If you are looking what to do in Punta Allen, snorkeling on the Sian Ka’an Reef is a must-do activity. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef goes through Sian Ka’an for about 120 kilometers and offers many treasures to its visitors. This article will explain everything you need to know about the Sian Ka’an Reef, what to see and how to get there…
What is a reef?
A coral reef is an underwater mountain made up of coral skeletons. Reefs are also made up of other living beings, such as algae or shellfishs. The brightly colored coral reef can grow for hundreds of years without being damaged by the ocean.
Coral is a structure made up of millions of tiny marine animals called polyps. The size of the polyp, which is shaped like a tube, is only an inch.
Corals can have many different colors, shapes and sizes. They can be soft or hard, smooth or rough, black, white or any color… Polyps are hollow and attached to each other or to limestone rocks to form large structures. Corals live together in groups called colonies and very large colonies are reefs. Polyps collect calcium from seawater and turn it into limestone around their lower part.
What to see on the Sian Ka’an Reef?
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, it’s the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef that goes through Sian Ka’an. More than 120 kilometers of this treasure are located in the territory of the Biosphere Reserve. It is the second largest coral reef in the world, from Honduras to Mexico via Guatemala and Belize.
The corals are very colorful and many animals are living in the reef. You will have the chance to see lots of multicolored fishes. There are also turtles, rays and even a few sharks. It is important to point out that these last 3 animals are rarer and that you will need quite a bit of luck to see them the day you go there.
It is also important to note that the famous animal of the reserve, the dolphin, cannot be found on the reef but in the lagoons further upstream.
The different options to get there
To go snorkeling on the Sian Ka’an reef, you have to get there by boat. It’s impossible to reach the reef from the beach. Don’t worry, you will find plenty of boat tours in Sian Ka’an!
The boat tour from Punta Allen usually combines a visit to observe dolphins in the lagoons and turtles in the open sea. A snorkeling activity on the reef (with or without snorkeling gear included) and a relaxing experience in the natural pools of Punta Allen are also offered during the tour.
These boat tours are operated by the fishing cooperatives of Punta Allen. They all have the same small and fast motor boat with a capacity of 6 to 8 people maximum. As Sian Ka’an is a nature reserve, tourist activities and tour boats are very controlled, only this type of boat is allowed to navigate.
This option from Punta Allen is only valid if you are already there. The easiest way from Tulum or Playa Del Carmen is to take an all-inclusive day trip with an agency. The price will vary depending on the agency and according to where you start the tour and between 100 and 150 USD. You can start your trip at the entrance of the reserve or at Punta Allen after a 2 hour drive by van.
Preserving the Sian Ka’an Reef
It is essential to preserve this wonderful coral reef. Not to impact the biodiversity of the protected Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, everyone’s effort is a big step that helps to protect this magical place. This effort involves using biodegradable sunscreen instead of chemical sunscreen, picking up litter, and using a life jacket when snorkeling the reef, so you don’t touch the corals. 💚