Diving and Snorkel in the Mexican Caribbean
The Mexican State of Quintana Roo is located on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and is known in the world-wide scope as one of the best destinies of diving in the Caribbean.
The area is very recognized between divers of the United States of America, Canada, and Europe.
To the south of Cancun begins the second greater reef barrier of the chorale in the world and the greatest in the North hemisphere (that begins to the south of Cancun and it extends until the coast of Honduras, with some open zones).
In addition, around Cozumel island, and in Isla Mujeres and Contoy Island, exist different coralline formation, very famous, like reefs of wall of Palancar in Cozumel or Manchones of Isla Mujeres.
By other side, in all the Yucatan Peninsula exists underground rivers, that, in the case of the Mayan Riviera, has been explored in their majority and opened to the public who looks for to dive in caverns and cenotes, as much out to sea as inland, which causes that this zone offers unique possibilities.
Isla Mujeres dive sites
Isla Mujeres, Contoy and Cozumel, set the northern limit of the largest coral reef barrier, in the northern hemisphere, the second largest in the world. The natural beauty and abundance of marine life on the Great Mayan Reef is truly a gift of nature and an amazing experience.
Isla Mujeres, has more than 10 wonderful diving and snorkeling sites, with high concentrations of colorful marine life.
Isla Mujeres offers different easy diving locations all just a few minutes from the island.
Within the National Marine park, you may choose to explore the Manchones Reef where sea life is abundant. Manchones Reef also holds the world renowned Underwater Museum MUSA
Garrafon Park, Isla Mujeres Mexico
• Garrafon National Marine Park is a protected reserve. It hosts an eco-tourism park that allows visitors to enjoy unmatched submarine wonders.
• Cave of the Sleeping Sharks. Made famous by Jacques Cousteau, divers may watch sharks up close – ‘sleepy’ due to the freshwater flowing through the cave. Expert divers only.
• The Arch and The Bridge, two spectacular sites, are also located in the Garrafon Park. Recommended for expert divers only.
• El Farito and Los Manchones, have solid reefs with heights between three and five meters. Open water divers and snorkel.
• Bayside, the Underwater Cross and The Virgin of the Bay are two additional sites worth diving or snorkeling.
• MUSA subaquatic museum. It is a collection of more than 300 human sized sculptures that were created with the intention to protect the reef and encourage coral growth. The museum is also called the Silent Evolution due its eventual transformation into a complete self sustaining reef ecosystem in the near future. Today’s the museum provides protection for many species and represents a symbol of environmental consciousness.
Contoy Island area
Contoy Island has set aside as a Biosphere Reserve. A breeding colony, Contoy is rookery to pelicans, frigate birds, and cormorants. Three neighboring reefs are an easy dive and snorkel, but divers must watch for strong currents.
• Las Calderas, Arrecifes Ixlache, and Barco Hundido. Visibility conditions are excellent; the reefs are in excellent condition.
Other Mexican Caribbean Dive Sites are:
Cancun | Cenotes, and Caves | Contoy Island | Costa Maya – Mahahual | Cozumel | Riviera Maya
There are a lot of places for diving and snorkeling sites in and around Cancun. Favorites include:
• Punta Nizuc, a large, tranquil bay in front of Club Med
• Punta Cancun, spanning Playa Tortugas to Camino Real Hotel and home to a large variety and quantity of tropical fish.
• Manchones, La Bandera (The Flag) and El Tunnel (The Tunnel) reefs
• And many other sites of interest.
Riviera Maya (The coast of the Mexican Caribbean)
Nature was very generous with Quintana Roo. Dense, sprawling jungles are home to multitudes of wildlife. A sparkling coastline is graced by crystal clear turquoise waters rich with marine life — a density unmatched by any destination in the world. This unique destination is enjoyed by Mexican and foreign travelers alike. Hundreds of dive and snorkeling sites dot the coastline. We’be listed cities and villages with dive and snorkeling infrastructures for your convenience.
Puerto Morelos. Small and rustic, this port’s reef runs a few meters off the beach with easy access and dense marine life. The reef has been designated a protected area.
