Soon after Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas arrived at Cozumel, Mexico, Explora Tour Company representative Ricardo led my husband Larry and me and about 40 others from the ship to the dive boat Island Reef, which was docked nearby. But this day we were snorkeling not scuba diving. In fact, we would float face down in the water at three different reefs before returning to the dock.
The crew, wearing bright lime green shirts, also included Julio, Miguel, and the captain Gabriel. During the 30-minute ride to the first reef, Ricardo handed out snorkel masks and fins to passengers, although we had brought our own.
Corona Reef is a protected environment, so the boat wasn’t allowed to anchor. Instead it slowly drifted through the waves while following snorkelers, so it would be close when people were ready to board again.
Anxiously, we jumped off the back of the boat and quickly submerged our faces in the cool, clear water. Yellow and black striped “sergeant major” fish were plentiful. Other species swimming here were blue chromis and blue tang, small blue and iridescent blue fish.
Fan and barrel coral were everywhere. Ricardo explained that coral balls have been planted on the ocean floor to help coral renew more quickly. About 70 percent of the reefs off Cozumel’s coast were destroyed by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, but they are growing back slowly. Since the water is 20 feet deep at Corona, we didn’t have to worry about touching the coral.
After about a half hour in the water, everyone returned to the boat for our jaunt to the second reef. Dzculha (Zul—meaning “man” –ha—meaning “water”) is a Mayan name, not surprising since the Yucatan is well-known for its Mayan ruins. The water was only about 15 feet deep, and we were able to see many beautiful fish swimming by so close I felt I could reach out and touch them. But, of course, they dart away too fast. Among the large purple fan coral, eel and flounder lay on the ocean floor.
With a bright sun shining, this was the perfect spot for underwater pictures, so Larry and I traded off on our waterproof Pentax. Julio brought his camera and tossed out food to attract fish—resulting in spectacular pictures with dozens of fish swarming around.
At Paraiso (Paradise), the third reef, large schools of fish and many beautiful varieties were easily visible as they swam close by in 10 foot water. Because several other boats also found this popular spot the area became crowded, and we just snorkeled about 15-20 minutes.
People who really like to snorkel will enjoy this three-and-a-half-hour tour. None of the reefs was very far off shore, and the turquoise water was especially lovely in full sun. The crew was very conscientious and careful to keep the snorkelers together in the water and the boat nearby for easy access. Water, sodas, beer, and chips were provided toward the end of the adventure.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier