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Posts Tagged ‘snorkeling’

 

I went with my little family to Tulum, Mexico last month, and I have to say, it was one of our best trips–ever.

We travel to Mexico nearly every year, but always on the west side, I suppose because we know it and it’s closer. I didn’t realize the east side looked completely different, and thus always thought, why take a 5-6 hour flight to Mexico when you can get there in 3-4? However, the east side–at least the Yucatan Peninsula where Tulum is located, is really beautiful and very different from the west. Lush jungles abound and mangroves grow for as far as the eye can see. We saw manatees and a crocodile during our adventures, as well as ancient Mayan ruins, and everywhere turquoise-blue waters.

I love that most of the hotels in Tulum are relatively small and strive to be eco-friendly. I must admit they all run off diesel generators since Tulum is off the grid, but some people would like to change that, and the visionary owners of Be Tulum and Nomade–two gorgeous resorts on the far end of the resort strip, would like to bring clean energy in. I can imagine how a visit to visit Tulum would be even better without the noise or air pollution of generators running night and day behind every hotel? I can already see them powered by clean, renewable energy from the sun, of which there is plenty.

But let’s get back to the beach…

Tulum gives off a different vibe than many resort towns in Mexico. First off it’s relatively small, and because many of the resorts take an “eco” approach, many buildings are small, low to the ground, and nestled in the trees, so when you’re walking on the beach, the land retains its jungle-ness. As a health-conscience person, I also loved that many of restaurants offered salads from local and organically-produced gardens, acai bowls and vegan dressings. While I imagine a lot of people visiting the area while I was there might have over indulged in cocktails (mezcal is the thing to drink there), I never saw any sign of it. What I did see were people relaxing, enjoying good food and long walks on the beach (you can walk forever there), taking yoga and meditation classes, and generally “chillaxin.”

Our little haven off of our room at Be Tulum.

Gorgeous, stylish rooms at Be.

 

Every morning we received an amazing basket of breads, including croissants, “Mexican” bread (as I call it because I don’t know if it has a particular name), rye and sweet breads. While I generally shun gluten, I admit I relished the morning gluten fest. The bread in Mexico has a certain something about it, which I find irresistible.

We also received an incredible assortment of fruit along with granola and yogurt. In fact, after we had polished off the bread and fruit, we were always left wondering why we bothered to order other dishes like chilaquiles, omelets and pancakes. After breakfast, we had to roll down the sandy slope toward the part of the beach which housed the cabanas, where we slept off the big morning meal or read until lunch. And speaking of lunch, I always wondered how many days can one really eat tacos. And in truth, nearly every day–at least once a day.

 

 

One day we hired a boat to take us through Sian Ka’an, the nature preserve just a short drive past the hotels and resorts. That’s where we saw a family of manatees that swam up close to the boat out of sheer curiosity. We also saw a crocodile through the mangrove branches, but as I only had my iPhone on me at the time, I wasn’t able to get a decent pic. In the preserve, our boatman dropped us off on the side of one of the mangrove-lined channels, and led us over a 500-meter (roughly) raised wooden walkway to another channel in which fresh water flowed. It flowed fast enough that there was a decent current, so we donned life vests and literally floated through the channel several kilometers after which our boatman was there to meet us. It was an incredible experience I can’t recommend enough!

Snorkeling in Yal-Ku Lagoon.

 

On another day, we explored one of the many cenotes (natural pits, or sinkholes, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath) in the area. Most of the cenotes are filled with fresh water, but cenotes can have salt water as well. Yal-Ku lagoon in Akumal, just a short drive from Tulum, is a gorgeous salt-water cenote. There are incredible rock formations, underwater caves and channels, and numerous varieties of tropical fish. The biggest parrot fish I’ve ever seen were in Yal-Ku. We had a great snorkeling experience there, but I recommend going early when there are fewer tourists and swimmers around. The most famous cenotes in the area–Grand Cenote and Casa Cenote, are on the top of our list for our next visit to Tulum.

Tulum Ruins near Akamal.

