7 reasons why… Diving in Riviera Maya, Mexico is amazing.

 

I have been wanting to go to Mexico for a while. My plan was to travel around it, but it is so big I could only see a little part. But what I saw…Oh my god! What I saw  was truly amazing. I went to Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Holbox, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. I went to a lot of parks and beaches, and of course, I got to go diving! Here is a little about my traveling and diving experience during my visit.

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Stalactites hanging from Cenote “El pit”

  1. Diving in the Cenotes in Yucatan.

I started my trip in Tulum, so the first dives I did were at the Cenotes. There are so many Cenotes all over the place, so it was hard to just choose one. So we decided to go the convenient way because we were with some non-diver friends. We decided to go to “Dos Ojos Park”. It was also near Tulum so really easy to get to. This park has a few Cenotes, but we chose two: “The Pit” and “Dos Ojos”.

“The Pit” is a deep dive, around 35 mts deep (around 115 feet), just amazing clear water and the great part is is that you can see where the density of waters mix, a fresh and saltwater mixing layer. One thing to take into account is that at this point everything looks blurry because of the way the light refracts in the two different waters so all the pictures that you may want to take will appear out of focus. I couldn’t  believe my eyes diving there. You don’t  see any marine life, but the rock formations are really something to look at. You can see stalactites hanging from the ceiling of the rock. But the main thing about this Cenote for me was the light beam that lights up this deep cavern—it is just breathtaking. The narrow opening lets streaks of light into the pit cenote and the crystal clear waters let the light reach all the way to the bottom, nearly 40 meters (around 130 feet). So I recommend going diving on a sunny day.

Next, we went to the second Cenote, “Dos Ojos”. This one was a shallow dive around 10 mt (around 33 feet) tops. The name “Dos Ojos” means “Two eyes” because of two sinkholes linked by a passage in between. We  followed a line that is marked so you can find your way, and as you pass through, you enter different caves along the way. Towards the end we reached the bat cave, and when we surfaced, we saw all these little guys hanging from the ceiling. The great part is that you keep going through this giant tunnel with different rock formations. This is a perfect dive for beginner divers; the only challenge being that you must continuously check your trim.

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The light entering through Cenote “El pit”

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Bat Cave in Cenote “Dos Ojos”

2.     Second biggest coral barrier in the world.

Also known as the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System or as the Great Mayan Reef. It is a huge region over 1000 km that also covers other countries like Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. Part of this reef in Cozumel is a protected marine area, so you can see so much! Diving here I could spot huge lobsters, turtles and conchs which are usually being hunted by people in other places. It is really nice to see so many of these creatures on only one dive.

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Colorful coral in Cozumel

3.     Amazing colors and visibility.

The visibility over there is crazy. I could look down and see to around 40 mt deep. You could see the color changes from the boat.  It was like being in a movie. I dove with maybe 25 to 35 mts visibility; really clear. And taking pictures in this kind of water… wow is all I can say! 

And then with this visibility mixed with the corals, so many colors all over the place. You could find sponges, hard corals, soft corals, pink, brown, yellow, green, I could keep going forever naming them!

Not only the visibility in the reef, but also the visibility in the Cenotes. Diving in the Cenotes felt literally like flying, like doing a freefall or something.

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Different kind of Corals in Cozumel

4. Cozumel protected marine area.

So as I said before, part of Cozumel is a protected area. The “Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park”,  encompasses the reefs on the south side of the island, called “Punta Sur” and also covers a little part of the east side.

The park started in 1996 and is 120 square km. It has many different projects protecting the marine areas from different threats.

From talking with the people over there, I learned that the only boats that can take you diving, snorkeling or just for a tour in the national park have to be authorized boats. They pay a license each year to be part of the park. So before you take any tours, ask them if they are licensed to go to make sure you are helping to maintain the protection of the park.

Thanks to the protected area programs, turtles’ population has increased which is why you can see them frequently while diving.