Playa del Carmen. Privileged in its location at the Cancun — Tulum midpoint, Playa del Carmen is the ferry access to Cozumel Island. The reef off Playa’s shore is about 1 kilometer away, with a wide range of tropical fish. The most abundant are black and blue angelfish.
Xcaret. Well known as a good balance of culture, ecology, water sports, and good restaurants, the Eco-Park offers snorkeling and diving to beginners and advanced practitioners.
Xcaret Park, Riviera Maya Mexico
Akumal. Located about 100 kilometers south of Cancun, Akumal’s ample beaches are great staging areas for beautiful reefs. Wonderful diving and snorkeling.
Xel-Ha. Spring waters running into the Caribbean feed one of the world’s largest natural aquariums, Xel-Ha’s bay. A national reserve, the park is carefully monitored. A paradise for snorkeling, diving and relaxing with nature 115 kilometers south of Cancun.
Xel-Ha Park, Riviera Maya Mexico
Tulum. Gateway to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and home to ‘El Castillo’ ruins, Tulum has excellent barrier reef diving and snorkeling conditions. The water off the coast is spectacularly effervescent.
Cenotes and Caves
Cenote and cave diving began growing in popularity in the ‘80’s in Quintana Roo. Cave and cavern divers from the world over began flocking to the state to celebrate there very specialized sport.
Cenote comes from the Mayan word Izonott, which means “well”. The cenotes are geological ‘faults’ or ‘sinkholes’ created by the long-term effects of rainwater percolating through the porous limestone aquifer that makes up much of the Yucatan Peninsula. Erosion of the aquifer forms caves and tunnels beneath the surface, and should the ground collapse into a water-formed cave, a sinkhole or cenote appears. Many cenotes are very large, deep and riddled with water-filled tunnels that can extend underground for miles. Extremely clear water creates an incredible diving experience in a unique and beautiful habitat. Cenotes are found from Quintana Roo all the way into Central America.
It is important to note that cenote diving is an extreme, high-risk sport. Divers must be trained carefully; there is little or no room for mistakes. Professional instructors can be contacted at CEDAM Diving Center and Akumal Diving Center.
Many tours are offered at parks and cenotes with including a much safer alternative; snorkeling. Safe for the entire family, they are an alternative that allows the over 50 cenotes to be experienced in Quintana Roo.
Favorite cenotes include:
• Chacmool, and the subterranean connected Cristal and El Escondido, and others in the area surrounding Puerto Aventuras.
• Cenote Nohoch Chic, Dos Ojos, Aktun-Chen, and Cenote Azul.
• Coba ruins are home to 5 remarkable cenotes.
Costa Maya (The Southern Coast of Quintana Roo)
• Sian Ka’an, Biosphere Reserve. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Reserve is home to seven different types of natural habitats, including jungles, swamps, mangroves, cenotes, and lagoons, and bays. In 1987, UNESCO declared it to be “Patrimony to Mankind”, with an area of 600 hectares (approximate. 1,800 acres) and a chain of coral reefs running for 100 kilometers down the coast.
• La Costa Maya. The fifty-eight kilometers (approximate. 36 miles) of coast running from Mahahual to Xcalak are protected a continuation of the barrier reef. Access has been made possible only recently and new dive sites are discovered almost daily.
• Banco Chinchorro. A remarkable coral atoll located very close to the shore. Rich in marine life and fish species, Banco Chinchorro is a habitat rich from unsullied corals and a number of shipwrecks. The ‘Bank’ runs almost 800 kilometers (approximate. 500 miles) in length.
Approximately 50 diveable reefs ring the island of Cozumel. Visibility ranges from 40 to 50 meters (approximate. 130 to 160 feet), balmy temperatures and astounding wildlife make for a great diving experience. Yet, another section of the world’s second-largest reefs system, and the largest in the northern hemisphere. For your convenience, dive sites are classified by difficulty: beginners, intermediate and advanced.
Chankanaab Park, Cozumel Mexico
Ideal Beginner Sites:
• Chankanaab. No visit to Cozumel is complete without a visit to Chankanaab. Snorkel the lagoon’s wonderful coral formations, stroll the exceptional botanical gardens, take in the dolphin show and the museum. Facilities include restaurants, changing rooms and rentals for snorkel and dive gear.
