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Mexico - The Mother of all Akumal Trip Reports, Part II

Author: Entilzha (More Trip Reviews by Entilzha)
Date of Trip: March 2005

We had dinner at the Lol Ha beach grill, and it was pretty ordinary. The only extraordinary outside dinners we've had to date were at Oscar Y Lalo and at the Turtle Bay Cafe. My wife is allergic to chili peppers, so we have to be careful (she gets a lot of stomach cramps from them). So in the end, all of my family would much rather have me or my wife prepare the meals--we are both pretty good cooks, so we don't miss out much. It's also less hassle to prepare a meal than to entertain two little kids while awaiting a meal they probably won't eat. Also, the penthouse comes with a maid service which does the dishes, so it is still a vacation.

So we come back from dinner, I look out from the veranda, and I see a small crowd at the beach: hatching! So in typical U.S. army fashion, we hurry up and wait. Once the first head pokes up, it can take from one to two hours for the full-blown volcano to erupt. At this time of the year, night falls at the speed of a racing horse and we are soon in complete darkness getting eaten up by the bugs. So in the end, it won't be as exciting as last Thursday. However, this place is always full of surprise. Word gets to to us that another, 100 meters away, is also hatching. We walk back and forth to try and guess which one would blow up first, but it's a dead heat. There was a two-way radio that kept us informed on the progress. Suddenly, we get word that the southern nest is erupting. I bolt and run just in time to see a flow of turtles splurt out from the nest. That one was much bigger than last time (147 eggs versus 87), and a carpet of turtle starts to wiggle their way to the waves. It's very dark, and with a couple of red lights, and we coax the babies into the sea and away from the building lights. Then I hear that the other nest has erupted 30 seconds after the first one. When I get back to it, Elio is already digging the stragglers out. There was not pictures of these hatching. It was pitch-black, and even though I still had the red filter on my camera, there was no way I could reach the level of photographic clariry I got the first time. So my camera stayed in my pocket and I was just busy enjoying myself and swatting mosquitos. After the excitement dies down I ask myself: What were the odds of having two nest, 100 meters apart, hatching simultaneously? It's not the time of day. The first one happened at 6:30pm, the one last night was at 10 pm, and those two were around 8pm. I wonder if they were not listening to some unknown message. I'm sure we still have a lot to learn from those fabulous creatures.

Day 12
There was no wind last night, so for the first time we had to turn on the air-conditioning. The morning was clear but a little chilly. We had heard that an open-air market was in Akumal on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so we went to have a look. It was neat, but it became very hot with no wind, and the children and I became dehydrated. So we retreated to the condo and lounged in the pool. My wife stayed on a little longer, even in the heat. If I ever hear her complain that it's too warm, it would have meant aliens had abducted her and swiped her brain with somebody else's. When she got back, I was free to roam HMB. I saw a big stingray and a turtle in the usual spot (Turtle City). On this dive, I pushed all the way to the northern reef wall. I had not been to that section before since it is usually inaccessible. However, the tide was high, the sea was very calm (remember, no wind), and you could swim close and above the reef without being ripped to shreds. It was pretty fun and I managed to see three more turtles there. That made for a new record of four turtles in one dive. Still, my wife held the record with five in one dive, although I do hold the title for total sightings (18 to date). In the afternoon we went to El Paraiso Beach Club in Tulum, with a beautiful beach with sand of talcum consistency. The sea was turquoise with little waves. There was a bar with swings, music that was not overbearing, and fantastic pina coladas. It was your typical dream vacation spot& my wife and kids just loved it. I had arranged for dinner at Gringo Dave's and got the table at the far end of the rocky encampment. The view there is absolutely stunning, and with the sun going low, the light was just perfect. The margaritas were the best I have tasted in a long time. The last time they were that good was in 1992 on the terrace of a small Mexican restaurant in Palm Springs on a 110°F day. I had the Mexican octopus and my wife had the fish filet. We concluded with the banana flambé. The only sour notes were that the vegetables were clearly of the frozen kind and the coffee cups were really dirty, just as if he had just picked them up from another table. Overall, it was as good as Oscar Y Lalo, our best restaurant meal to date.

Elio had kept a few baby turtles in a sand box from yesterday's mega-hatching because their yolk sacks were improperly closed. Those usually have a high risk of getting infected if they are released immediately, so the procedure is to keep them for a day and to release them at dusk. We got back just in time for this and said our final goodbye to those baby turtles that so brightened this vacation.

Day 13
There are two days to go before heading back. There is no more manana left for Xel-Ha, so it has to be today. We got in the gate at 9am, just as they opened, but already three tour buses were disgorging their hordes. However, by the time their guides had corralled them into line and given them useless instructions, we were through the gates. There were other groups ahead of us, but they had to get their snorkeling gear and all stopped at the first gate (as mentioned in other posts). We already had all our gear and moved to station three to get a locker. We got a nice quiet section of beach chairs close to the children playground and dropped our stuff there. A few minutes later, we were all in the lagoon, not the first ones in but very close.

