Snorkeling at the Great Mayan Reef

29.01.20 09:13 PM By Putri

I’ve been told that I tend to wander off on a tangent. Yeah, right!?... 

I write about my personal experiences of my travels, therefore, my posts are often very subjective, thanx to my rabid vocal nature. And now, I just found out that Nico shares every posting in this blog on his FB, which means his audience, which consists of his mom, dad, sister, aunts, long lost uncles, exes, silent flings, neighbour’s dog, and passive-aggressive enemies MIGHT find out about this blog. The thought that this blog might have an actual audience freezes my fingers. Should I shift my writing and imitate a real travel bloggers writing by doing such things as ranking best 10 places to visit, curate an ‘’ultimate’’ itinerary, and all that jazz? 

All that requires a deep research, noting qualities and cataloging flaws, and that’s not for me. All my researches end up on corgi videos. Somehow. 

Sigh. What to do, what to do…

Who am I kidding, I went to my blog stats and I still have more toes than viewers. So, that’s that. So, after this unnecessary ramble, let the real blog post begin, kinda

I am a sucker for everything with a superlative title. Yes, I am that shallow. I am easily entertained with titles like "the smallest this",  "the biggest that", etc. So, when I read that we can snorkel at the world’s second-biggest reef in Mexico where we will travel, bada bing bada boom! Let’s go see them corals and fishes!

The Great Mayan Reef

The Great Mayan Reef or Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS) stretches from the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula down to Honduras. It’s home for many fishes, corals, and turtles. In Mexico, this reef is easily accessible from Cancun, Cozumel, and the Riviera Maya coastal front. 

Snorkeling at the Great Mayan Reef from Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos is situated right in the heart of Riviera Maya, between Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, and it claims to have direct access to the best part of the Great Mayan Reef. The reef system that lies 400m from the shore at Puerto Morelos is called the Nacional Parque Arrecife, and it's famous for its turtle nesting area.  It is boasted as the best snorkel spot in Mexico and it's not far from the truth. Read a future post about our favorite spot. 

Marine protection throughout the Mexico's open water has been rigorously introduced since the 90s to ensure the health of the reef, including in Puerto Morelos. It is no longer permitted to access the reef freely from the shore, which means we have to join a guided tour that will take us on a 10 minutes ride on a boat to the reef. The snorkelling spots in Puerto Morelos is divided into two different areas, and all of the guided tours take you to both spots. 

We took our guided tour from the Wet Set, simply because their booth is located right next to our hotel. We paid USD35/person for 2 hours of snorkelling, and since there was no one else joining the tour that day, there were just two of us. It felt like a private tour! That's one of the cool thing about Wet Set, they don't really set a minimum person per tour. The service includes an entrance fee to the coral park, a wet suit, fins, an obligatory life jacket, and a snorkelling mask for each person, and of course a boat ride, and a guide. Wet Set isn’t the only provider for this activity but from our experience with them, we recommend their service. You can find other vendors along Puerto Morelos beach. Even the fishermen open their boat for rents. One thing that made us happy to take the service from Wet Set was because of the fact that they provide wetsuits thats already included in the price. Although it might sound against logic to cover up your bikinied body while swimming in the Caribbean on a broad-daylight, the water does get cold after a while. 

The coral system lies approx. 6 feet below the surface, meaning you can easily see the hustle-bustle of the busy underwater ecosystem in the comfort of your snorkeling mask. Our guide, Alejandro (or was it Juan? Couldn’t remember, I am bad with names), was a professional diver, he remembered the reef like the back of his hand, he led us to visit the parts of the reef where we could see the best marine life. 

We had 45 minutes of snorkeling at each snorkeling spot. That ain’t short for snorkeling in the open water with waves, especially when suddenly the sky went dark and seemed about to have a full-blown rainstorm. The wind was strong and almost made me a seasick, being swayed by the waves. I was dead after the first 45 minutes. Our guide said that it was not common to have a restless sea during the time we were there (December), maybe due to climate change?  

