Jardin Botanico "Yaax Che" - Botanical gardens near Puerto Morelos
Mayan legend tells us that a giant Ceiba tree grows from the earth's center (Yaax Che). Its trunk and branches support the sky and its roots penetrate into the underworld joining together the three cosmic levels of the Mayan universe: Cab, Kan and Xibalba.
Entrance to Jardin Botanico "Yaax Che", epiphytes grow on a log
(below) Señor iguana - labeled trees are along the paths
A marvelous day trip adventure
Jardin Botanico "Yaax Che" is the only bona fide botanical gardens that we know of on the coast of Quintana Roo. The gardens were first established in 1984 and were dedicated in 1990 to Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín, a scientist who devoted the better part of his life to the study and preservation of the Maya way of life, their natural environment, and their knowledge and use of the region's medicinal plants.
The gardens sit on 60 hectares of jungle and mangrove.
A groomed loop trail provides easy walking to various collections of plants, all beautifully displayed in their natural environment. A scenic lookout tower is a bit of a challenge to climb but rewards the brave with a panoramic view from the mangrove to the sea, and out over the jungle.
Monkeys and birds are not unusual to see here.
There is no guarantee of course but seeing troupes of spider monkeys and tropical birds like toucans are frequent because the gardens have cauldrons of water along the paths to attract them. Walking quietly will increase your chances of a sighting and it is worth the effort! We saw a troupe of 12 monkeys swinging through the trees, some with babies, and all looked down on us un-afraid and well aware of our presence.
Also on the grounds are some small Mayan ruins, a traditional Maya home (palapa), and a re-created chiclero camp by a small cenote. The Mayan home and chiclero camp in particular give some insight into what life was like before tourism came to the coast. Generally, the Maya lived off the land, raising a few animals and small fields of corn that they harvested to grind into the meal they use to make tortillas. The chiclero camp was a temporary encampment where the sap of the zapote or "chicle" tree was boiled down and cast into blocks for transport out of the jungle. The gum was the base for chewing gum, hence the "chiclets" brand name for the popular chewing gum in those days.