Isla Mujeres – Part 6 – The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Thousands of years ago the original Mayan inhabitants enjoyed the natural beauty of a stretch of coastline, naming it Sian Ka’an, or “Origin of the Sky”. The 1.3 million-acre  Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located on the east coast of the Yucatán peninsula; it’s a biosphere reserve containing tropical forests, mangroves and marshes, as well as a large marine section intersected by a barrier reef.   Click here for some fascinating facts re: the reserve!

Throughout the reserve are diverse tropical forests, palm savannah, one of the most pristine wetlands in the region, lagoons, extensive mangrove stands, as well as sandy beaches and dunes. The lush green of the forests and the many shades of blue of the lagoons and the Caribbean Sea under a wide sky offer these fascinating scenes.

Within the lagoon, we floated along the tributary in an absolutely ingenious “Mayan diaper”—a life jacket worn as shorts—and took in the natural wonder from the water. The current moved pretty steadily, so in order to “stop” along the way, we had to grab onto the mangrove roots – hysterical, and a totally new kind of “fun”!!

The diversity of life in Sian Ka’an is exceptional. Tropical forests are home to mammals such as Jaguar, Puma, Ocelot and Central American Tapir. The reserve also provides a habitat for a large number of resident and migratory bird species (see …). There is also a great diversity of marine life, including the West Indian Manatee, four species of nesting marine turtles and hundreds of fish species. The mangrove fish communities comprise a third of the reserve which are important to the region’s fisheries. A geological, biological and cultural particularity are the “Cenotes”, deep natural sinkholes harbouring fascinating and prevalent life forms. This phenomenon, known as karst, results from collapsing limestone exposing groundwater.


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