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Palancar & Columbia Reef Snorkeling


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#1 Emma S.

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 03:13 PM

My husband and I have snorkeled in Belize, Hawaii, and now Cozumel. The near shore snorkeling we have done so far in Cozumel has been a bit disappointing given the high ratings Cozumel has. We went on the 3 reef tour by Cozumel Tours and we didn't see coral and there were few fish. I know the 2005 hurricane damaged a lot of the shore areas and I'm wondering if that's what the problem was that we encountered. We're wondering if anyone has been on the Columbia Reef and/or Palancar Reef tours through this company. If so, are they worth doing or will we see few reefs and sea life? Thanks!
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#2 dawnb

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Posted 12 August 2010 - 03:53 PM

We too have snorkeled Maui, Kauai, and many islands in the Caribbean. We still love Cozumel. The first time we came was right after Wilma, and the destruction was very evident. The coral is coming back more every year. Did you go along the shoreline and then out deeper at Money Bar? There are 2 resident moray eels in the larger coral formations, and we always see lots of fish. A 5 foot baracuda will happily accompany you and is totally harmless. Come back along the drop-off depending on the current. Playa Corona has a nice sea fan garden a ways from along the shoreline. A huge staghorn formation, and if you swim far enough, a big rock/ coral thing we call Teddy Bear, as it looks like it is covered in brown fur. And you feel like you want to pat it. We always see lots of fish there as well, along with land crabs and pelicans. We had a baby mackerel swim in front of my mask on the way up and it was cute for a while, then became very annoying. Looked me right in the mask and wouldn't go away. Since we were big predator types, it wanted me to eat something so it could get the scraps. Followed my husband all the way back. We did not eat something, so it was disappointed. Punta Sur is a real trip as well, have the guy take you out to the good stuff in a kayak if you do not feel like a very long swim, lots of cool stuff there too.

We did the Palancar/Columbia Reef tour from Palancar Beach, $35pp, and it was nice too. Deeper than the shore snorkels. Cozumel water is so clear, and I use a mask with prescription lenses.

The coolest thing you might want to consider is swimming with the whale sharks. It is totally life-changing. We did Holbox last year, and Isla Mujueres this year, it was fantastic!

I would have loved to have seen what Jacques Cousteau saw when he first came to Cozumel.

Bonnaire had great snorkeling, but there were roving gangs of smash and grabbers who took a crowbar to your pickup. Luckily we got to ours just before they did. Cayman Islands were great too, but rampant with crime. Hawaii, you had to lock everything up and watch carefully. Cozumel is the safest and friendliest island we have ever been to.
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#3 CZMDM

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 05:42 AM

For excellent snorkeling try the trips that leave from Palancar Beach. They go to the Columbia Shallows, which is a really great snorkel spot and is only a couple of minutes away by boat from the beach club. The Captain, Felipe, is not only an excellent Captain, but is one of the nicest guys I have ever met here on the island. Trips (I think) run $30-35USD PP.

Unfortunately your assesment of the snorkel reefs is fairly correct. Most of the shallow reefs took a major hit from both Hurricane Emily and Hurricane Wilma.
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#4 alma

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 10:57 AM

We highly recommend taking a snorkeling trip with Chala who now works through the watersports center located on the beach at the Wyndham. He was formerly working at Albertos but they no longer have a boat. I am trying to confirm his e-mail contact but you can schedule with him by just walking through the Wyndham from the road, turn left when you get to the beach, and go to the watersports center. It is $40 for a 3-reef snorkel including beverages and Chala is the best. He shows you many sea creatures, large and small, and knows where to find them. You can tell that he loves his work and he is great with kids. We went with him 2 weeks ago and saw an eagle ray, many nurse sharks, turtles, lobsters, eels, etc.

We took the trip at Palencar once but did not care for the boat they use and there were too many people. Chala will go with as few as 4 people so it is a much smaller group.
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#5 Carey

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 10:59 AM

Another good boat snorkeling trip is with Rosi Flury's Mystic Snorkeling Tour. She does the three southern reefs beginning with Columbia Shallows and ending at Palancar. She's Swiss and meticulous and builds in a lot of safety features to her trips -- especially if she knows there are inexperienced snorkelers or children involved. She has two new safety buoys, for example, for snorkelers to hang onto if they get tired. And she hires enough dive master assistants to be sure everyone that needs to be watched out for CAN be watched out for.

She starts with Columbia Shallows because it's the easiest for beginners -- and often the most rewardings. Then she gradually moves up ending with Palancar which is a little more difficult because there's sometimes a bit of wave action and more current and it's deeper which sometimes freaks out inexperienced folks. I think she's got her act together. kuda1@hotmail.com.

I gotta agree with Mike. The shore snorkeling just isn't what it was before the double whammy of two major hurricanes in 2005. Fortunately the currents are so strong here that conditions are pretty close to ideal for coral formation and growth. But it's a slow process.
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#6 Coz2wonder

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Posted 15 August 2010 - 10:03 AM

Rosi does one of the best trips...Great folks.
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