"On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...."

This beloved traditional holiday song is the inspiration for our Holiday Giving blog series, "12 Days/12 Ways", a promotional effort of goodwill we started last year to draw attention to 12 not-for-profit groups or charitable organizations in Playa del Carmen and along the Riviera Maya. So many people from around the world travel to the Riviera Maya during the holiday season. Many reach out to us via regional message boards and Facebook looking for a way to give back to the less fortunate residents in our local communities. 12 Days/12 Ways was started to help these generous, kind-hearted visitors find legitimate and worthy charitable organizations to support, addressing their particular needs for this holiday season.

For each of the 12 days of Christmas, the BuyPlaya Blog, better known as "Life's a Beach", will spotlight a charitable organization or giving opportunity. Some may already be familiar to locals and frequent travelers to this area. Others, perhaps those most in need of recognition and support, may be new to our readers. It is our hope to do this every year, with updated information and wish lists.

The "12 Day/12 Ways" list has not yet been completed for 2012. If you have a favorite charity that you feel belongs on this list, collect all of the information you can and I will be happy to consider your group for inclusion.


SAVE Akumal ACThe Society of Akumal´s Vital Ecology (SAVE) is a grass roots not-for-profit organization created in 1998 to protect the fragile and most valuable natural resources in central Quintana Roo, Mexico. Akumal, in particular, offers to the world a delicate and unique interconnected ecosystem, containing a fresh water filled cave systems gently flowing to the sea, a thriving coastal mangrove, the sandy beach bluff, and most important of all, the Mesoamerican Reef, the second largest reef system in the world.

Mangrove damage, reduction, and degradation due to rapid tourism growth have occurred in the Riviera Maya. SAVE's mission is to keep this unique and fragile ecology safe from the dangers of unsustainable development, for our children’s futures, and their children´s children. Today, SAVE is proving that with determination, changes can be made.

SAVE is currently involved in the following programs and activities:

Aguas Con Los Cenotes:
The Yucatan Peninsula, particularly the Caribbean coast has witnessed rapid tourism development over the past forty years. Unfortunately this development has not been met with sufficient policy or planning to ensure it has a minimal impact on the Peninsula’s fragile environment. Like the Maya thousands of years earlier, developments rely on the underground aquifer for their potable water resources. Yet because these rivers lie underground little is witnessed of the damage that poorly planned developments have caused to the aquifer. Large developments destroy the caves systems beneath disrupting necessary hydrological flows, while sewerage waste is frequently flows underground, joining the water that is drawn for drinking. Protection of these tremendous underground water ways needs to be established to ensure that cenotes and the connecting fresh water systems are protected, so that they can be visited and enjoyed by future generations. The livelihoods of all people on the Peninsula, both tourists and locals, require a healthy and safe aquifer.

SAVE Riviera Maya ACMangrove Protection:
In the past 20 years, the State of Quintana Roo, has lost over 100,000 hectares of mangroves (1 hectare = 2.5 acres) to hotel rooms. This is 1/3 of all mangroves in the entire country of Mexico. The mangroves also filter out what is needed and not needed for the corals, which comprises the paralleling Mesoamerican Reef. The mangrove traps and cycles various organic materials, chemical elements, and important nutrients. Mangrove roots act not only as physical traps but provide attachment surfaces for various marine organisms. Many of these attached organisms filter water through their bodies and, in turn, trap and cycle nutrients also. The relationship between mangroves and their associated marine life cannot be overemphasized. Mangroves provide protected nursery areas for fishes, crustaceans, and shellfish. They also provide food for a multitude of marine species such as snook, snapper, tarpon, jack, sheepshead, red drum, oyster, shrimp and lobsters. Mexico’s important recreational and commercial fisheries will drastically decline without healthy mangrove forests acting as filters and nurseries. Mangroves also help to prevent erosion and sand loss by stabilizing shorelines with their specialized root systems. Mangroves filter water and maintain water quality and clarity. These mangroves take out of our atmosphere and store 50% of our carbon dioxide, the oceans 30% and the trees and forests 20%.  Thus, mangroves are the lungs of our earth. The laws that protect the environment MUST be followed and enforced.

