One of the most popular destinations in Quintana Roo is Akumal Beach. Popular for snorkeling with sea turtles, Akumal Beach has seen massive, unsustainable growth. The popular snorkeling spot recently closed in order to protect the sea turtles from pollution and crowds, but with tourism season in full swing, the beach is now back open for business. KayTours has decided we will not be returning to Akumal Beach for snorkeling in order to do our part in preserving the wild sea turtles and prevent them from human harm.
We recently shared a post on TripAdvisor’s “Features Animals” badge and what it means. To learn more about this new feature, as well as our guidelines for protecting animals, read the post here: What TripAdvisor’s “Features Animals” Badge Means.
Essentially TripAdvisor’s goal is to give tourists more information on how to respect animals in the wild when booking a tour that features wild animals. If you click on the paw print icon you will be lead to an education portal with some guidelines. We also have our own guidelines on our website, and they are featured in this article: Tread Lightly: How to Protect Animals and Wildlife with KayTours.
As we mentioned before, Akumal Beach is widely popular for its sea turtles, and this is the town’s main source of income. “Akumal” even means “place of the turtle” in Maya. With the enormous increase in tourism to the once sleepy beach town of Akumal, an increase in hotels resulted. Unfortunately, the rapid increase in rooms along the beach are proving unsustainable with the question of whether it’s safe for the sea turtles to even have Akumal Beach open.
Aside from the sea turtles, Akumal Bay is also home to 100 hectares of jungle, mangroves, lagoons and underground rivers—located between Half Moon Bay and the highway. This location has been sold for more development, putting more pressure on the precious bays and surrounding environment.
The development of two golf courses and thousands of homes will destroy 900 hectares of jungle and is expected to boost Akumal to a population of 250,000 by 2030.
Just recently in Media Luna Bay, a four-story building went up and destroyed several native species of flora on a dune ecosystem. The coastal dunes that were destroyed are vital to mitigating the effects of climate change, as well as for preserving the nesting area of two endangered species of sea turtles.
Akumal Beach is popular primarily for the sea turtles because on some days, up to fifty turtles can be seen. Several hurricanes in 2005 caused sea grass to grow, drawing in the sea turtles to feed.
Sadly, at least six of the turtles have the herpes-type virus, Fibropapilomatosis, in tumors. Crowds of tourists are threatening this unhealthy habitat and inducing stress to the endangered species. The sea turtles bring in at least $3 million in revenue annually for legal and illegal companies.
After being closed for about two months, federal authorities reopened the bay to swimming, but with stricter rules. Several government agencies will grant permits for tourists, and tour companies will have a maximum limit of twelve tourists per provider. Each tour group can only take up to six people into the water at a time for a maximum of 65 minutes. There will be allowed a maximum observation time of five minutes.
If the turtles show signs of distress, like rapid movements, long dives or evasion, the bay will once again be suspended.
While Akumal Beach may have reopened for tourist activities KayTours will not return to the bay. We are adamant about respecting wild animals, and we believe our presence at Akumal would not bring any good to these endangered species.
We were always briefing our guests upfront about the rules, and due to the type of tours we are offering, our groups are always small. We are sad taking this decision because we were actually educating people about Akumal and the sea turtles, but consider it best to just not go at all and educate through social media in the future.
However, we do offer private tours to several locations where it is possible to see wild animals in their natural habitats, from a respectful distance. In the Sian Ka’an biosphere in Tulum, you can witness wild animals like birds, dolphins, sea turtles, and if we’re lucky, manatees and crocodiles. Learn more about this tour here.
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