I looked around for a few excursion operators and settled on The Snorkeling Shop, in Playa Del Carmen, because it had so many great reviews. I’m here to tell you that the Snorkel Shop, and our guide Eddie in particular, have earned every one of those good reviews.
Our day started at 9:30. Eddie was waiting for us at our resort’s reception area. Almost immediately I liked Eddie. He was genial and talked easily with us about the excursion and the area. We were told it was a slow day and that we’d be the only two people on the excursion.
We arrived at a pick-up point in Puerto Morelos and Eddie went over a few regulations and told us about the reef. After about 20 minutes, we hopped into a small boat and were joined by a family from Argentina and a gentleman from New York. Then we were off to see paradise.
The MesoAmerican Reef is second to only the Great Barrier Reef in length but, at this point, it was about 500 feet offshore. The trip out took 5 minutes during which time Eddie fitted us with fins (we had our own snorkels and masks). After some brief instructions, we were in the water and we were off.
Before we took off, Eddie explained that since we would be snorkeling in a protected national marine park, life vests were required by federal law. Once you start exploring the reef, you’ll know why. In places coral, including fire coral, is just inches below the water. Even in moderate chop, wave surges can easily push you down into the reef.
I realized vests are required not for personal safety (although I’m sure that’s a consideration) but the coral’s protection. With high salinity and bleaching destroying reefs, I’m glad the Mexican government first considers the health of the reef over the selfish needs of some tourists.
I also read complaints on here about Eddie talking Spanish to others on the boat. He did the same during our excursion, but mostly to the boat operators (who I doubt knew English). He also spoke in Spanish to the Argentinian family, but took pains to include us. When you’re in other countries people will talk their language and sometimes they’ll talk about you. If you’re bothered by this, perhaps it’s better to never leave the house let alone the country.
Eddie is a fantastic guide. He’ll point out fish and other sea life and warn you when you’re close to fire coral. On our trip we saw giant formations of coral including brain, cabbage, pencil and elk horn as well as sea anemones and more sea fans than I have ever seen in one place.
We also saw tons of schooling fish as well as grouper, Pompano, barracudas, conch, bar jacks, trumpetfish, sergeant majors, damselfish and others. Eddie pointed out a young lobster, a sea cucumber and even coaxed a moray out of some brain coral. Most of these things I wouldn’t have seen had he not pointed them out.
Our excursion included two stops and lasted almost 2 hours in the water. We had a lunch of ceviche, chips, guac and entrees including local fish and chicken fajitas afterward. Simply delicious. On our way back to the resort, Eddie let us view a slideshow of pictures he took of us and the reef during our excursion. A DVD with all the images was included in the package (you can see some of his work attached).
I have snorkeled for years and have put my face under the waves in Hawaii (Oahu and Maui), Bonaire, Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Curacao and Aruba. Some of those trips have been good, some bad, but all have shown me beauty I’ll never see above water. Among all of these great experiences, this was one of the best and this slice of reef is the most beautiful I have ever seen (my wife, who dove the Great Barrier Reef, says it’s second only to that).
I’m trying to be thorough in describing this reef, and rebutting some complaints, because when someone works hard to create a wonderful experience, they have earned a loyal friend for life. The Snorkel Shop and Eddie did all they could to see that we had a great time and they hit a home run. I can’t think of one thing we didn’t like and, if you’re laid back and flexible, I know you won’t either. Thanks Snorkel Shop and thanks Eddie!
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