Mayan culture was great for name places and this isn´t the exception: Sian Ka’an that means “heaven’s door” is one of the greatest biosphere reserve in the area of Tulum located in Quintana Roo which since 1986 is considered UNESCO Wolrd Heritage Site.
One of the best attractions of this place is the Chinchorro Reef that is the second largest reef in the world and the first one in Mexico.
With the help of organizations, technicians, fishermen, farmers, rural producers, locals, visitors and the government this area has been restored throught the years and have successfully carried out more than 200 conservation projects basing everything on scientific planning and implementing environmental policies with viable solutions for sustainable use of natural and local resources focusing in the maintenance and protection of the natural areas like Mexico´s largest reef and the second world´s largest one named “Chinchorro”. This reef is located 2 hours and a half from Playa del Carmen.
The Chinchorro reef is a protected reef system, but also an important fishing area for pink conch and lobster. Chinchorro is an elliptical reef off the coast of Quintana. It consists of the islets of Cayo Norte, Cayo Centro and Cayo Lobos. It is the best preserved of all the large nucleus of coral reefs found in the waters of the coast since it lies furthest away from the coast. The reef has been converted into a biosphere reserve in 1996 with the objective to promote the sustainable use of its fishing resources.
The reef varies in depth from 3 feet to 3000 feet, making it dangerous to ships but a boon to sport fisherman and divers. The diving is spectacular with large blue sponges, and sea walls full of life.
The islands are uninhabited so there’s nowhere to stay on the atoll but it’s easily reached for a diving or snorkelling tour from Mahahual or Xcalak. Over 200 local fishermen have made their home in the waters surrounding the atoll so seeing the stilt houses in the middle of the water is quite a sight! There is some dive centre which can organise overnight trips staying in the village.
The Chinchorro Bank is known to fishermen as ‘the ships graveyard’. Many ships have sunk here over the years but due to deterioration, most aren’t recognisable anymore, but 9 or so are still in good condition including a passenger ferry that was stranded after Hurricane Wilma (and is half sticking out of the water), and two Spanish Galleons. Be sure to snorkel the site 40 cannons. Due to the fact that the wrecks are so shallow, only snorkelling is permitted on most of them.
The reef diving is wonderful here though. At Punta Isabel or Dos Primas you can do a drift dive or the Aquarim I or II a more shallow dive and expect to see loads of colourful coral, groupers, snapper, a turtle or two, lobsters, eagle rays and barracuda. The sites are teaming with life and a photographer’s paradise.
There are special fly-fishing tours to the flats near Cayo Centro and it’s a great experience for any fishing enthusiast. The best time to visit is in the summer months when the seas are calm, as tour operators won’t go in rough conditions.