Spotting wild dolphins in a solitary bay and venturing deep into the jungle in search of rare creatures; learning about Mayan culture and witnessing a timeless ritual, all these and more unforgettable experiences await visitors in Maya Ka’an, the Mexican Caribbean’s new ecotourism destination.

Maya Ka’an is a vast area of central Quintana Roo comprising the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and the traditional Mayan heartland or Zona Maya formed by the districts of Tulum, Felipe Carrillo Puerto and José María Morelos, all of which are rich in natural beauty, history and traditions.

Sixteen different tours and activities take visitors to nine different communities in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and the Zona Maya. Community tour operators handle all the trips, thus ensuring that local inhabitants benefit economically from tourism. With a master plan developed by Amigos de Sian Ka’an and funding from the Inter-American Development Bank, the goal of the Maya Ka’an project is to bring sustainable development to villages in the Zona Maya.

The nine core communities are Punta Allen, Muyil and Punta Herrero in Sian Ka’an and historic Felipe Carrillo Puerto, capital of the Zona Maya, and Tihosuco (site of the Caste War Museum), Señor, Chunhuhub, Noh Bec and Kantemó. They all offer a range of activities, some showcasing natural attractions and others a glimpse of Mayan life.

Visitors will watch craftsmen at work and traditional cuisine being prepared, find out about farming techniques and the healing properties of native plants used since the days of the ancient Maya. They’ll listen to stories and legends told by village elders, learn about the history of the area and chicle, the sap of the chicozapote tree that was once harvested to make chewing gum. Other activities include bird watching, nature walks, boat and kayak trips through the lagoons and bays of Sian Ka’an and visits to the famous Cave of the Hanging Snakes in Kantemó. This cave is the site of an eerie natural spectacle that takes place at dusk. As thousands of bats that make their home in the cave begin to stir and go in search of their insect prey snakes emerge from crevices in the cave roof and hang down, snatching the bats in mid flight.

Small group trips are available to Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and can also be arranged to Maya Ka’an through Thomas More Travel.