Destination Guide including marine life & dive sites
Article and photos by Jim Lyle
Known for drift diving and spectacular coral formations, the island of Cozumel, Mexico, is a favorite Caribbean destination for thousands of U.S. divers. Easy to get to from most gateway cities; relatively inexpensive; clean; safe; populated by friendly people who speak English with a Texas accent; crystal clear, warm water; and lots of fish – who could ask for more than diving Cozumel?
Cozumel Marine Life
On a typical dive trip you will see turtles, groupers, green moray eels, nurse sharks, and lots of colorful tropical fish. If you are lucky, you will see eagle rays or black-tip reef sharks.
Typical day while diving in Cozumel
Two-tank, morning boat dives are the norm while diving Cozumel. The first dive is deeper (70-80 fsw) somewhere along the famous, Punta Sur, Colombia, and Palancar Reefs. Cozumel drift dives are easy – drop in the water with your dive guide, descent to the reef, drift along in the current (no need to swim), ascend with your buddy with700 psi remaining in your tank for a three-minute safety stop, go to the surface and wait for the boat to pick you up! During a one-hour surface interval, the boats move north to the shallower reefs for the second dive at Paso del Cedral, Chankanaab, Punta Tunich, etc., returning to the hotel in time for lunch, a nap, an afternoon or night shore dive. Diver's Heaven.
Cozumel's Best Dive Sites
Columbia Deep – for huge coral formations.
Panancar reef – big structure with many tunnels and swim throughs
Chankanaab Reef – a very fishy place
Barracuda – northwest of the island, a deep hog back reef with strong currents, a great place to see pelagics; an advanced dive.
C-53 – wreck of an old mine sweeper, put down as an artificial reef.
Diver and sponge in Cozumel
Cozumel Underwater Photography Tips
The Mexican government has established a large National Marine Park extending along the southwest coast of the island. The presence of large groupers, dog-size lobsters, and large schools of fish, are indications the park is being protected from predatory fishing. The southernmost reefs are great for wide-angle photography – some of the coral heads are the size of apartment buildings and covered with colorful sponges. Further north, the shallower reefs are home to myriad numbers of smaller fish and inverts. Shore diving provides the opportunity to do some amazing macro photography of little critters on sandy bottoms and artificial reefs. Take all of your lenses with you!
Drift diving Cozumel
Diving is often drift diving in currents with a group. To maximize your photography opportunities, work on your buoyancy control. You can't fight the ocean, to stop, duck behind a coral head or sponge. If you lag behind the group, you will be in a better position to get that shot of the turtle the dive guide just pointed out.
Visibility, Water Temps, and When To Go
Visibility is fantastic all year long. Water temps range from the mid-seventies in the winter to mid-eighties in the summer months. Late summer and fall is hurricane season in the Caribbean, but the odds of a storm are extremely low; this is also the "low" season and rates are lowest. December to April is the high season and probably has the best diving conditions.
Winter winds from the north sometimes mean choppy surface conditions and occasionally close the port for diving. When is the best time to go to Cozumel? Whenever you can.
More Cozumel Underwater Photos
Eagle rays are commonly seen while diving in Cozumel
Large grouper in Cozumel
Diver Review – Scuba Club Cozumel
Scuba Club Cozumel is a dive resort for divers. Located about a mile south of the Zócalo (central square) on the water, SCC is not your cookie-cutter Holiday Inn wannabe; each room is different, built in a Spanish style around courtyards filled with local plants and flowers. The rooms are all tiled, with air-conditioners, clock radios, and hair dryers. There are no phones or TVs in the rooms and I hope they never install them; on the other hand, they have free wireless access.
The place is clean and they give you plenty of towels, twice a day! SCC is semi-all-inclusive; drinks and tips are not included. Their packages are very economical and include room, meals, daily two-tank boat dives, and unlimited shore diving. If you are looking for some laidback diving, this is the place. An afternoon wreck dive, two-tank twilight boat dive, and night boat dives can be added. The on-site dive operation is a PADI five star operation. They run on English time - not island time; 8:30 means 8:30! Tanks are Al-80s; they do have a few steel 95s for rent; and nitrox is available for a fee.
The boats are roomy, reasonably fast, shaded, have heads, and are equipped with radios, oxygen and emergency kits. The food is very good, with a breakfast buffet, lunch specials/menu, and a choice of three dinner entrees. They also offer meals for vegetarian or special diets. I can't say enough nice things about the staff, most of who have been at SCC for many, many years; they are friendly, helpful and gracious. Many of the guests return to SCC year after year.
[note: Boat diving, you will be with a group and the dive guide. Shore diving, you can go solo. There are no scuba police at SCC.]
Lots more information and pictures here: http://chemistry.csudh.edu/faculty/jim/Jim'sWeb_Page.htm
About the author
Jim Lyle is a retired chemistry professor who spends his time either riding his bicycle or diving. He is currently shooting an Olympus E-330 in an Ikelite housing with dual Ikelite DS-125 strobes.
- Photo Essay by Jim Lyle: Scuba Club Cozumel, Mexico