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Mexico - The Mother of All Akumal Trip Reports, Part IAuthor: Entilzha (More Trip Reviews by Entilzha)
Date of Trip: March 2005
After the Tulum expedition, we decided that this would be a very kid-friendly day, so we headed off to the public beach at Akumal Bay. We dropped our stuff in front of Lol Ha, the kids sampled the water, and I took my snorkeling gear and dove in. Akumal Bay is quite different from Half Moon Bay. The coral is not in good shape (lots of boats), but there is still a lot to see. There was a nice green moray eel under the concrete blocks that serves as moorings for one of the catamarans. I also saw a barracuda, a goldspotted eel (actually, my boy spotted that one), and a turtle. That turtle sight was with my little daughter, so she was thrilled of finally seeing her first turtle. On the northern side of the bay, there is a large white floating ball which marks the site of an old shipwreck. The cannons are still perfectly visible. The morning went way too fast, and I'll have to go back and do a thorough exploring of that bay.
Lunch was at the condo, and while the wife and kids had their siesta, I yet again snorkeled Half Moon Bay. In the evening, I found out to my chagrin that a T-shirt is insufficient protection when snorkeling (helloooo sunburn). When my wife's turn came, she went to a spot in the bay I now call Turtle City and saw a total of four turtles. Her face when she got out told me I had just made a new convert to the church of snorkeling. I grabbed my camera and dove back in. After a while, I was able to get my first underwater shots of two of them.
Dinner was at Oscar Y Lalo, where we both had the whole fried fish (to die for). Margaritas were quite good but pretty strong. I really enjoyed the beachside setting and the hammocks to lounge in while you wait for your order.
We rose with the sun, as usual, and had breakfast in the condo. We decided to spend the morning at Atkun Chen, which is very close to Akumal. However, it did take a while to get there since you have to take a 3.5km pothole-filled road through the jungle.
Upon arrival, we found out that we had forgotten our bug spray and that dinner was served. Fortunately, there were enough stupid tourists making the same mistake that bug spray was on sale. I almost immediately got adopted by Isidoro, a mischievous little baby monkey who was fascinated by my Camelpack, especially the bright blue nozzle that you drink from. The kids were ecstatic.
Our assigned guide was Noah, and there was only the four of us with him. This led to a very detailed and extensive tour of the large caves, where Noah spoke in English and I translated in French for my wife and kids. Aktun Chen is a very extensive and beautiful cave complex with some of the most stunning stalagmite and stalactite displays I have ever seen. The whole tour took almost an hour, as Noah would point out each and every little point of interest. He really seemed to enjoy guiding such a small and very enthusiastic group. There were some large groups that went past us, but we took our time--such beauty is to be enjoyed, not rushed through. Sometimes tree roots would make their way through the cave. There was also a fair amount of wildlife, including bats, some nice blue-tinted birds, and lizards. There were some pools where the water was extremely pure. If you put your finger in it, the dust at the surface would spread out as if you had placed a drop of soap. You could also see shrimps and other organisms swimming around. Sometimes there are eels and catfish, although we did not see any.
Afterward, there was a small tour of the jungle where you could observe a selection of fauna and flora. When he showed us a particularly toxic tree, I recognized it as the chenchen tree (as in a previous post from James), and when I mentioned its name, he was stunned. On our way back, Isidoro seemed to be happy to see me, as he grabbed my hand and walked with me up to the parking. However, when we got in the car, he jumped on the hood and the roof and wouldn't get down. It was only when a car pulled in with a family that he jumped down, and we made our escape. The way back was even slower than the way in, since we constantly had to stop to prevent from running over iguanas sunning themselves on the road.
On the way back, we finally understood the workings of the ATM at the Super Chomak. On the weekday, they fill it up in mid-morning, and by 2pm, it's empty again. So if you need cash, you have to go around lunchtime and make sure to stock up on Fridays.
The afternoon was spent lazing at the pool and snorkeling Half Moon Bay yet again. Everytime I dove in there, I always found something new. This time it was a pair of 10- to 15-inch squids. I had my underwater camera with me, but I had just ran out of film. Turtles? Two of them, one of which was outside Turtle City, close to the reef wall.
When we got to the penthouse to prepare for our dinner, we found out there was no running water. There was a problem with the pipes, and they were working hard at it. Water was flowing again within the hour, as promised.
Dinner was at Lol Ha, where we had reserved a table right next to the stage for the flamenco show. The dancers were pretty good but a little too technical for my taste. Still, my daughter was so transfixed by them (she just loves to dance) that she almost completely forgot to eat. And then, during the finale, boom--sound asleep. My wife had the grilled tuna (tasted like a grilled tuna), and I decided to sample the chicken mole (very interesting taste). I had small spots of mole on my white shirt after the meal, and waiter said that if you did not get mole on your shirt, it would have meant the meal was not good.
That night, I walked the beach to see if I could find any nesting turtles... nada.
Tomorrow, we plan to go to Yal-Ku. Little did I know then that by this time tomorrow, I would have witnessed one of the most fascinating events in my whole life.
We got up early (again) this morning. It's hard to sleep in when the sun comes up right into your bedroom window. So much farniente to do, so little time. Might as well get up. We decided to go to Yal Ku, which is almost next door. It was easy to beat the crowds this time, and we were almost the first in. They seemed to have done quite a fair amount of landscaping since this first reports. There are now some well-groomed trails with beautiful statues, strategically placed. This seemed to have affected the entrance fee, which stood at 65p for adults and 35p for children. Our first impression upon entering was that this water is cold! It really seems like an aquarium, as the fish are plentiful. The water has a strange, oily look, the result of the mixing of cenote and sea water. This really affected the visibility, and if you wanted a clear view, you had to dive under the thermocline--something my wife and kids were not experienced enough to do. The diversity is not as great as in HMB, but there were some species I had not found elsewhere, including the night sergeant and a pair of gorgeous queen angelfishes. We wisely went to the left upon entering and wandered our way through gorges and mangroves. After about 45 minutes, the kids were already getting tired, and my daughter was shivering from the cold water. They played for a while with the statues while Daddy made a second pass. We left around 10am, as the tour buses were coming in and disgorging their masses. We got back to the penthouse, and the wife and I both got to snorkel HMB once again (saw two turtles each). There was a certain amount of excitement with the guests, as one of the turtle nests is due to hatch tonight, and some already saw quivering of the sand. Hope I'll be there when it happens.
Later this afternoon, while the kids were in the pool, I went back by myself to Yal Ku with my underwater camera to try to get a shot of those queen angelfishes. There were lots of tour people when I got there, but they were on their way out, fortunately. However, the damage was done, as the visibility was very poor, and there was a fair amount of vegetal debris at the surface. I still went through every nook and cranny of the lagoon. I even went all the way to the reef, which involved a fairly long swim through basically nothing. My efforts were well rewarded when I entountered two barracudas and the mother of all stingrays which conveniently swam to a clear water spot for a perfect shot. On my way back, in a deep section, I noticed something unusual at the bottom, and when I dove in, I found out it was a nice Peackock Flounder (Click... Vrrrr). So the moral of the story is: When you go to Yal Ku, get in as early as you can, and be prepared to take a lot of deep breaths.
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