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🇬🇧 VISITING THE SKY By Nora Mercedes

One of my favorite places to work as a tour guide is a trip to Sian Ka´an, as we locally call the Reserve of the Biosphere of Sian Ka´an. It is always an adventure and it always makes you happy. The landscape and the mixture of colors, the abundance of fauna and the natural exuberance everywhere around makes it a place hard to leave. At some point on every tour someone will most likely come and say they wish they could stay. Some actually have.

At the end of Tulum´s hotel zone, right in the middle of the road, we encounter a Mayan arc made out of rock which remarks the entrance to the Reserve. Further down the road, there are 40 km of an amazing landscape, with the Caribbean Ocean and the dune vegetation on one side and on the other side, the mangrove and lagoon that connects further South with the ocean, close to the village Punta Allen. Whomever has visited Sian Ka´an has been amazed by the natural beauty all around.

The door to the sky or the origin of the sky is the Mayan translation of Sian Ka´an, a magnificent protected natural area, named part of Humanities Heritage by UNESCO in 1986. The Reserve has a total extension of 528, 147.66 hectares (153, 135.79 water and 375,011.87 land) and an estimated total population of 634 inhabitants, according to the CONANP, the governmental organism in charge of the protected natural areas in the country.

The Reserve has successfully combined the protection programs for the nine different ecosystems that cohabit in the area together with some allowed and controlled human activities, in an economic and social development model integrating the tourist, fishing and academic-scientific sectors under a sustainability scheme. For instance, the spiny lobster fishing programs have been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

Sian Ka´an is also a member of the Ramsar Convention which protects mangroves and wetlands all around the world. Therefore, the importance of the region, because mangroves contribute drastically to the decrease of CO₂ concentrations on the atmosphere, being the main Carbon Reservoir.

Besides, the Reserve is home to four endangered species: the manatee, the wild pig, the jaguar and the tapir. It also includes 120 km of coral reef and part of the underground sweet river system, quite unique in the world. Birds are also found in abundance, a lot of them are residents, such as the frigate bird, the American pelican, different kinds of cormorans; and a lot more migrate during the winter to nest and feed themselves. Roseate spoonbills and the jaribú are some examples.

Every day is a different adventure in Sian Ka´an; encounters can be as fascinating as with laughing hawks, ospreys, anhingas, boobies, king fishers and even with some crocodiles in Boca Paila or Paso Lagartos on your way to Punta Allen.

It is worth having a guided tour which will include the transportation from the Riviera Maya in different modalities and a boat ride tour where we do dolphin, turtles and marine fauna observation in their natural environment and a paradisiac landscape, enjoying the Caribbean blue waters. All tours include lunch and a certified tour guide who loves his job and misses sharing the day with you.

Remember always to respect local fauna and flora; do not touch, feed or stress birds u other species you might encounter and follow your tour guide indications… We will do everything possible so that you have a great day.

Some tips for the perfect experience

🚙 Look for the tour that best suits your preferences, from private services to boat tours, jeep tours and even a monster truck!

🐠 Bring your own snorkeling gear, especially if you need a prescription mask. This way you will enjoy water activities the best. A bathing suit is needed, and life jackets are available on every boat. The use of it is mandatory. A towel or pareo will do and a change of clothes is advisable. Tennis shoes and sandals or water shoes are perfect for the day.

🚫 It is not allowed to use solar screens until the water activities are finished. Therefore, it is advisable to bring comfortable clothes that cover arms and legs and a cap or hat. A bandana is ideal to cover the face, neck and ears and a dry fit will cover the body and arms. Consider it if you are overly sensitive to the sun.

🕶 It is a plus to bring a pair of polarized sunglasses. They do not need to be awfully expensive; some simple ones will do the trick to bring out the colors in the water and maybe even spot a turtle or starfish.

📷 If you are into photography, definitively bring your camera, and some binoculars if you are a bird watcher (especially during the Winter).Remember this includes a boat tour, so remember to protect your equipment from the water.

💧 Wherever you visit, always bring your own refill bottle, you will find spots where you can refill them for free.

💵 Sometimes you might encounter local art crafters or a local coffee place, so bring some cash, this way you will support the local economy and bring a nice souvenir home.

Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas. 20 de enero de 2016

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