26 March 2008

NEW Tequila Tour

For more information, click on the brochure or contact us at info@akumaldirect.com

22 March 2008

You MUST experience Hechizo's Restaurant!

Hechizo is exactly what it’s name implies…. an enchanted place, hidden away in surroundings of tropical foliage and flowers. We were there at night, and walked along a winding path mysteriously lit by dim circles of light coming out of huge pink conch shells on small posts, and were stunned by a really enormous aquarium at the entrance teeming with gorgeous and exotic fish dramatically illuminated, counterbalanced by a large display of exquisite shells on the other side of the entrance hall. Unlike other high-end restaurants, there was no background music. Instead we were serenaded by the infinitely more appealing sound of the waves on the beach and the song of the crickets and other night creatures just outside.

We were seated at a table with the exact number of places for our group of eight, in a semi private room of very good proportions and little décor other than a collection of rustic weather-beaten paddles on one wall. All very muted and in good taste.

Hui, the chef’s wife, greeted us and described in great detail a generous collection of appetizers, all of which made our mouths water. There is no printed menu. We had pomegranate margaritas, which were delicious, while we waited for our different dishes. They arrived in quick order, carried by several what I suppose are souschefs. No trays are used. I had crab salad on a bed of watercress with a divine dressing of something I have forgotten because I was overcome by all the stimulation…. the atmosphere, the diversity of the selection of dishes, the stillness, the sound of the night critters, the conversation... and of course, the margarita. I’m afraid I ate it rather quickly. It was delectable.

Very shortly after we all finished our appetizers, one of which was sliced duck breast on a bed of something with gravy (I would have loved to taste that as well), chef Stefan appeared at the table to tell us about the main dishes for the evening. I wish I could remember them all. One was black cod, which both my neighbors had and almost swooned over. I am not partial to seafood so I had lamb, a shank I think it was, very generous portion, on the bone, tender and dripping with an absolutely superb gravy. The fact that the conversation slowed down quite a bit while this course was being eaten attests to its marvellousness. All the dishes were, of course, beautifully presented on simple white plates. I was sorry I did not have my camera with me. All the while, freshly baked, warm, dinner rolls were being brought to both ends of the table at regular intervals. As soon as they were all gone, a silent figure in white appeared with two more baskets.

I do not remember the names of the desserts, not even mine. I just remember it involved a pastry made with almonds and a little ball of ice cream and a sauce of some kind, the combination of which was real “hechizo”. I stole a spoonful of my neighbor’s dessert when she got up to powder her nose and found it to be equally divine. None of the desserts were too filling, and I did not have that “stuffed” feeling that comes from places that concentrate on quantity rather than quality.

In all, a delightful evening with truly wonderful food!

Nina Hamer, Soliman Bay, MX

** You must email or call for reservations in advance. Email address is hechizo_tulum@yahoo.com. Cell phone is (984) 100-0710.

The owner’s names are Stephan and Hui. They are open December to May. The restaurant is located on the Tulum beach road at Rancho San Eric, 2 driveways on the left before the entrance to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Reservations for dinner are accepted via email and required. Closed Mondays. Cash only accepted, no credit cards. First seating is at 6:30 PM. Expensive but fantastic!

DIRECTIONS TO HECHIZO from Akumal: On highway 307, heading south (driving from Akumal to Tulum), you will come to the Coba/Boca Paila intersection (you will see a San Francisco supermarket and Hertz car rental on your right). At this junction, turn left, towards the ocean, keep going until you come to a t-junction then turn right. You will now be travelling south, along Tulum beach, the road that heads to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere, Boca Paila & Punta Allen. Driving south you'll pass many little hotels and cabanas: Zamas, Maya Tulum, Ana y Jose, Las Ranitas, Tierra del Sol. When you see the sign for "Casa Magna", you've almost reached them...keep going until you see some flags on the right and an undulating stone wall on your left. You'll see a yellow sign on the left that says "Rancho San Eric". Turn left into the driveway and follow the little private road into the compound. You'll pass a couple of private houses (such as Casa Blanca), but keep on the road until you come to the restaurant sign "Hechizo" on the left, and the restaurant parking on the right. **You'll know if you've passed the entrance into "Rancho San Eric" when you enter the arch into the Sian Ka'an biosphere. Just back up about 100 meters and you should see the "Rancho San Eric" sign.

