Coral Reefs of the Yucatan: First Trip to The Reef

This week some of the Reefnation team is down exploring the reefs of Mexico’s northern Yucatan peninsula. These reefs are part of the second largest continuous coral reef in world and like the Great Barrier Reef, have come under their fair share of stresses lately.

Clear Water of the Cenotes in the Yucatan

Cenotes, Mangroves, and the Mesoamerican Coral Reef

The resort we are staying at is an eco friendly one just about 30 miles south of cancun sitting on 380 acres of  land right along the ocean.  They have their own desalination plant to produce their water and also a treatment plant to environmentally deal with the waste.  On the property sit 10 cenotes which is a mexican word for a sink hole.  These sink holes percolate up fresh water from underground rivers which ultimately flows through mangrove channels and out to the ocean.  There are 3 of these rivers here that create some interesting mangrove habitats which fluctuate between fresh and salt water during the daily tides.  The second longest of these underground rivers is actually on this property and spans over 35 kilometers underground before coming out into the ocean.  We took some kayaks up about 2800ft through the mangroves yesterday to where this underground river emerges through the cenote.  It was amazing to see how much water is constantly flowing through it.

Mangrover River Yucatan Peninsula

 

 

 

 

 

 

All these rivers flowing out into the ocean creates a break in what is the second longest barrier reef in the world.  Called the Mesoamerican reef, it stretches from southern central america, all the way north through the Florida Keys where it ends on the east coast of Florida.  The reef here is about 2 miles offshore and the pause that these rivers cause is about 4 miles in length.  This pause is caused by all the fresh water that flows out into the ocean and lowers the salinity enough to prohibit much reef growth.

Hobicat Over The Reef

Yesterday we had the opportunity to get out on the reef when we saw from shore that someone had flipped his Hobicat.  We grabbed another and headed out to give him a hand flipping it back over.  Afterwards, it  was time to take the GoPro camera for its maiden voyage over the reef.  We didn’t head down to where the coral reef really gets thick with life, but rather offshore in front of the rivers out about 2 miles to see what we could capture on the camera.  I held the camera over the side as my friend Jason drove the sailboat back and forth over the reef.  There was quite a bit of wind too so we were probably sailing a good 7 knots or so, hence the jitters as it was hard to hold the camera steady.

http://youtu.be/TMVctLYFPhY?hd=1

Rather than being just sandy grass beds, it was cool to see that even in the area where there is a pretty big fresh water influence, there were still stands of porites, sea fans, and a few large brain corals that we picked up on the camera.   Some of these were 4-6ft across too so there are definitely a few hundred years old.  We will keep updating with the adventures as we get a chance to upload the videos and pictures and hopefully the wind will be a little calmer for our trip out today!

Have you dove on these reefs?  Got any spots you want to tell us about?

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