Nature Reserves: places for recreation

Recreation is one of the benefits of nature that human beings appreciate the most. This type of activity is easily recognized and it is considered as an Environmental Service 1.

It can also be classified as a cultural activity, among other services also provided by natural landscapes, such as ecotourism, inspiration and aesthetics.

First of all, it could be relevant to ask ourselves: What makes us enjoy and have fun? And how can a nature reserve be considered a recreational landscape? It is necessary to set some basis to understand the structure of nature reserves in Mexico, how they are implemented in this country and how they are related to our recreation.

Sumidero Canyon National Park, in Chiapa de Corzo.

In Mexico, the concept of nature reserve officially translates as “Protected Natural Area” (PNA).

Protected Natural Areas are defined in the LGEEPA (Spanish acronym for General Law for Ecological Balance and Protection to the Environment) and by the CONANP (Spanish acronym for National Commission for Natural Protected Areas) as “terrestrial or aquatic portions of the national territory that are representative of different ecosystems, where the original environment has not been significantly altered and produces an increasingly recognized and valued ecological benefits” 2.

The Gulf of California has more than 900 islands, islets and islets; together they are one of the intact island ecosystems of the world.

The Contoy Island, Natural Protected Area since 1961, declared National Park in 1998. The most important shelter of seabirds of the Mexican Caribbean. Echo-tourism, scientific research, and two types of commercial fishing, are allowed under supervision of the park authorities.
Photography: Cédric MacCordick

El Palmar Yucatan State Reserve, its wide variety of flora and fauna are vital for the ecological balance of
the Caribbean.

The reason these different types of NPAs exist is because each kind has particular natural features that associate a certain area to the mentioned classification. 

Additionally, each one of these NPAs implies distinct management methods and issues. Currently, the CONANP manages 177 NPA and supports 370 areas voluntarily destined to conservation. 

Photography: Lluvia Magaña

Environmental Service is another key concept to understand the relationship between nature and recreation according to our laws.

Environmental Service is a term that the LGEEPA defines as “the tangible and intangible benefits supplied by ecosystems that are necessary for the survival of the natural and biological system as a whole, and that provide benefits to the human beings” 2. 

El Zapotal Conservation Area, in Yucatan.
Photography: Pronatura

On that line, if we consider that a natural area, which has not been essentially altered and that has representative natural elements, offers environmental services such as recreation and inspiration, it is easy to understand how nature reserves or NPA can be considered as a form of recreational landscape. 

Of course, in terms of “recreational” landscape, we must always consider that an area’s suitability for recreation is relative to individual tastes, so as we mentioned earlier, the question we should ask ourselves is: what makes us enjoy and have fun?

For some, it will be contemplating the horizon from the moist sand at the edge of the ocean, with no visual barriers, to feel the fleeting sense of infinity.

Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, Quintana Roo. Photography:

Perhaps, to wait, expectant and motionless, for the chance to photograph a rare bird of spectacular features on its habitat.

Others would rather walk great distances through improvised trails; to be covered by rain in a remote jungle, seek an adventure; feel that they are somewhere no one has ever been before and observe the scenery, the creatures lurking in the vegetation; stop, relax, get inspired, meditate, or simply breathe in and think of nothing, and then begin the journey back.

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
Photography: La Alianza WWF – Telcel

The journey back to where? That is something to think about: maybe a relevant reason why nature reserves are important in the recreational landscape is because for the increasing number of people who live in urban areas, nature reserves represent an escape from everyday life, a place to enjoy something substantially different from where our quotidian lives occur.

Area for Protection of Flora and Fauna Otoch Ma’ax Yetel Kooh. Photography:

Picture yourself diving in the magnificent coral reefs of Cozumel National Park, or walking the trails of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, or admiring the spider and howler monkeys in the Area for Protection of Flora and Fauna Otoch Ma’ax Yetel Kooh 3. 

Gran Plaza, Yaxchilán, Chiapas, México.
Photography: Adrian Hernandez
Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Ultimately, nature reserves are the ideal recreational landscape. Having the opportunity to revitalize in natural spaces opens our mind, it helps us peek outside our bubbles, to understand or at least imagine how nature works, and hopefully all this will result in a stronger awareness about the importance of conserving, of not altering, of stop interrupting. 

Maybe these areas call us to reflect on how nature is the key to our own development and wellbeing; and understand, even from an anthropocentric point of view, that the permanence of these spacesis essential.


1 Services that nature provides to human beings.

2  General Law of Ecologic general law of ecological balance and environmental protection, Diario Oficial de la Federación, Mexico, City of Mexico, January 28 of 1988, last modification January 09 of 2015.

3 Mayan phrase that means house of the”House of the Monkey and the Panther.”