Learn what a ceiba tree is and why it is sacred to ancient Mayans. Find out more about the melipona bee and what makes them different from European bees.
There are many things that attract tourists to Cancun, including the native plants and animals. Cancun is home to some incredible and unique wildlife like the melipona bee and whale sharks. You’ll also find giant ceiba trees in this tropical environment. Learn more about these natural living wonders below and find out how to see them for yourself.
The melipona bee is a stingless species that was considered sacred among the ancient Mayans, who called them Xunán kab. Because of their gentle nature, they were often kept as pets or taken care of by children. The people would provide shelter and safety for the bees in exchange for the melipona honey, which is highly nutritious and was often used medicinally. These bees do not produce a lot of honey, so it was reserved for new mothers and those who were ill, making it even more valuable to the people. Now, the melipona bee is becoming scarce, much like European bees, but some can still be found near Cancun.
The melipona bee lives in a different type of home than the hives we are used to seeing on the outside of trees. These bees create their hive on the inside of a tree to keep it safe, since they do not sting. The queen bee lives in the very center and once she becomes pregnant, she can no longer fly, so she remains in the hive forever.
The ceiba tree grows in tropical climates like Central and South America, and parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. You can find them in Cancun and will probably recognize them based on their large above ground roots and the sheer size of their umbrella shaped canopies. These trees can grow to be over 100 feet tall with widespread, tightly-knit branches to withstand hurricanes. When they are young, they are covered in thorns for protection, then the thorns fall off as they grow.
The ancient Mayans also believed that ceiba trees were sacred and that the souls of the deceased would travel up through the branches to reach heaven. The trees represent the connection between the three worlds: the branches stretching to heaven, the trunk symbolizing earth, and the roots reaching to the underworld. They also signify life because they are found near sources of water. When looking for a good place to live, people could look for ceiba trees and know that water was nearby.
Sharks in Cancun
You may have heard that there are sharks in Cancun. Well, you’ve heard correctly! However, the sharks that reside in Cancun waters are gentle whale sharks. The whale shark is the largest fish in the sea and may appear intimidating at first. Whale sharks in Cancun can grow to be around 40 feet long. Fortunately, they are not interested in eating people, just plankton and small fish, despite their giant mouths. Whale sharks have flat heads, with small barbs sticking out by their snout. They are grey or brown with white spots and stripes and a white underbelly.
Whale sharks prefer warm water and will migrate to places like Cancun between May and September. They are friendly enough to allow people to get up close and swim alongside them, which is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Cancun Adventures offers exclusive tours for exciting experiences in Cancun, including our Whale Shark Snorkeling Experience. Join our local experts who will ensure your safety and enjoyment during the trip, as well as assist you with snorkel gear and teach you about the majestic whale sharks. We’ll instruct and prepare you for swimming right next to them in their peaceful natural habitat. This full-day adventure is suitable for ages 8 and older and does not require previous snorkeling experience, however, it is helpful to be a fairly good swimmer.
Check out Cancun Adventures to book your whale shark snorkeling experience today, or to see the other amazing tours available in Cancun.