Swimming With Sea Turtles!

Akumal in Mayan means “Place of the Turtle”, and it certainly lives up to its name. You can literally walk out the front door of your bungalow, wade into the refreshing water and see turtles swimming! This was something I never tired of. Even just waiting for their heads to pop up out of the water was a treat! What an incredible experience.

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We stayed at the Hotel Akumal Caribe, an eco-friendly low-key resort that was the first hotel on the beach back in the 1970’s. It’s a simple place with 21 rooms in the 3-story hotel and about 20 bungalows. It has a small pool, restaurant with outside seating, spa, beach bar, dive shop and lots of palapas to hang out under. You can rent bikes and golf carts, and it’s within walking distance of shops and restaurants. If you want a laid back relaxed place to stay, this is it!

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The sea turtles feed on underwater grass really close to the shore. There are two kinds here, the green sea turtle and the loggerhead turtle. You can be standing in neck high water look down and see a turtle swimming by! And, if you’re lucky enough to be in Akumal May through November you can watch them nesting.

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Unfortunately these wonderful creatures are endangered. In March 2016, Akumal Bay was declared a marine protected area. The turtles are showing signs of stress, and some are growing tumors. This is due to people touching them among other things. Even though it’s really cool to swim with them we have to remember that they are wild animals!

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There is now a roped off swimming area that you can’t go past. Someone patrols the area in a kayak to make sure that people don’t cross over the rope. The grassy areas with the turtles are just beyond it, but they still swim into the roped off area and are easy to see. It’s sad that people don’t respect their space.

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Here are a few tips for swimming responsibly with sea turtles:

  • Use biodegradable sun block.
  • Keep a 7 ft. (2 m.) distance from corals and other marine species.
  • Swim near marine creatures and corals, not over them. You reduce the risk of kicking corals and allow sea turtles to rise to the water’s surface to breathe.
  • Keep your distance while any sea life is feeding.
  • Harassing, touching or grabbing marine creatures is not allowed.
  • Do not touch, walk or stand on corals. Use life jackets but not fins.
  • Do not remove anything dead or alive from the sea, it is a federal offense.

You can also come to Akumal for the day. It’s about 1 ½ hours south of Cancun and about 20 minutes north of Tulum. They rent snorkels and life jackets on the beach, or you can bring your own. You won’t be disappointed!

 

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More fun in San Miguel de Allende!

There are many museums in San Miguel, and the Casa de Ignacio Allende gives wonderful information about the city’s foundation in 1542, the Mexican Revolution, and hero Ignacio Allende. This is where he was born and grew up, and some of the rooms have been preserved as they looked when he lived there. It’s right next to the Cathedral and is closed on Mondays!

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What stole my heart though, is San Miguel’s newest museum, the La Esquina Toy Museum! This tiny four room museum is chock full of colorful handcrafted toys from different the regions and cultures of Mexico. Its history of children’s toys is delightful and fun for all ages. And, the view of the city from the rooftop is amazing!

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A trip to San Miguel de Allende wouldn’t be complete without time spent in El Jardin, the central plaza. Many locals call it the “living room” of San Miguel! It’s closed to traffic on three sides and lined with shade trees and benches just perfect for sitting and watching the world go by. There are plenty of cafes ringing the square with outside patios and food carts selling fruit and snacks. On one side of the square is the tallest building in the city – La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. The spires and rose color are amazing, especially at sunset. There is something interesting going on at any time of the day in El Jardin, but the nighttime mariachi bands are a must!

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Usually you don’t think of going to libraries while on vacation. The San Miguel Biblioteca is a different story! This library has the largest collection of English books in Mexico, vibrant colorful murals on the ceiling of the bookstore, and a tranquil courtyard complete with fountain and café. It’s a great place to go and find out what’s going on in town. They offer walking tours and a Sunday historical house tour as well as having a small theater. Don’t forget to pick up the English/Spanish newspaper “Atencion”. This comes out every Friday and lists everything coming up around town for the next week!

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Spa time! La Gruta Hot Springs is outside of town but well worth a half-day visit. It’s about a 20 minute taxi ride, and the best advice I can give you is to set a time for your taxi to come back and get you. It’s isolated, and you could wait a long time for a ride home if you don’t! There isn’t anything fancy about this place, but it’s oh-so relaxing. There are different spring-fed pools that range from a swimming pool with lukewarm water to a very hot water thermal tunnel and water cave. They have lockers, reasonably priced swimsuits you can buy if you forget your suit (like I did!), a restaurant with great guacamole, massage rooms, showers and lots of lawn areas and chairs for just hanging out and relaxing. If you go on a weekend it’s very crowded with local families.

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Travel Tip

Who loves the beautiful lavender of the Jacaranda tree? San Miguel de Allende is full of these beautiful towering trees. If you travel there in March or April you’ll see these dazzling trees in full bloom!

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Discovering San Miguel de Allende

For my first blog I thought I would share one of my favorite places with you – Mexico! Last spring I spent a lovely few days in San Miguel de Allende. This colorful highland town has a thriving arts scene, charming colonial buildings, and the reputation of one of the prettiest towns in Mexico. It’s a safe place where it’s easy to get around, and it’s a great place to travel on your own!

p3000986Getting there

 This colonial hill town isn’t easy to get to, but it’s worth the effort. The closest airport is Leon, a good hour and 45 minute drive away. I flew on Aero Mexico through Mexico City, but there are also non-stops through Houston, LAX and Dallas. Leon is a tiny airport, and don’t expect anyone to speak english! I booked round trip shuttle transfers online with Bajiogo Shuttle. The shared ride is a deal at 29.00 one way.

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 I love finding intimate local hotels with a lot of character. Casa Carly is situated on one of the main roads into town, about a 10 minute walk from El Centro. This used to be called Casa Crayola because of the brightly colored casitas, but the Crayola Company made them change the name! There are seven casitas here amidst lush gardens and fountains. It’s a gated oasis with ample space to sit and appreciate the myriad of colors. They also have a café attached that makes fresh scones and a wonderfully spicy mango-chipotle salsa. There are other, more deluxe boutique hotels in the area, and all of them are gorgeous with a welcoming Mexican feel.

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Things to See and Do

Art, art, art! Known for its artistic and cultural life, San Miguel is a UNESCO heritage site. Yes it has a lot of ex-pats, and I ran into a lot of gringos. But, as I walked along narrow cobblestone streets passing colorful courtyards, unique wooden doorways and little shops full of Mexican folk art I felt a sense of wonder at everything it has to offer. Walking is the best way to explore, and meandering brings surprises on every street.

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My favorite place is Fabrica la Aurora. This was a textile factory for 90 years and has been reborn as an art and design center. The building’s been transformed into an industrial chic space with a large number of galleries, studios and restaurants. Many are high end, but many feature local Mexican artists that you can watch at work. They even offer weaving, watercolor and sculptor workshops. Don’t miss the decadent postries at Aurora Café – the perfect place to sit outside and take it all in!

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