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Published: January 17th 2013
‘Zippity doo dah, zippity a, My oh my what a wonderful day. Plenty of sunshine coming my way, Zippity doo dah, Zippity a!’ (Song of the South)
Well Wednesday was a 'zippidy doo dah' day to take a trip to Akumal, approximately 30 minutes from Playa. Akumal means “place of the turtles”, and is also known for its beautiful beaches, serene location and quiet beauty. However, it's more known as being a safe haven for sea turtles year round because they are protected by a barrier reef where they can breed, and eat sea grasses and jelly fish in the shallow bay. The snorkeling is fantastic, seeing the reef and all the marine life that lives there.
So there we were in Akumal taking in her wondrous beauty. We have been here before and thoroughly enjoyed this treasure of the Riviera Maya. This area is a spectacular long beach for as long as the eye can see, lined with palm trees. It’s a huge bay and the waves gently roll in from out in the sea adding to that lull and flow.
To sum up our day, it was a beautiful fun-filled family day that will long be
embedded in my memory. We all snorkeled with the exception of Ray who sat under a palm tree relaxing and taking in the beautiful sights. We had packed our own cooler with drinks and brought our towels etc, to sit under a palm trees.
There’s nothing like being with your kids out in Mother Nature exploring the bounty she gave us. Holding Ava up while she snorkeled near shore was one of those “ah” feelings, of seeing your child be met with the wonder and beauty of a force much bigger than yourself; Mother Nature at her best. Ava is a really good snorkeler too.
Thereafter, Rory and I went out together, quite a ways, and took in all the little and big fish we saw and would poke each other when we saw something really cool & there's lots to see, being the second biggest barrrier reef in the world. Al and I did a tour together and saw a big stingray just floating on the bottom, eyes blinking quickly. Perhaps it was thinking, “Who the hell are you, and what are you doing on my turf”?
So, our snorkeling started off slow; not as many
tropical fish as before and no sightings of turtles. Perhaps the last week of high winds and strong current was prohibiting the adventure. Al brought his underwater video camera and took video which I will post. It is still magical snorkeling on a barrier reef; you just have to be careful not to touch or disturb the reef.
After taking a break and sipping a cold one under a palm tree, I said let’s follow the tour-guided group. Sure enough, we eventually we found a large turtle bottom feeding and swimming languidly just above the sandy bottom, pausing every once in a while to munch on a floating piece of grass. I tell you, when you spot one, your heart quickens, your blood starts pumping, an you realize what a little peon you are in the universe next to such a magnificent creature.
It seem unperturbed as we hovered near them, their day seeming an endless round of drifting in the faint current and dining on sea grass so close to shore. They feed, then slowly rise to the surface, using their fat paddle-like flippers to take in some air and glide back down. They are magical creatures
to witness up close, and see the long green feeder fish that ride on them!!
Lara & Al went back out again and saw another stingray and two more turtles and a sea urchin. Those things are cool!
After all our snorkeling was over and done with, we headed to eat at a beachside café, and have a nice cold margarita and some strawberry smoothies. It had a fabulous manager named Sam, who trained for many years as a culinary chef in the US. I told him that Lara had Celiac Disease, and right away he understood, and guaranteed her food would be gluten free, but further, free of cross contamination and not cooked on a surface with wheat and flour. Yay, that was a great moment. Now that we've covered our day, I will go back to more about the magical creature, the turtle.
Some of this article is from my article I wrote for Playa Beach Condos and Villas last year about turtles which are my FAVORITE!)
Since I was knee-high to a cricket I have been fascinated by turtles. The whole idea of being able to retreat into a protective shell when the
world gets too dangerous or you simply need shelter is amazing and fascinating to me.
Turtles are tough dudes who managed to outlive dinosaurs - talk about major bragging rights. They’ve survived ice ages, famine, deadly predators, climate change and human destruction to their environment all due to their sheer determination and ability to take adversity in stride (without striding at all…!)
Frankly turtles rock! Turtles don't really AGE and in fact they don't really die of old age. This is due in part to their slow metabolism and their ability to regulate their heartbeat (like an on and off switch) so their organs don’t deteriorate like humans. Next time your annoying friend brags about his "fast" metabolism tell him the turtle is probably the longest living animal on earth due to its slow metabolism (“na-na-na-na-na”!)
In fact if turtles didn’t get sick, eaten, harmed by humans, or crushed by cars they could live indefinitely. (Sadly there’s no “cure” for the predator known as the automobile). Scientists have compared a hundred year old turtle’s organs to a teenage turtle and they are virtually the same. (Get me some turtle DNA and make it SNAPPY!) And as female
turtles age, they crank it out of the ballpark by actually producing more eggs than the younger females! Researchers think turtles may hold the secret to extending human life. Clearly we shouldn't be fooled by their rheumy eyes, slow plodding gait or their wrinkles, turtles are literally young at heart!
Sea turtles are cold blooded reptiles that lay eggs and use lungs to breathe air. Sea turtles are well-suited for underwater life. Adults can hold their breath for two hours or more while they sleep, as both their muscles and blood store oxygen efficiently. They "cry" to expel unhealthy levels of salt accumulated from the sea. Nearly blind on land, they have excellent underwater vision.
The first turtles appeared 245 million years ago, and they live in warm, tropical oceans. It may be a few million years too late to study the dinosaurs, but if you but if you want to see an ancient animal, you don’t have to look any further than the magnificent ponderous sea turtle. Their ancestors have been trolling the seas for at least 150 million years, while the fearsome tyrannosaurus came and went. In all that time, sea turtles have changed little with
the exception of their dwindling numbers.
Only eight species of sea turtles exist in the world; four of them nest in the state of Quintana Roo (the state Playa del Carmen & Akumal are in). Sea turtles are protected under National and International law.
Weighing up to 500 pounds, and measuring as much as four feet, these gentle giants are so big they have only two predators: sharks and humans, who hunt them for their meat, shells, skin, and even fat. It's impossible to determine an adult turtle's age, and some scientists believe they may live 100 years or more. It takes 15-50 years just to mature, making it difficult to recover from population declines.
Turtles are great teachers if you're looking for a life lesson and here's a few.
Learn to slow down and go at your own pace. Be self-sufficient (they carry their own houses on their backs for heaven's sake!). Listen and watch closely before you make a move. Learn to develop a tough shell to withstand the hard knocks of life. Know when to retreat into your shell when you’re overloaded. Have courage & commitment to stick to your goals (think about
the courage it's gotta take to cross a busy road with no ability to rush or swerve?).
Most importantly, make every step count when you do make a move and when you can, sail through the waters of life...
“Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.” ~
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