Nature & Animals

Turtles - the soft big ones

Currently there are 431 known species of turtles worldwide. The hawksbill sea turtles, green sea turtles (also known as white turtles), and Caguuama turtles are the most common ones found in the Riviera Maya. Some of Laúd turtles have been spotted very rarely. The Laúd turtle is the largest living turtle species and can grow up to 2.5 m and 700 kg. Unlike most of its conspecifics, it does not have a back shield made of horn scales, instead its it has bone armor surrounded by leathery skin, which is why it is also called leather-back turtle. All representatives are cold-blooded, egg-laying reptiles that feed mainly by sea grass.

Here on the Riviera Maya you can marvel at these beautiful marine life in their natural environment. They can be found for example, in the Sian Kaan nature reserve or in Akumal. Akumal means "place of the turtles" in Mayan language, which is totally true. Here you can find numerous turtles and snorkel or dive with them. They grow up to 90 centimeters ans 75 kilograms. You can observe these  fascinating creatures especially well in the morning when there are not so many people at the beach. Between May and September they nest along the Riviera Maya and of course also in Akumal. The females lay between 80 and 150 eggs in the warm sand three to five times a year. It takes 57 up to 64 days for the hawksbill turtles to hatch. The temperature is decisive for the sex of the turtle. At high temperatures mostly females are born and at lower temperatures mostly males are born. That is why also the global warming has devastating consequences for turtles. In Australian population it could be shown that, because of the global warming, on one male turtle came 116 females.  It can be assumed that there will be no different for the local turtles. 

 

The green sea turtle can live 40 up to 50 years and can orient itself on the earth's magnetic field. At the age of 10 to 15 they become sexually mature and, thanks to their sense of direction, find their place of birth again after years for laying eggs.

 

Both species are now endangered. They were hunted for a long time ans are still being hunted for their meat, eggs or even their shell. Although turtles' meat can be poisonous if they have eaten poisonous marine life or plants, their meat is considered as a delicacy in many cultures. The shell is used, for example, for art or jewelry and is very popular. Both species are now threatened with extinction and the green sea turtle has been under international protection since 1988. So in Akumal, too. Volunteers and organizations try to protect the animals and also their nests. They pay attention to the correct handling of the tourists with the animals. The natural habitat of the turtles must bee preserved in order to save them for extinction. Even at a distance from the animals or from the boat, they are wonderful to look at and definitely a highlight of every holiday.

 


Dolphins - wonders of the sea

There is nearly nobody, who does not love them: dolphins! Ans almost everyone saw at least one episode of 'Flipper' in their childhood and wished they have this clever marine mammal for their best friend. When we meet them in the wild on our tour through the Sian Kaan nature reserve or (with luck) on the way to Holbox, some guests are so touched that they actually have tears in their eyes. No wonder, an encounter with these wonderful creatures is really unique! And so we hear a collective 'Oh!' every time when the animals voluntarily approach the boat and accompany us for a while. You almost get the impression that they are just as curious about us as the other way around!

Dolphins belong to the toothed whales and are therefore mammals that live in the water. They are the most diverse and largest family of whales and are common in all seas. We mainly see the so-called bottle-nosed dolphins here. In contrast to 'Flipper', the bottle-nose dolphin are a little bit calmer, not great jumping artists, and their nose is - as their name says - a bit rounder than other dolphin species. With their specially shaped snouts, they look like they are constantly smiling. This characteristic also makes them so attractive to all of us, and quite involuntarily everybody smiles while seeing them.

Dolphins are one of the most intelligent animals. That's because of their brains, which are big and with a real cortex. Many scientists have the opinion that dolphins does not only have a high mental capacity, but also an emotional intelligence and are therefore able to feel suffering and grief - for example because of pain, imprisonment or loss. They are very social beings, who usually live together in groups and have complex communication skills. They communicate within the group by clicking, whistling or chattering noises. But they also communicate trough physical contact. Moreover, they are able to perceive their environment trough echolocation.

 

Dolphins are fast swimmers, who can reach a speed up to 55 kilometers per hour and need space to live and for finding food. They live therefore in a perfect habitat in the near endless oceans. In addition to the freedom to swim long distances, this also enables them to dive into deeper (cooler) water. Yes, dolphins need shade! Their skin is sensitive, and excessive sunlight or even drying out of the skin, is very dangerous for them. A small pool in which dolphins are still around the world can therefore never have the standards of a sea, prevents their social and hunting behavior and is harmful to their health. Contact with human skin and their bacteria is also not healthy for them and can cause skin diseases.

 

Dolphins sleep by letting one half of their brain fall asleep. The other side stays awake! This allows them to keep breathing. In addition, one eye stays open while sleeping. So they can watch their surroundings and possible attackers.

 

Like all whales, dolphins only give birth to one cub at a time. The gestation period is on average one year, but varies between different species. Some of the calves stay with their mothers for up to six years, but start to look for food for themselves within a few months. The babies of the bottle-nosed dolphins stay around 22 months with their mothers. (Incidentally, after conception, the father runs away as soon as he had fun..) Well, not everything is romantic as we imagine in the dolphin world ;-)

 

One could talk and write for hours about these fascinating animals. Or you can take a look at them - where they should be: in the open sea - for example on our Sian Kaan tour. In any case, we think they are most beautiful in the wild and free.

