Snorkeling Cozumel Post Wilma
I have been snorkeling in Cozumel about 3 times post Wilma. As others have reported, the shallow reefs have suffered much damage. A well known snorkeling and diving location is Chankanaab Park. It was completely destroyed and closed for a year to restore. There are still many fish in the area, but little coral/fan re-growth in the more shallow locations. Many previously favored shore snorkeling areas along the western shore are in the same condition as well.
To me, the best areas for snorkeling at Cozumel included the Colombia Shallows and Palancar Reef area which was only accessible by boat. There are many charters of large groups but I have gone with Mystic Snorkeling (Roswitha Flury) numerous times and she only takes small groups. The reefs are approximately 15-30 feet deep with healthy coral, fans, good visibility, and a wide variety of fish including turtles, rays (southern and spotted eagle).
I went to Isla Mujeres June, 2010. There was a very healthy shallow reef "Reef Che" which was a 20 minute boat ride north of Isla Mujeres (an island 8 miles due east of Cancun). El Farolito Park was a nice snorkeling area at Isla Mujeres (only accessible by boat) that had some healthy coral and fans, rays, and a many varieties and sizes of fish- about 12-20 feet deep.
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Snorkeling Cozumel After Hurricane Wilma
I must say your assessment of snorkeling Cozumel is spot on. When seeing the tiny pits of shallow water coral that remains after hurricane Wilma, one can only dream of what must have been. Sad but true. Cozumel will not satisfy snorkelers who have experienced good snorkeling.
Pre and Post Wilma Snorkeling Trips to Cozumel
I have taken two snorkeling trips to Cozumel; one pre Wilma, in 2003 or 2004 and one post Wilma in 2009. Both were nothing short of spectacular.
I will say that during the earlier trip I did more shore snorkeling than on the post Wilma trip. But post Wilma, I did two boat tours and both were among the most memorable snorkels I have ever done.
Much of the reef and the best snorkeling in Cozumel is offshore. Palancar Gardens is a favorite of mine. You can catch a boat tour with a guide from Playa Palancar for about $30. There we saw lots of fish, huge turtles, giant barrel sponges and nurse sharks.
On Columbia Reef, we were following our excellent guide, entranced by the huge corals and a very large school of surgeon fish when suddenly I heard him yelling "Eel, eel!" I looked towards the guide and below him, about 20 feet below us, was a nine foot moray. We got to watch him swim about 100' in open water! He was gold in color and his dorsal fin waved like a ribbon as he glided. One of the most amazing sights I have ever had the pleasure to see!
So please, if you haven't gone, go. The visibility is amazing. It's world class and wonderful!