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   Pto. Morelos,
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Location: Pto. Morelos (Mexico (East))
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Diving the Mayan Riviera from Puerto Morelos Mexico

As with most things in life, diving the Mayan Riviera from Puerto Morelos is a tradeoff. Instead of thoroughfares jammed with tourists and trinket shops, you get a normal, working fishing village. Instead of neon nightlife, you get unblemished views of the moon and stars. Instead of large dive boats and groups, you get small, customized six-person dives. Bummer.

Granted, the first week of September is part of the 'low' season between the summer tourists and the snowbird escapees, but for 13 dives in 6 days, my wife, Diane, and I were the only divers on our boat. Even in the high season, the Puerto Morelos dive shops maintain small groups, each boat with its own dive master. You just won't find yourself on a cattle boat.

Having previously dived a good bit of the Caribbean, I have to honestly say that the reefs along the Mayan Riviera, south of Cancun, probably have the most abundant and healthy coral and marine life populations that I have experienced - including Cozumel, and, in most cases, within a 10 to 15 minute boat ride. Reefs ranged from shallow tongue and groove complexes, to patch reefs, to incredible walls dropping into the abyss. Water temperature was 82 degrees at 100' and visibility ranged from about 70' in a high runoff area to around 150' in the open ocean. Not quite as good as certain areas around Cozumel, but still on the high end of excellent.

On the shallower dives, Albert's Reef being a good example, the light, life, and color was tremendous. Large schools of grunts and pork fish milled about the large coral heads.

At least five different types of angels were spotted on most dives. Good size formations of Atlantic spadefish often cruised in to check us out. Even at the shallower depths, a little poking around the many holes and ledges yielded some great finds including large grouper and snapper, turtles, and large green morays. If they weren’t obvious to us, they would often make their presence known by swimming out to take a look at us, or, as in the case of one white-spotted moray, entangling itself in my Diane’s hair.

Off Playa del Carmen lies Maramos Wall, one of the longest running walls in the world. Since the shallower southern end of the wall begins in 118' and sports a fairly stiff current, we planned this dive as drifting decompression dive to 160'. However, we'd seen everything we wanted to see by the time we reached 145' and moved back up to the top of the wall and into the 80' flats a little farther in. When I say that we saw everything we wanted to, I mean 'everything'! Numerous turtles in the two to three foot diameter range, huge grouper under the ledges, and pelagic sharks in the 12-foot range feeding in the upwellings.

Not to mention the corals. Another interesting observation was that, even at 145', the water was so clear that reds and oranges were still present in the color spectrum.

As if this quality of 'normal' diving could ever get boring, we also took advantage of a few specialty dives including sharks, night, a wreck, and cavern (cenote) dives.

After a bit of reassurance on the wisdom of this action, we were able to get very close to several nurse and lemon sharks. Actually, I was content to take photos while my wife got close.

The night dive in 30' to 40' found plenty of lobsters, a couple of good size octopi, and more sleeping parrots and surgeons than you could count. Even on our third dive that day, using the computers at that depth, we finished our air after almost 90 minutes of bottom time!

As part of their artificial reef project, Mexico has sunk four former US Coast Guard Cutters, three of them along the eastern coast. The C-56, sunk three years ago off Puerto Morelos, sits upright in 104' of water, and is an excellent model of diver and fish friendly artificial reef projects.

Hatches and doors have been removed or welded open, numerous cutouts offer direct access to outside from all compartments, and a permanent guideline runs along the main route through the ship. Each compartment seemed to be its own biosphere ranging from shrimp in the galley (ironic?) to grouper in the crews quarters. Numerous eagle rays cruised the outside while large stingrays waited on the sandy bottom. Barracuda in the four-foot range patrolled the exterior and patiently lurked in every downstream eddy.

As a final bonus, the Yucatan is covered with 'cenotes'. Originally dry caverns, complete with stalactites and stalagmites, these caverns are now filled with water either from collapse or underground springs. Once the caverns and associated caves and channels were mapped, this system proved to be the longest underground stream system in the world. The ancient Mayans used some of the cenotes as sacrificial sites and others as waste sites, so the chance of finding artifacts is not unreasonable. However, artifacts are protected antiquities.

