In the language of the original Mayan inhabitants of the region, Sian Ka’an means ‘Origin of the Sky’. The biosphere reserve covers a vast 1.3 million acres and is located in Tulum, 1 hour south of the bustling seaside resort of Cancun, in Mexico’s state of Quintana Roo. Today Sian Ka’an is one of the most well protected natural environments in the world and is certified as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Years after the original indigenous Mayan settlers abandoned this region, Sian Ka’an essentially became unreachable, and many years of flooding, eventually lead to the natural regeneration of endemic flora and fauna. Later rapid urban development and a fast growing human population, as a result of the rising popularity of nearby tourist resorts, led to government funded land clearance and timber extraction. In 1982 ecologists managed to finally put a stop to the uncontrolled destruction and the area was declared a federally protected nature reserve.
The biosphere supports a unique natural balance between marine, saline wetland and vast areas of dryland environments, all along its approximately 80 miles of protected coastline. As a result it is home to an incredible diversity of ecosystems that include wetlands, tropical forests, mangrove lagoons, and the second largest barrier reef in the world. It also provides a habitat for a large number of resident and migratory bird species. Idyllic for the avid bird-lover, bird watching tours which typically take advantage of the magnificent labyrinth of lagoons and natural canals in the sanctuary, allow for memorable sunrise and sunset birding experiences.
The ancient Mayan trading town of Muyil, also known as Chunyaxché, can also be explored within this amazing treasure filled reserve. This carefully restored archaeological site is one of the earliest and longest inhabited Mayan sites in the region. One of the most relaxing ways of appreciating these ruins, and in fact the rest of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, is by kayaking through these beautiful wetlands. Trips are geared for all ages and fitness levels, and typically follow the very canals which crisscross the reserve, and which were once used as trade routes by the ancient Mayans. This is yet another way to experience those unforgettable early morning or late afternoon spectacular views only to be seen in this pristine environment.
With all its natural and unspoilt beauty, and its internationally recognised conservation programs, Sian Ka’an is an obvious choice for those who want to get out into nature and get away from it all.