Where I dive on the Manchones Reef off Isla Mujeres with Marhosted Trips Scuba Marmaids
I SCUBA’d What a delight!
What a relief!
Back in October 2021 it had been raining here in Vancouver for what felt like 6 weeks(months!!). The same grey wet day over and over again. One day, on my Facebook feed a trip popped up. I had joined Maira Thomas’s SCUBA MARmaids travel Group, Marhosted trips (@marhostedtrips) on Facebook when another diver recommended it. I was tentatively looking for dive buddy and dive opportunities without my family. I had realized that despite having lot of dives that I had never dived without someone I had done training with and trusted completely. SCUBA is lots of fun but it is risky and a trusted dive buddy is a must.
Lets go diving!
I have wanted to dive Isla Mujeres and MUSA for some time and up popped the perfect short trip in early April 2022. A great way, I thought, to ease back into diving and travelling. I looked at the grey sky and the rain pouring down and booked it. Something to look forward to!
When you dive off Isla Mujeres you have the unique opportunity to visit MUSA, the Underwater Museum of Art. It is 12 galleries designed to reduce the pressure of visitors to the Manchones reef system and increase the overall biomass of the reef by having statues engineered to capture blooming coral and become a living art installation.
April arrived much faster than I expected. I had to get gear serviced and renew my DAN dive insurance. Maira, the owner of Marhosted Trips and our trip leader, had me covered from the moment I stepped off the plane in Cancun. Transfers to the ferry over to the island, for the group, and then pick up on the island in the ubiquitous golf cart. The fun began!
We stayed in a lovely hotel, Playa La Media Luna, which had a pool and its own little crescent beach. The rooms were nice and scrupulously clean. Each had a sizeable balcony which was useful for hanging dive gear to dry.
You could say we ate well!
Every meal was excellent—breakfast beside the dive shop on dive days or divine pancakes and French toast at the Mango Café. The dinners were all delicious. My favorite was the last night at Tacos de Humo Cantina, a tiny place that, rightly, claimed to have the best tacos on the island. The fish tacos and mango, chipotle guacamole were excellent.
We dove with Squalo Adventures. They are a PADI certified center and were very professional and a lot of fun! The diving off Isla Mujeres is perfect for beginners. You can’t go below 27ft unless you dig a hole in the sand and there is surge but no significant current. Visibility is 80 ft on a bad day. The Manchones reef is a protected marine park which means dive are limited to 45 minutes regardless of how much air you have left. This limits the traffic. We dove the MUSA first. I had seen some photos but they don’t do it justice. It has become a living piece of art that changes as the corals grow. The coral has colonized the cement statues placed down current from the main reef and nature is creating the art. Some statues looked like they had black explosions from their head other had wings made of fan coral. Amazing!
One of the interesting things we learned from our dive master is that Mexico has the first reef/coral repair plan in the world. Many reefs have redevelopment systems where baby coral is grown in a nursery and transplanted to the reef but the group on Isla Mujeres go out after storms and survey the reef to repair broken coral. They have found if the broken piece can be reattached they will heal like broken bones. This has to be done quickly as the coral sitting in sand will choke after a week. The UN is helping to expand these projects because reef health has been found to be vital for preventing problems that lead to climate change refugees. Check out Accion Isla for more information.
The other areas of the reef we dove were natural formations and equally beautiful—many species of coral including fan coral and sizable brain coral. The day after the storm, which stopped one of our dive days, was brilliant. Excellent visibility and all the wildlife was out to be viewed. Even the usually shy lobsters were social.
The weather cheated us of a dive day but it wasn’t a problem. We, intrepid adventuresses, set out on our golf carts to explore the island. We visited Punta Sur, the southernmost part of the island. It is a historic ark and was thought to have had a temple to a goddess of the moon. It is a beautiful place full of plants and wildlife…and wild MARmaids.
Isla Mujeres was lovely, friendly, and had a relaxed, authenticity badly missing from its neighbor, Cancun.
Maira had put together a super group of ladies. Some very expert, others quite beginner but all delightful. We had an amazing time exploring above and below the water. The lovely Shevaughn will be the group leader for the next trip. Shev moved to Mexico from Canada to pursue her diving goals and now lives and works remotely in Huatulco on the west coast of Mexico. Check out her blog, Shev Strolls I hope to have her guest post here about the ins and outs of relocating.