20 March 2008

CEA Annual Save our Seas Gala

Akumal Direct is very proud to have been a sponsor of the third annual, CEA, Save our Seas Festival. Please read below for more information on the gala event. Akumal's Ecological Center has proven to be a valuable resource to our community providing leadership as we work to be the best community we can be and set ever high standards for our selves and other communities around the world. For more information on the CEA, please visit, www.ceakumal.org.

Please read below for more information on the Gala Event (reprinted courtesy of the Centro Ecologico de Akumal website). We hope to see you there next year!


Third Annual CEA Festival – Save Our Seas
February 20 & 21, 2008

All of us at CEA would like to take the opportunity to thank each and every person who helped so generously with their time and support to make this 2008 festival such a special event. We hope everyone enjoyed themselves and thank you all for participating. CEA’s success depends on its ability to raise funds for its conservation activities, and the annual festivals are an important source of funding.

This year we were able to raise just over $10,000 USD from our Silent Auction, Gala Dinner and Online Auction. These funds will be used to focus on implementing our Akumal Bay Management Program, on employing a strategy to improve water quality in the Akumal region, and on beginning this year’s turtle nesting season with everything in place to make sure as many hatchlings as possible safely make their way to the sea, among other goals for 2008.

We started the festival with a beach clean-up, puppet show, sand sculptures and a performance by Veinte Varos. In the evening, a wine and cheese hour began with the Silent Auction opening and a reef slide show. We then moved onto the beach in front of CEA for a Mayan blessing to honor our planet and our place within Nature. A fire dance prepared us for the lunar eclipse—a wonderful way to begin a celebration of the sea.

The Silent Auction continued into the second day of the festival and ended at Happy Hour at Lol-Ha Snack Bar, just before the Gala Dinner and show. The performance troupe Veinte Varos (sponsored by Hotel Akumal Caribe and Akumal Beach Resort) helped us shift from Happy Hour to the CEA Center, where tables for 120 people were set up. The Gala Dinner was sponsored by Diane Mahan and Akumal Villas, and catered by Turtle Bay Café & Bakery, who not only provided a marvelous menu but transformed the Center into a truly wondrous place, magical and the perfect setting for the evening’s events. The wine, beer and margaritas were sponsored by Akumal Direct Reservations. Karen Mercer opened the Gala Dinner with her acoustic guitar and folk and bluegrass songs; her charming personality set the stage for the evening’s entertainment, including a Live Auction. Several donations were auctioned off, helping us to reach our $10,000 goal. Then Karin ten Cate presented a repertoire of songs, from opera to Mexican favorites like Bésame Mucho. Her angelic voice made the evening absolutely surreal. Gerardo Dominguez was our Master of Ceremonies and auctioneer, and thoroughly entertained us, keeping the evening moving in a wonderfully humorous way. George Parker did a magnificent job working with Gerardo to run the slide presentation and sound. CEA volunteers and supporters worked tirelessly throughout the two days to ensure that everyone had a great time and that things ran smoothly. Our Auctions were a huge success, thanks to both enthusiastic donors and bidders.

Mark your calendars for next year’s Fourth Annual CEA Festival, February 18 and 19, 2009.

We thank the many local businesses who sponsored the events: Diane Mahan and Akumal Villas, Hotel Akumal Caribe, Akumal Beach Resort, Akumal Direct Reservations, Turtle Bay Café & Bakery, Au Cacao Chocolate Café, La Cueva del Pescador, and South Carolina Aquarium.

Thanks to entertainment: Gerardo Dominguez, Master of Ceremonies; Veinte Varos; Karin ten Cate; Karen Mercer; Julio and Nicol, fire dancers; and Aniseto

Of course, we thank everyone who donated items for the Silent and Online Auctions.

We could not have had such success without the following volunteers who made this year’s event possible:
Lydia Pontius, Festival Director
Myrna Sparks, Auction Chair
Sharon Goby and Jody Allen, Decoration Committee
June Sloan, Treasurer
Mike Cook and Bob Anders, Bar Committee
Ed Blume, Online Auction Organizer
Alexandra Bradley, Editor

Volunteers: Cathy Cook, Alan Cunningham, Marcy and Memo Essy, Mary Beth Jones, Janie Linke, Joy Lippincott, Shami McCormick, George Parker, Charlene Powell, Paula Preston, Mike Sheperd, Natalie Novak, Connie Smith, Alex van Kuilenburg, and Judy Withington.

