Summer means snorkeling for many a visitor to the Mexican Caribbean. Lazy days spent swimming through crystal-clear waters and an ever-changing parade of colorful fish of all shapes and sizes. Don your mask and flippers and take the plunge on your next vacation; it’s easy, fun for all the family and addictive. Try it once and you’ll never want to stop! There are plenty of shallow water reefs, sheltered bays and inlets along the coast where you can indulge your latest passion. As an alternative, why not visit a cenote park for a guided snorkeling tour in a limestone sinkhole or a cave filled with water so clear that it is a window on a strange otherworld, a forest of stalactites and stalagmites. Thomas More Travel will take you to reefs in the Cancun area and the Riviera Maya. You can even charter a boat and escape fellow swimmers on your own adventure. Here are 7 great snorkeling trips in the Mexican Caribbean to discover.
Reefs in the Cancun-Isla Mujeres area
Protected by a marine reserve, the chain of shallow water reefs in the bay between Isla Mujeres and Cancun and south to Punta Nizuc, is an excellent place to start exploring the Mesoamerican Reef, the world’s second longest, a reef system that runs south along the coast through the Riviera Maya and the Costa Maya and into the neighboring country of Belize. Trips are available to the reefs off Punta Cancun and Punta Nizuc in Cancun and El Farito and Manchones Reef approaching Isla Mujeres. You can also go snorkeling in El Garrafon Park on the southern tip of Isla Mujeres.
Marine life ranges from elk horn and brain coral and gardens of sea fans to sergeant majors, jacks, grunts, damsel and angelfish, rays and moray eels.
Cancun Underwater Sculpture Museum
One of our 7 great snorkeling trips in the Mexican Caribbean is right here in Cancun. The Cancun-Isla Mujeres National Marine Park is the site of the world’s largest underwater sculpture museum known as MUSA. A Cancun icon, the museum was inaugurated in 2009 and has more than 500 statues by British sculptor Jason deCaires-Taylor and other artists submerged in different locations in the Cancun-Isla Mujeres Reef Park, including Punta Nizuc and Manchones Reef. More are planned for snorkelers and divers to admire.
Apart from their artistic appeal, the figures provide a habitat for corals and sponges to colonize, attracting small fish and crustaceans and creating new reef communities.
Spend a day on the beach and snorkeling in Puerto Morelos, 20 minutes to the south of Cancun Airport. Also protected by a national marine park, the reef is home to species such as angelfish, trunkfish, snappers and octopus and is one of the most beautiful and pristine in the area. As a result, it makes our list of 7 great snorkeling trips in the Mexican Caribbean.
The biodiversity of the Puerto Morelos reef has attracted marine biologists for many years and the fishing village is the site of two marine research centers: the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) field station and a Mexican Fisheries Institute facility.
This picturesque bay has a palm-lined beach and several offshore reefs at different depths for diving and snorkeling. Marine life is varied and abundant; royal grammas, spotted drums and damselfish dart through the corals and parrotfish and eagle rays are frequently observed. The greatest thrill of all, however, is to spot a green or loggerhead turtle grazing on the sea grass. Watch from a distance, do not approach her or make a noise. Akumal means “place of the turtles” in Maya.
From Akumal you can also walk or drive north along the coast road to Half Moon Bay or Bahia de la Media Luna for snorkeling. The corals are much closer to the shore here and the sea bed is rocky so you’ll need reef shoes.
Located just to the north of Akumal, Yalkú is a caleta or inlet of turquoise water fed by underground streams that is popular for snorkeling.
Take the coast road north from Akumal and follow the signs past Half Moon Bay to Yalku. As soon as you jump into the cool and crystal-clear waters you’ll see a variety of colorful reef fish that feed or breed among the mangrove roots and submerged rocks. Sergeant majors and damselfish patrol the shoreline, queen angelfish cruise by and lone barracudas guard their territory. Listen and you will hear the sounds of parrotfish gnawing at the rock and look carefully and you may see a camouflaged peacock flounder or ray emerge from the sand. This is a lovely spot, especially early in the morning before it fills up.
A local cooperative manages Yalku and charges a fee for admission. Life jackets are available and there are restrooms and a little open-air cafe.
Dos Ojos Cenote Park
Also in the Akumal area, a visit to the Dos Ojos Cenote Park gives you the chance to explore the mysterious underworld of the Yucatan, an intricate labyrinth of caves and underground rivers deep in the limestone rock formed over millions of years by water erosion.
Dos Ojos is the site of two of the longest underground rivers in the world and some of the Riviera Maya’s most beautiful cenotes or sinkholes. With a guide you’ll go snorkeling in several cenotes or sinkholes, try zip lining and enjoy a day in the jungle.
Dos Ojos Park is also the site of the Museum of Prehistory, which casts light on the amazing discoveries of fossils and the bones of the earliest humans to settle the Yucatan Peninsula made by archaeologists and cave divers during explorations of area cenotes.
Always a good place for a family outing, Xel-Ha is one of our 7 great snorkeling trips in the Mexican Caribbean. Hailed by locals as the world’s largest natural aquarium, it is an enormous inlet of crystalline waters fed by underground rivers flowing through the surrounding mangroves and forest.
Rainbow-colored fish from nearby reefs feed and breed in the inlet and swimmers will see shoals of sergeant majors, tangs, blue chromis and one of the park’s emblems, the parrotfish, as soon as they venture into the water. Snorkel over to the rocks and further into the lagoons and you’ll see even more marine life.
Paths wind through the jungle around the inlet leading to secluded pools and cenotes, and attractions such as the Lazy River, the Cliff, the Mayan Cave and the dolphin area. For a breathtaking view of the turquoise waters, walk back across the floating bridge at the mouth of the inlet. Larger fish such as snappers and jacks congregate around the bridge.
If you decide to go snorkeling, please follow these guidelines and help preserve the reefs for future generations.
* Do not apply sun lotion or any kind of lotion or perfume if you are going snorkeling, wear a t-shirt to protect your skin instead. Sun products and the oils and chemicals in creams and cosmetics damage the coral and pollute the water.
* Do not touch the coral or stir the sand up in the vicinity of the reef. The slightest touch can cause damage that will take the coral centuries to recover from.
* Do not remove shells or other marine creatures from the reef.
* Watch your step; spiny sea urchins can cause nasty wounds.
* Don’t forget your underwater camera!
Book these 7 great snorkeling trips in the Mexican Caribbean with Thomas More Travel and ask about more snorkeling and diving tours to the reefs of the Riviera Maya and Cozumel and to area cenotes. Book your trip now.
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