We've spent the last three days diving and snorkelling the wonderful reef system here. The Yucatan reefs are the second largest reef system in the world, next to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Comprising 1500 miles of reef, they extend from the Northern tip of the peninsula, south to Belize, Guatemala and beyond.
We dove twice with Cancun's Solo Buceo to nearby reefs, and then, for our two youngest children who are not yet divers, made a trip south to the tiny fishing village of Puerto Morelos to snorkel the reefs there.
I shot a couple of hundred photographs on my venerable Olympus C4000 digital camera, using the Olympus PT-10 underwater housing I purchased 3 years ago for it. At one time this camera was my sole digital camera, but has now been relegated to a dive camera only. The photographs were retouched using Microsoft Digital Image Suite 10 afterward.
Here's some of what we saw and did.
This is Janice and her brother Dave exiting a coral arch in the reef. These are lots of fun to swim through, and you can frequently find interesting wildlife hidden inside the small caves formed by the coral.
A relative of the sea horse, it's always a thrill to spot one of the relatively rare trumpet fish on the reef.
Parrot fish are large fish with powerful beak-like jaws which they use to crush coral and feed on the polyps within. This blue parrot fish was probably 18 inches long.
The barracuda is a predator with a fearsome reputation. The truth is that they are a wary fish and rarely approach divers. Jon did catch a glimpse of one catching and eating a smaller fish on this dive, and I was lucky enough to shoot this picture from a fairly close distance.
The big thrill of this dive was spotting four grey sharks. They didn't stick around long enough for me to get any decent photographs, however.
Just as we were about to surface, one of the divers spotted a hawksbill turtle feeding. These amazing creatures have the ability to stay submerged for up to 30 minutes at a time.
On our second day of diving we saw even more wildlife. This rock fish has painfully poisonous spines all across his back, which is a good reason not to touch him. Experienced dvers, however, will frequently pick these docile creatures up by sliding a hand under the belly. The fish will sit right in the hand, not moving, until placed back on the coral.
This octopus was hidden in the crevasses in the coral. We played with it a little, putting our hands into the mouth of its lair, and allowing the curious creature to explore our fingers with its tentacles.
Throughout the Carribean, you will find restaurants serving this fellow as lunch. Spiny lobsters are like their northern cousins, but without the giant claws.
Moray eels, despite their fearsome reputation, are quite timid. This little green eel was spotted by my son Chris, and I was lucky enough to get a picture before he bolted back into his cave.
It was quite a thrill to spot this young hawksbill turtle swimming in the water, and we were lucky to have him swim alongside our group for nearly 5 minutes.
We spotted this enormous moray in a cave. Probably close to six feet long, I was content to have a photograph of him sitting in the back of his lair, when suddenly he exited through a back entrance. Swimming up over the coral I managed to snap these two photographs of him.
Our snorkelling trip started on the beaches in Puerto Morelos. The reef here is a national marine park, and you can hire small operators to take you to them. Reef Extreme offered a package which included guided tours of two areas on the reef, and a fajita lunch with open bar. Here are the boats we travelled in to get to the reef.
While there are definitely fish (and some large ones) on the shore reef, the star of the show at Puerto Morelos is the coral. This is a beautiful elkhorn, with a gorgonian in the foreground.
The reef is in very shallow water. I shot this photo from behind the boat, which was moored in perhaps 8 feet of water. After a short swim from the boat to the reef, depths decreased to a
s little as 3 to 5 feet, with some portions of the reef actually poking out above water.
Thriving coral reefs are frequently characterized as being underwater gardens. This shot gives you an idea why.
And of course, there was plenty of wildlife, as this school of Blue Tangs and Parrot Fish shows.