own snorkel gear bring it because it’s very expensive to hire there – we paid $15 USD per person to rent it on the beach. I think if we had hired it in town it may have been cheaper.)
If you’d like to do a tour go for it. It’s only a few more dollars than just hiring the snorkel gear … but know you don’t have to do a tour. It’s free to snorkel in the designated area and you don’t need a guide to find the turtles. Also keep in mind that if you do a tour, every time you see a turtle there will be 20 or so people all pushing and shoving to get a closer look; I think it’s much more pleasant (and less intrusive for the turtles) if you decide not to do a tour.
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So, we arrived, we battled our way through the touts selling tours, and paid for our overpriced snorkel gear. We entered the water and started swimming. (Note that there is a designated area for swimming – it’s clearly marked.) And this is what we saw.
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All in all, we spent about 2 hours in the water. It was a magical day and a wonderful reminder that there is much beauty in the world, waiting to be explored.
A FINAL NOTE
I will admit that I did question the ethics of swimming with sea turtles. The logical side of my brain knows that any time I interact with an animal, my presence can be disturbing … so if I’m 100% honest, I know that the very best thing for the animal would be for me not to go.
Having said that, I did do a bit of research ahead of time and I couldn’t find anything that explicitly warned against snorkelling with sea turtles in Akumal. I did find this article in National Geographic and the author works to protect turtles – and he took his family snorkelling with them – so I took this as a good sign.
Ultimately, you’ll need to make your own decision, but if you do decide to go remember to keep your distance and don’t touch the turtles (I look close in these pics but my camera is on a stick!)
RESOURCES TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR TRIP
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We stayed in Tulum at this Airbnb and LOVED it! The photos don’t do it justice and the family are incredible – they went out of our way to make our stay amazing.
I’ve also heard good things about Mama’s Home from my friend Brittany. You can read her full review here.
All photos were taken with my GoPro HERO4 Silver – this is my first ‘underwater’ camera and I’m so pleased with how the photos turned out. (The still photos were taken from my videos.)
You may want to consider getting a Lonely Planet Cancun, Cozumel & the Yucatan guidebook – there is SO MUCH to do in the area! Or you can check out this amazing 10 Day Yucatan itinerary for more ideas.
I hope you enjoyed checking out these amazing creatures with me. It’s definitely a great reminder that experiences > things any day! Have you ever swam with sea turtles? Tell me all about it in the comments! xx
photo credit : all by me!
22 thoughts on “Swimming with Sea Turtles in Mexico”
We did this a year ago, but when we were in the area again this year we were told that it was federally shut down because the 3-4,000 turtles that use to go to this area, are now down to 3-400 because of too much tourist activity. While I agree it was a wonderful experience, I am happy to know they take their safety of the environment seriously. The year we went the tourists would scream with excitement when they saw a turtle, and cause such commotion around the turtles that I can see how it drives them away.
You got some really great pictures!
Hi Kayla! Thanks so much for sharing an update. I just did a quick search and looks like they have opened the snorkelling again (after a 2 month ban) with much stricter regulations: https://www.riviera-maya-news.com/federal-officials-reopen-akumal-bay-turtle-snorkeling/2017.html Hopefully these new regulations are enforced! It’s a tough one – such an amazing experience – but at the same time it was clear when we were there it was not sustainable (it had turned into a bit of circus)!
Just did this in Akumal this morning! My fiance and I found your blog via Brittany’s itinerary while planning our trip. I’m glad you took pictures! I don’t have an underwater camera, but now I can just direct people here 🙂 Love the travel posts, and love your blog in general! Thanks for sharing.
Oh yay!! That makes me so happy to hear Helen (everything: your kind words + that you’re having a great time in Mexico!) Thanks so much for stopping by ☺️ PS: if you want copies of any of the photos send me a message (see my ‘about me’ page for contact details) and I’d be happy to send you a high res copy 🙂
I would LOVE that! Emailing now.
AWESOME!!! Love the clear blue water and the sea turtles.
It was incredible – the ocean near Tulum is stunning. Hopefully it will be like this in Belize? xx
Amazing. I love the ocean and all the little and great creatures in there. Such a world and aren’t you lucky you got to experience a taste of that beautiful world. xxoo
I am SO LUCKY – seriously looking a these pictures it’s hard to believe this is my life. We really do live in a beautiful world and I’m so grateful that I get to see so much of it! xxx
Such beautiful photos, Jennifer! And an amazing video! I snorkeled with sea turtles (well, from a safe distance) last summer in Hawaii, and it really was amazing. The water wasn’t nearly that clear though — we couldn’t really see them very well. That’s awesome that you got to see them so clearly!
We got really lucky – it was clear in the morning but it definitely got cloudier as the day went on. Where did you go in Hawaii? I’m headed there on Saturday and could use any tips (hint, hint!) ?
Oooh I’m so jealous!!! We did a camping road trip around the perimeter of Oahu and it was truly one of the best trips of my life. We saw the turtles at Laniakea Beach. Hanauma Bay was also amazing snorkeling — didn’t see any turtles but lots of other stuff. I think in general my favorite part of Oahu was driving up the east coast, from Kailua northwards — it was so beautiful and basically zero tourists (everyone seems to just hang out in Waikiki, oddly enough). I’m so excited to hear about what you do there!
Oooh … we were seriously considering doing a camping road trip too but my mom very generously gave me some time share points; I’m not really sure how it works but it was incredibly generous so we’ve got most of our accomodation covered (and ditched the camping idea.)
We’re going to Kauai and then Oahu; there we’re mostly staying in Waikiki but on the last day we’ve rented a car and going to do a big loop around the island. I’m so excited (especially after reading your feedback!)
So, so, so cool; I could watch that video on repeat! I’ve been snorkeling in Key West, FL, but we didn’t see any turtles. I definitely want to swim with turtles one day! Oh, and I love how you did your research before swimming with them too!
I know, I’m so glad how the video turned out! Thanks for commenting Kercia xx
I have swum with turtles before, Jen, and I agree it’s another win for experiences over things! Mine was in Apo Island in the Philippines (photo attached) and I loved how strict they were about not affecting the turtle’s behavior and migration patterns. There was a hefty fine for anyone touching the turtles and someone from the island was required to escort you to make sure you weren’t going too near. They also had lots of reef conservation stuff going on so the ocean bottom was beautiful!
Oooh – I love this!! I have to admit that it wasn’t as regulated in Mexico and the tours with guides seemed the worse. We were told not to dive down and to stay on the surface but then I saw guides doing this all the time! I’m adding Apo Island to my bucket list now! x
You can dive down in Apo Island actually but only to a certain distance. The required guides make sure you don’t cross the line. Let me know if you ever get to this part of the world! xx
This is so incredible, friend. I could watch that video all day!
Me too! I actually have a ton of footage – I had to resist posting it all ☺️
How fun!!!!!!! Something new is going on my bucket list!!!!
Definitely! I wish I had gone more than once. Thanks for stopping by Susannah x