I stayed on the boat while Nico went snorkeling at the second spot. I was too tired and the wave was too harsh to fight to stay stable in the water. The coldness, the waves, the wind, the tightness of the neoprene wetsuit drained the energy right out of me. Do you know how tight a wet wetsuit hugs your body? I tell you, it’s damn tight like a botox injected skin surface. My tiny bladder, that has shrunk to half its size in the cold water, squeezed tighter inside the wetsuit, resulted in an urgent need to pee.

Being on the boat in the middle of the sea on almost-raining weather wasn’t the most comfortable thing to do when you need to pee. I waited and waited for Nico to be done snorkeling so we could go back to the shore but they were nowhere to see. Probably busy flirting with the mermaids, with our guide as his wingman. So, I went back into the water. To pee...

Yes, I knooow, it’s disgusting, especially I was in a RENTED wetsuit. I know very well that we aren’t supposed to pee on anything that isn’t a toilet, but nature got to do what nature got to do.  It’s disgusting for us both. In my defence, it is only natural to have the urge to pee once we dip into cold water because our body constricts as a measure to keep the body temperature to protect us from getting a cold shock, this constriction is caused by the increased blood pressure, and the blood vessels literally squeeze the piss right of you. Cold diuresis, y’all.            

As soon as my bladder released a gallon of its content, I could feel the warmth of my own pee slowly creeping up and enveloped me whole inside the wetsuit.

I don’t know what’s with a wetsuit, I mean I still got wet in it, but at the same time it retained my pee in the inside. I tried to pull the wetsuit but it acted like suction cup instead, latching on my skin. I felt like I was being marinated in my own pee, inside a wetsuit, in the sea. WTF is going on!! GROOOSSSS..

I did some wiggles (frantic pulls and pats here and there) trying to get the seawater into my neoprene wetsuit to push the pee out. As soon as we got to the shore, I took the wetsuit off and soak it in a dedicated washing pool, I rinsed it rigorously as if I was trying to wash off my sins, literally and figuratively. Then I rinsed myself, put back on my shirts, put the tips in the tip jar for our guide, and rushed Nico to leave. Hoping no one realized for I have sinned… 

I have a mixed feeling about linking the WetSet website on this post because I am afraid they will read this post and find out what I’ve done and ban me for any of their services forever, but at the same time perhaps they need to know what I’ve done so they can burn the wetsuit I wore… 

All and all, apart from being diuretic, snorkeling in this reef is an amazing opportunity to have a peek of what's going on down there below those waves underneath the turquoise Caribbean sea. A must-do activity when you visit the Yucatan Peninsula. Even if you don't feel like going in the water, you can see the fishes from the boat, thanx to the clarity of the water, so no reason to skip it. If you do wish to go into the water, I suggest you to get a tour that provide you a wetsuit because the water can be surprisingly cold. Now, as for the Shakespearean question; to pee or not to pee?  That's all up to you. There are only three types of people when it comes to pee in the water: those who did, those who lie about it, and those who did and shamelessly write about it online. Which one are you?

The essentials:

Worthiness: DEFINITELY

Ideal for: anyone, the underwater life in this reef is amazing!

Not ideal for: people with a small bladder, read the post above

How to get there: If you want to access the reef from Puerto Morelos, it is about 30 minutes drive from Cancun or Playa Del Carmen, many collectivos (collective taxis) cater the route between the two cities with a stop at Puerto Morelos.

Tour or no tour: the only way to access the reef is through a tour boat, the price should include the entrance tip to the reef. We took a service from the WetSet and paid USD 35/person (as per Dec 2019), including wetsuit, snorkel set, a guide, entrance fee to the reef park, and boat rides to two snorkel spots. 

Insider tips: It is known that you need a special sunblock that is coral friendly when you swim in the sea, but you should be anyway advised to rinse or put no sunblock at all before you access the reef by the tour operator. Get a tour operator that provides a wetsuit and do pee before you put it on.