A walk along the beach at dawn enjoying the fresh air and warm sunshine puts you in the mood for another great day in paradise. If you are up for a spot of exploring but want to avoid the crowds, here is a tour idea for this season.
Wildlife watching in Sian Ka’an
Seek solitude and renew your ties with Mother Nature with a visit to Sian Ka’an, the huge biosphere reserve protecting swathes of jungle and wetlands, beaches and coral reefs in northern and central Quintana Roo.
Protected by government decree since 1986, Sian Ka’an is home to 103 different mammals including the jaguar, ocelot, peccary, tapir, howler and spider monkeys, and the West Indian manatee. It also has one of Mexico’s largest crocodile populations and is an important nesting area for sea turtles. However, you are most likely to see birds on your trip: over 350 resident and migratory species have been registered here in the jungle and wetlands and their numbers are swelled at this time of year by wintering migratory species of waders, ducks, birds of prey, finches and songbirds.
Your Sian Ka’an day starts by exploring the jungle archaeological site of Muyil, the largest Maya city discovered in the reserve to date. A 20-minute drive to the south of Tulum, Muyil is located on the shores of the lagoon of the same name, also known as Chunyaxche. In ancient times it was a trade center, the shipping point for goods bound for inland cities throughout the Yucatan Peninsula.
As you walk through the forest past the crumbling temples you may see woodpeckers, chachalacas, the exotic turquoise-browed motmot and trogons with their distinctive yellow breasts and white and black-barred tail feathers. Look out for the flash of emerald green hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower and clouds of butterflies settling to lap up minerals from the damp salt-rich earth.
The members of a local ecotourism and fishing cooperative offer boat trips through the Muyil lagoon and wetlands to Boca Paila on the coast. During the journey you are likely to spot different species of herons and egrets, ibis and roseate spoonbills taking flight, wood storks, kingfishers and hunting osprey. Pelicans, frigate birds and cormorants nest in the mangroves around Boca Paila.
You’ll be following the route taken by ancient Maya merchants. Over 1,000 years ago, they dredged and widened a natural channel in the mangroves so that their trading canoes could reach Muyil and a tiny temple is testimony to their presence.
After you have visited the temple your tour guide gives the signal for everyone to jump into the channel. The water is clear, shallow and you are wearing a life jacket. It’s time to lean back, forget your cares and drift with the gentle current.
Another Muyil trip offered as part of the Maya Ka’an community tour collection includes a visit with the villagers of Muyil. They show you how the white sap of the chicozapote tree is tapped and cooked to make chicle, the natural gum that is the original raw material for chewing gum.
For more Sian Ka’an adventures, you can also take the coast road south from Boca Paila to the fishing village of Punta Allen on the shores of Bahia de la Asuncion. Punta Allen is the largest community in the Sian Ka’an Reserve and inhabitants earn their livelihood from the sustainable capture of lobster and ecotourism. They offer birding, fishing and diving trips, nature walks, kayaking and bike excursions.
Ask your Concierge about tours to Sian Ka’an, Rio Lagartos and other nature reserves in the area this winter.