Ecotourism in the Mexican Caribbean

Author:
José Carlos Figueroa

Ecoturismo

One of the main tourist destinations in the world is, without a doubt, the Mexican Caribbean and this region, called the Riviera Maya, includes a wide section of the Yucatan Peninsula. Cancun is probably the most famous spot in this area due to its stunning high quality hotel infrastructure and famous nightclubs. However, the Riviera Maya is more than just Cancun, this Caribbean region also offers ecological tourism; possible thanks to the unbeatable geographic and environmental conditions that combine unequalled crystal clear waters and white beaches with lush foliage full of interesting flora and fauna.  All of this is framed by the traditions and culture of the impressive Maya civilization and their millenarian archeological sites. This kind of tourism, where contact with nature prevails, is called ecotourism.

In the Riviera Maya, you can experience ecotourism at its best amidst the wonderful dense jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula, lined by the Caribbean Sea. Besides the unparalleled Caribbean beaches, you will also find a very diverse, interesting land and an abundance of marine wildlife. Thus, the state of Quintana Roo has developed impressive ecological reserves that protect and safeguard the diverse wildlife typical of this region. Some of these gorgeous protected areas located along the Yucatan Peninsula are the Sian Ka'an reserve, Contoy Island, Rio Lagartos and Calakmul, all of them situated in the south of the state.

Sian Ka'an, means "Gift from Heaven" in the Maya language, it is the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean and shelters hundred of species of birds and mammals. This stunning reserve was declared a "World Cultural Heritage Site" by the UNESCO thanks to its 23 archeological sites situated amidst the lush foliage of the rainforest; it also features the most diverse geography comprising coral reefs, beaches, cenotes, mangrove swamps and lagoons.

Contoy Island is a small tropical paradise in the middle of the calm turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. This island, declared a National Park, has preserved its unspoiled status and offers visitors outstanding scenery that combines tropical vegetation with crystalline waters, allowing visitors to admire the island's marine life.

There is a national wildlife reserve on the coast of Yucatan called Rio Lagartos. This tropical jungle offers dunes and mangroves and is the largest flamingo incubation shelter in North America. There are also plenty of jaguars, turtles and over 200 species of exotic birds living here.

When it comes to archeology, Calakmul, situated in the southeast of the state of Campeche, next to Guatemala, is particularly famous thanks to the large amount of artifacts found here, including magnificent jade masks. This site has many Maya ruins, with over 6000 ancient buildings spread over an area of 25 kilometers squared. This marvelous place is also home to countless species of fauna and flora.

When visiting the Riviera Maya, you can experience an eco-touristic adventure in the magnificent natural reserves and protected areas such as the national parks, the Cozumel Reef, and the Manatee Sanctuary or in some of the theme parks like Punta Laguna and the Crocodile Cenote. These places are a heaven for lovers of water sports such as fishing, diving and kayaking. Take advantage of the different guided tours amidst the rainforest as you enjoy all these exciting activities.

The Parque Marino Nacional de Arrecifes Cozumel includes close to 25 reefs below transparent and calm waters of a pleasant temperature that allow visitors to observe and marvel at the abundant and diverse marine life; all good reasons why Cozumel is one of the five best destinations for diving in the world.

When visiting the Mexican Caribbean take the time to visit the chain of islands consisting of Holbox, Contoy, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, as well as all the wonderful attractions found there. The Riviera Maya also serves as a venue for the most outstanding natural parks in the country such as Xcaret and Xel-ha, both perfect places to interact with the wildlife on land and in the sea. There are also two huge aquariums which give you the chance to come face to face with sharks, manatees and coral reefs without even touching the water.

Each one of these exciting and fun activities will provide visitors with the utmost in adventurous fun, offering ecological exploration and contact with nature. Challenge yourself and dare to enjoy an unprecedented experience in the Mexican Caribbean!