Snorkeling The Coral Reefs of Cozumel, Mexico
Last month I spent some time in Mexico for my honeymoon, and right at my fingertips was one of the best destinations in the world for snorkeling. Some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the Caribbean Sea were just a mere-45 minutes away on the island of Cozumel. Cozumel is famous for it’s scuba diving and snorkeling, an I was determined to experience them first hand!
It was the week leading up to my 30th birthday, and I wanted to do something epic to remember it. Something dangerous, something I’d never done before! Something that excited me yet made my stomach feel sick… So I chose snorkeling. Yep. That was it. Snorkeling.
I’d wanted to try snorkeling for as long as I could remember, but I was a terrible swimmer, hated not being able to stand up in the water, and have a fear of not breathing. Those three things together would be enough to put most people off the idea. But I’d always seen beautiful photos of people who looked so natural in the water, surrounded by brightly coloured fish. I wanted to be that person, and I knew one day I’d have to put my fears behind me.
Arriving In Cozumel
We took the ferry at around 9am and purchased tickets on our way to the ferry terminal. I wasn’t feeling great on entering the boat so spent the majority of the journey asleep as my seasickness was getting bad. Once we arrived in Cozumel we were hounded by people trying to sell us everything from taxis to tours.
We wandered the area a while trying to get our bearings. Eventually I decide we should go back to the terminal to pick a tour. A lady catches my eye and we get talking. We spoke about where we were from and she mentioned she’d been to Banff and how cold it was! I sympathised with her.
She explains there are two tours today, a 2-hour tour and a 4-hour tour. The 2-hour tour would have given us time to see some of the Island too, since we’d had a later start than planned.
I picked the four-hour tour – what was I doing? Even Matt was totally okay doing a 2-hour tour but no, the adrenaline junkie in me (lol) was adamant I’d be doing this for four hours. Even if I hated it. It was almost like subconsciously I was forcing myself to face my fear. Like I knew I could do it, but I was afraid. What if I looked stupid?
The tour group name of the back of the woman’s shirt who sold us the tickets was “Maybe Tours” – who have a whopping 2 reviews on TripAdvisor! I looked at Matt and said “Maybe you’ll get a tour… and maybe you won’t?” Again hoping that this wasn’t a scam and that they didn’t just take $80 USD from us. I’m always a tad paranoid! Matt was apprehensive about booking with someone from a ticket booth on the street, but it worked in my favour last time so I was willing to risk it again.
After handing over the cash, we had a little while to grab something to eat and drink. I popped into the 7/11 to grab snacks and then we had drinks at a bar (Okay I had drinks at a bar, liquid courage and all that)
Arriving At The Harbour
Upon returning to the terminal, Six of us were herded into a taxi with the smallest seats I’ve ever seen. The Journey down to the harbour was the most uncomfortable ride ever. We passed all the cruise terminals and eventually arrived. The taxi left and we were left there. Wondering if we would ever make it back to our hotel that day, we waited. This seemed to be the place to come for scuba diving as everyone coming in on boats was in full scuba diving gear!
We were waiting for about 30 minutes until someone came along and asked the Spanish people we were with a question. I don’t know what was discussed but from what I gather, they asked if we were on a tour and then proceeded to tell us where to wait.
Eventually someone shows up and shows us the way to our boat for that day. I guess the tour guide did a safety spiel but I couldn’t tell you what he said. Off We went, cruising along the shores of Cozumel.
The boat stops at the first reef and we get handed our snorkels and fins for the tour. I’d never thought to buy our own snorkeling equipment! Knowing that these snorkels had probably not been washed properly since the last person wore them, Matt and I looked at each other, nervously giggled and proceeded to put them on. I pushed the idea of breathing in someone else’s saliva to the back of my mind (yolo?)
Taking A Leap Of Faith
Everybody on the tour took a life jacket except Matt (I was really comforted by the fact it wasn’t just me who needed or wanted one) Matt sat on the side of the boat and casually jumped in. No big deal. My turn was coming up, I didn’t want to be the first, but I didn’t want to be the last either!
snorkel on. Breathing off. Cue Anxiety.
I jumped in.
First of all, Matt was shocked. Shocked that I’d even JUMPED INTO THE OCEAN
secondly, i jumped whilst wearing the snorkel. Snorkelling first-timer fail. Hordes of salt water trickling down my throat I thought I was going to vomit.
On the outside I looked calm – like you’d never know I had an irrational fear of deep water. I looked like I knew what i was doing. But I didn’t.
I hated not being able to breath through my nose, I started hyperventilating and could hear myself heavily breathing. Despite the fact I was in relatively shallow water with a life vest on!
It took me a while to find the courage to put my face under the water. I was scared I’d float off in another direction to my group. But why did I come on the tour if I was going to miss the best parts? We spent a while at the first reef and eventually I found my confidence in the water. We ended up swimming into another tour group in the same reef so things got a little crowded. According to Matt I wandered off at one point – I guess I saw an amazing part of the reef and wanted to get a closer look!
