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National Parks and Reserves

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve is an official UNESCO World Heritage Property. Sian Ka'an means "Where the Sky is Born" in Mayan and is a 1.3 million acre stretch of land south of Tulum. It is the third largest protected area in Mexico and represents one of the most importantholbox pool mexico coastal ecosystems in the southern part of Quintana Roo, made up of approximately 1/3 tropical forest, 1/3 wetlands, savannahs and mangroves and 1/3 coastal and marine habitats. Most of the reserve is off limits to people, but there are several small hotels and fishing lodges. Amigos de Sian Ka'an is a non-profit which helps manage the reserve. They lead excellent ecological tours, for small groups of people, into the reserve. In 1996 Amigos was the winner of the Conde Naste Ecotourism Award. Call Amigos de Sian Ka'an 998 884 9583 or fax 998 887 3080 for tour reservations.

Rio Lagartos is north of Valladolid on 116,090 acres of mangroves, salt marshes and coastal lagoons, home to flamingos and white pelicans. You can combine a trip here with a tour of the Chichen Itza ruins.

Isla Contoy is a 435 acres near Isla Mujeres and the perfect habitat for more than 90 species of birds and the marine turtle. Private companies from Cancun and Isla Mujeres run tours to the island to view the natural assets of the reserve. The tours that are run to the island may in fact be seen as contributing to conservation, in that an entry fee is charged to the park which goes to the management of the island. Tours vary from one tour operator to another, some respecting the natural environment more than others. That said, Isla Contoy is creating funds for conservation and preservation of the resource base. You can fly there, or take a ferry to Isla Mujeres from Cancun.

birders birdwatching mexicoGarrafon National Park in Isla Mujeres is temporarily closed. It looks like the Mexican government has turned over control of the park to private company who will reopen it soon. A slightly mournful park because the main attraction, snorkeling, is marred by the fact that the coral reef is dead. The only fish living there come by because they are fed.

Chankanab Bay National Park in Cozumel is open to snorkelers who want to explore this amazing coral reef.

Mexico's National Parks and Reserves includes clickable locator maps and brief descriptions of attractions. An excellent resource.

There are dozens of parks elsewhere near Quintana Roo, particularly in Campeche and Chiapas. Holbox Island is also a good place to go for flamingo and other birdwatching.



Tropical Mexico: The Ecotravellers' Wildlife Guide
A guide to the flora and fauna of Southern Mexico.

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