Where the Sky is Born (OP – 06/22/2006)

June 23, 2006

In ancient Mayan Sian Ka’an means “Where the sky is born”, and it’s not hard to imagine how that name came to be.  The waters of the bay at the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve are of the cleanest and sharpest shades of blue that I have ever seen.  And it’s no wonder that the local Mayan population is concerned with the preservation the natural beauty and the resources of the land that they inherited from their ancestors.Community Tours Sian Ka’an (CTSK) is a conglomeration of Mayan coops that opted to come together to provide a system of ecotourism that is both authentic and autochthonous.  These are locals who have worked the land and the sea all their lives and know by upbringing that any form of careless exploitation of their resources can have dramatic impact on their lives. As Gerardo (one of our Mayan guides) put it for us one day, an outsider with enough money can come here rent boats, buy equipment, hire guides, and set up a guided tours operation in no time.  The resulting operation doesn’t have any incentive to promote responsible tourism because tomorrow, when the ecosystem is ruined, they may as easily take off and start operations somewhere else.  That is not an option to the people of CTSK.  First, because by upbringing they come to love and respect nature, and second because this is their home.  Their livelihood depends on the conservation of the area and it’s not easy for them to pick up and go.In that sense, it’s exciting and inspiring to be here to help CTSK improve on their model and operations.  To that effect, we began the trip by trying out the actual and potential types of tours and experiences CTSK would like to offer more regularly.Arriving at Tulum (80 mi. south of Cancún) on Sunday night, we had dinner with don Julio, a charismatic Spaniard who has worked in the area for a number of years and has earned the appreciation of the locals.  He was the one who told us to start each day with a “big sack full of patience and good humor” because things here are not run like in the
U.S.  We need to keep in mind that any recommendation we may come up with will be taken with a grain of salt.  Besides, things may not always work and probably will not work out as planned.  Personally I plan to take this to heart.  I just came back from a trip to Punta Allen and had the chance to experience what don Julio was referring to.  It’s now 2 a.m. and I better leave the stories of Punta Allen for tomorrow.  But, for the record… I do not snore, Dustin!!! J (at least, I think I don’t).

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