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New Artificial Reef in Mexico’s Riviera Maya

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Kan-Kanán, the new artificial reef in Mexico’s Riviera Maya is the worlds largest and is due to be completed by December 2015.

The new artificial reef in Mexico’s Riviera Maya is currently under construction by an expert team of engineers, environmentalists, architects and specialized divers.

Longer than the Brooklyn Bridge, Kan-Kanán will span a 1.9-kilometer area parallel to the coast of reef construction Puerto Morelos. From the air, this monumental reef looks like a huge serpent guarding the coast, giving birth to its name: Kan-Kanán, which means “The Guarding Serpent” in Mayan

Commissioned by the El Dorado Royale & Spa, and Karisma hotels resorts – located in Mexico’s Riviera Maya construction began on the artificial reef in October of 2013 and is due for completion by December of this year. The aim of the project is to support marine life that is found throughout the area, in addition to protecting the hotel complex from waves and storms.

“We want to give back to the sea and this is a way of being kind to the ecosystem,” said Manuel Alfonso Jesús Barrero Gutierrez, who is the architect responsible for the work.


This giant artificial reef situated 40 meters from the beach will be constructed using over 1,000 hollow pyramidal structures created on a concrete base, each reef pile measures 2.75 meters high and is made with a specific marine micro silica-based material.


They will be placed with extreme precision over the seabed by powerful cranes and a team of specialized divers. Its materials make it an environmentally friendly construction that allows nutrients to attach, resulting in the regeneration of marine life.

The project will create an artificial habitat that will produce 22,000 metric tons of marine biomass, i.e. Fish, corals and invertebrates every year thus creating a new tourist attraction in addition to the environmental benefits.


International organizations and environmentalists originally proposed this new solution, it’s a fact that the Caribbean features certain limitations: tropical and versatile weather conditions, the coast’s unstable terrain, the unpredictable ocean and hurricane season (June – November)… These are just a few elements that make this project a huge challenge!

Environmentally friendly

Kankanán is located in the marine area adjacent to the El Dorado Royale & Spa in Punta Brava, Puerto Morelos, just south of Cancun. The Environmental Impact Statement (number 23QR2011TD078) authorized by the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), references that artificial reefs will be an ongoing effort in Mexico, where future survival depends largely on the weather conditions, and will target the formation of a new coral community, with species-associated flora and fauna, totalling an investment of $2 million dollars.


The document states “The structures are subject to the ravages of nature like other marine elements, including natural reefs.”

The project was initiated by damage from hurricanes in 2005 and 2007, when sand was deposited on the El Dorado Royale & Spa property causing extensive damage to facilities as well as the natural mangrove.

This situation led to a problem regarding how to manage the accumulated material. On one hand, if the material were left in the mangrove, the natural biological activity would be diminished by the lack of nutrients.

Also, because the material was mixed with peat, the location of it along the coast visually affected the appearance of the beach and could ultimately compromise the quality of water in the near shore marine area.

According to experts, the new reef creates a safe haven for aquatic species via the generation of an artificial reef similar to the natural environmental conditions of the area, which is home to the world’s second largest barrier reef.

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