Paradise reef was incredible. It was shallow, and some of the clearest water I’d ever seen. There were groups of brightly coloured tropical fish swimming right next to me. I did try a few times to touch one, but they are just so fast!
One of the other girls on the tour was given a life ring to hold onto which the guide pulled along with a piece of rope. At first I must admit I was jealous she got the ring, but come the end of the tour I felt like a mermaid.
Hail Stones & Lightning
The next part of the reef was far deeper. This time I jumped in, but I remembered to set the snorkel on my head before jumping in. I held my nose and jumped. After coming back up to the surface I then put the snorkel on properly – much better!!
Once again we saw all kinds of fish, the reefs were deeper here, so they weren’t swimming directly with us but it was still very cool to see. In the distance there were dark black clouds, I saw a few lighting strikes and started to worry. I looked around and no one else seem fazed. I shrugged and continued on to the reef.
That’s when it started to rain. And not just slightly, it was like hail stones almost. I could feel it hammering down onto my back. At this point I wasn’t fussed about being under water, because it was far warmer than the rain! Eventually we gave in, boarded the boat again and drove to the next reef over. The journey there was freezing! I was very ready to jump in that water again if only to keep warm!
Feeling Like A Mermaid
Our third stop of the tour, I was jumping in like it was none’s business. I’d found my confidence in the water and wondered how it had taken me so long to do it. But I was happy I did. Nothing will ever compare to what I experienced. In the last and final reef we went to we were lucky enough to see Lion Fish, Squid and a massive Barracuda. I was happy at this point that the water was deep because he was way down there! Our tour guide managed to get some incredible footage for us of the reefs down low and pointed out all the different types of fish and coral.
Ending Our Day On The Beach
With the tour nearing the end, we went to our last stop, complete with beers! Playa Palancar was a white sandy beach with the clearest blue water. It was so nice just to lay down and relax to finish the tour. I was kind of bummed that our Cozumel snorkeling tour had come to an end. I couldn’t believe what I’d just done, or what I’d just seen, I was feeling proud of myself.
The day was coming to an end and we boarded our boat one last time to head back to the harbour. My hair was a matted mess, and I was soaked and cold but I’d had the best time ever. We tipped our guides as they were very good to us, especially with a language barrier. Once at the harbour I was guessing whether we’d have to find our own way back or not. Thankfully a taxi came for us just after we changed clothes. The sun was already setting at this point and the ferry was due to leave shortly after we arrived back at the terminal.
There’s no other way to describe this tour than saying I absolutely frickin loved it! In some ways you can say it was life changing. Okay, it’s just snorkeling and kids do it every day, but not only did I go snorkelling I did so in DEEP water. In the Ocean. With a guy who spoke no english. On a tour that might not even be “official” and I survived. In fact the tour guides, even with little English, were fantastic. I have zero idea what they were talking about for the majority of the tour but body language and basic words can go a long way!
Where Is Cozumel And How To Get There
Isla Cozumel is Mexico’s largest island, situated in the Caribbean sea, 12 miles off the coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula. Cozumel is a popular destination for cruise ships and an easy day trip from Playa Del Carmen. Cozumel is the ultimate destination in Mexico for scuba diving and snorkeling. The biggest town in Cozumel is San Miguel De Cozumel. This is where the ferry ports. We picked up snacks here prior to departing on our tour.
How To Get To Cozumel From Playa Del Carmen
There are two companies that offer ferry services to and from Cozumel from Playa Del Carmen, Winjet and Ultramar. We opted to go with Winjet simply because they had ticket booths all over town. Ticket prices for Winjet are $135 Pesos ($7.50) one way and Ultramar ticket prices are $200 Pesos ($12 USD) one way. Their schedules are almost the same, with Ultramar having later ferries back to Playa Del Carmen. Check the Ferry Schedules prior to planning your day trip.
The ferry terminal was about a 15-minute walk from our hotel. We chose to take the scenic route and walk along the beach. Almost everyone and everywhere will be trying to sell you ferry tickets to Cozumel. But there are several “official” ticket booths in town, or you can simply wait and buy them at the terminal. The ferry ride in total lasts around 45 minutes and there are cafes on board should you need snacks or drinks.
Snorkeling Tours Cozumel
Looking to experience the amazing reefs in Cozumel but don’t want to take a chance on booking one on the day? Here are some of the best snorkeling tours in Cozumel you can book in advance. I’ve done the research so you don’t have to!
- Cozumel Tours – Offers a variety if packages including Snorkeling, Scuba Diving and Jeep Tours
- 4-Hour/3 Reef Tour
- Cozumel Snorkeling Tour By Glass Bottom Boat
- El Cielo & Playa Mia – 5-Hour tour includes buffet and bar
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