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24 May 2018
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Lagunas Muyil, Chunyaxché and the Mayan canals

Most people who come to the Riviera Maya have no idea that just south of Tulum pueblo, within the confines of the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve, there are two large absolutely pristine lakes that can be toured by boat. We came here recently to re-visit the Mayan ruins of Muyil and discovered a new boardwalk/ nature trail through a lush marshland that ends up at the edge of beautiful Laguna Muyil.

Sian Kaan with boat

The inland waterway of the Mayas south of Tulum

It is thought that the Maya originally built Muyil because it was an important link in their maritime trade route up and down the coast of Quintana Roo. Artifacts have been found here from as far away as Guatemala and Honduras, linking the southern tribes of the Maya to the Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula. Where waterways provided an easier route for the transit of goods, the Maya most certainly used them. Along the coast of Quintana Roo a well established trade route led from the sea to Muyil via canals and large lakes. The Maya hand excavated the canals to link Boca Paila [the sea entrance] to Laguna Chunyaxche and Laguna Muyil, where the ruins are located. Laguna Campechen is also linked creating a vast inland waterway of narrow canals and big lakes.

We started our day early but got delayed and couldn’t get out on the water until 9:30 A.M. Consequently we didn’t see any birds but we hear the earlier tour at day break is better for that. The weather was beautiful, cool and sunny, as we loaded up in the boat “Princesa Maya” of Candido Caamal Uitzil, with his son Ismaiel as our captain and guide. Their business, U Yo’o Chel Maya is a good example of genuine eco-tourism since the family lives in Muyil and offers this tour instead of cutting down the jungle, working the land and hunting.

Crossing Laguna Muyil – sky and water on Laguna Chunyaxche

crossing the Muyil lake in the sian kaanZipping across these lakes on a beautiful day, and then winding your way through these ancient canals surrounded by green marshlands is a totally different experience than the typical tourist trek to “nature parks” and major ruins sites. Out on the water you get a privileged view of virtually un-touched areas where few have gone before. All day excursions can be made which go through the canals, out to Boca Paila and the marshy bays where large rookeries of birds thrive. For extended tours like this you need plenty of drinking water, protection from the sun, some swim wear, bug repellant and a cooler with beverages and snacks. Of course a camera with zoom and binoculars to spot birds will make the trip more memorable. Our trip was the short version for just two hours and we made it across both lakes and about half way through the canal that links Laguna Chunyaxché to Boca Paila and Laguna Campechen.