Have you heard the saying “take nothing but photos and leave only footprints?” Faced with mounting evidence of climate change and the human impact on the environment, understandably you may have concerns about your ecological footprint as you explore the Maya World. Do not fear. You can be a sustainable traveler by following these green travel guidelines.
Keeping the Beaches Clean
Take your garbage with you when you leave the beach. Ring pulls, plastic packaging and bags and discarded fishing lines and hooks are harmful to seabirds and a variety of marine creatures, including the sea turtle. Some turtles feed on jellyfish and mistake plastic bags for their prey, with fatal consequences.
If you are a smoker, don’t stub your cigarette out in the sand. Cigarette butts are not biodegradable and the beach isn’t an ashtray.
During the summer, sea turtles come ashore at night to lay their eggs in the sand on beaches throughout the Mexican Caribbean and along the Gulf coast. If you see a nesting turtle, be quiet and keep a distance of five meters. Do not attempt to touch or disturb her. Do not shine torches in its direction and please, no flash photography.
Beach cleaning campaigns are regularly organized along the Mexican Caribbean coast by the local authorities, community and conservation groups. Volunteers are always welcome if you would like to take part.
The Underwater World
Always use environmentally friendly, biodegradable sunscreens. The chemicals and oils in standard sun products contaminate the water and are harmful to corals and other marine life. Better still, as an alternative to sun creams, wearing a t-shirt while swimming or snorkeling helps protect you from the sun’s rays.
Keep your distance from coral reefs when snorkeling and diving. Corals grow very slowly and the slightest touch or the sand stirred up by your fins causes damage that may take the reef hundreds of years to recover from.
However appealing they may be, do not remove shells or any other creature living or dead from rock pools or coral reefs.
When snorkeling and diving keep your distance from sea turtles, whale sharks and other marine life. Admire them from a distance. They may be feeding when you see them and by disturbing their routine you will stress them and certainly interrupt their lunch!
Respect Local Wildlife
Watch area wildlife from a distance; do not approach or attempt to touch native creatures and don’t feed them.
Poaching and the illegal trade in wild animals is a global problem and still occurs in the Maya World. Never buy endangered animals and birds such as parrots and macaws, monkeys, wild cats or iguanas. Likewise, avoid jewelry, crafts, clothing, footwear, or other products derived from rare animals, birds, reptiles, insects (skins, feathers, wings, bones, teeth and claws, or tortoiseshell and natural oils in the case of sea turtles) or plant species.
Dispose of your litter in garbage bins, including cigarette butts and chewing gum, which should be wrapped in a tissue and not thrown away into the grass or forest where they may harm birds and animals.
If you are a smoker, make sure that your cigarettes are extinguished before disposing of them. Thousands of hectares of forest and grassland are destroyed each year by fire, all too often caused by a spark from a cigarette or match.
Keep the bugs away with locally made herbal repellents or commercial eco brands containing basil, eucalyptus, neem and citronella extracts, they are just as effective and much better for the environment.
Abide by the rules published by federal authorities when visiting national parks, biosphere reserves and underwater parks.
Protecting Ancient Monuments
Mayan temples and pyramids may have withstood the elements for centuries, but the passage of thousands of feet is accelerating erosion. We recommend that you admire these impressive monuments from the ground and do not climb them. By doing so, you will help protect them for future generations. Above all, respect areas that are cordoned off and do not climb buildings that are crumbling and where stones are loose and unsafe.
Please respect signs prohibiting flash photography in Mayan temples and colonial monuments. Fragile murals and frescos may be damaged.
Do not remove stones, ceramics or other artifacts from the archaeological sites; they should be left in situ for archaeologists to study. By collecting them you are taking part of Mexico’s heritage and destroying the context of the site, making it more difficult for experts to piece together a history of the ancient city.
Temple walls are all the more beautiful without graffiti. • Don’t purchase ancient Mayan pottery or other artifacts that may be offered to you. There are thousands of archaeological sites in the Maya World awaiting excavation or restoration, and looting and the illegal trade in precious artifacts are serious problems. • Similarly, do not purchase antiques that have been taken from colonial churches, monasteries, mansions and haciendas.
Discover a Different Culture
Travel gives you the opportunity to discover other cultures and it promotes understanding and friendship. Learn about Mayan history and traditions during your vacation. Meet local people and practice a few words of Spanish and Mayan; you’ll soon make new friends. If you are taking a longer vacation, local language schools offer Spanish classes.
Be sensitive when taking photos and respect people’s privacy and beliefs. The taking of pictures is frowned upon in some remote Mayan communities. Always ask for permission to take pictures and if the inhabitants refuse to give it, please refrain from doing so.
Be respectful when visiting communities, always request permission to enter churches and other sacred places.
Find out about clothing conventions in the area you are exploring and dress appropriately when visiting churches and communities. Long-sleeved blouses for women and shirts for men are appropriate.
Sample locally grown fruit and vegetables during your vacation and be sure to try Yucatecan and Mexican dishes. Mexican cuisine is on the UNESCO World Heritage list for its diversity and the traditions associated with it. If you’d like to learn more about it, why not sign up for a morning at a cooking school in Cancún, Puerto Morelos or even Mérida.
Purchase sustainably produced handicrafts and organic produce such as honey, coffee, vanilla, cacao, handmade preserves, spicy sauces, and even sustainably fished lobster from Sian Ka’an, by doing so you are supporting the regional economy and helping improve the livelihood of many communities. At the Royal Resorts you can buy bracelets made by Mayan craftsmen who belong to the Ak Kuxtal community development network. They gather fallen wood and seeds for their art, making sustainable use of their forest home. With your purchase you are helping villages in the Zona Maya in central Quintana Roo. Back home look for products with the Rainforest Alliance logo (look for the green frog), Forestry Stewardship Council, or similar organizations, buy organic produce and sustainably harvested seafood.
At Your Resort or Hotel
Help us protect the environment during your stay at Royal Resorts or wherever you vacation in the Mexican Caribbean, here’s how:
Reduce energy consumption, help cut fossil fuel emissions and combat global warming. Turn lights and appliances off when you leave your room.
Make sure that all the windows and doors are closed when the air-conditioning is on.
Help save water by making sure that faucets are closed when you leave your room.
Recycle your trash. At Royal Resorts, guests separate plastic, glass, aluminum, paper and cardboard waste and deposit it in the special bins in their rooms and around the resort. All waste suitable for recycling is collected and sold as “trash for cash” by the Royal Resorts Foundation. The proceeds are donated to fund conservation projects in the Mexican Caribbean. A special collection bag is also available in the rooms for the disposal of toxic waste such as used batteries.
Help save water, electricity and reduce the use of laundry products. Choose not to change your towels or bed linens on a daily basis, use them for several days instead.
Use eco friendly cloth shopping bags.
Do you really need that plastic water bottle or plastic bag? Invest in a reusable water bottle and help reduce the amount plastics we consume.
Only ask for a straw in your drink if you really need one. Cut down on straws and reduce litter.
Add your support to conservation and sustainable development projects in the Mexican Caribbean. The Royal Resorts Foundation has made conservation of the Mayan Jungle one of its key causes. It is participating in a regional initiative launched by Amigos de Sian Ka’an and the Mexican National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) to safeguard four million hectares of tropical forest in the state of Quintana Roo that are not currently protected by reserves. By making a donation to the Royal Resorts Foundation, you will be helping to protect the forest and the wildlife that inhabits it, and increase carbon capture to offset the effects of climate change. Visit www.royalresortsfoundation.org for more information.