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Gemma Quinn on eco-tourism in Cancun can experience new sensations by joining the blindfolded sensory
tour along a jungle path

The year 2002 has been declared an international year of Eco-tourism. Ecology is the relationship between organisms and their environments and there has been a surge in recent years in promoting this relationship to the tourist. However, if you don’t really fancy living amongst the nature but want to be eco-friendly and escape the tourist-ridden destinations try Quintana Roo, Mexico’s most easterly state, which is located on the Yucatan peninsula. Here the buzzword is Eco-Adventure, a unique blend of experiencing natural surroundings and an exciting mix of activities, all against the backdrop of the ancient Mayan civilisation. The best thing of all is that all this is reachable from Mexico’s lively resort of Cancun, where some of the country’s best hotels are situated. Staying in Cancun you will have all the luxury facilities you want and be able to see what’s on offer to explore the real Mexico.

The most popular amongst visitors wanting eco-adventure is what is known as the Mayan Encounter. Only 3 years ago the inhabitants of Pac Chen lived as they had centuries ago, hunting, working the land and harvesting honey. Now it is one of the best examples of eco-adventure for the tourist blending with Mayan culture. The community entered into a relationship with a company that offers ecotouristic products and now almost all of the 105 people living in the village are involved in this enterprise in one-way or another. The males have become experts in rappelling, using z-lines and canoeing, whilst the women cook a traditional lunch for visitors. Although they have been exposed to foreign culture on a daily basis and have picked up an extensive vocabulary of different languages, they are still very faithful to their Mayan lifestyle and beliefs and most still wear traditional clothing, of white dresses with hand embroidered flowers.

On entering the village of Pac Chen, tourists are taken on an easy jungle hike and then treated to a ride on a zip line. The 120m long ride crosses an open lagoon. Once on the other side you are taught basic abseiling skills and are lowered 45ft down into the Jaguar Cenote. These cenotes are wells or sinkholes and were named by the Spanish colonies. Cenotes are common to the Yucatan region with there being some 6,000 such wells giving Mayan access to an extensive system of underground wells.

Next its time for a traditional Mayan feast that is enjoyed with the community beside the lagoon.
Tours are small and friendly and there are never more than 10 people in a group. The Mayan Encounter can be experienced by anyone aged from 7 to 70 but if it all sounds a little too energetic than Tres Rios ecological park, just a 30-minute drive from Cancun could be more suitable. The Tropical reserve has taken every care to ‘preserve nature and guarantee an unforgettable day of hands-on experience, exploration and relaxation.’

Here you can be as active as you wish and explore the tropical park by foot or on the free bicycles. On land you can experience new sensations by joining the blindfolded sensory tour along a jungle path near a hidden cenote, horseback riding is also very popular along the beach, or simply watch the world go by from your very own hammock.

Take to the water and in front of the powdery, silk-like sand is a large coral reef formation, perfect for snorkelling and scuba-diving, or take the quieter route and feel energised as you drift along the jungle river under a tropical canopy either by swimming or canoe.
By getting back to nature it really makes you appreciate every little sound or smell as animals and vegetation work in harmony with each other. Mexican’s are very proud of the success of Cancun that has created a vast amount of jobs, but they are equally proud of the way they have preserved what is so precious to them and that they are able to show tourists some of the truly best sites Mexico has to offer.

For more information on ecotourism and the community of Pac Chen contact Alltournative at their website:
I stayed at the Sunset Lagoon Marina and Spa Resort, which offers free day trips to Tres Rios for guests. For more details contact:
Blvd. Kukulcan km. 5.8
Q. Roo,
Tel: (55) 998-883-1111
By Gemma Quinn.

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