CEA Volunteers: Rowan Abel, Natalie Biafori, Jeroen Biemans, David Breeze, Claudia Cheng, Alice Cheucle, Ewan Doswell, Becky Harris, Bob Klotz, Misael Lanche, Gregory Gueble, Lisa Kunegs, Jim Petersen, Argel Rodrigues Arana, Scarlett Rogers, and Hein van Riet.

See you next year!

19 March 2008

Featured artisan: Professor Alfredo Gonzalez Castillo, Master Sculptor

Featured artisan: Professor Alfredo Gonzalez Castillo, Master Sculptor of Olmec, Toltec and Mayan statues and pottery.

Location: Coba Highway, KM 22, Puebla Francisco Uh May located on the right hand side of the highway driving from Tulum to Coba mid way through the Puebla.

Driving the Coba highway from Tulum heading to the ruins is an interesting day trip easily reached from the Akumal area. Along the road you will pass through several small pueblos where you will encounter the Maya and other local people selling their arts and crafts. Some of these small markets and local vendors do sell the mass produced tourists items you find in shop after shop. If you look a little harder and visit local homes and shops you might be surprised to find some very talented potters, wood carvers, leather workers and hammock weavers. Purchasing from locals directly helps stimulate the economy and does directly benefit the Maya, a very warm and welcoming people. You may find yourself in Grandma's kitchen enjoying warm, home made tortillas cooked over an open fire.

One of the most special artists on the Coba highway is Professor Alfredo Gonzalez Castillo, Master Sculptor who specializes in creating museum quality reproduction Mayan, Toltec and Olmec pottery. He was formally employed by the Department of Anthropology in Mexico City specializing in restoration and cleaning of ancient Mayan artifacts. His passions are exploration, geology and the mining jade and jadeite rocks that he polishes into brilliant stones that will be inland into one of his incredible pieces of art. He is revered by his neighbors who believe he is a very wise shaman/medicine man.

Alfredo is a kind and very interesting man. A true educator and treasure. He will be happy to give you the tour of his kiln and explain the history of his reproductions that you will see in the books in his library. He will also explain to you the migration of the peoples of the world on the ocean currents. You will notice some figures look Oriental while the early Olmec appear to be from Africa.

Professor Alfredo has also trained his son Glenn faithfully to carry on his work. He named his son Glenn after the astronaut John Glenn when he landed on the moon. Alfredo considered a man walking on the moon a powerful sign from the heavens.

Professor Alfredo’s pieces are worthy to be added to any Pre-Colombian collection. Alfredo can also be commissioned for larger art carvings.

18 March 2008

Responding after Hurricane Dean: Sterilization & Vaccine clinic held in Mahahual & Xcalak

Mid January marked the very first spay & neuter campaign in Xcalak and Mahahual. Since Hurricane Dean swept through the Costa Maya over 6 months ago, many areas are still struggling to put their towns and lives back together, the animals are no different. With most not having homes, they are forced to fight the elements as they try and survive on the streets. Food and shelter is sparse and not always available. Puppies starve as the mothers barely try and keep themselves fed. Packs of dogs became a common sight in Mahahual so dog fights and starving loners is a regular occurrence. This is a natural instinctive result when disaster occurs in an area.

The results of the statistics are all too frequent. Just one (yes, 1) un-spayed female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 dogs in 6 years. The cat figures are just as alarming. It is a proven and well documented fact that sterilization is the only humane way to deal with the overpopulation problem. That, along with vaccinations and de-worming, provides better health for the animals that do survive a rough life on the streets, whatever the cause. There are also serious consequences to public health and the environment when overpopulation is present.

This campaign was made possible through Disaster Services of the Humane Society of the United States in conjunction with Humane Society International and Sociedad Protectora de Animales de Yucatan. We appreciate the many people and local businesses that provided contributions such as monetary donations, lodging, food and of their personal time. We thank you for helping make these clinics a success!


It was wonderful to see the love so many locals had for their animals. For an area whose closest vet is over 2 hours away, introducing veterinary health was warmly welcomed and something of great need. The community support and involvement was impressive. Everyone is already planning on how to make next year better!

In Xcalak, the clinic was held at the SEMARNAT office, where the staff was more than accommodating. Presentations were given to the children in the schools of both areas. Many were curious enough to watch surgery, help recover their own pets and stayed all day to lend a hand and help out.

