Ten kilometres/six miles off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula lies Cozumel, the “Island of the Swallows.” Barely 50 by 16 kilometres/30 by 10 miles, this diminutive island has become a popular scuba diving destination. Cozumel has all the ingredients for a great dive getaway – friendly locals, good food, lively nightspots, towering coral formations, warm water, great underwater visibility and white sandy beaches. Most dive sites are found within the boundaries of Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park, which protects much of the second largest barrier reef system in the world, the Meso-American reef system. Created in 1996, the park is home to some 26 types of corals with more than 100 subspecies. More than 500 fish species live in the park, including the endemic splendid toadfish. Due to marine life protection programs, divers can also often see loggerhead, hawksbill and green turtles. From shallow sheltered shore dives to secluded, seldom visited, current-swept drift dives, there’s a dive in Cozumel for everyone.
- Punta Sur Reef – This is a fascinating, ethereal dive consisting of a deep wall with caverns and fissures. The appropriately qualified may enter one of the larger cavern systems and follow it down a sand chute to 27 metres/90 feet where there’s a complex of coral tunnels and caverns that are absolutely bursting with life.
- The Devil’s Throat – This site is best enjoyed with an experienced local divemaster. The deeper walls have whip corals spiraling out into the depths and large black corals. There are also small, brightly colored gorgonian sea fans and sea whips, including the devil’s sea whip.
- Palancar Garden – Divers of all levels will enjoy the slight-to-moderate current that carries them along while exploring the many finger coral formations here. This strip reef is about 20 metres/66 feet wide and dissected by many fissures and caverns. Within the many sheltered areas, divers can spot huge stovepipe sponges stretching out from the reef and black coral in the deeper areas. Fish such as juvenile yellow head wrasse hide in the deep yellow tubes at night for protection and sightings of butterflyfish, angelfish, parrotfish and damselfish are frequent.
- Santa Rosa Wall – This is a high voltage drift dive along a sheer wall. The wall begins at about 15 metres/50 feet and the current carries divers past ledges, overhangs, massive sponges and fire coral. Divers regularly encounter large pelagic fish, turtles and spotted eagle rays.
- Columbia Wall – This is a relatively remote site which divers frequently share with eagle rays, turtles and large barracuda. A healthy coral reef crowns a steep drop off and massive coral pinnacles rise 15 metres/50 feet from the bottom. Nurse sharks prowl the reefs and walls, which seem to drop straight down to the infinite depths.
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