Sian Kaan is a huge reserve situated just South of Tulum. Sian Kaan was pronounced Unesco Heritage Site in 1987. It hosts an amazing number of different exotic plants, animals and sea life species. The reserve provides a unique opportunity for experiencing a typical tropical environment. It is thea home of jaguars, crocodiles, monkeys, manatees, sea turtles. It’s protected lagoons are famous with the huge variety of tropical birds attracting birdwatchers from all over the world.
The best way to experience the Sian Kàan reserve is from aboard of a boat or a kayak. There are multiple options for boat rides in the reserve.
Although there are ways to see parts of the Sian Kaan reserve on your own, still your best choice would be to take a tour with one of the operators licensed to take people in the reserve.
The main and most popular destination in Sian Kaan is a small fishing village called Punta Allen. The local Mayan fishermen use very interesting traditional techniques for fishing lobsters. Lobsters together with the Eco touristic activities provide the main incomes for this small community. A popular activity is snorkeling at the reef off Punta Allen where besides turtles, stingrays and all tropical fish, dolphins are spotted quite regularly.
Visiting Punta Allen on your own:
The only option to go to Punta Alen on your own will be to take the dirt road which follows to coast. It starts at the end of the paved beach road, at the Arco Maya. The trip can be done only in an SUV or some big vehicle. The road is very bumpy and dusty. It takes 2-2.5 hrs to cover the distance to Punta Allen.
Taking a tour to Punta Allen:
In case you decide to take a tour you will have 2 different options to get to Punta Allen. The best would be a boat ride through the lagoons starting as close as possible to the entrance of the reserve. The other, more inexpensive option, is the so-called Jeep Safari where you are given a Jeep and drive in a group all the way to Punta Allen.
The other entrance to Sian Kaan which is close and easily reachable from Tulum is at the Muyil Ruins. Muyil is a small but charming archeological site about 20 kms Soutn of Tulum on the main road to Chetumal. Typical activities in this part of the SianKaan reserve are boat rides in some of the lagoons and floating in the famous “lazy river”. The so-called “lazy rivers” are in fact channels built by the ancient Maya to connect the inland lagoons with the sea. The current in those channels is strong enough to carry along a person with a floating device. Floating in the clear waters of these channels in the mangroves is a pretty cool experience.
Exploring Muyil and the reserve on your own
Getting to Muyil is very straightforward and easy either in a rental car or a taxi. After exploring the ruins you can talk with any of the local boat operators for boat rides. The boat rides start from the little doc next to the tower in the archeological site itself. Prices vary depending on how far you want to go and what activities are included. It is important to specify your itinerary before getting in the boat. If your group is not big enough it is quite possible that you will have to wait until enough people gather to fill the boat.
Taking a tour to Muyil and Sian Kaan
There are few companies in Tulum that offer tours that include boat rides and floating in the “lazy river” of Muyil. Compared to the basic service you can get if go on your own, tours will provide a much better experience and opportunity to learn a lot about the local Maya communities and the Sian Kaan biosphere reserve. Most of the tours take a half day and also include lunch.
Kayaking in Sian Kaan
One of the best ways to experience the reserve is indeed sliding on the shallow waters of the lagoons in your own kayak. This is the most eco-friendly and conscious way to get close to the amazing natural beauties of Sian Kaan. There are only a couple of small local companies that run kayaking tours in the reserve. The tours are suitable for both novice and experienced kayakers and take you to some corners of the lagoons unreachable in other ways.