Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is one of Mexico’s most impressive natural wonders that contains tropical forests, mangroves, marshes and marine section intersected by a barrier reef that is home for an abundance of flora and fauna. If you are a nature enthusiast, this gem will definitely lure you with its beauties.
While finalising our Mexico trip, Lutfi, who is my travel buddy, discovered Sian Ka’an and decided to squeeze it in our itinerary since we both enjoy exploring anything related to nature and snorkelling and floating down an ancient Mayan canal is the experience that we wanted to do.
Though we learned that is possible to self-arrange our trip to this biosphere area, however, this time we prefer to go on a hassle-free tour and have someone who is knowledgeable and well-experienced to bring us around and explain anything we should know about this biological reserve site. Fortunately, we found Agua Clara Diving Tulum, which is an eco-tour company based in Tulum, Mexico.
Continue reading to learn more about Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and our eco day trip experience with Agua Clara Diving Tulum.
What is Sian Ka’an?
Being one of the largest protected areas in Mexico, Sian Ka’an is a UNESCO protected heritage site and also declared as a designated Biosphere Reserve since 1986. This massive area has multiple tropical forests, large mangrove forests, untouched wetlands, lagoons, palm savannah, dunes and of course white sandy beaches. Believe me, it has all of them. That’s why this area able to provide a habitat for a rich flora and a fauna which include around 300 species of birds, charismatic mammals such as Jaguar, Puma and Central American Tapir. Not only that, but you can also see a diverse marine life including West Indian Manatee, turtles and a lot of fish species.
You’ll be impressed when you see the bird’s eye view of this reserve area.
Thousands of years ago, Sian Ka’an has been a significant area for the Mayans. In their language, Sian Ka’an literally means “Origin of the Sky”. Its exceptional natural beauty such as the many shades of blue of the lagoons and the Carribean Sea situated under a wide sky is just magnificent. I guess it is not hard to see why they named this property such a way.
Ever since the fall of the Mayan civilizations, there were several things happened in Sian Ka’an area such as frequent flooding, difficult to access and poor soil. Because of those, the area were secured, left alone and able to restore everything in a natural way. Up until now, the reserve is an officially protected area, both nationally and internationally. That’s why it is impossible to access the reserve on our own as we need to go with a licensed or appointed operator to get to the reserve area.
The tourism industry, like unscrupulous travel operators and mass tourism, has been one of the silent threats towards the reserve if it is not managed in the right way. People need to put their effort to preserve the site. As a visitor, one of the things we could do to lower the tourism impact is by choosing the local operator that provides eco-friendly tours with a proven track record.
Experience with Agua Clara Diving Tulum
While we fulfil our desire to explore places and grab new experiences, we always ensure that what we choose didn’t cause a negative impact towards that particular place. That is the reason we choose to go with Agua Clara Diving Tulum
because they are not just providing us with unforgettable experiences but also educate us with various information of their ecosystems, not just limited to Sian Ka’an but also other amazing places around Tulum
We started off our journey from their shop in Tulum around 9 am. Our guide, Jose, led our way to the place. Sian Ka’an has two different popular entrances, which is from Punta Allen and Muyil
. The shorter and easiest one is Munyil. The journey from Tulum to Munyil took approximately 20 minutes (22.5 km) drive. The boat ride is a scheduled one. Therefore, it is important to be on time. Otherwise, you will waste your time waiting for another boat, which sometimes will be in the next hour or more.
Before we start taking the boat ride, Jose briefly gave us an introduction about Si’an Kaan. Where we will go and what we will do during the tour (including the unique things to look out for).
We accessed through three lakes on this tour. On the boat ride through the first lake, Julio attentively explained about Sian Ka’an history, the flora and fauna that can be found here. The views along the way were nothing short of spectacular
. I was torn in between whether to put down my camera to thoroughly enjoy the moment or keep capturing the beauty so that I can share with you in this article (well, I did both obviously ?).
When we arrived on the second lake, we put on our lifejackets, snorkeling gear and off we go. The canal is not too deep. The other reason, besides safety, of why we need to put the lifejacket on is to ensure that we will float and let the current push us through the canal. We were provided with snorkelling gear for a greater experience. We saw some fish swimming between us and the mangrove roots. After spending half of the time with my head in the water, I decided to float up-right to admire the big blue-ish sky and let the sunlight exposed to my skin. It’s difficult for me to forget how amazing the experience was.
Good to know: According to Jose, since there was no road in the olden days, the canal was used by the Mayan civilisation as the only way to the sea for fishing or trading purposes.
When we reached the third lake, we spent a few minutes to swim and enjoy the water without a lifejacket before making our way to the starting point where our boat is located and head to the original boat dock.
Next, we proceed to the second activity on this tour which is a walk into the lush green jungle of Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. This is the part we were utterly impressed with the range of knowledge that Jose has anything about the jungle. It was a quite and silent walk. Luckily there were only a few visitors roamed around the jungle during our visit. I was able to hear the sound of the wind, birds, insects and more along the way.
We stopped at the observation tower where we need to climb up the stair to enjoy a panoramic view of the reserve and its surrounding. The stairs were quite steep. Be sure to climb it carefully and you’ll be just fine. It was worth it to go up to the top of the tower. The views are just amazing!
The jungle trail brought us to the Muyil Ruins
. Jose explained everything we need to know about the ruins from how it works during the previous days, what were the activities done here including the ritual sacrifices, construction techniques, trading pattern and a few others.
It was an enriching and eye-opening tour as we learned something new about the Mayan civilisations and understand how important this reserve was to them. We end our Sian Ka’an discovery with a small packed lunch prepared by Jose’s team. Their homemade biscuits were exceptionally delicious!
The last place we visited on the tour was Cenote Cristal (Naharon)
. We are always excited when it comes to a cenote. These spectacular natural sinkholes formed caused by a collapse of limestone and it is also what the Yucatan Peninsula region is famous for.
We spent nearly 30 minutes of swimming and diving into the deep and crystal clear water (I have never seen such clear water like this before) to appreciate its beauty (aquatic plants and school of fishes). There is a platform for you to practice or show your diving skill. No kidding, jumping into the cenote for the first time is a quite nervous thing to do. Thanks to the people who encourage us to jump. Well, it wasn’t bad at all. Swimming in the cenote was indeed a great end of our day trip with Agua Clara Diving Tulum.
A big thanks to Agua Clara Diving Tulum
for showing us around the reserve area, educate us about the ecosystems in Tulum. From the way Jose explained to us about everything, we clearly see how passionate he and Agua Clara Diving Tulum
team about the environment. I love to quote something that is mentioned on their website
, “We believe that once you appreciate nature, you can start caring about it
“. Well said. That’s what they have delivered to me and Lutfi during the tour.
We left Tulum with a happy heart and an unforgettable experience. If we have a chance, we certainly don’t mind to visit here again.