We also visited the Tulum ruins just outside of Tulum. Right on the edge of the ocean, they were well worth the short drive and confusion over where to buy tickets. Note: Don’t stand in line to get your tickets from a person, go to one of the two tickets machines on the left before the long lines of people waiting to talk to a ticket agent, and use your credit card. It will take you 2 minutes instead of 20.

We chose not to visit the famous Chicheniza ruins–approximately a 2.5-3-hour drive from Tulum, out of sheer laziness and because we found the Tulum ruins pretty impressive in their own right. However, we might stretch our horizons next time we visit as Chicheniza is supposed to be pretty spectacular.

We heard great things about the Monkey Sanctuary (also just outside Akumal), but we were too late to join a tour the day we went there, and too short on remaining days of our trip. If you plan to visit the area, have your hotel book a tour for you in advance. Sadly, the only monkey we saw was a dead one on the side of the road as we drove from the airport to Tulum.

If you have the chance to visit Tulum, take it. It won’t disappoint. Just a simple 1.5-hour drive from Cancun Airport, it feels like another world. Just remember to say “hello” to the monkeys and parrot fish for me.

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I just returned from holiday in Hawaii, where I spent a week on the island of Maui. My visit reminded me how too many of us take our beautiful Earth for granted.

Maui holds a special place in my heart. My mom and her seven sisters were born and raised there, so I’ve been visiting the islands since I was 5-years-old. We went last week for holiday, but also to return the remains of my aunt–the first of the eight sisters to pass away.

I went to the same lovely bay (Kapalua Bay, aka “old Flemings”) I’ve been snorkeling in since I was young. Kapalua Bay used to be a pristine bay bordered by a relatively small but gorgeous beach with rocks to climb over on either side and a small cave on the right to shelter in during sudden downpours. You really didn’t know it was there unless you were a local or related to one. No parking lot existed–just a strip of red earth next to a chain link fence overgrown with vines. Trees, palms and thick, lush tropical vegetation grew along the entire edge of the beach, overhanging it in many places. The crystal clear water resembled the most incredible natural aquarium showcasing dozens of different species of tropical fish, moray eels, octopus and turtles, as well as sea urchins, sea slugs and other less easily identified sea creatures. I particularly love this little bay because there is a reef running along the entire mouth of the bay so one never needs to fear spotting a shark.

I have witnessed many changes to my favorite bay over the past four decades… A parking lot and signs now make it easy to find, and if you don’t arrive before 9:00am, you will have to scavenge for a parking spot along the road higher up. Most of the vegetation has been removed and luxury villas now step down the slope with the grassy border of their grounds touching the sand in several places. The rocks as you enter the water are now covered with a slimy brown seaweed, and many of the spectacular coral formations are whitening (dying due to ocean acidification).

While this may sound very depressing and worrying, I must also add how beautiful the bay still is and how resilient nature attempts to be. There are still at least two dozen species of tropical fish, I encountered a huge zebra moray and a baby snowflake moray, the water remains clear and the sea turtles (previously threatened) are now thriving.

Here are some of my photos*–many of which aren’t “pristine,” showing evidence of our role and impact on the earth, but also showing the incredible beauty and strength that continues.

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Please take two minutes to think about a favorite place in nature you’ve visited, and think about how you might honor it–literally or just in your heart. Then please take two more minutes to think about just ONE (more) thing you can do to help protect our beautiful Earth. I’ve shared previously with you many of the things I do to lessen my negative impact on this planet, such as eating organic and local, not buying and/or using chemical products in my home, on my body, etc., making every effort to never take a plastic bag and to almost never take any sort of bag when out shopping, driving an electric car, etc. And some of you know of my work to make a positive impact on this planet (speeding the transition from fossil fuels to renewables with Empowered by Light).

I’m conducting a waste audit at my kids’ school today as part of recognizing Earth Day, but I know I can be doing a lot more. In fact, no matter how much you’re already doing, chances are, you can easily do just one more thing.

Happy Earth Day!

* I took video of my swim underwater with a large sea turtle, but I’m not very tech savvy and can’t figure out how to share it or create a still from it!

 

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