We swam with turtles! And in a lagoon! And did a beach clean up! AND got to learn how to ID turtles and fish with biologists! All of this came out of two amazing days volunteering with the Centro Ecologico Akumal organization.
If you remember our blog post about Akumal from before, we were trying to raise funds to donate two GoPro cameras to to the organization, and we did it! We raised the money and bought two GoPros for the CEA. They even gave us a a certificate for donating the GoPros! So I want to extend a major huge thank you to everyone that contributed and donated towards our goal, we appreciate you so much! They were super grateful and were able to put the GoPros to use immediately. We brought them out in the water with us on Tuesday for fish identification, and again on Thursday for turtle identification.
It was a very interesting experience for us volunteers, because we weren’t tourists, but we were surrounded by them. People would poke and prod at the turtles and do all the things that are recommended against and we couldn’t stop them. The Akumal Bay is a protected space for commercial fish (fish you eat), but not yet for turtles. As we walked in, we were bombarded by tour companies trying to sell us the experience of swimming and touching turtles, and it was sad. We knew that what they were doing was just for money, and is of great harm to the turtles, but there are no laws in place yet to stop them. The Centro Ecologico Akumal is doing all they can, and have been told that within the next 3 weeks they might get the space protected for the turtles, something they have been waiting for since 2007.
We were set up to help with measuring the beach on Thursday, but as a group we decided that there was something more helpful we could do, and something much more important to us.
Our group spent three hours cleaning up the beach. We barely made a dent, but we put our sweat and energy into it for the whole time. Emotions towards the trash ran high. We went through phases of guilt, anger, sadness, and then acceptance and moving forward. It is now a more conscious effort for all of us to use biodegradable materials and to waste much less due to our short time working to clean up the shore.