One of the most wonderful places to visit in the Riviera Maya is Sian Ka’an, an ecological reserve in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. In the language of the Mayan’s, Sian Ka’an means ‘where the sky is born’ or ‘gift from the sky’, this name may be due to the richness of marine and terrestrial fauna and its extraordinary flora that make us feel as if we’re stepping into paradise. It was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1987.
Visiting all the 500 thousand hectares of reserve can take several days as there’s such a wide variety of things to see and do. You can visit archaeological sites, enjoy the marine diversity close up, do some bird watching, take part in the daily life of a Mayan community, cross the canals that cut through the mangroves in a kayak, etc. Or you can discover the different habitats, which include coral reefs, beaches, coastal dunes, wetlands, mangroves, cenotes, freshwater and brackish lagoons and tropical forests. The longer the holidays, the better and the more time you’ll have to spend at the reserve.
Visitors with a spirit of adventure will love the 23 archaeological sites, some of which are about 2300 years old and give the reserve a mystical aura. You’re sure to wonder what ever happened to the Mayan civilisation. Highlights include the Chenchomac, Chunyaxche, Vigía del Lago, Tampak, El Plantal and Muyil ruins.
Sian Ka’an’s biosphere reserve has several marine environments which are representative of the Quintana Roo coastline. These include sandy beaches, mangroves, shallow bays, rocky beaches, marshes and reefs, all with a great diversity of species. If you feel like taking a break, you can always head towards the small bays and large white sandy beaches along the coast. This is a great chance to discover truly virgin beaches. However, many of them are only accessible by small boats that leave from the fishing villages of Punta Allen and Punta Herrero.
There’s an enormous wealth of species for those who love bird watching to discover, including the jabiru stork, the white-headed pigeon, the great curassow, the ocellated turkey and some other species that are unique to the Yucatan Peninsula.
Among the terrestrial fauna that we can catch sight of in the reserve, we have the jaguar, the puma, the ocelot, the margay, the jaguarondi, the saraguato monkey and many others. And while you’re trekking around discovering the fauna in the area you can also take the opportunity to go for a dip in one of the cold water cenotes in the area.
Respect for nature
During the visit to this incredible place, it’s important to protect and respect the ecosystem. You should never throw objects or liquids in the rivers, lagoons or bodies of water, always take your rubbish with you, only use biodegradable suntan lotions and never, take plants or animals in danger of extinction from the reserve.
So now that you know where to find the entrance to paradise, you’re ready to start the journey.