If you’ve stayed in the area before or researched a bit about your upcoming vacation, you surely heard about Akumal. A tranquil town in the Riviera Maya known for its beautiful beach and rich marine life.
Akumal in the Mayan language means land of the turtle, because since a very long time sea turtles have been coming here to feed and hatch. Tourism industry knew how to take advantage of it – it’s one of very few places in Mexico where you can snorkel among turtles in their natural habitat.
On a regular month around 15 000 tourists visit the bay, eager to swim with the animals. Unfortunately the increased demand of snorkel tours also led to an increase of dubious tour companies, with poorly trained guides and no adequate equipment. The the related bad snorkeling and marine practice like harassing the sea turtles or touching corals, and the overexploitation of Akumals natural resources have seriously damaged the underwater environment. In the last 10 years the coral cover reduced a 30 %, and there are less and less turtles in Akumal, since the high exposure to people causes them stress and their nesting habitat is disappearing.
The Silver Lining
The Centro Ecológico Akumal CEA is now taking appropriate steps to control the situation. The number of tours entering the bay will be controlled, visitors will be provided with information and services to reduce the impact on the environment. It will be a while until the new measurements will come into force. Be anyway conscious about your impact on the environment and to travel environmentally responsible – wherever you go.
What You Can Do
We’re not saying don’t go snorkeling. But be conscious. To begin with, don’t go with just any tour guide. Ask our concierge Carlos to help you book a tour or ask at an on-site dive shop or at the CEA for well established guides. Not only for environmental reasons, but also for your own safety.
Respect following rules to help protect coral reefs and marine life:
- Use biodegradable sunblock.
- Keep 2 meters (6.5 feet) distance from coral and marine species.
- Swim near marine creatures and corals, not above them, to reduce the risk of kicking corals (especially when wearing fins) and to allow sea turtles to rise to the water’s surface to breathe.
- Don’t touch corals or any marine creatures. Your own safety could be at risk and touching corals might kill them.
- Do not feed marine creatures and keep your distance when they’re feeding.
In other words, just as in daily life with your family, friends or co-workers, it’s all about respecting each other.