Mesoamerican reef diaries. Cozumel

I will never forget what I felt when I got my scuba diver certification – I literary had been dreaming every single night for more than a week that I’m in the water again exploring the seas. Took it for a sign:) Underwater world is unique. Let it be that you are dressed like an astronaut and move in two dimensions, you can float in the water column and see the colours of this underworld.

In Cozumel you can buy a snorkelling tour (well, of course) and that is what many cruisers opt for. I saw lots of them at the same locations where I dived, but honestly what do they see there? The reef on Cozumel is often deep for snorkelling and free diving is now allowed if you are in a group, so all you can see is just dark-blue stuff below. When you dive you approach this dark indistinguishable matter and when you reach it, it bursts of colours. Come to the dark side – become a diver!

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Seabed landscape ©Marina Kudrya

Since Cousteau first dived on Cozumel, I believe, a lot have changed here but the reef looks healthy and almost not damaged by the hurricane or clueless divers (except for a few areas maybe). Generally very few broken corals and no garbage.

Sea flora and fauna of the warm waters differ from cold ones drastically. In warm waters it is an aquarium-like environment: small to medium sized fish all bright and colourful and the predators are also friendly… just like people here:)

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Rock angelfish @Marina Kudrya

Some fish gather in school and dwell facing the current to catch some prey; some stroll above the corals, like this school of blue fish.

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School of fusilier fish @Marina Kudrya

Schoolmaster snappers are found in small to large schools hovering above reefs often in the shade of large corals especially elkhorn corals. They are nocturnal predators that mainly feed on fish, but will eat crustaceans, gastropods and cephalopods.
Some smaller family members eat zooplankton. Schoolmaster snappers are ofter found with grunts.

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Schoolmaster snappers ©Marina Kudrya

This is one of my favourite: a nocturnal animal named squirrelfish. The large eyes and pronounced rear dorsal fin are their signature attributes. The anal fin has a strongly elongated third spine, from which this squirrelfish gets its name. They are territorial and defend their crevices with visual and acoustic displays.

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Longspine squirrelfish @Marina Kudrya

Giant barrel sponge can actually grow in forms other than a barrel. The sponges make up one of the oldest, most primitive groups of animals on Earth; they have existed for at least 500 million years. Sponge cells do not have specialised purposes: each of a sponge’s individual cells can transform to complete the job of any other cell in the body. These sponges can live as long as 200 years (and probably much longer) growing just a tiny bit each year; so the larger it grows – the older it is. In addition to that, barrel sponge gives shelter to small fish and crustaceans and are a favourite food choice for hawksbill turtles.

By the way, sponges are animals; they live on filtering water.

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Giant barrel sponge @Marina Kudrya

Another class member you can meet in the Caribbean is an orange elephant ear sponge. It has a more perforated surface and bright colour in warmer orange spectrum.

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Orange elephant ear ©Marina Kudrya

There are plenty of corals, varied in size and colour, but that is a story for another time.

PS. anyone wondered how the corals look up close?:)

Corals close-up ©Marina Kudrya
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