 

 


Algae? Seagrass? Or what?

 

We are getting more and more questions about the algae situation at the Riviera Maya. Therefore we would like to tell you a little bit about it and answer commend questions here.

 

Where does the Sargassum come from and why has it been become so much during the last time?

Contrary to the popular usage, it is not seaweed but a brown alga - the sargassum. For a long time, scientists did not agree on the origin of the sargassum and there were different theories. In the meantime, the majority are certain that sargassum comes from the so-called Sagasso Sea and is driven towards the coast with the currents. Depending on the season, there were always floods of sargassum, but they came in a manageable amount. In 2015, a so-called El Nino year, there was an increased growth. In 2016 and 2017 the beaches were free of algae again.

 

A disproportionate growth has been observed for around a year and the sargassum floats with easterly winds to the coasts of Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Florida and other Caribbean destinations. By the way, 2019 was another El Nino year.

 

Why is it growing so intensely now?

Many experts argue about it. However, it seems certain that the sargassum is blooming due to global warming and the pollution of the world's oceans. Fertilizers that are diverted into the sea from agriculture in South America play also an important role. So we all - in one way or another - contributed to it in some way, because climate, and with it water warming, is a global problem and concerns us all.

 

What are the effects on nature?

The sargassum has a serious impact on the largest ecosystem we have: the sea and its inhabitants. For example, turtles and small fish get caught in the sargassum carpets and cannot break free on their own.

On some beaches, for turtles it is also difficult to lay their eggs into the sand, as they cannot cross the mountains of the sargassum that was washed up here.

One can only speculate about the long-term consequences.. And tourism in the affected countries have to deal with this new problem.

 

What is being done about sargassum? And where is it actually going?

In all affected (federal) states there are countless efforts to get the problem under control. For example floating barriers in the sea, which should prevent the sargassum from being flooded. However, there is still no reliable long-term experience of the real success.

The beaches are cleaned - partly manually and partly with machines - so unhindered access to the sea is possible. One problem is that also a lot of sand gets removed by removing the sargassum and the beaches become smaller.

The municipalities concerned deal with the collected sargassum, and we are talking about tons and tons every day, differently. In areas with agriculture and fields, it is partly used as a fertilizer. In states like Quintana Roo, with many tourist resorts, this is not possible because of the huge  jungle areas. That's why it has to be transported away, burned, buried or - and there are always clever minds - used creatively. A house was already build out of it and a Mexican company has launched a shoe that uses sargassum for production.

Scientists of different states work together to find a solution to not let sargassum arise in the first place.

 

Can I still bathe?

There are days when the sea is wonderful turquoise and days when a lot of algae lays in the beach. Unfortunately, we cannot predict at what time of the year it is more worse or more good. In some bays it is a big problem, in some hotels there are almost nothing. In addition, the hotel employees work around the clock, often by hand, to remove the algae for tourists. So you will still be able to enjoy the sea.

 

Is there a place without algae? Some alternatives?

Mexico has a lot to offer as a country, not only wonderful beaches, but also beautiful freshwater lagoons, Caribbean islands, tropical animals and Mayan temples. Despite the algae situation, you can spend a wonderful and unforgettable holiday here. On many of our tours you will not see any algae in the water and you will be able to enjoy the day. For example in Bacalar or on Holbox you can experience the perfect Caribbean feeling. Or you can immerse yourself in Mayan culture together with us on our tours to Tulum, Chichen Itza, Coba or EK Balam and refresh yourself in the crystal clear water of the cenotes we visit.

 

So please do not let your well-deserve vacation spoil! Mexico is always worth a trip and we will do everything we can to fill your days here with unforgettable experiences!

 

 


Cenotes

Cenotes - mystical, impressive, spectacular, and a highlight for every visitor of Mexico. They were created by a meteorite impact over 60 million years ago. At that time parts of the land mass of North America also broke off and sank into a larger crater in the Gulf of Mexico. It is now believed that this meteor impact was also responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs and that it changed the global climate. The land masses have risen again over the last thousands years and new land and many islands appeared. On the Yucatán peninsula, many ceilings of limestone collapsed and formed caves and underground watercourses. In other words: Since then, Yucatán has been riddled with holes like Swiss cheese!

 

There are around 34000 registered cenotes on the Yucatán Peninsula. Most of them are privately owned and some were opened to visitors. There are three different types of cenotes: open with high and straight walls, half-open with only a small hole in the ceiling and closed cenotes, for example underground grottoes, sometimes with stalagmites and stalactites.

 

Many of these so-called natural wells are connected to each other. For example trough the Sac Actun, which is around 350 kilometers long and forms the longest underground river-cave system on earth. It is hypothesized that this cave system, mostly under water, were the reason for the development of Mayan civilization, especially in the northwestern part of Yucatán. The Maya used the cenotes as wells to supply water. In almost all other advanced civilizations came from large overground rivers such as the Nile, Euphrates, Indus and Ganges. This is why researchers also refer to the cave system as the "great river of the Maya". The dense forest of Yucatán , despite long periods of drought, is attributes to the underground supply from the caves.

