Sian Ka'an Biosphere
Thousands of years ago the original Maya inhabitants appreciated the exceptional natural beauty of this stretch of coastline, naming it Sian Ka´an, or “Origin of the Sky". Located on the Eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in the State of Quintana Roo, Sian Ka´an is one of Mexico's largest protected areas, established to manage 528,148 hectares of intricately linked marine, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems. Along its roughly 120 kilometres of coastline, the property covers over 400,000 hectares of land ranging from sea level to only ten m.a.s.l. The property boasts diverse tropical forests, palm savannah, one of the most pristine wetlands in the region, lagoons, extensive mangrove stands, as well as sandy beaches and dunes. The 120,000 hectares of marine area protect a valuable part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and seagrass beds in the shallow bays. The lush green of the forests and the many shades of blue of the lagoons and the Caribbean Sea under a wide sky offer fascinating visual impressions.
The diversity of life in Sian Ka'an is exceptional. The tropical forests are home to charismatic mammals such as Jaguar, Puma, Ocelot and Central American Tapir. The property also provides habitat for a large number of resident and migratory bird species. There is a great diversity of marine life, including the West Indian Manatee, four species of nesting marine turtles and hundreds of fish species. About a third of the property is comprised of highly diverse and productive mangrove communities, of vital importance to fisheries in the broader region. Hundreds of forested islands, locally known as "Petenes", emerge from the flooded marshes, some reaching over a kilometre in diameter. A geological, biological and cultural particularity are the "Cenotes", deep natural sinkholes harbouring fascinating life forms, many of them endemic. This karst phenomenon results from collapsing limestone exposing groundwater.