Sian Ka'an, located in the state of Quintana Roo in southern Mexico, is a nature reserve which was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1987. Although inclusion on this list is considered an honour, it can sometimes lead to overexposure of the protected area which then, a victim of its own success, struggles to cope with the influx of tourists it attracts. But in Sian Ka'an, a cooperative of women are keeping a close eye on things. I had the great pleasure of meeting them during my visit to Mexico.
Created by 25 women, the Sian Ka'an Orquideas Cooperative ensures the sustainable usage of resources while seeking to develop ecotourism in the region. In Mayan, Sian Ka'an can be translated as "Heaven's door". The nature present in these areas must be protected at all costs: their swamps, mangroves and rainforest are home to stunning flora and fauna, including 300 species of birds.
Trained as tourist guides in keeping with the current norm in Mexico, each woman is able to explain to visitors all of the features of the nature reserve, to recount its history and share every last one of its secrets. But their priority remains awareness of sustainable tourism.
The cooperative offers a wide and varied range of activities. It's even possible to embark on a kayak trip in the heart of San Ka'an - comfortably seated in 100% naturally made canoes - and in doing so, you'll be able to observe the indigenous and migratory birds, or different types of mangroves. Another ever-popular trip is hiking in the middle of the jungle to learn all about the local medicinal plants.
25 employees are at hand to welcome both travellers and voluntary workers. Thanks to them, major beach and jungle cleaning is organised on a regular basis. At Sian Ka'an, you're guaranteed beautiful scenery as well as carefully planned tourism that you're sure to love!