When the cold winds of winter start bringing in the snowflakes, many people turn their thoughts to the sandy beaches of warm, tropical Mexico. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with a relaxing vacation filled with swimming pools and pina coladas, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t opt to explore a little of the landscape around you, particularly if you are vacationing in the Yucatan region of Mexico. Ruins, cenotes, and Caribbean islands are all part of what make this area special, but the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is an extraordinary experience that’s not to be missed.
Established as a biosphere reserve in 1986 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, Sian Ka’an is located about two hours south of Cancun in Tulum. Part of the reserve is comprised of land, while the other part stretches into the tranquil Caribbean Sea, where a section of coral reef lies undisturbed by the development and high tourist traffic that is common in other areas of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Within the reserve lies 23 archaeological sites with relics up to 2,300 years old, as well as 103 species of mammals and 336 species of birds that enjoy protection by the Mexican federal government. The area is an important nesting site for two species of endangered sea turtles and a host of wading birds, and below the surface of the Caribbean Sea, populations of spiny lobster, grouper, and snapper swim freely, along with the occasional blacktip reef shark, hammerhead shark, and nurse shark. Sightings of dolphins and manatees are not at all unusual in this beautiful protected place.
Depending on what you want to see and do at Sian Ka’an, there is a nice array of tour options available from reputable local operations. The entrances to the reserve are heavily protected by federal officers, so this is not a place you can wander in and explore on your own, but you wouldn’t want to miss out on learning the wonderful history of the region and its inhabitants anyway. Check out this video offering a brief glimpse of all that awaits you in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.
Image via Tim Gage