Cozumel right in front of the Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen; is usually known for two things: as a divers’ praradise and as a cruise port. This article tells the story of a snorkeling tour to the Palancar Reef close to Cozumel.
Snorkeling – Loading the Boat
The Cozumels Reefs are world famous, a paradise for snorkeling and diving. There are several tour option some of them longer, other shorter.
We stayed on the island and could book for the following day. There are shorter tours, mostly for cruise guests with less time and longer tours to the world famous coral reefs in front of Cozumel. These reefs also attract many divers. We did one of the longer tours and could see the Palancar Reef. Some more examples of Cozumel Reefs are Columbia and Cielo Reef.
We did stay relatively far north, the boat stops at a small hotel where the tour agent took us. Several more people got in the boat. The boat goes along the island and picks up more guests until it’s really full.
Bags and bagpacks go in a net on the roof. There is no space on the floor because all the seats are taken. This is how you go to the reef. Snorkel, goggles and fins are provided, a life-vest is compulsory. As soon as everyone has all the equipment, people jump into the water one after another. The boss asked if someone is a first-time-snorkeler and if there is anyone who feels insecure. He did take special care of these people.
Palancar Reef in Cozumel
The tour guides are also in the water. The make sure that the group stays close and together. This is of particularly important. Everyone snorkels along the water; some hold their breath and dive a bit. One of the tour guides did dive a bit deeper but also without help only by holding his breath.
What you get to see is breathtaking: a reef of never ending colorful fish, much life, general bustle and everything absolutely stunning! We could see a stingray somewhere down. I have never seen anything like this, absolutely beautiful and fascinating!
Of course the reefs are busy: we did not see another snorkeling group. But a diving group was around, of course much deeper down.
As a snorkeler, you basically are stuck at surface of this little world. Yet, the view was great, the water crystal-clear and we could see everything. It’s difficult to say how far from the reef we really were.
The currents are there and make everyone move. Because everyone is looking down in the water, you sometimes crash into someone or someone crashes into you. After a while, I was really exhausted, really very exhausted and then the tour was over soon. Everyone goes back to the boat, the tour guides swims and dives close to the boat’s ladder and takes everyone’s fins off. After this, the tour is over. There is a small restroom on boat. At first I though that is a bit unnecessary, but you really need it on the way back.
On the way back they serve cold drinks (Mexican beer and Coke). The tour guides did not have any they had another tour in the afternoon. Things are a bit Americanized: during the entire boat ride, they play music. This seems to be adjusted to American preferences. They take you back to the coast and we get off in opposite order.
Some Advice on How to Organise Yourself
You sit in the boat for a while, go snorkeling and go back to the boat wet. If you don’t feel like sitting in a bikini or swim trunks, you can take a beach cloth with you. Men can simply put a t-shirt on. Because of the strong sun, you should take some clothes with you. Also, addressed to mostly women, it feels better to sit in the boat with more than just a bikini.
Booking these tours is very simple: agencies are everywhere in Cozumel, all of them sell snorkeling tours. All you need to know is how much time you have, if you want to see a particular reef and how much money you are willing to spend. You book the tour and they tell you everything else (like when and where to leave). English is fine, they all know enough English. You can often book for the same day. Booking for the following day is definitely not a problem.
The tour was not cheap. I forgot the price. But we hesitated because of it. Anyways, I definitely recommend these tours. It was a totally unique experience!