• Paraiso Norte, Paraiso Sur, La Herradura (incomparably beautiful), Pared de Villa Blanca, and Palancar Gardens are other sites perfect for beginners.
Intermediate Level Divers:
· Santa Rosa, a spectacular wall dive is the hands-down popularity winner on the island. Hundreds of meters long with a tremendous variety of Marine Life.
· San Francisco, Punta Tunich, Tormentos, and Paso del Cedral are sites that reward the intermediate diver with dense fish populations, richly colored reefs and challenging technical requirements.
Advanced Level Divers:
• Palancar. Cozumel’s most famous site. A world-class dive, mountainous coral formations will catch your eye and the marine life is nothing short of amazing. Shallower dives run from 6 to 12 meters (approximate. 20 to 40 feet) while deeper dives plunge 30 to 37 meters (approximate. 90 to 120 feet). There are four entrances to the reef system: the Gardens, the Horseshoe, the Caves and the Deep Zone, each at different diving levels.
• Colombia. As beautiful as Palancar with depths ranging from 23 and 30 meters (approximate. 75 to 100 feet) in deep canyons and cliffs. Great for observing jellyfish, corals and coral dwellers.
• Punta Sur. Recommended for expert divers, with depths between 27 and 37 meters (approximate. 90 to 120 feet). Highly recommended for night diving.
About Diving in Mexican Caribbean
The operators of diving trips affirm that in Quintana Roo, Mexico can be dived all year. Still, during the months of swell that are the freshest months of February to August, in the Cozumel Island, the West can be dived on the coast that is protected by the continental strip. In Cancun and Cozumel most of the diving becomes in the boat and it is mainly free diving if you are not sure of your ability to dive in strong currents, asks the leader of the group in your diving boat. The effects of the surge in Cancun and the coast of the Caribbean in the months of October to March make the trips dive less comfortable and the diving requires more technical elements, for some sites. If you want an alternative, to dive in cenotes or to swim with dolphins will give you a recreation alternative. All divers are informed about the conditions of the climate during its instruction.
The operators of diving services and the local population, we know that to become attached itself to the norms of environmental conservation will protect and preserve marine life, so fragile in these areas and whose ecological and economic importance is relevant.
Since a great number of visits are carried out to the near reefs and considering that in the last decade two hurricanes of greater proportions have caused significant damages, in the coasts of Quintana Roo, the authorities have imposed political for the conservation of all the sites of diving: reefs, walls, and lows. These areas are declared as protected zones and even some of them are natural reserves, reason why standards policies and measures of conservation are handled with many more highs and strict.
By the previous thing and, in general, we requested you to follow the following norms:
• When you swim, snorkel or dives, do not touch the chorales nor it moves the objects and animals of the bottom.
• Do not remove alive organisms from any type outside the water.
• Do not extirpate seaweed, plants or corals.
• It does not use harpoons or fishing networks.
• Do not interfere with the passage of migratory animals or in nesting, like turtles, marine birds or mammalian sailors.
• Never throws overboard of the boats any type of plastic remainder or trash in general.
• Use natural solar protectors and suntan oils.
• Never swim, snorkel or dive alone.
• Advertise your hotel that you are going to make aquatic activities in order for them to be pendent to your safe return.
Mexican Caribbean, included Cancun and Riviera Maya, is one of the world’s water sports capitals and offers quality services for virtually everything relating to diving and snorkeling. The list is long, but key points include:
• Diving instruction of the highest level (usually PADI)
• Equipment sales and rental
• Equipment repair
• Highly qualified dive guides (usually PADI)
• Photographic and video equipment rental
• A staffed decompression chamber
• Dive related medical assistance
Learn to dive
In all the zone exists a great number of diving schools, in most of the marinas that offer aquatic services, as much in Cancun, as of the Mayan Riviera, which has an instruction reputation from first class to the highest standards.
In order to choose the operation of diving review if it’s affiliated to the schools of high instruction like PADI, NAUI or BSAC. These organizations are the best ones in the instruction of diving in the world, for sport diving:
PADI: Professional Association of Diving Instructors are represented in 87 countries and they certified to near 85% of all divers in the world. In Quintana Roo it is the most represented.
