At first glance, the road between Mérida and Progreso might not look as if it holds much of interest, but turn off the highway and you’ll see that there’s more going on that you might think. One such delightful surprise is Parque Áak, a civil association project in Xcunyá.
What is Parque Áak?
Parque Áak is working to raise awareness of environmental issues, and promote sustainable technology and Maya culture with a strong emphasis on inclusion and human rights.
What does this look like in reality though?
Well, should you visit, you’ll find an area that looks like a mix-up of a nursery and park. Tours (available in English and Spanish) are fabulously interactive and aimed right at children. We found that our kids were so excited that they were desperate to talk to our guide and to share their knowledge with her as we were shown around the grounds. The guide was absolutely perfect with them. She listened, asked them questions, and didn’t once show any impatience when the kids did what kids do best: talk over adults and interrupt to share their latest vitally important thought.
The tour takes in a working ‘lombricomposta’ (a worm based compost heap), baby turtles you can hold, adult turtles you’ll need to hunt for (did you know that Áak is Maya for turtle?), and chickens and rabbits you can feed. Once you’ve checked out all the live animals, it’s time to consider the 3 R’s: reducing, reusing, and recycling; but not in a dull, lecturing kind of way. Here, the kids can play on musical instruments made from old pots and pans, sit in chairs made from various recycled materials, and engage in a great discussion about how to look after the planet.
After the tour you’ll be invited to explore alone. I highly recommend you take the time to let the kids play and explore and to wander and wonder. The gardens are beautiful and the kids will find plenty to do and to think about while climbing in the playground, examining plants, reading a cartoon history of the region, or finding the wall of tolerance (one of my favorite areas).
School Groups and Individual Visits
Parque Áak celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. During the week, school groups visit and learn how to live a more environmentally-aware life, but on the weekend the site is open to everyone who wants to learn more about sustainability and Maya culture.
There is a small shop on site selling local honey and plants. You can hire an area of the park for parties and the staff also provides homework help to local children on Saturday mornings. This is truly a shining example of a wonderful community project working to educate and improve the lives of its own community and everyone else, too.
Editorial by Cassie Pearse
Photography by Cassie Pearse for use in Yucatán Today
Comisaria de Xcunyá at the end of Calle Chi’kín, Mérida
Tel. (999) 995 2346
FB: Parque Aak
Saturdays 9 am – 1 pm for guided tours. Entry $50 pesos.
Open during the week with at least two days’ notice.
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