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Fodor's See It Mexico, 3rd Edition
Sian Ka'an Review
One of the last undeveloped stretches of coastline in North America, Sian Ka'an was declared a wildlife preserve in 1986, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. The 1.3 million acre reserve accounts for 10% of the land in the state of Quintana Roo, and covers 100 km (62 mi) of coastline. It's amazingly diverse, covering freshwater and coastal lagoons, mangrove swamps, cayes, savannas, tropical forests, and a barrier reef. Hundreds of species of local and migratory birds, fish, animals and plants share the land with fewer than 1,000 Maya residents. The area was first settled by the Maya in the 5th century AD—the name Sian Ka'an translates to "where the sky is born." There are approximately 27 ruins (none excavated) linked by a unique canal system—one of the few of its kind in the Mayan world in Mexico. There's a $3 entrance charge for the park, but to see much of anything, you should take a guided tour.
Many species of the once-flourishing wildlife have fallen into the endangered category, but the waters here still teem with roosterfish, bonefish, mojarra, snapper, shad, permit, sea bass, and crocodiles. Fishing the flats for wily bonefish is popular, and the peninsula's few lodges also run deep-sea fishing trips.
Most fishing lodges along the way close for the rainy season in August and September, and accommodations are hard to come by. The road ends at Punta Allen, a fishing village whose main catch is spiny lobster, which was becoming scarce until ecologists taught the local fishing cooperative how to build and lay special traps to conserve the species. There are several small, expensive guesthouses. If you haven't booked ahead, start out early in the morning so you can get back to civilization before dark.
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