Do I have to leave Tulum?

Down the Yucatan peninsula and to the ancient mayan ruins we ventured. Tulum is one of the most gorgeous places I have ever had the pleasure to visit. We rocked up to our accommodation which was situated in some back streets just outside the main area of Tulum. This place is called Bardo and it is the most favourite place I have ever stayed in. It was relaxation heaven. Its only a few months old but you can tell so much love and passion went onto creating this modern resort and it was highly rated online. It only has 25 guest rooms so is nice and quiet and feels like a spiritual oasis. Firstly, the front desk lady was just gorgeous, I could tell she genuinely loved her job and really wanted us to share her love for the place. She looked after us so well, walking us through a tour of the resort, showing us the pool, the ‘ofrenda’ for ‘dia de muertos’ which is the ‘Day of the Dead, which is a holiday celebrated in Mexico to honour and remember those that have passed. At Bardo they actually give offering all year round and have a perpetual shrine to their dead at the resort. She also showed us the area where they have daily yoga (What!?! Amazing!) and weekly sound healing (if you read my previous blog you’ll understand why I was excited). The rooms are accessible down a stone path and each one branches off as you walk down the path, you walk through a bamboo walkway and there is your room, there’s a small pool with stone steps that you have to walk over to get inside. It’s perfectly silent and just the sound of birds chirping, it’s like we are lodging in the jungle, complete with an outdoor shower that augments the feeling of living in the wild. I do find it ironic how much I enjoyed the outdoor shower when this is commonplace when camping or living off the land where rainwater is your only source of freshwater. Maybe this highlights how disconnected we are from nature and how deep down we yearn to get back to that. 

We left the confines of our newly found sanctuary to head to the Mayan ruins of Tulum. We file in behind the other hordes of tourists, feeling very much like sheep being herd. The ruins are worth it though, wow they are spectacular! Set to the backdrop of white sands and blue waters Tulum ruins are situated right on the coastline. While they don’t have a pyramid the size of Chitzen Itza, the ruins here seem more like they were built to live in. It was very hot and busy but we did our best to scout all the little buildings hidden in this place, even coming across an iguana showing off his ability to get close to the ruins when we are held back by a fence. I think if I was a Mayan I would definitely choose to live in Tulum, being so close to the beach and the view is absolutely breathtaking. We follow the path down to the beach and walk along to our snorkelling charter feeling the soft white sand between our toes looking at the crystal blue water rolling in. We hop on a tour boat and head out into the water, they take us along the coastline to get a view of the ruins from the water, wow! Imagine being a sailor back in the day and sailing up to see that. Actually, we found out later they would not have seen that, they would have capsized. Apparently the reef was almost impenetrable except for a very small path through the reef. One of the buildings has two windows, one is a square and the other a rectangle and they use these windows to navigate through the reef. The Mayans really were a sophisticated and intelligent civilisation. We then headed out into the reef for a snorkel. There was a strong surf break over the reef making the swim out difficult, but also so incredibly fun! Getting out to the reef we were fortunate enough to see a sting ray and a sea turtle as well as many fish. This was beautiful, what was not so beautiful was the state of the reef when we got out to it. A lot of it was bleached or already dead and there was clear evidence of coral disease on some of the bigger brain corals. It’s hard to see such a beautiful beach tainted by a struggling system hidden beneath the waves… 

It was a long walk back to the car in the heat and a rather solemn walk after seeing the reef in such a struggling state. That is the hard thing about working in environmental science, these are the things you notice and are exposed to every day. It can make things like traveling difficult and heartbreaking because the flow on effects of a damaged reef extend beyond the immediate ecological impacts on the wildlife but also to the people in the poorer parts of this area that rely on the ocean as their source of food and income. The overabundance of tourists frequenting this area in combination with climate extremes are putting such stressors on the reef, that it is not coping. I have seen this before on a holiday 5 years ago in Thailand, the lack of public awareness of what constitutes a healthy and unhealthy reef is part of the problem. I am no better in this, I contributed to the tourism industry on this day… but at the same time this is a source of income for people as well, so what do we do? I think we be more mindful of our actions, when we do enjoy the touristy things we choose companies that are environmentally conscious, that look after the reef while also educating people when they take them out about the importance of looking after these habitats. By putting money into the pockets of those that are doing the right thing we can encourage others to do the same. Walking back to the car was a rather lovely walk on either side of the road was jungle and mangrove forests and we saw iguanas chasing each other and Mexican Agouti’s running through the jungle. We get back to our resort and the smell of incense fills our noses as we order a healthy juice at the bar and take in our peaceful surroundings. Do I have to leave Tulum? I hope the answer is no, this place is too beautiful to leave.  

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