Mayan reserve in Mexico aims to draw visitors with alternative tourism offering
By Lourdes Cruz
Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Mexico, May 17 (EFE).- A Mayan reserve in the Mexican Caribbean region known for its seven lagoons is looking to attract visitors with an alternative tourist offering focused on its natural beauty and indigenous culture and history.
Daniel Andres Reyes Pat and Zendy Euan Chan, indigenous guides in the broader Maya Ka’an tourist region (located in the heart of the southeastern state of Quintana Roo), gave Efe a tour of the Ocom lagoon system in the Much’ Kanan K’aax (Together We Take Care of the Jungle) reserve, owned by members of the Mayan community.
During the visit, they showed how peasant farmers care for the 1,235-hectare (3,050-acre) reserve and promote low-impact eco-tourism developments there.
The first of the lagoons is located just a few meters from the federal highway that connects Cancun with Quintana Roo’s capital, Chetumal.
The reserve is situated just over an hour from the Tulum archaeological zone and near the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, the Maya Ka’an region’s main attraction.
Besides serving as a guide, Reyes Pat manages Siijil Noh Ha, an ecotourism center within Much’ Kanan K’aax that is operated by a group of Mayan community members.
Siijil Noh Ha has six two-person cabins and one much larger one that can house up to 12 people. Electricity is obtained from solar panels and there also is a camping area.
Many of the ingredients in the food served at the resort’s restaurant come from nearby vegetable gardens.
“There are seven lagoons. We’re at this lagoon that belongs to the Felipe Carrillo Puerto ejido (an area of communal land mainly used for agriculture). It’s an area set aside for non-mass tourism,” Reyes Pat added.
Reservations to stay at Siijil Noh Ha are made directly through the staff of that ecotourism center, which does not work with large tourism agencies.
The reason, Reyes Pat and Euan Chan explained, is that many agencies impose conditions and exclusivity contracts that would prevent them from maintaining Mayan uses and customs.
Euan Chan said most of Siijil Noh Ha’s guests are European visitors who want to avoid the large-scale tourism of the Cancun or the Riviera Maya hotel zones. Instead, they prefer more natural destinations and are not turned off by the lack of Internet connection and telephone service.
Like other tourism projects in the area, it seeks to attract small groups with activities that include kayak outings, bike rides, hikes on interpretive trails and birdwatching. EFE