The Yucatan Peninsula and the Riviera Maya are particularly known to be the home to thousands of fauna and flora species. From dolphins to reef corals, from birds to crocodiles, the region is a wonder for any person willing to observe nature and wilderness. Among all of these species, the sea turtles always attract countless of tourists wanting to discover them in their natural habitat. Through this article, you will get to know everything you need to be able to see the sea turtles in the region, where to find them and when.
What kind of turtles
Only seven species of sea turtles inhabit the coasts of Mexico. You can already find four of these species along the Quintana Roo’ coastlines. They are easy to differentiate as they have very distinctive characteristics.
The leatherback turtles : their shell is usually very dark, almost black and have a similar look to leather.
The loggerhead turtles : they look more brownish than black
The hawksbill turtles: they usually have big black dots on their shell
The white turtles : as their name says, they are all white !
The best spots
The Mexican Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico have a lot of good spots to watch the turtles and even to swim among them.
The most renowned is the municipality of Akumal, located on the coastline between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. This is the best place to snorkel and watch the turtles as the bay is protected by the reef, hence preventing the waves from turmoil the water. The turtles there are very used to human activity and are not afraid to wander among them, allowing the tourists to witness them evolving in their natural home, while still respecting their space. You can also watch them getting to the surface to get some air.
The best thing about turtle snorkeling in Akumal is that you can see them for free although the access to the beach is tricky to find. We also recommend you to go early enough in the morning to avoid the crowds. You can also book a tour with a local guide who will take you to the best spots and explain to you the importance of ecosystem preservation.
Located a bit further down from Akumal and only 13 miles from Tulum, the Xcacel-Xcacelito Sea Turtle Sanctuary can also be a good alternative to Akumal and its often-crowded spots. Xcacel has been dedicated for two decades to turtle protection and conservation. It was declared Natural Protected Area in 1998 and, on top of protecting the sea turtles, it hosts many bird species. The sanctuary, located between the jungle and the beach, hosts many species of flora and fauna and releases over 200,000 turtles every year. At Xcacel, you will especially see two turtle species : the loggerhead and the white turtle. At night, the turtles also put their eggs in the sand and if you are lucky enough, you might even be able to see the baby turtles come out and head to the sea. This phenomenon is monitored by biologists but can be watched by anyone, as long as you don’t do anything to disturb the process.
On top of witnessing turtles at Xcacel, you can also enjoy the crystal blue waters and the beach and enjoy the wilderness diversity on the site.
Another alternative to snorkeling with turtles would be to head to Isla Mujeres. Located in front of Cancun, this island is a marvel for the eyes as it combines crystal blue waters and white sand beaches, colorful downtown and an amazing wilderness on the southern part of the island.
The southern end of the island, wilder than the northern one, provides a diverse ecosystem and from May to August is the turtle’s mating season. You can as well enjoy this time snorkeling and discover the underwaters or the iguanas.
SIAN KA’AN BIOSPHERE
Finally, one of the most famous spots in the peninsula to watch the turtles is obviously the Sian Ka’an Biosphere. The Biosphere was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987 and is still nowadays the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. It is home to multiple fauna and flora species, from corals to crocodiles, from dolphins to turtles.
On top of witnessing turtles, you will enjoy the wilderness such as the mangroves, the blue waters of the canals, dolphins, manatees, crocodiles and all the fauna and flora species and get an unforgettable memory of one of the most exceptional sites of the peninsula. Best Maya Tours proposes several Sian Ka’an private tours to offer you an incredible experience (for more information click here : https://bestmayatours.com/tours/sian-kaan-flora-fauna-reef-snorkel-private-tour/)
When to see them
Even if turtles can be seen almost all year-round, especially in Akumal, you will get a better chance to watch all the different species from May to August. At this time of the year, turtles are more visible along the coasts and beaches as it is the mating and nesting season.
Prices for watching the turtles and snorkeling among them can vary, depending on the location and how you decide to have this experience. In Akumal, you can snorkel for free if you are not booking any tour. If you choose to go on a tour, the price will then vary as it often includes transportation, a guide and the snorkel equipment.
The price to enter the Xcacel-Xcacelito Sea Turtle Sanctuary is 88 pesos (4.5 USD) and you can see the turtles, enjoy some snorkeling, the beach and the jungle.
For Isla Mujeres, and especially for the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, you will essentially find tours organized by local agencies as the path to get to the biosphere is long and needs a good vehicle as the road is pretty damaged.
To sum up, watching the turtles in the Mexican Caribbean is a truly wonderful experience. Easily accessible, you can enjoy it, especially during the summer season as more turtles come to the shores and see different species. There are multiple spots where to watch them depending on your preference or where you are staying on the Riviera Maya. Even if you can watch the turtles by yourself, we still think that the best way to enjoy it is through a tour as the guide will be certified and will surely take you to the best spots while still acting to protect the biodiversity.
Best Maya Tours offers a private tour to snorkel with the turtles in Tulum in front of the archeological site, Zama City, including the visit of the ruins, transportation by van, a boat ride at sea and of course the snorkel equipment to watch the turtles on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. If you are interested in this tour, don’t hesitate to contact us or click on the following link : https://bestmayatours.com/tours/private-boat-ride-tulum-and-turtles-tour/