PADI Scuba Diving in Cozumel, Mexico
By John Kinsella
Ten kilometers/six miles off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is Cozumel, the “Island of the Swallows.” Covering just 488 square kilometers/188 square miles, this diminutive island has become one of the most popular dive destinations in the Caribbean. 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 the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park, which protects 12,000 hectares/29,000 acres of the Meso-American reef system –the second largest barrier reef system in the world. Created in 1996, the park is home to some 26 types of corals with more than 100 subspecies. More than 500fish species live in the park, including the endemic splendid toadfish. Due tomarine life protection programs, divers can also often see loggerhead, hawksbill and green turtles.
From shallow, sheltered shore dives to seldom-visited, current swept sites suited to the super experienced, there’s a dive in Cozumel for everyone.
Find a PADI Dive Center or Resort in Cozumel.
Punta Sur Reef
This advanced site is about an hour’s boat ride and can be a fascinating, ethereal dive. Although visiting the site is weather dependent and there is almost always current, the deep wall, caverns and fissures put this site at the top of most divers’ lists. Those that are appropriately qualified may enter one of the larger cavern systems and follow it down a sand chute to 27 meters/90 feet where there’s a complex of coral tunnels and caverns absolutely bursting with life.
One of the larger caverns, the Devil’s Throat, opens up into an underwater room with four passageways. One leads to the Cathedral, a vast cavern with another three interconnecting passageways.
This is an advanced dive and all divers should explore the caverns only with an experienced local dive master or instructor and with appropriate training. Dive lights, and careful fin kicks to avoid stirring up sediment, are the order of the day.
Because it is an exposed site, there’s more invertebrate life than fish life (outside of the angelfish and butter fly fish pairs usually swimming along the reef edge). The deeper walls have whip corals spiraling out into the depths and large black corals. There are also small, brightly colored gorgonian sea fans, including the devil’s sea whip. This is an excellent dive, but bottom time will be limited due to the depth and complex nature of the site. Depths range to more than 40 meters/130 feet and visibility may exceed 30 meters/100 feet.
Divers of all levels will enjoy the slight-to-moderate current caressing them along while they explore the many finger coral formations. This strip reef is about 20 meters/66 feet wide and bisected by a number of 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 butterfly fish ,angel fish, parrot fish and damsel fish are frequent. Depths reach 21 meters/69 feet and visibility averages more than 20 meters/66 feet.
Cozumel has a variety of dive sites. From shallow dives featuring abundant coral and tropical fish life to challenging wall dives, Cozumel has something for everyone. For the most part, it’s all live boat diving – boats drift along behind divers and don’t anchor at all.
Most sites are between 9 – 27metres/30 – 90 feet deep.
Often ranges from 24 – 30 meters/80– 100 feet.
Cozumel is known for drift diving and can have mild to strong currents, depending on the season and dive site.
The water temperature averages 25°C/77° F in the winter and 29° C/85° F in summer. Although this might sound warm and cozy, you might need a light to medium wetsuit or skin if you are planning multiple dives.
Just about any time of year is a great time to visit Cozumel. The rainy season runs from May to September and December through March is the busiest time of the year for tourists. Prices are generally higher as a result, but that also means more activities are on offer for travelers.
Cozumel has a subtropical climate. The average temperature is about 21 – 29° C/70 – 85° F, Humidity is usually high, around 90 percent, but it’s often breezy too. Rainfall is rare apart from the rainy season (September – November) when showers can be frequent.
A short boat ride will get you to most dive sites and beach diving is available from a number of access points.
Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced diver, Cozumel has a dive for you. Dive masters typically allow divers to agree upon the dive site (depending on divers’ experience and skill level). When picking a group to dive with, you’ll get the most out of the dive by sticking with divers that are at your skill and experience level.
Tropical dive equipment is common. PADI Dive Centers and Resorts frequently offer full hire facilities, usually including dive computers.
Length of stay:
Cozumel lends itself to stays of all durations, from long weekends to two weeks or more.
Splendid toadfish, eagle rays, grunts, snapper, angelfish, parrotfish, moray eels, grouper, hawksbill turtles, trumpet fish, wrasse, hogfish, spotted drum fish, amberjacks, lobster, octopus and even long snout seahorse.
Spanish is spoken everywhere in Cozumel. Due to tourism, English is also widely spoken. Some locals speak Mayan.
Mexican pesos(MXN) and US dollar (USD) bills, not coins. Major credit cards and travelers’ checks are widely accepted.
Tipping (10-20percent) in either currency is common practice.
Taxis are one of the best ways to get around. Car and jeep rentals are also available.
Cozumel International Airport (CZM)
110 volt, 60Hz. Socket types A&B (same as USA)
Airport Entry/Exit fees:
Usually included in the airfare, check with travel agent or tour operator in advance.
Find a PADI DiveCenter or Resort in Cozumel.