The Caribbean coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is a verdant paradise of white-sand beaches, lagoons and mangroves, with ancient ruins and lush tropical jungle, but the region is also home to the world’s second-largest barrier reef, which lies just offshore. Now, visitors can take part in preserving the reef for generations to come, thanks to an alliance between Fairmont Mayakoba and Oceanus A.C., which offers a $49-per-person snorkeling tour to underwater nurseries where guests can gather and help transplant coral to the sea bottom, where it can continue to grow.
Best Eco-Tours in Mexico’s Riviera Maya
This Coral Reef Restoration Program seeks to preserve the vital habitat of more than 500 species of fish, as well as the largest known aggregation of whale sharks, mangroves, seagrass and coral reefs. The Great Mesoamerican Reef serves as a natural barrier and protects coastal communities all along the Mexican Caribbean shoreline, which stretches south from Cancun through Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen and Puerto Aventuras, to Tulum and beyond.
The unique sustainable travel package works hand-in-hand with Oceanus, a non-governmental international organization that is dedicated to the conservation of marine and other natural resources worldwide. The Fairmont Mayakoba Hotel and resort has worked closely with the organization to develop the snorkeling tour, which seeks to help reforest the reef by planting new coral colonies along its beach.
“Our snorkeling tour offers the opportunity to take part in this incredible activity by visiting the coral nurseries”, stated Tatiana Morfin, who serves as the resort’s ecology and corporate social responsibility manager. “Because of global warming, the coral is dying, and if we don’t do something about it soon, we’ll lose an entire marine ecosystem”.
The snorkel tour shows guests how to gather acropora palmata, also known as elkhorn coral, which is a type of reef-building coral that can become detached by the force of the marine current. With assistance from the tour leader, participants will help transplant the coral to a new home on the Mexican Caribbean sea bottom, where it can continue its growth. The reef restoration program is part of the state’s commitment to plant at least 260,000 corals over a six-year period.
“As critical to the sea as rainforests are to terra firma, coral reefs cover just 0.1 percent of the ocean’s surface, yet support at least 25% of all marine life”, wrote Rosewood Hotels in a statement.
Just offshore from the Mayakoba resort complex, scientists have built a series of underwater concrete grids, planting small fragments of coral that will eventually create a new self-sustaining colony. This new artificial reef will ultimately link up with a small existing natural reef nearby, which is the remains of what experts believe was once a larger colony that has been damaged in recent years by extreme weather. So far, trials have been successful with newly-planted elkhorn corals growing well and already starting to branch out.
The restored reef will not only help to protect Fairmont Mayakoba’s mangroves and pristine white-sand beach, but by attracting fish and other wildlife these efforts will also create new opportunities for guests to snorkel and receive a firsthand education about the effects of climate change.
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Want to see more of the best Riviera Maya tours and excursions? Check out Off the Beaten Path: 5 Fun Activities in Mexico’s Riviera Maya and start to plan your next unforgettable adventure today!