Fabulous lagoons, ancient Mayan ruins and tropical jungle are some of the delights to be found in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve in Tulum.
Occupying more than 5,200sqkm on land and in the Caribbean Sea, the reserve was established in 1986 and became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. Its natural, unspoilt beauty includes 23 known sites of the Maya civilisation as well as natural splendours.
We toured Sian Ka'an with Mexi-Divers who drove us to our starting point at Muyil, a Mayan archaeological site. Our guide walked us through the site, pointing out native trees such as the ficus with its buttressed trunk and the thorny ceiba speciosa.
The ruins at Muyil date from 350BC and comprise steep-sided pyramids surrounded by the remains of altars. Our guide was very well informed and explained something about the Mayan culture and how their astronomical knowledge is evident in their sacred buildings.
Further into the jungle a tall, wooden tower affords a great view over the jungle towards the reserve's lagoons. I wasn't brave enough to venture to the top of the tower, which is about 100ft high, but my partner was and he took some fantastic photos of the surrounding landscape.
A short walk further on, a boat was waiting to take us across the lagoon, with its crystal clear, pale aquamarine waters. We enjoyed a fast boat ride to the other side where we entered a narrow channel cut into the mangroves. Our guide told us about the different types of mangrove as we crossed a second lagoon, arriving at our disembarkation point.
Navigating the mangrove canal, Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
We climbed out on to a jetty from which we jumped into the warm waters of the channel and floated with the current for about 20 minutes, which was incredibly relaxing. Life jackets are provided, which you can wear or use as floats. Some tour operators provide wetsuits for those who feel the cold, but we found we didn't need them. At the end of the channel we got out of the water and walked along a boardwalk for about ten minutes, back to our boat.
Muyil is about 15km south of Tulum in Quintana Roo State on the Yucatan Peninsular. The town of Tulum and its wonderful stretch of unspoilt beaches lined by boutique hotels, restaurants and bars, is about 127km south of Cancun.