 I recommend diving in Santa Rosa and Colombia Wall. These two dive sites in Cozumel were by far my favorites. I also enjoyed the current over there. All of our dives were drifts.That way you just enjoy; not even having to move, but just a kind of lazy dive seeing amazing things. Also, it’s really nice going through impressive caves and tunnels filled with coral and sponges.

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Reef Squids in Cozumel

5. Diversity of marine life.

People come from all over the world to admire the abundance of fish and the intact and colorful corals over there like me going all the way from Chile to check it out. In this reef, there are more than 500 different species of fish and 65 different corals. Some of them only exist in this part of the Caribbean. 

I could see, for example, the toadfish. Cozumel is known for the splendid blue and white striped toadfish with its yellow fins. I am not really sure if I saw exactly that one because it was hiding under a rock, but I think it might have been.

Also, it is a place where you can see so many turtles! I only saw green and hawksbill turtles during my dives, but loggerheads and leatherbacks come here to nest, too. We could also spot some eagle rays and squids. 

And one of the really fascinating animals that we saw was the horseshoe crab just hanging out around the shore. These crabs are “living fossils” meaning they have existed nearly unchanged for at least 445 million years, well before even dinosaurs existed! That is why it was so fascinating. Despite existing for hundreds of millions of years, horseshoe crabs are nearly identical to their ancient relatives. We saw this crab at Holbox beach while we were just walking and enjoying the sunset.

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Little Hermit crab

6.     Snorkel with whale sharks

This was one of the highlights of my trip.

 I had always wanted to go diving with a whale shark, but here it was not possible, so why not snorkel with them then?! I have to say time I was in the water with this incredible creature was amazing, but the whole tour was a little bit too much. Maybe it was like that for me because we went when the whale shark season (May to September) was almost over so there was only one whale shark around us. If you go when there are like 100 around, your experience is probably going to be way better than mine. But, we swam with one huge whale shark and it was unbelievable. 

Seeing this great fish (because yes, the whale shark is not a shark or a whale… it is the biggest fish in the world) right next to you, feeling how it moves in the water next to you, and how it looks like it is going slow, but you cannot keep up with it is just amazing. So yes, definitely go, but try to go in the middle of the season so you dont see the craziness of the chase to swim with them. And of course, only go with the authorized local companies. In my case, I went from Isla Mujeres, but you can go through Holbox, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel or Cancun, the only difference is in the price and how far you are. 

Usually you have around a 10 minute swim next to the whale shark and maybe like 3 turns so everybody can swim with it. In my boat there were 8 people so we took turns of two at a time so it is never crowded in the water.

7.     Amazing parks that you can go to with your non-diver friend.

Most of the time, as was the case for me on this trip, you may travel with somebody that is not going to go diving with you. But in the Riviera Maya, it doesn’t matter! If you go to the cenotes, there are also spots where your non-diver friends can just go for a swim like in “Dos Ojos Park”. You can go to the ruins all over the Riviera Maya. I recommend Tulum and Coba. Of course, Chichen Itza is also great. You can also go snorkeling to check out turtles and corals in siaan kan national park, And part of this trip is to see dolphins, birds and crocodiles (although we only saw a little crocodile head hiding in the mangroves).

Or just enjoy a nice day at the beach.

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Tulum Ruins

A little bit extra about our days in the Riviera Maya that I wanted to write about. Just by coincidence (because we knew each other but we didn’t know we were going to be at the same spot at the same time), we went diving with the group, “wheel the world”. They are a company that oens different wheelchair friendly places in the world like Machu Picchu, Chichen Itza, and Torres del Paine. In this case, we went diving in Cozumel together with the group and had an amazing experience. We joined them, took some pictures of this experience, and saw first hand how eye opening diving can be for someone who is not able to walk. There were two guys in the group that were in wheelchairs and one of the instructors was missing a leg. You could see how Leo, the instructor, made everything look so easy and simple.

So a big hand to these guys for making big changes for future generations and making me love what I do even more.

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With the team of “Wheel the World” preparing for a dive

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