I love water..!! It’s so beautiful and refreshing. Even taking a shower can be a cathartic and exhilirating experience for me. Too much information probably, but true!! So when you combine water with sand and beautiful skies – I am completely lost and found. It refreshes me and relaxes me. And nowhere is this more true than Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
Sian Ka’an is a biosphere reserve near Tulum, Mexico. The reserve is very close to the ruins at Tulum also. Sian Ka’an contains tropical forests, mangroves, and marshes. If those natural attributes were not enough, Sian Ka’an has another amazing element. The biosphere has a marine section intersected by a barrier reef. This phenomenon is breathtaking! Sian Ka’an is approximately 1.3 million acres – the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean. This is about 120 km from north to south. Part of it’s beauty is the combination of the land, the mangroves, and the ocean. My favorite part is the bridge where the mangroves and ocean come together. Just gorgeous..!!
Sian Ka’an was established in 1986 as part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program. In 1987, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As part of the Man and Biosphere Program, Sian Ka’an faces the ultimate challenge of conservation – how to integrate human activities within the reserve without compromising the other forms of life found in the reserve. Sian Ka’an has three zoned areas covering 700,000 acres where scientific research can be conducted. Low impact human activities and sustainable development occur in an area called the buffer zone. In other words, fishing is allowed, but not jet skis or other typical touristy activities.
In Mayan, Sian Ka’an means “Origin of the Sky” or “Gift from the Sky”. In fact, there are 23 known Mayan archeological sites in the reserve. Some of the relics, such as human remains and ceramic pieces, found in Sian Ka’an are as old as 2,300 years. Recently, a 24 km Mayan artificial canal was also discovered. The northernmost section of the biosphere possibly was an ancient Mayan trade route through lagoons and marshes between the cities of Tulum and Muyil. The current population in the area is still largely Mayan, though there are residents of other nationalities too. Can you imagine living in this amazingly beautiful and protected biosphere?!
Sian Ka’an is also home to many diverse animal, birds, and fauna. There are 103 known mammal species, including jaguar, puma, white-tailed deer, and spider monkey (to name just a few). 336 known bird species, such as frigate bird and greater flamingo, can be found in the biosphere. Amphibians, lizards, and alligators are also present at the reserve; as well as, 52 different species of fish. Sian Ka’an is also an important nesting site for two types of endangered sea turtles. And let us not forget the roughly 1,200 different plant species, including coconut. Did I mention the trees? 100 types of trees and shrubs can be found. Interestingly enough, it is also home to 2,000 inhabitants of the people kind. About one percent of the reserve is privately owned.
There are five entrances to the reserve. You will definitely need a vehicle of some type. When you enter the biosphere, you will be greeted by a guard. There is a fee to enter the biosphere but it is nominal. Also, everyone is encouraged to sign the guest book upon entering. I really enjoyed this aspect of preserving my name as a guest of this amazing paradise. I know – I am a romantic, an idealist, and most certainly a sentimentalist at times. But really, Sian Ka’an is gorgeous even if you can’t pronounce it..!!