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Living it up (naturally) on Mayan Riviera

By John Bordsen
Travel Editor
John Bordsen
John Bordsen is the Travel Editor for The Charlotte Observer.

Paola Rubio, 30, is a biologist at Banyan Tree Mayakoba, a villa resort in the 640-acre Mayakoba development along Mexico’s Mayan Riviera. She is a native of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, who has been at Banyan Tree Mayakoba ( four years.

Q: What draws people to your resort?

It’s a private resort and Banyan is characterized as a luxury brand. We have visitors from all over the world who are familiar with the Banyan Tree brand: We’re known worldwide for our spas and the treatments we offer. But in particular, Banyan Tree Mayakoba is well-known for nature and ecology.

Q: What kinds of animals do you have there?

The biodiversity is impressive. On a regular day you can see crocodiles, different species of birds – cormorants, ducks – raccoon, deer, agouti (a rabbit-size rodent) and more.

Some migrate – storks, for instance. Others live here year-round.

It’s difficult for dangerous animals to get close to our area, though the jungle is more verdant in some places nearby. We have crocodiles, but we have a sustainable program for managing them.

We have both natural and groomed areas.

Q: Is the resort on the Caribbean?

We have beautiful and private beach club on the coast. We have 62 hectares (153 acres) of mangroves and most of the villas are behind the mangrove area. The larger part of the resort is also behind the mangrove line.

Q: What do you do there?

I’m in charge of following up operational aspects, ensuring we have a sustainable operation.

We also have projects with the local communities to protect the environment. We have one for protecting melipona bees, a native species that’s endangered. We began with training people on beekeeping for this sting-less species, and built the bees a specialized habitat. We began buying their melipona honey at a premium price. We went further and now have a workshop where people use the honey to prepare soaps, which we buy. More products means more benefits for them.

Q: What does honey from Yucatan bees taste like?

A bit more sour. What’s interesting is not just the taste but its natural properties: It has a different composition and a lot of vitamins because these bees pollinate in the local rainforests with different types of flowers.

Q: The Mayakoba complex has a Greg Norman-designed golf course; the villas have individual pools. But are there nature programs for guests?

We have an eco tour where guests can get in a boat and go all over Mayakoba. A guide identifies the animals to look for, and there are many to see. It is an adventure.

Q: As a biologist, what’s your favorite place on the Mayakoba grounds?

I do love the canal and lagoon system. I totally love to see this. The system is connected all over Mayakoba – it’s not like there’s just two or three canals. There are close to 13 kilometers (8 miles) of waterways, all connected.

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