Explore Cozumel’s Spectacular Underwater World
By Dennis Anderson
At Villa Deja Blue, we help travelers enjoy Cozumel snorkeling in a relaxing atmosphere, leveraging information from our experience living on Cozumel Island.
Punta Sur Reef is a natural eco-park home to various birds and animals. Additionally, this site is an excellent way to spot rare specimens like Cozumel’s splendid toadfish that inhabit this reef.
Reef’s southern section features large swim-throughs and an impressive cathedral-like chamber known as The Cathedral – making this an excellent spot for snorkelers of all levels to visit.
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The Devil’s Throat, also known as La Garganta del Diablo in Spanish, is an underwater cave formation on Cozumel that features an impressive deep wall that descends to 165ft/50m. Attractions at this dive site include narrow tunnels lined with red sponges that lead to sunlit openings on its walls at 130ft/41m – right at recreational diving limits! In addition, other fascinating swim-throughs can also be discovered here with the help of underwater lighting devices.
Although this dive can be challenging, its breathtaking scenery and wildlife more than makeup for any potential difficulties. Divers can regularly spot barracuda, angelfish, toadfish, and eagle rays here. Additionally, divers can explore amazing coral structures like large finger coral and lettuce coral formations, as well as ledges with gorgonian sea fans in this region.
Cozumel’s northern side offers many excellent dive sites, and this dive spot can become quite busy from January through March when Eagle Rays migrate through. It features a shallow dive site with a flat strip reef, patches of coral with sponges and gorgonians as well as French Grunts, Schoolmasters as well as southern stingrays and peacock flounders – an excellent opportunity to see French Grunts, Schoolmasters as well as southern stingrays and peacock flounders!
This dive site offers excellent swim-through conditions for divers who are comfortable with tight spaces; however, due to the depth and currents at this location, it should not be attempted by those suffering from claustrophobia or anxiety, nor by novice divers learning their dive computers. Use an underwater light and avoid scissor kicks that stir up sediment, which obscures visibility; with luck, you might catch sightings of stunning schools of hammerhead sharks!
Palancar Reef of Cozumel’s world-renowned Palancar reef is known for its impressive coral structures that appear like brick-like towers jutting from the white sandy bottom and into the deep blue abyss below. A photographer’s dream and a must-visit spot for any scuba diver visiting Mexico’s Yucatan region, this section of reef offers plenty of photo ops.
The area surrounding St Barths is an immersive aquarium, a living and breathing natural wonder brought to the world’s attention by Jacques Cousteau, and has since become one of the Caribbean’s premier dive destinations. Boasting 3 miles of soaring coral towers, charming swim-throughs, and dramatic cliff-like formations – it truly represents paradise on Earth!
One of the many amazing aspects of these cliffs is their caves and tunnels, some large enough for visitors to enter while others should only be explored by experienced divers, such as Devil’s Throat, an exciting narrow tunnel lined with red sponges located within this impressive reef mound. Diving there requires experienced divers with plenty of air as the passageway through it can be tight.
La Catedral and Garganta del Diablo tunnels offer plenty of thrills. Both tunnels are truly magnificent, with La Catedral being particularly jaw-dropping as its length descends 165ft/50m from its opening down to its sandy bottom – ideal for viewing nurse sharks and sea turtles!
Not only is this area home to stunning reef and marine life, it is an outstanding spot for wide-angle underwater photography. Coral spires and structures create underwater canyon-like shapes best captured using wide-angle lenses. Furthermore, due to its abundance of creatures it also makes an excellent location for macro photography as well.
Palancar Bricks, the southernmost region of this soaring coral paradise, was recently recognized by an esteemed panel from Scuba Diving Magazine as the 33rd-best dive site globally. This accolade beat out popular diving spots such as Cod Hole on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Straits of Tiran in Egypt’s Red Sea to earn this title.
Cozumel’s spectacular reef is a must-see for divers of all levels in Cozumel. Boasting an astounding diversity of coral species that add a kaleidoscope of color, its reef crest features dense coral gardens teeming with tropical fishes as well as orange and purple sponges, while its deeper parts contain tunnels with unique colors and shapes – often frequented by Eagle Rays during winter months and reef sharks cruising below in search of prey.
Though typically reserved for advanced divers, shallower sections of this reef provide beginners with an ideal way to become comfortable diving underwater. Although marine life is less abundant here than elsewhere on the island, visitors still may have a chance to see grunts, snapper, trunkfish, and angelfish, among many others.
The Palancar Wall reef area features several swim-throughs that are restricted to experienced divers only, with Devil’s Throat being one of them. Starting at 90 feet and exiting along the wall, Devil’s Throat should only be attempted with an ascending dive involving strong currents or when diving alone.
As well as swim-throughs, this dive site boasts beautiful caverns and abysses to explore, with whip coral spiraling downward into depths of gorgonian sea fans and the rare Splendid Toadfish of Cozumel endemic to Cozumel. Depending on the season, you may see schools of jacks or even schools of eagle rays or reef sharks that have been seen here.
This dive site is popular because it’s easy to follow, boasting colorful coral that blooms lushly. Beginners looking to get into diving should start here as there aren’t as many creatures as other dive sites on the island. Plus, it provides the ideal opportunity to practice buoyancy control and familiarize oneself with basic equipment before progressing further with advanced dives like the C-53 wreck dive.
Yucab Reef is an ideal environment for beginners looking to start diving, featuring shallow waters, an impressive coral ridge with a steep drop-off, schools of grunts and schoolmaster fish, and French and Queen angelfish in large numbers. Rocky sections feature crabs and octopuses, while sandy parts contain toadfish with magnificent hues.
Cozumel’s second largest barrier reef system, the Meso-American Reef system, was established in 1996 to protect an array of habitats and is home to 26 types of coral and over 500 fish species, such as the endangered loggerhead and hawksbill turtles endemic to Cozumel as well as several rare and unique toadfish endemic to Cozumel such as Sardinella toadfish and many other forms of invertebrate life.
Marine Park diving sites range from sheltered shore dives to world-famous drift diving spots, with most dive shops located around Cozumel’s main town of San Miguel. Cruise ships dock here as well, while many resorts provide diving packages as part of their vacation packages.
Most cruise ships partner with local dive shops to arrange dive trips for you. Diving adventures are typically planned based on the arrival and departure schedule of your ship; weather may impact dive plans; inquire with the tour operator regarding potential alternatives should certain days not be allowable due to inclement conditions.
Cozumel’s world-famous reefs boast diverse marine life throughout the year, so be sure to ask your tour operator when is the best time for you to visit each. March through October tend to experience more rain, yet still offer great diving at many dive sites; however, water visibility may not be as clear. In fact, during the rainy season some sites may even experience sediment runoff that compromises water clarity further.
Be sure to book your trip with Villa Deja Blue and enjoy your stay on the beautiful island of Cozumel.