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Banco Chinchorro Diving & Snorkeling

Banco Chinchorro Diving

Diving at Banco Chinchorro

About 35kms off the coast of Mahahual lies a mysterious yet wonderful coral atoll, full name Reserva de la Biósfera Banco Chinchorro. This national park, rich in history, is also a graveyard for all sorts of sunken ships. A natural protected area since 1996, it conserves its natural beauty, holding secret to a collection of wrecks scattered alongside the exterior reef. It forms part of the “Tríangulo” a name dating back since the XVI century, also designated by Charles Darwin as part the Triangle Reef. Measuring up to 800sqm with just a mere 1% of land above water, you can be sure that the magic of this place is underwater, that being said, at Banco Chinchorro you definitely have more than one option to choose your dive, depending also on weather and sea conditions and your own comfortability in the water: We have mapped 32 reef dive sites from depth of 10 to 35m and also are a certified dive shop from National Institute of Anthropology and History with access to the Banco Chinchorro Underwater Museum and its dozens of ship wrecks.

Banco Chinchorro Dive Sites

Aquario 1 & 2

These are some of the prettiest dive sites in all of Banco Chinchorro. As you descend you’ll wonder which was to look, surrounded by a coral wonderland. More soft corals are found here than anywhere else on the Caribbean coastline and there is also an abundance of sea fans, elk horn, fire and brain coral. And it’s not just the coral that will impress on these two beautiful sites; there are fish literally everywhere! From schools of blue tangs, and snappers, big lobsters, and barracudas prowling, to huge green moray eels protruding from their caves, and tiny beautiful flamingo tongues clinging to fans and other corals. Nurse sharks and eagle rays often hover over the sandy bottom and lucky divers might even spot some dolphins passing by. The maximum depth of these sites is around 18 metres with an average of about 14 and the vis can be expected to be between 20 and 30 metres. An hour will fly by diving either of these spectacular sites.

Baliza

This is a particularly special dive for those who love sharks. Usually two or three nurse sharks approach divers on their descent and will stay with the group for the duration of the dive; a fantastic opportunity to get a really good look at these fascinating creatures. The dive starts in a sandy area heading south over the reef, which is split into three different sections. The maximum depth is about 20 metres but it’s not even necessary to go this deep as both the shallow and deep sections are equally impressive with huge yellow sponges and schools of jacks and sardines. You’ll also likely see groupers, blue parrotfish, and turtles. The sandy areas between the different parts of the reef give the sharks a chance to group together which is a perfect time to get some great photos of them.

El Solitario

The name of this dive site means lonesome in Spanish which is fitting for as the dives includes traversing between two different reefs via a solitary giant coral rock located between the two. For divers who like to use their compasses this is a great opportunity to practise navigation skills and see if they can stay on course from wall to pinnacle to wall again. The dive starts at a depth of between 20 and 24 metres at the first reef, which boasts incredible corals and marine life. When reaching the sand, it might seem like the end of the dive, but by swimming north-west out into the depths over the sand, divers will soon notice a huge shadow growing bigger and bigger. Finally, a huge rock appears, starting at 15 metres and dropping down to the sand at 35 metres, which is a favourite resting place for rays and nurse sharks. After circling the pinnacle divers head North-East to reach the second wall. El Solitario is a great dive site to spot reef sharks, groupers, snappers, and often turtles. The maximum depth for this dive is about 26 metres.

Gata

Gata refers to the Spanish name for nurse sharks, which are the highlight of this dive site. Unlike in all other places, the nurse sharks are highly active and follow the divers around until the end of dive, approaching the group curiously and making gentle turns so you can experience all their grace, strength and beauty in a spectacular way. The site is divided into three different reef sections, crossing over two sandy slopes to navigate between them. The corals are really healthy and among the nurse sharks, you can expect to encounter reef fish in all different colours, shapes, and sizes, as well as black groupers, hawksbill and green turtles, moray eels, giant lobsters. A huge school of sardines hang out on the third reef which is quite a spectacle. The maximum depth for this dive site is around 20 metres.

Gonzales 1 & 2

Right in front of Cayo Centro, the main landmass of Banco Chinchorro, is Punta Gonzalez. This is a hugely diverse dive with depths ranging between 8 and 35 metres. Sticking to the main site divers will usually dive at between 12 and 24 meters making it perfect for beginners. However, in the summer months when the current isn’t as strong, advanced divers can enjoy the chance to go to the deeper parts of Gonzalez where a huge underwater pinnacle is visible rising from about 50 up to 30 metres deep. Even in the shallower parts of this site, the reef topography varies greatly, with some of the most beautiful coral formations Chinchorro has to offer, made even more spectacular by the visibility of 20 metres plus. Divers will swim over sandy areas, through canyons, past pinnacles and along cracks in the reef. In the sheltered areas a multitude of marine life hides out and huge sponges and gorgonian fans flourish. Expect to see eagle rays, turtles and nurse sharks on this unmissable dive.