NAUI: National Association of Underwater Instructors less popular in the area but equally competent.
BSAC: British Scuba Aqua Club extensively known in Europe and Japan, some places have instructors of this Club.
Only the Amazon rivals the incredible richness of the Mexican Caribbean’s underwater flora and fauna. With visibility ranging from 16 to 32 meters (approximate. 50 to 100 feet) and water temperatures from 21 to 29° centigrade (approximate. 70 to 84° Fahrenheit), divers and snorkelers can experience the world’s second-largest reef system in great comfort.
In the North Coast of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo begins the second coralline reef barrier longer of the world. The Current of Yucatan – a branch of the Sea current of the Gulf bathes them with crystalline waters and rich in nutrients, in addition, the existence of important coastal areas of coastal mangroves, that also contribute with great amount of nutritious material, and the temperatures of water which hardly are lower of 77º F in fresher months and during the summer the hot and dry season 82º F, between many other factors, do to the coastal ecosystems of this zone of Mexico, areas of very high biological diversity. With the great variety of species of reefs fish, shoals of fish of pelagic fish (of coastal seas) and until migratory zones of oceanic species (of deep seas), and great variety of benthonic species (of the seafloor).
All these ecosystems, nevertheless, have a very high vulnerability, like a nonrenewable resource, since the rate of growth of the chorale banks, sustenance of the main ecosystems, is of as soon as centimeters in hundreds of years.
Before to begin you will have to certify yourself like beginner diver. For these effects, you can register in a basic course, of two to four hours, in where the primary targets are to give felt the Diving to detonate the enthusiasm by this sport and to teach the basic of the security in the water and the preservation of the human life such as marine. The minimum age to certify itself as sport diver is twelve years, (divers younger than 18 years require the permission of the parents), and does not exist maxim age, as long as your enjoyment of good health.
Once the basic course is approved, you can continue with other courses of specialty like diving in sunk boats; diving in natural cenotes and caverns; submarine photograph, etc., activities that will enjoy more ahead and, if therefore you wish it, you will be able to teach others this beautiful and amazing sport.
You will find all these courses and more in Cancun and all Quintana Roo, the certification or card “C” is worldwide effective but if you dive only once a year, its recommended a previous update course in a specialized diving center.
So much in Cancun as in the Riviera, you will find that the boats of diving in their majority are small and fast launch that will take you relatively comfortable and fast to the diving site, in trips that can last maximum 90 minutes until the immersion point. In the Riviera Maya, the trips to the diving sites take an average of 30 min.
Throughout the Mexican Caribbean coast and on the East coast of Cozumel, also operated boats that can take groups of up to 14 people. The boats are safe, proper and comfortable for their guests. They take the sufficient diving gear and the air tanks to give to each diver several immersions in a day. The ships only make the trips to distant reefs if the time allows it. Its better season is in the summer when the climate is magnificent. There are daily trips and at night, some are excursions that will last from three to five days. We recommended to look for an established marina that offers these services.
Types of diving
In the zone can be made all the types of recreational diving:
• Freediving, in brief places.
• Snorkel, single with viewfinder and snorkel, in little deep places near the coast, cenotes and reef barriers.
• Diving with compressor, hose, and compressor, in little deep places near the coast.
• Diving “snub” or submarine long walk in brief sites using snub.
• Independent diving using tanks, in the sea to different depths.
• Independent diving with tanks in caverns and cenotes, with specialized equipment and very strict requirements.
Several operators of diving have the qualification and the facilities to take care of divers with special requirements. There are also boats adapted for operators and wheelchairs who will organize trips for people who have special requirements. The information is available in tourist information offices and offices of great operators of diving trips.
Specialized Medical Services and Decompression Chambers
In the case of diving exist two types of risk: the decompression and arterial embolism by gas. Both are treated emergently by the same form. In Quintana Roo, it is counted with hyperbaric chambers for the treatment of these sufferings in the biggest cities like Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen. Absolutely all the companies that offer services of diving are in contact with these hyperbaric chambers.