There were so many moments that made an impact on us all. When we were made aware of the “military dogs” as we began to call them, we were unsure of their wellbeing. We saw the trucks emerge with many soldiers, guns in hand, and numerous dogs. They waited with their companions, many of them all day, and seemed to really care for them. They helped us vaccinate and discharge the dogs and came back and forth to pick up the last few taking their time to wake up. We will never forget the sight when so many of them happily wagged their tail as we brought them back to the soldiers. They were appreciative and paid close attention to their after surgery care and medications that so many needed. The experience was endearing and everyone was pleased when we found 3 of the puppies a new home.

The local municipal agency of Chetumal also attended. We worked very closely with the veterinarian at the dog pound or “perrera” and began to build what we hope to be a great working relationship. You can see Dr. Ricardo here learning the spay technique from one of our veterinarians. As the capital of the state, Chetumal seems eager to begin more programs and just last year held a spay/neuter campaign internally with the help from vets at UNAM, the University in Mexico City. This makes a wonderful addition to the already working relationships we have with the municipalities of both Playa del Carmen and Cancun.

We were able to treat almost 200 animals in 5 days, effects of which are already apparent. It was a good start to our continuing efforts to help bring control to the popualation in these areas.

For more information on spay/neuter clinics in Quintana Roo, contact Kelly at klcoladarci@yahoo.com.

17 March 2008

Featured Mayan Artisan: Jose Perez, Master Carver

Master Carver of Limestone, Wood and Mayan Graphic Leather Art.

Location: Drive to Tulum, go right on the Coba highway to the very northern house on the right hand side of the road in the second Pueblo, Francisco Un May. KM 22 – There is a small black sign with white letters, Mayan Graphic Leather Made Here.

I first met Jose Perez 10 years ago in Akumal at the Lol Ha Restaurant. Jose was one of the sponsored Mayan artisans allowed booth space. He would quietly carve glyphs, gods and Mayan and Aztec calendars from limestone using simple and age old tools.

He was mesmerizing to watch work and one could not help but notice the high quality of his art versus the mass produced items that I occasionally would see in the commercial road side markets.

Over the years Jose has become my special amigo and has forged a successful career using his unique talent and craft. Jose now owns his own home and gallery on the Coba road. Jose is a must visit for truly high quality Mayan art.

I have purchased many of his carvings and leather works and commissioned art from Jose. My current commission is the ruler’s scepter, held by the last known King of Coba on Steale #10 located in the great plaza of the Nohoch Mul Group at Coba. The steale is dated November 30, 780 AD. This is the last known date that steales were erected at Coba. The staff represents the balance of the world; the sun and the moon are carved on each end of the staff. These figures represent the light and the dark of the Mayan cosmology. Jose is holding the original that will be mine when I return to Akumal later this year. He will reproduce this carving for future buyers upon commission. It takes 9 weeks of labor to carve the wooden scepter to perfection.

Jose has received many commissions. One example is located in the garden of Casa Redonda in Akumal. The limestone carving represents the Mayan Sun God. The statue has faithfully protected Casa Redonda through three hurricanes according to the owner, Dr. Jim Stoddard. Commissions are made on a verbal basis requiring a small deposit.

Jose and his wife Julie who is also very talented have many beautiful and unique items for sale. Their art ranges in price from inexpensive and affordable to expensive for commissioned pieces. The more intricate the art results in a higher price. Purchasing directly from the people certainly does help the local economy. Please stop by for a visit if you are traveling the Coba road. Jose and Juile are lovely people, they truly appreciate the business.

12 March 2008

Permit Success on a Cloudy Day

While visiting Akumal recently, I made a side trip to Punta Allen. As a fishing guide in Alaska, I love to spend part of my winter each year, stalking the flats of Ascension Bay in search of permit. My friend and fellow fishing guide, Guy Fullhart operates the Ascension Bay Bonefish Club in Punta Allen. Although Guy could not join me this week, I was able to share part of my time at the lodge with Guy’s partner, Dale DePreist and 4 fellow flyfishers from Ketchikan, Alaska plus one more experienced angler from the Keys.

The conditions in Ascension Bay were difficult this week. The wind had been up, blowing hard from the East making the bay choppy. Dale had landed a large permit, over 20 pounds, a few days before I arrived and Seth Conrow from Alaska had hooked one that got away. Bonefish were providing the staple action. As the odd man out, I had a boat to myself and felt fortunate to have the Caamal Brothers as my guides. Francisco, Benito and Manuel Caamal along with their brother-in-law William have over 70 years of guiding experience between them. They are legendary in these parts for putting their clients on permit.