The water in the lagoon is divided into three parts. The first two feet are greenish/brown and cold! Then there is a blurry section between two and three feet deep that has an oily appearance from the mixing of fresh and salt water. Finally, the deeper section is clear and warm -- too bad you need to hold your breath to get there. The bottom is mostly silt, so my guess is that within a couple of hours of being stirred around, the visibility will go down to nearly zero. Oh yeah! The fishes& lots of them and they are BIG! They must be spiking the lagoon with steroids or something, because these babies are the biggest I have ever seen. There are even these tri-color parrot fishes of a species I have never seen before, red being the dominant color. There are these schools of two- to three-foot jacks that let you swim among them as if you belonged there. Those fish are really used to human presence. We swam all the way to the floating bridge, where you had even more of these fish. There was this huge grouper with a big set of teeth that scared the hell out of my daughter, the one who laughed in the face of a two-foot barracuda a few days ago.

We got back to our spot, hunted iguanas (there were as big as the fishes),and finally, took the little train to the tubing/river ride. I would have rather taken the bikes, but they were too big for the kids. So we rode lazily down the river, proved our courage at the cliff, and eventually made it to the other side& eventually. Dinner was a very expensive cheeseburger. We slept in the hammocks, watched the dolphins, did some shopping, and ended up buying one of those pictures they take during your visit. (We don't have that many of the four of us). There were way too many people for my liking. We counted over 30 tour buses on our way out. Clouds had been gathering since mid-morning and thunder had rumbled for the last 3 hours. As we made our way to the parking lot, the first drops began to fall.

We got home, made some margaritas, and finished up the barracuda. I made a small excursion to the Cyber Cafe for my first reintroduction to the world since our vacation. Apparently, the Earth has not stopped spinning since we got here.

So then, Xcaret or Xel-Ha? We liked both of them, but I think we appreciated Xel-Ha more. Xcaret was a lot more expensive, and you pay more for things you will not have the time to do. Both are actually very good at separating the tourist from his money. So here is my advice for your vacation: Pick one, go on a weekend, and arrive as early as you can. You'll be back to do the other one eventually. If you love snorkeling or it is very hot, go to Xel-Ha.

The rest of the evening was spent sitting on the veranda, listening to the sea and watching the thunderstorms.

Day 14
This was our last full day. Tomorrow morning we have to be at the airport at 9:45am for our flight home. We awoke to a gorgeous sunrise and walked to Turtle Bay Cafe to get breakfast. We snorkeled HMB with the kids, hoping to see a last turtle with them. We did see one, but the visibility was not good on that day and it kept zipping at the edge of our vision. My son wanted also to see some squids, so I took him in the part of the bay with the biggest waves. We got beaten up pretty bad, but he was a trooper and finally got his wish and saw four big ones in formation. The squid turned out to be my favorite encounter after the turtles. On the way back we saw a big scorpion fish, a first encounter in this bay.

After lunch, my wife wanted some real beach time, so we went to Caleta Tankah. We almost had the club to ourselves all afternoon. The setting is beautiful, the sand was almost perfect, and the waves were perfect for the kids. The waves were a little moderate for my taste, but I spent hours putting the kids on my board, standing at the break point, waiting for a good wave to come, and zipping them to the shoreline, screaming with glee.

Caleta Tankah has an interesting natural pool where a subterranean river disgorges into the sea. It was okay for swimming (the water was cold and there were rocks), but with a mask, it was a lot of fun. The water was either extremely clear or oily from the mixture of salt and fresh water. There was a lot of fish, some of them over 2 feet long. The current was strong, I would hang on with my feet and hands -- sub-aquatic rock climbing I called it.

When we got back, it was late afternoon, but I wanted one last dive while the wife and kids took their shower. The waves were pretty strong, but the visibility was relatively good. I saw a big turtle, but it was just swimming too fast. I guess they are not that good at goodbyes. Then, by a reef, I saw a small 1.5-foot one. The young ones are usually nervous, but this one let me get really close. I followed him for a while when suddenly, BAM! He was gone over the reef like a missile. I looked around and noticed I had never been in that particular place before. That little turtle had led me into a 30-foot area with the reef on three sides. I had noticed that place before from the veranda but had never found my way into it. On the sea floor were about 100 fish of half a dozen species (blue tang, surgeon fish, parrot fish, blue-striped grunts) free-floating in the waves. I felt as if Bahia Media Luna was saying goodbye. As a parting gift, right in the middle of that depression, was the biggest urchin shell I have ever seen, the size of an orange and in perfect condition.

On my way out, that little turtle was there as if waiting for me. I swam with it for a few minutes, thanking it telepathically for the wonderful discoveries I had made in the last couple of weeks. I stopped and stood there, watching it slowly go away, going up for air, and disappearing into the deep-blue sea. Then I turned around and went home.
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