The Maya also thought that cenotes are the entrances to the underworld ("xibalba"). They often used them as religious sacrificial sites in which human sacrifices also took place. According to their belief, the gods of the underworld lived here and the souls of the ancestors are said to have lived in this "primeval sea".

Before bathing in cenotes it is forbidden to cream yourself - on contrary: Here you have to shower off before the refreshing bath. The reason for this is, that cenotes are still used to store fresh and drinking water. Ans who would like to have mosquito spray or sunscreen in their shower or cooking water?!

 

We have different cenotes in our tour program. Each one is unique and has a very special atmosphere. So dive with us into the mysterious underworld of the Maya!

 


Climate, seasons & travel times

What is the climate like at time X? And when is the best time to visit Mexico? How about the rainy season? And is it actually cold in winter? These are probably the most frequently asked questions about weather.

 

Let's try to unwind this huge topic a little for you.

 

Mexico is a big country - more than five times the size of Germany. Since the individual parts of the country have very different altitudes, there is not just one climate but a whole range of climates: subtropical, tropical, alpine or desert.

 

Climate

Basically, Mexico is divided into three climate zones:

 

Tierra Caliente (up to about 800 meters)

This is the hottest zone with temperatures around 25 degrees on average and with high humidity. Depending in the time of the year, it can sometimes go up to 40 degrees.

 

Tierra Templada (between 800 and 1700 meters above sea level)

The temperatures are on average between 18 and 25 degrees, but in some regions they can also reach extreme values on both sides - upwards and downwards.

 

Tierra Fria

This is the highest and coldest zone with an average of 12 to 18 degrees Celcius. The day and night temperatures differ greatly from each other, so warm pajamas are a good idea ;-)

 

Apart from these three climatic zones there is also the so-called 'cold land' - the Tierra Helada. There is the snow and ice zone, where you can find the highest mountains in Mexico, covered in snow and ice all around the year.

 

The weather is therefore very different, depending to the region. There is always a pleasantly warm climate at the coasts. It rains more on the Pacific in summer and on the Gulf coast in winter. In northern Mexico, in the steppe and desert regions, it gets extremely hot - especially in summer! And in the central highlands you will find spring-like weather with mild winters and hot summers. However, you should pack warm clothing if you will travel to this region, because sometimes - and especially at night - it can get really cold. You are probably most interested in our beautiful holiday region - the Yucatán Peninsula.

 

Just like in the south of Mexico and the Sierre Madre Oriental, the climate here is more tropical - hot and humid. In the summer months we reach temperatures of 40 degrees!

 

Seasons

Mexico, like Europe and the USA, is located in the northern hemisphere. So winter is at the same time as in your country. However, we do not do not differentiate here between the four seasons, but between the dry and rainy season.

 

The dry season runs from November to May, the rainy season from June to October. But the rainy season does not mean that it rains all the time! It rains more often than during the dry season, bit mostly only shorty and heavily (often only at night), although it can be a little less constant between June and October. If it rains heavily and briefly here, this is absolutely normal for locals. You do not run off, searching for a roof to stay down to, life goes on as normal, even 'wet'. You can also continue showering because the rain is often wonderful warm.

Tropical cyclones or hurricanes can accur in the months between July and November. The hurricane season officially ends in the middle of November. But that does not mean it is like this every year! The last huge hurricane was 'Wilma' in 2005 and caused considerable damage in the region. For serveral years there have always been small offshoots, but the region has been largely spared.

 

 

Best travel time

You cannot really define a 'best' season for traveling. It always depends on which climate you like. So rather very warm during the day with a lot of humidity or warm during the day and colder at night. In the winter months from November to February, it can be quite cool in the evenings and at night. Twelve degrees and wind can be really cold and you need a sweatshirt or jacket. But in the morning it heats up again. The pools and the sea are of course more fresh during the winter than in summer - when it can often reach 'bathtub temperatures'.

It also depends on which region you want to visit. The most popular months for traveling to Yucatán are October through May.

During the (vacation) times around public holidays like Christmas or Easter, it is often more crowded in the hotels, because of the high season and prices rise accordingly. The time at the beginning of the spring break (March), is also very popular, especially with young Americans. In Cancun it gets very crowded and loud, and one party follows the next. Although there are hotels in Playa del Carmen  that crank up a bit for partying, it is still very quite compared to Cancun.

 

You see, the topic of climate is relatively huge. If you come to us on the Riviera Maya, you should definitely be prepared for a warm, hot climate and (especially in summer) relatively high humidity. So drinking a lot is important - just like wearing a hat! We are very close to the equator and the sun's rays are often undererstimated (especially when the sky is covered).

 

With regard to clothing, something airy and light is usually sufficient for outdoors. However, shops and restaurants are often very cold, so you can also take something light ans long-sleeved (e.g. a cardigan or a scarf) with you, so that you do not catch a cold.