The first day I had Benito and Manuel as my guides. We made the run across the bay and spent the entire day searching for permit. After several hours on the bow of the boat without seeing a fish, I was thinking, with sore feet and tired eyes, that I should have elected to go wading for bonefish. Bonefish are much more common and can often be found in schools in the many mangrove lagoons. Wading for bones gives the angler many more chances to cast during the day and plenty of hook-ups with these “hot rod” fish. Having caught oodles of bonefish over the years, I was really interested in pursuing the permit, known locally as Palometa, which are nototriously the most difficult specie to land in this region. Part of the difficulty lies in the finicky attitude of the permit towards the artificial crabs that flyfishermen try to offer.

Shortly after lunch, Benito spotted some “nervous water”, a subtle V-shape wake coming towards us against the waves. It appeared to be a large permit and I made a cast as he approached within range. The nervous water disappeared as soon as my fly hit the water, we never did see the fish. We ended up seeing two permit late in the day, at very close range that sensed the boat and fled before I could make a cast. It was difficult day of fishing, but still better that shoveling snow. Back at the lodge, the reports from other anglers were not much better. Seth got a few shots at good sized permit, but no hook ups. Some of the anglers landed a few bonefish to keep the skunk off the boat.

On day two, the wind was coming from the North and many clouds obscured the sun. I fished with Francisco and William and elected to wade for bones and maybe look for a permit later. I expressed my desire to stay relatively close to home due to the strong wind. I was not up for another day of standing on the bow, peering into the waves or having a bone-jarring ride home at the end of the day. After a short run in the boat William took me wading along the shore. Visibility was difficult and the wind botched the few shots I had at the scattered bonefish we encountered. We moved to a protected lagoon and found one nice bone tailing in shallow water. I managed to hook up after a series of terrible casts. He ate the fly about 8 feet from my rod tip and proceeded to run around several mangroves bushes. Fortunately Francisco and William were able to help get me untangled and boat the nice fish.

After lunch we ran farther up the bay to Francisco’s “Secret Place", looking for both bonefish and permit. We had just given up and got back in the boat when Francisco whispered excitedly to William, "PALOMETA - COMING". Sure enough a tail and fin both exposed just 50 feet away and coming. I slid back into the water while William stripped some line from my reel and handed me the rod. With the wind blowing hard I over-led the fish and landed the fly ten feet upwind. "Cast Again - More to the Right" William said. The next cast was perfect (must have had my eyes closed). Just 3 feet from his nose, let it sink and just started a slow strip when he swam up AND ATE IT!!

YeHaw! I was hooked up on a nice permit, in just two days of fishing. He went deep into the backing and fought well. Francisco was constantly reminding me, "Not too much pressure". He told me he was praying that I would not lose that fish. Hell, I didn't want to lose it either. The permit gods were smiling on me and William was able to tail the fish after many times that it came close. Lots of smiles and handshakes after that, some photos too! This is my biggest permit to date (Francisco estimated 12 pounds).

There were a few more hours until quitting time, but the clouds were thickening and the wind was strong, so we called it a day. It was a very good day, at least for me. The other guys had some (much) difficulty, in fact only one other bonefish was caught by the other 3 boats, not to mention the terrible boat ride home from the south side of the bay.

Day 3 was cold, almost too cold to wade. Francisco and William were bundled up in warm clothes. We did wade for a while, and the guys gave me several good shots at bonefish. I managed to hook 6; well six of them ate, but I only hooked and landed 4. One was on a big ugly fly that I had dropped under the bow of the boat for a snook, and a nice bonefish gobbled it up. We all laughed about that one. We waded the "Secret Place" one more time, but the cold North wind and clouds would not produce a permit for me a second time.

Dale and John have gone home to the Keys, the Ketchikan boys are back home looking for steelhead, and I have returned to the comforts of Nicte Ha and Akumal. My daughter will arrive soon with her boyfriend and are looking forward to experiencing the laid back style of Punta Allen after touring some of the Riviera Maya highlights.

For those visitors looking for a sightseeing or flyfishing experience in Ascension Bay or Boca Paila Lagoon, please contact my friends Guy and Sarah Fullhart at . The road to Punta Allen is very good now, with just minor delays for construction.

Tight Lines,
Ed Toribio

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