Cozumel has many charms; warm waters, relaxed vibe above and below the waves, great marine life, and close proximity to the United States. This perennial favorite off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is perfect for a long weekend escape any time of the year. A few days diving in Cozumel goes a long way towards feeding your fix for bottom time bliss with the fishes. And for a certain subspecies of our dive tribe, world-class underwater photo ops also await on the storied coral reefs. Here are five dive sites where image-makers can get a jumpstart building a diverse and compelling underwater Cozumel portfolio.
Underwater sign welcomes divers to Cozumel, Mexico. Brandon Cole
This expansive reef system on the island’s southwest corner has enough real estate to keep photographers filling memory cards for months. The three-dimensional reef structure is a highlight here, so utilize a super wide-angle fisheye lens to create storytelling images of the dramatic pinnacles, sand chutes, and caverns. Ask your buddy to model in the alleyways amongst the coral skyscrapers. An equally rewarding alternate strategy is to use a zoom lens for the hawksbill turtles, horse-eye jacks, and artful arrangements of colorful sea fans, gorgonians, and sponges. Experienced divers may gravitate to the outer, deeper wall between that is 80 and 120 feet, where Cozumel’s famous currents can take you for a ride. New shooters can happily practice their craft in the mellow, shallower inner portions of the reef system.
Queen angelfish are often seen swimming about the reef in pairs. Brandon Cole
Fish nirvana is in the casa at this mid-depth site, with 50-65 feet below being the sweet spot. Blue striped grunts can school up a hundred strong when the current is just right. Stuffed under the overhangs of this long, ragged ridgeline of coral reefs, you can also find cottonwick grunts, porkfish, schoolmasters and the odd reclusive black grouper. Before charging in for a snapshot, study the scene and visualize your photo. Choose the appropriate camera settings and set your lighting. Only then, move forward slowly and stealthily. A cautious, courteous approach can make all of the difference. Green moray eels, lobsters, angelfish, and macro beauties like spotted drums also call Cedral home.
Felipe Xicotencatl “C-53” Shipwreck
Scuba divers can easily and safely explore inside and outside the 184-foot-long Felipe Xicotancatl C-53 shipwreck. Brandon Cole
The C-53 is a 184-foot-long brilliant artificial reef in the making. Resting in the open sand at 75 feet, it’s an oasis in a desert and a must-dive for wreck fans and photographers looking to add a new perspective to their Cozumel coverage. Fiery red sponge overgrows much of the hull, and deep water gorgonian fans and bushes of rope sponge proliferate. The starboard propeller is particularly photogenic. Much of the ship’s interior is open for exploration, including the engine room which is sure to be a hit with the metalheads out there.
Atlantic nurse shark resting next to the reef in Cozumel, Mexico. Brandon Cole
Poseidon’s palette is on glorious, rainbowed display at this popular drift dive about five miles south of San Miguel, the “big city” and heart of tourism on this laid-back island in the Mexican Caribbean’s sunbelt. An explosion of orange, red, yellow, and purple sponges and fans make pretty pictures almost ridiculously easy at Tormentos. This is a top spot for fish portraits of queen angels (and other angelic species), snappers, coneys, triggers, squirrelfish, and wrasses. It’s also common to find nurse sharks lounging in the sand between the coral heads. If your divemaster is really good, and the Sea God is feeling generous, you may even uncover an endemic splendid toadfish.
Scuba diver exploring the Santa Rosa dive site in the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park. Brandon Cole
If you were limited to only one dive in Cozumel, Santa Rosa should be a contender. The signature site offers both shallow and deep profiles; all can enjoy the reef’s embrace in warm, clear water. It delivers the “big picture” photos, footage, and scuba thrills thanks to its stunning, swiss cheese architecture allowing you to swim up, down, and through the reef itself. The maze of tunnels, caves, and swim-throughs boggles the mind. Plus, it boasts charismatic critters: eagle rays, turtles, midnight and rainbow parrotfish, and so much more. In summary, Santa Rosa is a picture-perfect, classic Coz experience.