We drove south for about an hour and then into the jungle – real jungle – to the first cenote. Upon stepping out of the SUV, Paul cautioned us that there were some very poisonous snakes around if we left the trail. However, the mosquitoes proved to be much more of a threat than any jungle snake. I mean they were ravenous and able to bite through our lycra suits. Not until we had on our full 3mm wet suits were we protected. Then they just concentrated on our heads. Needless to say, there is a lot of motivation to gear up quickly.

A quick walk down a well maintained path, and we were in the water. The caverns we explored came with a permanent guideline and we ran as deep as 50'. Wet suits and lights are necessary for the 72-degree water and almost total darkness. From a geological standpoint, the cenotes were quite interesting as we floated between the columns, slabs, and stalactites. From a color and life perspective, there really wasn't much to see but a few small catfish. Overall, a great experience, but I prefer the open ocean.

Getting to and from Puerto Morelos proved to be quite easy. Many airlines fly into Cancun International throughout the day and night and very reasonable fares. We found immigration and customs to be quick and efficient. Ground transportation to your hotel, if not included in your package, will run about $15 US per person for a shuttle bus or $20 US per person for a taxi. US dollars are accepted everywhere.

While there is not the over-abundance of hotels in the Puerto Morelos area, there are still plenty in all price ranges. Since this was a long overdue vacation for us, we chose one of the all-inclusive hotels in the area. None of the all-inclusives that I researched included diving. So, if you plan on diving, you need to consider that in your vacation planning. If you are planning a diving vacation and don’t really want the all-inclusive package, the dive centres work with a couple of very nice local hotels for a great dive package - less, in fact, than I paid for my dives alone. With that said, the entire Mayan Riviera and Playa del Carmen is a resort area and dive rates reflect that. Rates are still less than diving at most US destinations and become cheaper still when bought in bulk.

Getting to the bottom line... Would we stay in the Puerto Morelos are again? Absolutely. Great beaches, water, weather, and fantastic diving without the crowds of Cancun or Cozumel.

Will and Diane

Big Blue Planet Editors note:
The above excellant description by Will and Diane originally had a lot comments about the dive centre they used during their trip that we have had to remove to maintain objectivity of the description. As compensation, we don't mind mentioning that WetSet seem to have done a really good job and Will and Diane obviously recommend them!
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Climate Data:
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Surface water temperature: Water temperature at 30m: Water visibility:
General Info:

Travel Tips:
Most visitors thought
Pto. Morelos was:
Ranked as Good by independant reviews Ranked as Good by independant reviews Ranked as Good by independant reviews Ranked as Good by independant reviews
Non diving activities: Some things to see and do.
Language: English, Spanish
Money: USD
Stability: No travelling problems expected
More Information: Country Bio from Lonely Planet

Rating: Ranked as Excellant by independant reviewsRanked as Excellant by independant reviewsRanked as Excellant by independant reviewsRanked as Excellant by independant reviewsRanked as Excellant by independant reviews95%
Highest ranked My Blue Planet photo shared by Sushi.
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Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna
No Some Always
Banded Butterflyfish
No Some Always
Basking Shark
No Some Always
Bluntnose Stingray
No Some Always
Bottlenose Dolphin
No Some Always
Caribbean Reef Shark
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Caribbean Spiny Lobster
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French Angelfish
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Great Barracuda
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Great Hammerhead
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Green Moray
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Green Sea Turtle
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Hawksbill Sea Turtle
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Humpback Whale
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Leatherback Sea Turtle
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Loggerhead Sea Turtle
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Longlure Frogfish
No Some Always
Longspine Porcupine Fish
No Some Always
Manta Ray
No Some Always
Nurse Shark
No Some Always
Orca (Killer Whale)
No Some Always
Pilot Whale
No Some Always
Queen Angel Fish
No Some Always
Reef Squid
No Some Always
Scorpion Fish
No Some Always
Sixgill Shark
No Some Always
Southern Stingray
No Some Always
Spotted Eagle Ray
No Some Always
No Some Always
No Some Always
West Indian Manatee
No Some Always
Whale Shark
No Some Always
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