by Debbie Gaylord
Did you know sea turtles, or tortugas in Mexico, lay hundreds of eggs in a nest on the beach and then swim away and leave the baby turtles to fend for themselves? Lucky for the hatchlings, they have a built-in magnetic sense that helps them find their way. When they are only babies, they swim like maniacs to get as far away from shore as possible until they catch the Gulf Stream and it pulls them out into the center of the ocean to that magical place called the Sargasso Sea. The sea has this special healing seaweed the turtles like to eat. When they are ready to nest as adults they use their inner compass to return to the exact place they were born. They don’t need a map or a GPS or anything like humans use to help them find their way home.
While visiting Tulum, Mexico on the Riviera Maya this summer I witnessed more than ten sea turtles nesting on the tranquil beaches at night. The largest number came up during the full moon. It was pure magic to see the giant creatures lift their bodies from the ocean and climb up the beach. I felt like I was part of something ancient and wonderful, a witness to nature’s blessings. Since they are an endangered species, teams of marine biology students scour the beaches waiting for the nesting turtles, protecting them from passersby, tagging them and measuring them for research. The best part of our turtle adventure was that it was unexpected. It was a simple yet powerful gift bestowed by place and time.
We had taken the two-hour flight from Orlando to Cancun and driven about an hour and a half south to our beach house in Tulum seeking the turquoise blue waters off the reef, peace and relaxation under thatched roof palapas. We chose an eco-friendly house without air conditioning that was run with a solar powered generator, planning to visit the Mayan Ruins, eat delicious Mexican cuisine, take in the local culture and explore some of the eco-centered activities for which the area is well known. The fact that tortugas gathered there in July and August was our little bonus.
The Mayan Ruins were stunning, located on the bluffs high above the sea, and only a short five minute drive from the house. For history buffs, more elaborate ruins are within a few hours if you are feeling more adventurous.
Another highlight of Tulum was the food. Sand floors and beach views abound and ceviche, a raw fish dish that is cured in limejuice & mixed with chili peppers to bring out the flavors was our favorite addiction. We ordered it at almost every restaurant where we ate and each place had its own spin. Also, the delicious fresh seafood was a draw; the butterfish, the red snapper, Caribbean lobster, and whole fresh fish complete with heads and eyeballs.
But let us not forget the Mezcal! In Tulum there are entire bars devoted to the distilling and serving of Mezcal, made from the agave plant. The bartender owner at our favorite place, Mamma Mui had an entire menu of drinks he concocted with his homemade Mezcal combined with freshly squeezed juices (direct from the fruit not sitting in a refrigerator somewhere). I highly recommend “The Mamma Mui” – a deliciously fresh Mezcal cocktail mixed with cucumber juice and lime, the rim of the glass laced with salt and chili powder.
Tulum, Mexico will change you – The Mayans called it City of Dawn. It lends a sense of renewal and rebirth that I encountered with new experiences and peace that permeated my soul. Like the turtles that flock there in the summer Tulum has a slower pace that allowed this Americana to take in nature and slow down for a much needed change.
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