Cozumel Diving

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Reef Madness: Cozumel Diving

Photo Courtesy of Don Householder

Cozumel's reefs are the stuff diver's dreams are made of. They can even cause a kind of madness--a nearly insatiable desire to return again and again. Because there always seems to be something new to see when you're drifting down under.

Diving Cozumel for the first time? Then prepare to be blown away by the sights, the service and the prices. To help you get ready veteran PADI DM and Dive Instructor Roswitha Flury offers Tips for Cozumel Divers. Rosi's been working on the island as a dive pro for more than 20 years and really knows her stuff.

Reef Nuts also won't want to miss Diving the Wild Side an exciting and informative article DocVikingo has been kind enough to share with us here! If you haven't read it, you're in for a treat.

Cozumel is part of the Great Maya Barrier Reef, a system that extends from the Northern Yucatan to Honduras and is the second largest in the world. The island's 32-km long reef system is located off the island's southern leeward coast.

Swept constantly by the same Giana Current that has carved the shoreline of this coral island into sharp, pitted ironstone patterns for millions of years, these reefs offer some of the most spectacular and exciting diving opportunities in the world.

"Blue Tang" by Davida Hinton

Thanks to the strong, steady current, the waters are constantly being flushed making for excellent visibility--100 ft plus--and ideal conditions for coral and sponge growth. Reef fish thrive here as well, protected by a 1980 ban on fishing along the southern coast of the island.

In 1996 the Mexican government designated the area from Paradise Reef south as a National Marine Park. In the years since, island dive operators have worked closely with the government to protect this invaluable international resource. As a result, there are currently limits on the number of boats and scuba dive operators allowed on the reefs and each diver must pay a $2.00 per day park entrance fee which goes towards enforcing the rules.

Spear-fishing, touching the coral and the taking of marine life will get you booted from the park if you're caught. But there are much more serious penalties for guides and boat-captains who violate the rules. As a result, despite an ugly incident in 1996 when the government allowed a cruise ship pier to be built over north Paradise Reef, the system has remained vibrantly alive and healthy.

"Coming into Devil's Throat " by Davida Hinton

Although there are more than 30 charted reefs and umpteen sites from which to choose on each of them, Cozumel's coral chain can basically be divided into 3 types: On vertical walls like Santa Rosa with depths from 40 to 130 plus feet you'll find gorgonian and plate coral, enormous sponges and a splendid assortment of reef and pelagic species.

Pinnacles like Punta Sur and Palancar Horseshoe with depths from 40-70 feet are maze like structures with tall, statuesque pinnacles and wide coral shelves. Here you can swim through tunnels in and out of caves and between dramatic, towering coral.

For the less experienced divers (or ones who have not yet become accustomed to drift diving) coral gardens make exciting first experiences.  

"Abloom" by Davida Hinton

These 20-40 foot deep coral patches don't have the lushness of sponge and coral life found further from shore. But they're the best place to dive in and experience the rich abundance of fish life that flourish in these waters.

Now that you have a hint what there is to see on the reefs, it's time to get down under! But, if you're fairly new to diving, be sure to read some Good Advice from PADI Divemaster, Instructor and 20 year island dive pro, Roswitha Flury. There's also a new and thought-provoking article by local Master Instructor Mike Beasley on the pros and cons of getting your certification back home -- or doing it all in the ocean.

You vets out there are gonna want to take a look at DocVikingo's exciting article on Diving the East Side. And, last but not least, don't forget to check in at the Cozumel Scuba Forum to ask questions or give opinions about the state of the sport on la isla.

Got an idea for a Coz diving-related article--or a new feature of Reef Madness you'd like to see developed? Or maybe you have a special down under experience, some hard won tips or an incredible photo you'd like to share. If so, Give Us a Buzz.