Gran Muro

For those who love the thrill of an amazing wall dive, Gran Muro is not to be missed. The upper reef starts at just 15 metres depth and slopes down to where the wall begins at 20 metres. You’ll see how it drops to a breath-taking 60 metres in some parts. At Gran Muro everything is a bit bigger than anywhere else in Chinchorro. You’ll swim past enormous barrel sponges, some of which are up to three metres tall, as well as beautiful giant yellow tube sponges, which grow to be thousands of years old. Of course, there is also a magnitude of marine life to be found making this a world class dive site. Expect nurse sharks, reef sharks, turtles, huge black groupers, lots of tiger and Nassau groupers, rays, snappers, and lobsters. Another highlight at Gran Muro are the huge schools of bonnet mouth and boga fish which are truly incredible to see. Imagine thousands of small fish moving together frantically in what is known as a bait ball. This is the time to slow down the dive and just observe because the bait ball of fish can attract all kinds of predators. Groupers, barracuda, permit, trevally and horse-eye jacks can suddenly appear to get a bite of the action, throwing the bait ball into frenzied panic which is great fun to watch. The reef system here is divided in two parts, and crossing from one to the other with take your breath away as you swim over a sandy slope that drops to 50 metres. The maximum depth for this dive site is usually about 28 metres.

Reina del Sur

Translated to English, this site means Queen of the South and divers will understand why as they drift through more than a kilometre of colourful coral gardens. The average depth of about 15 metres so to find huge barrel sponges and black coral at these depths is quite unusual and an indicator that this is a very healthy reef system.

There’s also an incredible amount of marine life to enjoy including hawksbill, green, and loggerhead turtles, which can be seen darting in and out of the canyons and swimming happily over the reef.

There are schools of sardines which are amazing to watch as they dance and shimmer in the light, always on the lookout for predators such as jacks, tarpons and even African pampano. As the dives continue north, with the current usually helping, divers will notice pinnacles approaching and also that the reef drops down deeper to more than 30 metres.

You might spot huge black groupers lurking in the shadows, as well as nurse and reef sharks cruising around the rock formations. The maximum depth for this dive is about 20 metres and the dive duration is usually about an hour.

SS 40 Cannons

This shipwreck was once a Spanish galleon and part of an armada of 17 boats in total. This particular ship was delayed leaving port in Cartagena, Colombia on its voyage towards Havana, Cuba. Trying to catch up with the rest of the armada heading around the Yucatán peninsular at night, the navigator and look-out sailor failed to see the atoll in the pitch-black conditions. Their fate was decided as they ran aground in Chinchorro in 1648. This is a superb dive site which will take you back almost 500 years in time. 36 canons are scattered around an area of 30 by ten metres and a giant cast-iron double-fluke anchor lies some 40 metres west of the canons. Ballast stones and even small wooden parts are still visible and much of it is encrusted with layers of coral. This shipwreck is part of the underwater museum at Banco Chinchorro and there are very few places in the world where diving these archaeological sites is allowed. The maximum depth is eight metres with an average of just five metres, making the visibility again fantastic. East of the wreck is a beautiful coral garden brimming with tropical reef fish which divers always enjoy exploring after the wreck.

SS Inger Skou

Located north-east of Cayo Centro, this shipwreck was once a Danish steamboat from the 19th century. It was a huge vessel and was transporting heavy machinery and metal when it ran aground in Banco Chinchorro in 1955. It is known that on her last journey she was on route from north to south, but we don’t know why she ended up sunken at Banco Chinchorro. It’s easily the best shipwreck to explore in the area due to the size and the number of artifacts, as well as the beauty of the surrounding reef. Diving this site, you’ll find yourself surrounded by majestic industrial underwater scenery inhabited by snappers, parrotfish, and hogfish. We usually start the dive in a deeper section, hovering in between canyons with huge sea fans and gorgonians being swept from side to side with the swell, before arriving at the wreck. Eagle rays and nurse sharks are frequent visitors to the area, and sometimes even black tips too, and with great visibility too, this site is definitely not to be missed.

Teresitas

This is a beautiful wall dive with a maximum depth of about 25 metres, however the dive starts shallow giving divers a chance to get adjusted and enjoy watching the huge conches in the sand, noticing their many trails. About half way through the dive you’ll reach the deepest part of the wall where smaller creatures are often found, like crabs and shrimps, as well as groupers and parrot fish, swimming among beautiful coral formations. The group will shallow up towards the end of the dive to enjoy swimming on top of the reef, swarming with schools of both juvenile and adult reef fish. There’s also a good chance of seeing nurse sharks, turtles and barracudas, making this a great dive for both beautiful coral and plenty of different marine species as well.

Our Boat: "La Chula"

Name: La Chula

Boat: 33 feet fully customized Panga boat with canopy covering all seating area

Engines: 2x140hp Suzuki 4 Stroke Twin Engines with Lean Burn Technology

Equipment: 30 racks for dive tanks (+2 additional tanks at rear of the boat)

Capacity: Max. 14 divers plus crew

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Amigos del Mar

Avenida Malecon corner Coronado street

77976 Mahahual, Q.R., Mexico

+52 984 151 6758 ;

info@amigosdelmar.net

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