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If you are planning to visit Cozumel island, the first query that comes to mind is; Cozumel scuba diving – a good dive location? What makes it a good dive location?
First things first, a little knowledge about the place you are planning to visit certainly adds to the thrill of the adventure and whets the appetite. As far as Cozumel is concerned, there is much to anticipate here.
Cozumel – General Information
Cozumel is an island located off the Eastern coast of Mexico and stands opposite to Playa del Carmen. Situated in the Caribbean Sea, Cozumel is a year-round dive destination and the third largest island following Isla Angel de la Guarda and Tiburon Island. Known for its easy drift diving, this island is 10 miles long and is known as the largest permanently inhabited land among the islands of Mexico.
Where is Cozumel
This island depends on tourism for its economic stability, and in recent years the number of divers flocking to the area has received a significant boost. This can be attributed to the marine paradise that lies in the blue waters.
Cozumel has over 45 sites that grant access to the underwater world of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. This reef touches the outskirts of Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, and Honduras, and is the fourth largest barrier reef in the world.
As a scuba diver, you might want to consider planning your next adventure to Cozumel Island. As a vacation spot it has so much to offer, the opportunity to enjoy nightlife with affordable and luxurious dive options beats anything. Traveling to Cozumel Island is rather easy, and there is certainly a good choice of accommodation covering most budgets. If non-divers are tagging along with you, they will not be disappointed as the resorts here have much to offer to them as well.
The protected natural area, Cozumel Reef’s National Park, is home to 262 species of fish, 105 different types of corals and flora that will take your breath away with excellent visibility making underwater photography a joy!
Cozumel is certainly a divers dream, where the task of easy drift diving may be daunting for a first-timer; it can soon grow on you. If you are met with the right kind of guidance (which you will be) and have studied the basic techniques for yourself, drift diving will be a breeze.
What Makes Cozumel A Good Diving Location?
There are a few reasons that this place has gained such popularity. A few are mentioned below
The Amazing Marine Life
Cozumel is home to over 500 species of fish and coral. Most divers will be able to brush past nurse sharks, moray eels, groupers, turtles, and a variety of tropical species. During winter months you will get to see eagle rays in the distance while during the summer time the reef sharks and black tips are a visual treat. The deeper reefs in the southernmost part of this area are home to elephant ear, vase, rope, tube and a variety of vibrant sponges covering the massive coral heads.
The under-water structures formed naturally by the coral heads are brilliant, they entwine to create a network of channels that allow you to swim through them.
To get a real sense of environment and, if you’re a newbie, there is nothing quite like drifting over the steep drop offs. That’ll have you drawing on your air a little faster.
A dive light is necessary for this part of the adventure as it will provide you with a clear view of the marine life here. You are sure to come across dog-sized lobsters and splendid toadfish in the nooks and crannies of this brilliant network of coral heads.
This is particularly good during a night dive when your artificial light truly makes the colours pop!
The Shallower Reefs
Further north the reefs are quite shallow, and you will find yourself enjoying the company of small fish and inverts. The shallower areas of the reef are where you will spot hawksbill turtles, schools of jacks, eagle rays and barracudas. You can experience the shallow reefs in one of the day’s or night’s dives conducted here.
The vast variety of species inhabiting this reef gives you an opportunity to capture some of the most beautiful underwater creatures. Cozumel is home to resorts that offer shore diving, offering you a chance to see and capture amazing photographs of trumpet fish, stingrays, and anemone shrimp.
Dusk is the perfect time to dive in if you want to witness the splendor of a critters world. You might just get the opportunity to see a seahorse and capture it through your camera’s lens.
Beginner Scuba Diving Cozumel
There are a number of reasons why Cozumel is a good destination if you’re a beginner to scuba.
- The average water temperature here is 25 ̊C/ 77 ̊F during winters and 29 ̊C/ 85 ̊F during the summers. This makes a great ‘comfortable introduction’ to diving. When your body is warm when you’re getting in and out of the water, the whole experience is made more pleasurable and will be looked back on fondly.
