Until 1961, Cozumel was a sleepy little fishing village. Then, a television documentary by noted diver and nature lover, Jacques-Ives Cousteau, showed the world the beauty of our island waters.
Today the very mention of Cozumel stirs images of tropical fish, aqua blue waters, and white powdery beaches. Even though hotels, restaurants, and other business have sprung up to serve tourists, when you visit Cozumel you'll still feel as if you're light years away from the rest of the world.
The subtropical climate, with temperatures ranging from 70-85 degrees F, creates a perfect environment for all kinds of sea life, and Cozumel is famous for having the second largest reef in the world. Spectacular reefs, not wimpy ones, surround the island. There are 26 classes of corals identified in Cozumel, surpassing the 22 reported for the northeastern coast of the Yucatan.
As a result of efforts by local activists, most of the reefs are now within a marine refuge. In 1996, The National Marine Park of Cozumel Reefs was created. This covers most of the reef system from north to south, along the east side of Cozumel. The area consists of 11,987.5 hectares, a great part of which includes humid soils, estuaries, mangroves, and rocky and sandy beaches which support important biological communities.
Migratory and resident birds live here. In the National Marine Park, you'll find mountain coral, soft coral, brain coral, star coral, finger coral, leaf coral, elkhorn coral, stag horn coral and gorgonians. It is also home to tube worms, feathered annelida, anemonae, crabs, reef shrimp, mollusks, echinoderms and sponges, plus 500 fish species.
You are prohibited from taking, breaking, or damaging any underwater organisms. Recently, the Cozumel dive operators through ANOAAT (Aquatic Sports Operators Association) and the Cozumel Reefs Marine Park require every diver and snorkeler who visits the marine park by boat to pay $2 USD.
This will be used for the protection of the marine environment and the fragile ecology of the reef system. The hope is that this place will remain beautiful for generations to come, just as it has been special for many generations past.
Chankanaab means "small sea."