Underwater Wonders at Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park
Situated off the Island of Cozumel in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park forms part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, also known as the Great Mayan Reef. The reef is the second largest in the world, after Australia's Great Barrier Reef, and includes a number of protected areas, including the Belize Barrier Reef, the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the Cayos Cochinos Marine Park and the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, which was declared a National Marine Park of Mexico in July 1996.
The barrier reef is a very popular site for snorkeling and scuba diving. In addition to spectacular natural coral, the reef features the wreck of the C-53 Felipe Xicoténcatl warship which was intentionally sunk as an artificial reef in 2008. Divers can explore the ship which has become home to a variety of marine life.
Another fascinating feature of the reef is the MUSA Museo Subacuático de Arte (Underwater Art Museum) consisting of dozens of sculptures, mainly of people, some standing in a circle and others in crowds, some life-sized and others larger-than-life. A classic VW Beetle has a human form curled up against the windscreen; a man rests on his couch watching television; surrounded by pot plants and a watering can a woman lies on her belly with her hands cupped under her chin; a house with a chimney hints at unseen occupants; a man kneels with his head buried in the sand and another leans against his desk with pencil poised over notebook and coffee cup within reach. These are just some of the amazing sculptures divers can view at this unique underwater museum.
Advanced divers can explore the underwater cave system known as La Garganta del Diablo (the Devil's Throat), a reference to the narrow tunnel cutting through the red coral reef. Among the marine animals found in the waters around Cozumel is the colorful Cozumel splendid toadfish (Sanopus splendidus), listed as 'vulnerable' by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and endemic to this area. With their bright yellow fins, dark blue and white striped heads and bodies, the Cozumel splendid toadfish hides beneath outcrops of coral peeping out from time to time. Divers may have the good fortune of catching a glimpse of this elusive resident of the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park.