Roman Forum 2006

Roman Forum 2006
Foro Romano, from the Palatine Hill - a favorite photo from one of my favorite cities

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Bloggo Mexico: the Great Mayan Reef from a Yello Submarine

As my very close buddy Dottoree Gianni would put it, "We ALL live in a yellow submarine." I did, for about 30 minutes, looking through glass panels at this large reef - 600 miles, only bested in size by Australia's Great Barrier Reef, I'm told. 

I told you they are YELLOW submarines
Also known as the Mezoamerican Barrier Reef System, this is tremendously popular among scuba divers, and I'm sure they get an even better view than I did. But I have aqua-phobia. Dottore G stops me and asks "Is that a thing?" I have no idea really, but as the man who identified the horrid phone-phobia in himself, I'll take credit for it. I am a lousy swimmer and unlike most people I know, I don't really enjoy the water - I fear it. Oh, decades ago, even though I was a terrible swimmer I used to lie out just beyond the breakers in one of the cheap rafts. Then I saw Jaws...and the thrill was gone.

Our portholes on the Seesub - this is the first shot I took, so far just seagrass - note that on the side of the window there are sheets that help identify the kind of undersea life the visitor might encounter.
A list of marine invertebrates - note also the short distance between viewing ports

A guide to the fish we might see

After making a short story long (sorry!) suffice to say that I have never been, nor ever will be, on a snorkel let alone a scuba expedition, but I discovered much to my surprise and delight that very near the hotel I stayed at in Cancun (see my previous post) there is a place called Aquaworld that offers a way to see the Mayan reef that even an aqua-phobe can enjoy.

The good doctor on the Seesub
In a yellow - make that bright yellow - submarine. Okay, so it's not Captain Nemo's Nautilus, not Das Boot, certainly not the Red October, and while it Runs Silent, it does not Run Deep, but it was the only way Dottore Gianni (aka Dr Jack aka moi) was ever going to see (or Subsee, as the excursion is called) the reef, and so I booked an excursion on my 70th birthday, 18 January 2017. Exactly one month ago from today, as I write this.

Boating out though wetlands towards the Caribbean

I loved it. Subsee lasts about 2 hours. As much if not more time is spent boating out to the reef and back, but that's a very pleasant experience in itself. And if you develop a thirst on the way, bottled water and Corona from the tap are served gratis.

Nellie our guide, Felipe our captain and Corona on the boat heading out

Once out in the Caribbean we docked next to our yellow submarine and boarded - down a few steps, into a long narrow tube with benches enough for I would guess 25 people - on either side of the bench, thick glass windows. The hatch is closed and down we dive and almost immediately our tour guide begins pointing to the coral and the many kinds of fish, including the random barracuda, along with the occasional sea turtle, that inhabit the reef area. 

More coral, and at upper right tiny, dive-bombing fish
still more coral

I'd say we were down for about a half hour, though I can't be sure. I lost track of time, agog by the beauty of it all.  Don't expect the color that you will see in photos. The reef doesn't dazzle in that sense, but it does in the wonderful formations, sometimes seeming more a landscape from outer space than not far below sea level. I simply could not stop snapping photos. Admittedly many did not come out as I'd have liked, as depending on the angle of the shot there is some glare, but enough were quite good enough - I hope you'll agree as you will certainly see pics throughout the blog - and will keep my memory, which is not very good these days, alive with the joy of my brief Subsee adventure.

Guess what? Coral!

Part of the "dive" takes the participants into MUSA, the Cancun underwater museum, moving away from the reef proper. Much as snorkelists love it, they also accidentally kick at the coral - some have even sat on the fragile formations, which are very easily destroyed. MUSA places near the reef sculptures made of PH-neutral concrete specifically designed to encourage the growth of marine life, creating an artificial reef that not only offers underwater beings modeled on local Maya and other Mexicans in the area, but is also ecologically sound, as plants and coral grow over the statues, and as fish feed from them.

The above three shots are of figures in MUSA - I especially like the last, as it is so active, and because the coral is beginning take over the arm and torso 

I paid about $40 for my ticket, and $10 more for a reef fee, which goes to the continual protection of the reef. It was a bargain for the experience, the joy of getting up close and personal to a stunning landscape.

I don't believe I could have found a better way to spend my 70th birthday.