Our family has talked often of trying SCUBA diving, but for some reason things never fully aligned to make it happen. So, when we spent Christmas in Mexico and the opportunity presented itself, we decided we were going to do it: as a family, we were SCUBA diving Cancun, Mexico! Whether you want to scuba Cancun or go scuba diving Isla Mujeres, one of the most fascinating and environmentally low-impact way to do it is to dive MUSA, the underwater museum – I love the idea!
Whether you want to SCUBA Cancun, or go SCUBA diving Isla Mujeres, a really cool – and environmentally low-impact – way to do so is to dive MUSA, the underwater museum.
SCUBA Diving Cancun and Riviera Maya
Both SCUBA diving and snorkeling are immensely popular activities throughout Cancun and the Riviera Maya. The area boasts excellent underwater visibility, nearing 100 feet. The water temperature is also pretty consistent, from upper 70s to mid-80 degrees throughout the year.
Another reason for the popularity of this area are the is the Mesoamerican Reef that runs along the Yucatan peninsula, as far as Belize. This reef is the second largest barrier reef in the world, and the largest in the western hemisphere. It is also home to scores of species of stony coral, more than 500 species of fish, and many protected or endangered species.
These factors all combine to make the Cancun, Isla Mujeres, and the Riviera Maya an incredibly popular SCUBA and snorkel destination. Unsurprisingly, this brings thousands upon thousands of tourists in the waters of this area, creating it’s own struggle. But we’ll get back to that.
Getting Trained: SCUBA Cancun Lesson
One of the things that had been a bit of a hang up for us for a long time, was not knowing what it took to get certified as a scuba diver before we could actually dive. We don’t live close to the ocean, so we thought it would cut into a significant portion of vacation for something we were unsure whether we would love. But, when we were staying at the JW Marriott (See our thorough review here), we found that AquaWorld offered a morning lesson in a diving pool on site at the Marriott, and then we could go directly on a group scuba tour the afternoon of the same day. Perfect!
(Oh, and spoiler alert, one daughter is talking about wanting to get certified. It was a hit!)
We arrived at the dive pool, and the lesson was only our family and another teen that was taking his time in Cancun to get PADI certified. Our instructor first familiarized us with the equipment, explaining each piece, how it worked, why it was there, and anything we needed to pay particular attention to. He was patient, relaxed, and thorough in his instruction, and kindly stopped us if we were pushing forward too quickly, to ensure everyone was fully comfortable with each step before moving on to the next.
Once we understood basic safety, the equipment, and how breathing and reading our air gauge worked, we got to get in the pool and get geared up. One by one we were suited up, all of our gear put on us, checked and double checked. Once we all were in and good to go, we stayed in the pool where we could comfortably stand, and practiced. First, just going under and breathing. Then going under, taking out our regulators and putting them back in. Then going under, tossing our regulators off to the side, and having to recover them. Each of these steps were done one on one with our instructor as well as as a group, making sure we were all comfortable before proceeding.
These things and other basics were covered, and we proceeded to swim as a group to the deep part of the pool, approximately 20 feet deep. There, we could swim around underwater, getting comfortable with the gear, and how to move safely around others – all in a place where we could easily kick to the surface if something went sideways.
SCUBA Diving Cancun’s MUSA Underwater Museum
MUSA, or el Museo Subaquatico de Arte, is a creative solution to the struggle Cancun and the Riviera Maya has faced: thousands of snorkel/SCUBA tourists bring significant revenue into the area, but also taking a toll on The Great Mesoamerican Reef that draws these very tourists. In response, Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat teamed up with British sculptor, Jason De Caires Taylor. He created sculptures specifically to have them sunk beneath the surface to become a unique natural reef. The sculptures are at times thought provoking and nearly mournful, and at other times giggle inducing (try not to when diving!).
My favorites were The Bankers collection, which shows 4 men in business suits with briefcases kneeling on the ground, heads buried in the sand, ostrich-style. Another personal favorite is the overweight dude in the recliner chair watching a TV. These sculptures are scattered through out the waters around Cancun and Isla Mujeres, creating a natural reef environment for sea life that we interlopers can explore without fear of damaging the natural habitat in the area. Honestly, I think it’s brilliant, and hope other water-activity focused vacation spots will pick up on the idea.
Aquaworld’s Tour Scuba Diving Isla Mujeres MUSA Underwater Museum
We had a bit of a scheduling issue, and didn’t realize we’d have only 10-15 minutes between our lesson and our tour, so we wound up sprinting onto our Aquaworld boat to head out on the SCUBA MUSA Tour. Once on board and en route, masks and fins are distributed and tried on, adjusting for fit as the crew was introduced and we were split into groups for the actual dive. Small groups of 4 or 5 went down with one one leader/guide, while larger groups, like ours of about 8 people, went down with two guides to ensure everyone was well looked after.
Clarify exactly how much time there will be between your SCUBA lesson and the departure of your SCUBA Cancun MUSA Tour – so you don’t wind up sprinting there without any cash like we did!!
The dive itself was in approximately 30 feet of water, and as a group we slowly descended, giving our bodies time to adjust. Once on the bottom, we were double checked to make sure everything was working properly, and then we set off on a slow tour through several different sets of statues. We were able to touch and swim in and around some of them. We also had a photographer diving with us who took a ton of pictures throughout the time, of course making them available for purchase later (shared with permission here).
If you are doing this for the first time, is do not be afraid to speak up. If anything seems not 100% while getting your mask & flippers fitted, ask for help fixing it. If you start to descend and, like me, find that your mask is leaking, let your guides know right away! I thought I would just let it go and push through, but it got deeply annoying over time. No fault of Aquaworld, and I would still SCUBA again want time, I would just speak up and make sure my mask is better! (My friend over at Dive.In has since told me about the These Full Face Masks for diving – and I think I’ll be wanting to try that out next time!)
Being 30 feet down and weaving in and out of the sculptures was an exceptional experience. Seeing my daughters take to it like fish, swimming side by side, pointing out various sites, and posing for the photographer was extraordinary.
The dive itself was about 30 minutes long, and at the end of the time we slowly ascended as a group. At the surface we bobbed in the water a few minutes until our boat slid in to pick us up, and we were helped into the boat and out of our equipment. Our girls were raving about it. Immediately, they were lobbying to get PADI certified the next time we take a similar trip. I think, just maybe, Mom and Dad can be talked into that.
Do You Want to Try SCUBA Diving Cancun?
If you want to check out a SCUBA lesson while in Cancun, it can be arranged through Aquaworld Here.
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