Mesoamerican reef diaries. Cozumel

Cozumel is a wonderful place to dive. Caribbean water is warm all year round (well, not for the locals probably:)), sea conditions are relatively calm and the beauty of the reef is more then welcoming.

Mesoameriacan reef, aka Great Mayan Reef, is a marine region that stretches over 1000 km from the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula down to Belize, Guatemala and the Bay Islands of Honduras. Although the reef is a home to wide range of species, there are numerous ones that are endangered.

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Hawksbill turtle feeding ©Marina Kudrya 

Cozumel is living mainly on tourism and it of course impacts the ecology: among other transportation means it features three cruise terminals, ferry terminal and lots of hotels across the island. The largest cruise ship terminal is built on the Paradise reef, irreparably damaging its habitants. Though many islanders are concerned about the ecology and do their best to conserve the marine life, water transportation is the main mean to get the the mainland. Nevertheless, comparing to some of the other locations the shores are generally very clean. Whatever future brings, Cozumel is a wonderful place:)  

The main “diving” site of the island is on the northwest. Currents normally go from south to north and offer a slight to mild drift. Most of the divesites in the middle are suitable for beginners to advanced, but still stronger currents can take place. The island’s northmost and southmost points are for advanced to experts due to their strong currents and danger to be lost at sea.

The opposite part of the island is usually stormy because of the winds coming from the ocean, but very well worth seeing for its wild beauty. During the days when the north wind blows the wild side of Cozumel becomes welcoming for swimming (and vice versa).

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Punta Sur ©Marina Kudrya

Punta Sur is an ecological park on the southwest of Cozumel. It is a must-see for all nature addicts and bird watchers. The park goes along the ocean and consist of a stretch where sea turtles nest (nesting season is in summer) and scenic beach; on the other side there’s a lagoon with birds and crocodiles. The lagoon is not a popular place among the masses, however if you opt to visit and stay there quietly for a few minutes, you can see much life there – especially birds and iguanas.

Talking of iguanas, they are here and there sunbathing and warming their bits. Comparing to the iguanas of Bonaire, they are far more skittish but not less harmless.

Most of them are spiny-tailed iguanas. They are primarily herbivorous, eating flowers, leaves, stems, and fruit, but they will opportunistically eat smaller animals, eggs, and arthropods. Juveniles tend to be insectivores becoming more herbivorous as they get older.

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Spiny-tailed iguana ©Marina Kudrya

Cozumel is also a known place for birding. Just like the iguanas, birds are widespread from rural areas to downtown. This tiny hummingbird was living on a backyard of some house of San Miguel de Cozumel:

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Green-breasted mango ©Marina Kudrya

This medium-sized hummingbirds are 11–12 cm in length and weigh just 7g!

Aside these cuties, on Cozumel reside a lot of endangered species not only in sea deeps. For example, Cozumel thrasher which is also endemic to the island. This bird has been last seen in 2004 and was widely believed to have become extinct. Cozumel fox is also believed to nearly extinct and it hasn’t been even scientifically described to date. Cozumel coati and Cozumel Island raccoon are critically endangered.

Going back to the sea life, the Splendid toadfish is entirely endemic to Cozumel. They are commonly found under corals and are very difficult to coax out in the open. Splendid toadfish is know for the “vibrating” sound it makes – whenever you hear like someone took a cell phone underwater, check the surrounding corals and you’ll find it:)

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Splendid toadfish @Marina Kudrya

Cozumel has a couple of shipwrecks but the most accessible is C-53 wreck. Also known under its other name Felipe Xicoténcatl, she was a US Made Admirable-Class minesweeper  built in 1944 for the Navy during World War II. In 1962 the ship was sold to the Mexican Navy where it guarded the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Felipe Xicoténcatl was retired in 1999 and contributed to the Cozumel underwater park where it sunk the same year. The Cozumel Wreck, was cleansed for any dangerous and non-biodegradable material, along with large openings were cut into the decks, hull, and corridors to permit Cozumel divers easy entrance into the interior.

As a basic rule it is better not to touch anything inside a wreck in order not to be left disorientated or even trapped, here you grab and touch almost everything (though better not to). C-53 can be easily penetrated, she features different engine rooms, staircases and even bathroom with toilets remained in it (what make it a popular selfie spot:)). Outside lives a big grouper as well as other sea habitants. Watch for a submarine that is a frequent guest there.

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C-53 shipwreck exterior ©Marina Kudrya

To be continued…

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