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Sian Ka'an is huge

The Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve is a 1.3 million acre park set aside in 1986 to preserve tropical forests, mangroves, savannas, cenotes, coral reefs, and 25+ Mayan ruins. There are parts of the reserve where nobody is allowed to go, in order to preserve the environment. However, there are several businesses and private ranches within the reserve. Most were already there when the reserve was founded. No matter where you go in the park, be sure to respect the rules - no unauthorized camping, fires, fishing or diving, and please no littering. Another super place for birding is Holbox Island.

Flats Fishing - Fly Fishing - Light Tackle Fishing

Saltwater flats fishing has become a year-round pursuit for light-tackle anglers across the world. Punta Allen and the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve have world class flats fishing for permit, bonefish, barracuda, and other species.

The flats fishing areas are just a few hours from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. The Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve is closed to most development, but there are several fishing lodges there catering to anglers from all over the world.

The tour is worth it

The nonprofit group Friends of Sian Ka'an offers tours which leave from Cabanas Ana y Jose in the Tulum hotel zone at 9:30am. The $50 price includes a tour led by an English and Spanish speaking biologist, sodas and snacks. In 1996 Amigos was the winner of the Conde Naste Ecotourism Award.

The first part of the tour is by car. Bring your rental car, hire a taxi for the day, or call early to reserve a space in the small tour van. Be warned, the road is very rough. The guide stops the caravan of cars to point out native plants and animals. Friends of Sian Ka'an is working to eliminate non-native flora and replace them with appropriate local plants, and the biologist guide is very informative.

For the second half of the tour, everyone climbs aboard an open motor boat for a trip around the lagoon. Bring a hat, sunscreen, binoculars, and bottled water with you on the boat. The boat motors across the lagoon to mangrove "islands" full of nesting birds. Roseate spoonbills, ibis and tri-colored heron are common here. Less prevalent sights are jabiru, jaguars, deer, peccaries, manatees, and monkeys - but you could be lucky.

Zamas, Tulum, MexicoNext the boat heads inland into a much larger stand of mangrove. The water slowly turns from the salt of the lagoon to fresh water near the coastal spring. Blooming orchids and bromeliads cling to the mangrove branches. The guide passes out life jackets for a float downstream in the cool spring water. The tour ends around 3:00pm, so there is still time to snorkel and swim at nearby beaches afterwards.

Call Friends of Sian Ka'an 998 884 9583 or fax 998 8873080 for tour reservations.

If you are not interested in taking the official tour, fishermen sometimes linger around the Boca Paila bridge to take people out for bird watching trips. Some do not know the names of many birds in English, or even Spanish, but their tours are cheaper. Other trips can be arranged out of Punta Allen.

You can drive through on your own

The road through the reserve leads to Punta Allen and is in terrible shape. Don't bring your VW rental car through unless you want to risk cracking an axle. It is free to enter the park, simply register your car at the entrance. The last real gas station is in Tulum. Desperate drivers can buy gas from informal gas stations two hours down the road in Punta Allen. There are several hotels in the park before you reach Punta Allen.

Boca Paila Fishing Lodge is the first hotel along the park road. Sol Caribe is a small cabaña hotel with a lovely restaurant and bar overlooking the ocean. The owner will let you park there if you want to walk down the beach to the right for some excellent snorkeling. Mar del Greco has a restaurant and fishing, with cabañas and camping available.

national park nature reserve preserve mexicoSeveral "ruins" of hotels are scattered through the park. Most were damaged by hurricane Roxanne and abandoned. To protect the reef, diving is not allowed. You can snorkel, however, and most hotels can arrange for snorkeling trips out on the reef.

Just a little further down the road lies Punta Allen, with more restaurants, several hotels, a grocery store and small clinic.

P.S. Some people spell Sian Ka'an - Sian Kaan

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