SAVE Akumal ACMarine Turtle Protection:
The State of Quintana Roo, has 14 areas legally protected by state or federal legislation. Two areas belong to the continental zone and the other 12 to the coastal zone, in which are found important sea turtles nesting sites. Yum-balam, Isla Contoy and Sian Kaán Biosphere reserve are hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricate) nesting sites. Green (Chelonia Mydas) and loggerhead (Caretta Caretta) nest at these sites as well as on the eastern part of Isla Cozumel and Tulum National Park. Studies have been conducted that determined that the beaches with the greatest density of turtle nests in the area are: Chemuyil, X’cacel and Aventuras DIF; in addition they recommended legal actions to be taken for their protection due to their biological characteristics, their bio-geographic importance, their state of conservation, and the threat that prevails within the tourist corridor Cancún – Tulum, the Riviera Maya. Both Green and Loggerhead sea turtles are considered under protection by the Mexican laws and by international conventions. But both species are in danger of extinction, due to damage of their beach nesting grounds. SAVE recommends an overhaul of the environmental impact studies, laws that are followed, and a permanent monitoring of development in these areas. SAVE is pursuing Federal Sanctuary Status for Playa Xcacel/Xcacelito. This area is vital to sea turtle reproduction and needs to be protected in a meaningful way.

How Can YOU help?

Become a SAVE Akumal Member!

Depending on your annual contribution you will be given a SAVE Membership status as follows:

$25 Jungle: Membership Card, Aguas Con Los Cenote Sticker.
$50 Mangrove: Membership Card, Aguas Con Los Cenote Sticker, T-shirt.
$100 Reef: Membership Card, Aguas Con Los Cenote Sticker, Aguas Con Los Cenote Poster.
$250 Ocean: Membership Card, Aguas Con Los Cenote Sticker, T-shirt & Poster.
$500 Sea Turtle: Membership Card, Aguas Con Los Cenote Sticker, Website Listing, T-shirt & Poster.
$1,000 Cenote: Membership Card, Aguas Con Los Cenote Sticker, Website Listing, “Cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula” by Steve Gerrard.

You may make a donation of any size or make an annual membership contribution through Paypal with your credit card or Paypal account.

Spread the Word!

Follow SAVE Akumal on Facebook and share their efforts with your friends!

Be Alert and Ready!

SAVE Riviera MayaBe a SAVE activist! If you ever see anyone damaging the ecosystem or causing harm to its inhabitants, help us by taking photographs and/or videos. Just send in all the pertinent information you can (i.e. what happened, how it happened, where it happened, and with who it happened) and SAVE will do the rest. Please email your information and photo/video content to cenotes@prodigy.net.mx and SAVE will make the proper letter of accusation, known as a "denuncia", to the relevant Mexican governmental office. Activities to be aware of may include:

  • Destruction or poisoning of the mangrove
  • Taking of fish, birds, reptiles or other wildlife
  • Destruction of turtle nests or the taking of eggs by unauthorized groups
  • Snorkel groups touching marine turtles or other marine life
  • Illegal shark fishing
  • Dumping of trash and debris on the beach or in the jungle


For more information:

+52 (984) 87 59204 land line
+52 (984) 87 59021 land line
+52 (998) 845-4528 mobile
Skype ID: savemaya
Email: cenotes@prodigy.net.mx
Website : http://www.saverivieramaya.org


Michele Kinnon

I moved to Mexico with my family in 2004 with the hope of offering our children a more global education and world view. Since then, we have traveled through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, gathering friends and life experiences and learning a lot about ourselves along the way. When we are not out and about exploring, Rob and I own and operate BuyPlaya, a Playa del Carmen real estate company and FurnitureMex. "Life's a Beach" is a catch-all blog where you may find anything from restaurant reviews, to recipes, gardening tips, commentary about expat daily life, local events, information about moving to Mexico and educating children in Playa del Carmen. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter and .