The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS), also popularly known as the Great Mayan Reef or Great Maya Reef, is a marine region that stretches over 1000 km from Isla Contoy, at the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, down Mexico’s Riviera Maya to Belize, Guatemala and the Bay Islands of Honduras. The reef system is home to more than 65 species of stony coral, 350 species of mollusk and more than 500 species of fish.
There are numerous species that live in or around the reef system that are endangered or under some degree of protection, including the following: sea turtles (Green turtle, Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Leatherback turtle, and the Hawksbill turtle), the Queen Conch, the West Indian Manatee, the Splendid toadfish, the American crocodile, the Morelet’s Crocodile, the Nassau grouper, Elkhorn coral, and black coral.
The reef system is home to one of the world’s largest populations of manatees, with an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 of them. Some northern areas of the reef system near Isla Contoy are home to the largest fish on the planet, the Whale shark. The normally solitary Whale sharks congregate there in social groups to eat and to mate.
There are three PADI dive shops in Akumal, two of which are located on Akumal Bay and one which is located on Half Moon Bay, all are within walking distance or within a short drive of area accommodations.
If you have never been scuba diving and would like to experience this amazing sport while on vacation, or if you just want to see what it is like before committing the time to become a certified diver, stop by one of the dive shops and sign up for Bubblemakers or Discover Scuba. These are great fun and are also a great experience for kids, age 8 and up.
Open Water Diving
Within a few minutes boat ride from shore, certified divers can enjoy open water, slow drift boat dives over stunning coral reefs. Water temperature averages 82° Fahrenheit and visibility ranges from 50 to 150 feet, depending on the weather. Open water dives include an 80 cubic ft. aluminum tank, weight belt/weights, boat ride, locker and shower.
To sign up for dives, simply stop by one of the dive shops in the morning or the day before, put your name on the dive board, and be at the shop 30 – 45 minutes prior to departure time.
If you are a certified diver and would like to further your certifications, the following are some of the courses offered at Akumal area dive shops;
PADI Courses: Scuba Diver, Open Water Diver, Open Water Referral, Re-Activate, Dive Planning/Computer, Advanced Open Water, Emergency First Response, Rescue Diver.
PADI Specialty Courses: Underwater Photographer, Deep Diver, Night Diver, Peak Performance Buoyancy.
PADI Professional Courses: Divemaster, Divemaster Professional,
Emergency First Response, Instructor Development Course (IDC), as well as Trimix Instructor
TDI Certifications: Nitrox Diver, Advanced Nitrox Diver, Decompression Procedures, Cavern Overhead Environment, Sidemount Course.
While there is no need to make reservations for scheduled, open water dives before you arrive in Akumal, it is best to do so for specialty courses, to ensure that you are on an instructors schedule during your stay for the course(s) you are wanting to take.
In addition to coral reefs, Akumal is in the heart of some of the best fresh water cavern and cave diving in the world. Over the years this area has attracted cave diving legends, as well as many others that have followed in their footsteps, exploring and mapping just some of the countless caves located within a short drive of Akumal.
Cavern/Cenote and Cave Diving
Locally, caves and caverns are called “Cenotes” which is the Spanish form of the Maya word “d’zonot”. If you are visiting Akumal and are a certified diver, this is your opportunity to experience a completely different and unique way of underwater exploration and the technical challenges exclusive to cave and cavern diving. Area Cenotes provide access to the worlds most expansive, underground, freshwater cave systems that to this day, hold secrets of ancient cultures and provide a safe haven for relics and the remains of long extinct animals.
If you are a certified open water diver with a recent dive, you are welcome to join a 40 minute orientation from some of the industries leaders about the procedures that you need in order to experience a cavern dive. Offered at The Akumal Dive Shop, this is a mandatory prerequisite in order to participate on a cavern dive. This introduction on overhead environment diving procedures includes; underwater communication with flashlights, team diving protocols, emergency procedures, buoyancy control and gas consumption rules.
If after attending the prerequisite orientation, you would like to participate in a Cenote dive, the Akumal area offers over 10 different Cenote diving options from which the areas world class cave diving instructors will chose for your dive.
While area cenotes provide some of the world’s best, fresh water cavern diving, they are also the access point to the the largely unexplored world that lies beneath them. The coastal region of the Riviera Maya stretching from just south of Playa del Carmen to Tulum and slightly inland, has over 100 different cave entrances and miles upon miles of breathtakingly beautiful flooded underground passageways.
Area dive shops are committed to providing certified cave and technical divers with the best information and service to make diving in these environments safer and more convenient; offering equipment rentals, tanks, trimix, nitrox, oxygen, transportation, maps, navigation, guiding, and of course, instruction by some of the worlds leaders in cave exploration.
With many of the cave diving sites located within a few miles of Akumal, many cave divers use Akumal as a home base to further explore area caves and to explore the jungles of the Yucatan to find new ones. If you are already cave certified or need further courses to complete your cave certification, Akumal can provide everything you or your dive group may need.
For more information about diving while in Akumal, please visit these area dive shop web sites: