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SNORKELING THE YUCATAN PENINSULA
The Yucatan Peninsula offers snorkelers an abundance of great locations that can meet the demand of experienced divers taking a break and beginners visiting the coral for the first time.
If snorkeling is a primary focus of your trip then it pays to know where to go before you even book your hotel.
We recommend taking your own equipment as well [mask, snorkel, fins] although there are shops almost everywhere there is good snorkeling selling gear including replacement parts to repair broken fin-straps etc.. All hotels have equipment on hand but our experience is that the masks leak 100% of the time and we question the sanitation of using a snorkel other people have been biting on.
We ran into a school of barracudas on the south side once, which was extremely exhilarating! Garrafón Park is located on the far east side of the island and is the place to snorkel here.
For more info see: Isla Mujeres - Snorkeling & Diving
For more info see: Isla Holbox Swim With Whale Sharks
For more info see: Snorkeling The Mayan Riviera
For more info see: Cozumel Snorkeling
SNORKELING WITH CHILDREN AND BEGINNERS
Xel-Ha is an Eco park with excellent food services and numerous lifeguards on duty at all time. We have seen sea turtles, stingrays, sea-horses and LOTS of other marine wildlife snorkeling there. It is a great place to spend the day for all ages.
You can take a tour that includes Xel-Ha or you can take a taxi or colectivo to get there.
Another interesting thing about Xel-Ha is that Xel-Ha ruins are located a short walk south on the highway from the main entrance to the Eco Park. This ruin site is unique amongst Mayan ruin sites because it has a cenote with a sweat lodge still intact.
The principle occupation of the Mayans who once lived there appears to be the harvesting of conch shells to be crushed and burnt to create an ingredient for mortar used in building. When the Maya lived there it is likely that the only trees left standing were there for fruit bearing.
During the period that the small city flourished it is conceivable that there was a great demand for their product with the probability that much of it went inland carried on small tributaries that opened up after the rainy season each year.
BEST TIME OF THE YEAR TO SNORKEL
Snorkeling depends largely on wind speed. Wind affects the sea contributing to the wave action. When the waves reach a certain height it is impossible to snorkel. In fact it makes it difficult for divers too, because the boats cannot go out either.
It is our opinion [backed up by statistics] that September is the best month to snorkel the Mayan Riviera with the period of July - January to be the best "window" to go, if snorkeling is high on your list of things to do.
Windspeed table for Conversion of Knots - km/h
You just never know. One day the waves can be a meter high the next day the water is still. You have to be prepared to snorkel whenever the water is good. You can't assume that the sea will be calm all day because it is calm in the morning.
On a sunny day in the summer you will have good light up until 5:00 gradually diminishing to 4:00 at the end of September.
If the sea has been very wavy for any length of time [weeks] then visibility will be dramatically reduced due to the amount of sediment in the water.
What makes Cozumel so attractive for diving is that the western side of the island is protected and water conditions are usually great. This makes the island a great place to snorkel as well and there are numerous guides with boats available to take you to some choice locations. Trips run from $20.00 - $50.00 depending on where you go and how long you go out.
All coastal property is controlled by the Mexican Federal Government and is open to all people. You are free to snorkel the waters of any beach you wish. The problem is that highway 307 runs around a km away from the coast in some spots and access points are few and far apart. What you will see is a number of resorts and small roads cut into the forest. Some of these roads are private, many are for beaches, restaurants and cabanas. Look for signs indicating beach, diving, fishing and cabanas.
We have been told [unofficially] that access to any beach must be given upon request by an individual through a resort property. However resort gate guards have told us that we would have to pay a fee to use their beach. The law does prohibit people from trespassing through private property so technically you must first gain permission to cross someone's property however once on the beach they have no legal authority over you.
All resorts have snorkel equipment to lend you. It has been our experience however that every mask we have ever borrowed, leaked water to the point of being useless.
You can buy equipment on the Riviera in any number of dive shops. Many resorts even sell equipment. Equipment at the dive shops is priced according to the U.S. market so expect to pay U.S. prices for everything. Most shops carry top quality equipment.
While snorkeling you may encounter a 5-ft barracuda. They are ferocious looking creatures with lots of teeth. They are also a very curious fish and may approach you. If you see one it is best to slowly swim away. If he starts following you don't panic, just continue to swim. If he swims right up to you do not make any sudden moves. Hold your ground and gently swim away.
Barracudas are attracted to shiny objects and can be found in quite shallow water. They will just sit there in one spot while the water flows past them. You can swim quite close to one and they will not flinch. Actual barracuda attacks are extremely rare and are attributed mostly to spear fisherman.
WATER IN MASK
Men should shave before snorkeling. You can also create a "seal" by applying Vaseline or silicone grease to your face. You can also buy a mask with a "Purge Valve", which is a small one-way valve that allows water to drain out of the mask.
If your mask leaks then it needs replacing.
Always clean masks after you have snorkeled. You must clean the sea-salt off the mask.
Use buoyancy to raise right leg. Repeat, alternating legs.
Using ankle weights reduces the energy needed to swim and can extend your snorkel time by conserving energy.
Even a T-shirt will work. Wearing a vest/shirt will help you conserve heat and keep your back from getting sun burnt. If you happen to get washed into some coral or rocks it can also protect you. These items can be found at dive shops.
GETTING INTO THE WATER
First look for a safe place to enter the water. Hold your mask/snorkel in one hand and your fins in the other [put hands through straps to hold securely].
Enter the water up to around waist height. Dunk your head into the water to get your hair/face wet. Put your mask/snorkel on. Now, while in the water you can safely wade to put your fins on.
Most resorts have boating lanes roped off or have the safe swimming/snorkeling section of the water roped off for your safety.