Framed by the turquoise beauty of the tranquil Caribbean Sea, Centro Ecologico Sian Ka'an could not have been established for a more spellbinding location. Spanning a total area of 5,280 km², the not-for-profit biosphere reserve blends populous coral reefs and miniature lagoons, with huge expanses of coastal marshland and rain-forest for a visitor attraction quite unlike anywhere in Mexico. Less than 15 km from the Aztec ruins of Tulum, Sian Ka'an represents the paid efforts of a 200-strong team to conserve this small coastal pocket of Quintana Roo, before it disappears forever. Has it worked?
Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987, Sian Ka'an was quick to be incorporated on the list of areas necessitating conservational protection, for a variegated collective of coastal biospheres. Banco Chinchorro and Xcalak were just two of the threatened coral reefs adopted by the effort, however the objective extended to include over 23 Mayan archaeological sites – Muyil and Cozumel among them. Small palapa huts present a sustainable and eco-friendly accommodation option, dotting the entire length of Punta Allen Peninsula from Tulum. Few know of these fabulously secluded beach-front villas, therefore tend to depart for adventure day trips from Tulum or Punta Allen – both of which offer a wide selection of accommodation options.
Visiting the Sian Ka'an is strictly by booking only, since two thirds of the biosphere area are restricted for both research and domestic use. Day trippers can take advantage of several tours offered by marine biology experts and jungle navigators, of which include canoeing and snorkeling. Connected to the Boca Paila Lagoon via a series of Maya built, intertwining canals, the canoe tour up to Muyil is well worth the few pesos. Guided through a rain-forest world of leafy tunnels and modest white water currents, the journey to the hidden settlement of Muyil is a key part of the adventure.
Reef snorkeling is an increasingly popular day booking at Sian Ka'an, largely due to the increased promotion of the area. Teeming with Leatherback Sea Turtles, crocodiles and basking sharks, the reefs just beyond Punta Allen offer some of the clearest waters anywhere along the Caribbean coast. Sunset tours by panga are a relatively new development, offering space for up to twelve guests aboard eco-friendly motorboats out onto the marshy coastal lowlands, where over 360 species of birds reside. From Boat-Billed Herons and Frigates, to the White Ibis and Roseate Spoonbill, Sian Ka'an is the bird spotting opportunity of a lifetime!