2008 started very well because the powerful god of the sea, Neptune was good to us by sending good weather and calm seas, even though the temperatures in the rest of the country were very low.

Wishing to take advantage of this good fortune, I decided to visit the island of Cozumel to see the condition of the reefs for myself and check their evolution following the passing of the hurricanes last year. My son Rodrigo and my nephew Diego de la Rosa accompanied me.

The first rays of sunlight surprised us on the way to Playa del Carmen, from where we took the boat to our final destination, the wonderful island of Cozumel.

On our arrival, we were greeted by our friend and host Fidel Ladrón de Guevara and we made for the sea. The boat was comfortable and safe. With beginners’ nerves, we assembled our diving, photography and video equipment to document what awaited us.

Cozumel is the third-largest island in Mexico, located 18 kilometers off the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, in the northern part of the State of Quintana Roo. The island is 55 kilometers long north to south and 20 kilometers from wide east to west.

Its name derives from the Mayan words “cuzam” (swallow) and “lumil” (land of), which results in the word “Cuzamil” (land of swallows). Over time the word “Cozumil” was Hispanicized to “Cozumel”. On the island, the ancient Mayans worshipped the goddess of fertility, Ixchel, under whose protection the Mayan women gave birth or sought to become pregnant. In a certain way, this tradition lives on in our times because Cozumel is now known as the “island of lovers” and is perfect for honeymooners.

The island played an important role in international diving when, in 1960, the famous underwater explorer Jacques Ives Costeau arrived in his legendary boat Calypso. After exploring the island for several years, the commander told the whole world about what he had seen: wonderful coral sea beds.

The island has numerous places that are perfect diving spots. The most famous is the Palancar Reef, which due to its great size, is divided into three parts: the Palancar Caves, Gardens and Horseshoe.

We decided to make the first dive on the Caves. It was a beautiful day, the sun looked like summer and the calm of the sea made it seem like a huge lake; all dream conditions for lovers of diving.

We got ready calmly while we talked about the dive plan. We agreed that Fidel would take the video camera and I would take the still photos. Rodrigo and Diego decided to practice their free diving skills.

We broke the water’s surface and there was great visibility. We could see the bottom at a depth of 24.38 meters (80 feet). On reaching the bed, we entered a coral labyrinth of sponges and caves that took us to the edge, where the depth invited us to continue descending, an invitation that we could not pass up. By the time I realized, by dive computer was showing a depth of 45.72 meters (150 feet), and we wanted more.

Luckily, Fidel was sensible and gave me the signal to go up. While ascending, we photographed turtles quietly eating tasty sea sponges, while further away in the deep blue we saw the silhouettes of the rays. We were surrounded by enormous anemones, huge sponges and priceless black coral. The visibility was so good that from a depth of 30.48 meters (100 feet) we could easily see the bottom of our boat. We returned to a depth of 80 feet. We were stabilizing ourselves when I saw the body of an athlete passed by me and behind me I immediately saw a second snorkeller. They were my son and nephew who had easily passed the 100-foot barrier without self-contained diving equipment. On reaching the depth they had agreed, they gazed at the wonderful seascape and returned upwards.

We returned to the surface full of optimism; the dive was spectacular and the reefs are recovering quickly. We will just have to give them time and the land visitors respect the rules imposed by the environmental authorities to ensure the continued enjoyment of the reef in a good state of conservation.

What a pleasant and spectacular way to start the year, diving with Fidel, my close friend and seeing my son and nephew enjoying the sea’s wonders.

In this small corner of the nation in the Mexican Caribbean, nature surpasses itself in underwater and terrestrial beauties. It is the obligation of everyone who visits Cozumel either once or several times to help to protect by all means possible, this natural wonder, known as the “Cozumel Reef diving paradise”.



Text: Alberto Friscione Carrascosa ± Photo:Fidel Ladrón de Guevara y Alberto Friscione