- Visibility is consistent from 80 to 100 feet. This also is a huge plus point, poor visibility can unsettle a beginner. Beautiful clear waters are what most newbies envisage.
- There are many respectable operators that offer a well-managed intro dive for beginners.
You will easily find dive operators here. If you are staying at a resort, you can set up a dive with their operator or go for an independent one. Spacious 20-diver or twin-outboard pangas for 4-6 divers are used for the diving trips.
Standard diving sessions commence each morning from picking up divers between 7:30 – 8:30 A.M and returning around 12-1 P.M. There are also options for choosing between an afternoon dive, a single tank dive or a night dive.
The currents drift from south to north, which will give you an opportunity to drift with a boat following you when you are free-dropped. You can also go group diving with several guides, or you can be a part of a smaller group with a single guide.
For advanced divers, there is a chance to experience 70-80ft dives near the Colombia and Palancar reefs. You can also dive further north towards the shallower regions of the reef; such as Chankanaab, Tormentos, and many other options.
You can start from the shallow waters for a buoyancy check and then move further to deeper waters. For beginners, there are several diving options from shore diving to shallow waters where you can experience the underwater life in the natural light.
The Top dive sites in Cozumel.
The Columbia Wall
Caves, tunnels, and cavern systems are just a few attractions of this 30-meter tall wall. A dive here might just land you a glimpse of the blue tang, more commonly known as the surgeonfish.
This stunning dive site boasts residents such as barracudas, large sea turtles, reef fish, and eagle rays. Some coral pillars in this area tower over 20 meters
Santa Rosa Wall
Home to large groupers, eagle rays, and the sea turtle, this 15 meter tall wall extends deeper into the ocean. One of the most loved dive sites, the swim through tunnels, caves, sponges, and overhangs made from stony corals are indeed breathtaking. Currents here can be quite strong so make sure your experience and skills match the location, if in any doubt you should always ask the operator or guide that you’re with.
The name defines this U-shaped protrusion, with swim-throughs and tunnels carved into the reef this is one of the more fascinating sites for a diver. The brain, sheet and star coral form a fabulous backdrop for this popular site.
A dive here will give you the opportunity to see alcoves that are filled with brown and blue Chromis. You will experience schools of glassy sweepers shimmering through these waters. The currents here are “all-diver-levels” friendly, and this site certainly presents a dive to remember.
This beautiful reef stretches over a 3.5-mile area offering the perfect dive site for beginners. It hosts a variety of corals interspersed with orange and purple sponges. This is a good spot for photography, and the crevices in this area give the diver a view of the species surviving within.
One of the most epic experiences a diver can have, the barracudas, black-tip sharks, hammerheads and eagle rays give this place a very ‘real’ feel and experience for a diver. The crazy currents invite expert divers to explore the depths in an incredible diving experience. Find a dive center that will take you to this northern reef, it will be worth it.
White sandy bottoms, extended coral ridges and12-18 meter dunes, this reef also offers swift currents to drift divers. The location begins about 20 meters in and is home to snappers and grunts.
Aerolito de Paraiso
This is one of the three sacred sinkholes (Cenotes) that are a part of the Cueva Aerolito system found on this island. This island is home to several incredible Cenotes and cavern sites. Aerolito de Paraiso lies south of main-town. This less well-known place is home to marine life species including lobsters, seas stars, and the famous juvenile barracudas. A visit here is a journey that begins by passing through the emerald lagoon, from here a small crack leads to the sun-filled passageways of this beautiful Cenote.
This dive site is perfect for a day or a night dive experience. Just north of Caleta, this is a regular spot for certification dives. You will find many dive shops and centers all around this area. This is an excellent introduction site to diving in Cozumel. This popular dive site is home to stunning crustaceans, colorful marine life, and the eye-catching angelfish.