Aventura Maya: Indigenous Ecotourism
In recent years there has been a worldwide trend for indigenous groups to expand their traditional means of income—farming, fishing, handicrafts—to ecotourism projects. Government and private funding have helped people in small communities find more lucrative ways to make a living, learning new skills and improving green tourism options at the same time.
In Mexico the federal government body CDI (Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas, or National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples) has been helping people all over México, with various types of projects depending on the region. One of the programs is called PTAZI (Programas Turismo Alternativo en Zonas Indígenas, or Alternative Tourism Programs in Indigenous Zones). Once the proposed projects are approved, money is given for infrastructure and training (service, promotion, business management, etc.), and a study is done to see if the idea is viable from the safety, accessibility, and visibility point of view. 16 million pesos have been invested since 2010.
Eight eco-tourism groups in Yucatán have joined together under the banner “Aventura Maya”. They are in Celestún, Tecoh, San Antonio Mulix, Yokdzonot, Dzilam Bravo, Santa Rita, and Ek Balam, as follows:
• MANGLARES DE DZINITÚN in Celestún: The trip starts with a thrilling tour of wild adventures in the heart of the mangrove swamps located in the Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve. During this day or night tour, the traveler can participate in diverse physical activities ranging from walking on a high wooden hanging bridge, canoeing in canals and tunnels in the swamps and the bioreserve, to a bike or electric car ride.
• SABACCHÉ CENOTES & CABAÑAS in Tecoh: The Tanimax and Kalcuch cenotes located in Sabacche are perfect for those who love crystal clear water and pristine wildlife. Submerge yourself in a snorkeling or swimming adventure and stay overnight in the rustic cabins. The mystery of the prehistoric Hispanic world together with the natural vegetation offers each traveler a magnificent experience from beginning to end. How to get there: Leaving Merida, go 53 km south on the Merida-Chetumal highway heading towards Acanceh. As you arrive at the Tecoh junction, look for the sign for Ochil and turn left. Contact: Rusel Ramírez / Martha Ramírez, Cel: 9991 98 44 82 / 9992 61 43 36. Email: [email protected] In this community you will find the Sabacche’s Ecological Bike Route, which is under Grupo de Trabajo Kalcuch responsibility.
• TUMBEL ZAZIL KIN in San Antonio Mulix: This ecotourism destination offers two magnificent recreational areas: the Xbatun cenote, an extraordinary place for cave diving or to simply cool off; and the Dzombakal cenote whose inviting transparent waters attract travelers to immerse themselves in nature. The traveler can explore this area by bicycle and enjoy the amazing wildlife, especially birds such as hooded orioles, flycatchers and turtledoves. You can witness these exotic birds creating a symphony of colors and sounds in perfect balance with the tropical vegetation.
• CENOTE YOKDZONOT Kiich Ke Leen Haa in Yokdzonot: One of the ecotourism destinations that offers many activities is the Yokdzonot site. It’s perfect for those who enjoy adventures such as rappelling, swimming, snorkeling and kayaking. This site also provides the visitor with a chance to relax in traditional hammocks as well as places to have a picnic in the open air and, of course, a restaurant with exquisite Yucatecan cuisine. This is truly the place halfway between heaven and earth.
• SAYACHULEB in Dzilam Bravo. Enjoy an excellent trip visiting this fascinating ecotourism destination. Sayachuleb-Dzilam Bravo offers the rich vegetation of our mangrove swamps and a beautiful view of the ocean. Listen to the sweet songs of the birds while sunbathing on the beach. If you prefer more extreme activities, a kayaking trip or a vibrant boat ride would be ideal. But if you are looking for a day of recreational fishing, you can also find it here. Get ready to experience a surprising trip surrounded by the beauty of the wild! How to get there: Leaving Merida on route to Progreso, take the coastal highway heading east. You will pass through Chicxulub Puerto, Telchac Puerto, San Crisanto, Chabihau, Santa Clara until you arrive at Dzliam de Bravo. Contact: Edwin Raúl Nadal Aldecua, Tel: 991 912 2520; 991 912 2644 / Cel. 9911 05 24 43. Email: [email protected] / [email protected]
• SANTA RITA CAVES. Just recently opened to the public, the Santa Rita caves are the gate to the subterranean world of the Maya. The stunning calcareous formations along with stalactites and stalagmites are witness to the passing of time. In the interior of the caves, the visitor will uncover natural, crystal clear water fountains. Discover the stone chambers with curious shapes of nature resembling animals, plants and even human faces. The thousand year old cave paintings of our ancestors will leave an unforgettable impression on the visitors. Experience this extraordinary adventure in the company of expert tour guides, knowledgeable members of the community who will make sure your tour is one of the most memorable tours of your stay in the Yucatan. How to get there: It is located on the Merida-Cancun federal (not toll) highway. Pass the town of Chemax until you arrive at km 216 and follow it until the junction in La Estrella village. Coming from Merida, turn right down a dirt road for 7 km, passing first the community of Buenavista and then arriving at Santa Rita. Coming from Cancun, cross km 217 and then turn left when you arrive at the junction in La Estrella village. Contact: Atilano Xiu Kanxoc, Tel: 985 101 7259. In this community you will find Exploring the Mayas Underground World, whose administration is responsibility of the group Bellezas Naturales de Actun Kaab.
• CENOTE XCANCHÉ in Ek Balam. The natural richness of the Mayan territory is found in its greatest splendor in the plant and wildlife in the Xcanche cenote which combines areas of recreation with the mystical ambiance of a thousand year old civilization. The itinerary begins by biking along the jungle trail leading to the cenote. Once the traveler has arrived, he or she has different choices of activities including kayaking, rappelling to the cenote or ziplining across 60 meters of cable 20 meters high. Those who simply want to rest will have access to the cabins and thatched roofed huts equipped with hammocks or can visit the restaurant that serves regional cuisine. Also, for your convenience, you will be able to use the services at the Black Jaguar archaeological site “Ek Balam”. The crystal clear waters of our sanctuary are waiting for you.
• CABAÑAS UH NAJIL in Ek Balam. The traveler is guaranteed a truly enjoyable experience in the traditionally styled cabins of Uh Najil where the guests have private baths, beds, hammocks, and fans. We also have an area to camp in the open air. During the stay, the traveler will be guided by an expert tour guide through an interpretive trail, will enjoy an excursion through the caves and will admire the panoramic view of Ek Balam from the lookout. And, of course, you can experience the splendid gastronomy in this restaurant which serves excellent Yucatecan cuisine.
Aventura Maya website with info of all 8 destinations: