Updated: Aug 11
Manchones 1 is a simply named reef that is part of the larger Manchones National Park, just off the coast of Isla Mujeres. Perfect for the snorkeler, fun diver, photographer, new diver, and those wishing to advance their education, it is beautiful shallow dive that caters to all levels of experience.
Manchones 1 is the main diving and snorkelling area within the Manchones National Park. Spread out over a large area, there is much to explore, teeming with marine life.
The shallow depths give the reef so much natural light, and the white sand and clear turquoise water make this dive a photographer's dream. The lack of current and warm tropical water helps the new diver have a comfortable initiation into the underwater world. However, the first dive will have been completed at MUSA to build up those buoyancy skills. For those wishing to further their diving careers, there are many options for specialties or continuing education courses. The choices are many, and the only limitation is you.
There are various entry points into this reef, and the buoys that mark these entries come and go and move position so often that explaining each would be unhelpful. However, because of the expanse of Manchones 1 and the different parts, it is easy to dive this numerous times and still be diving in different areas.
The entire reef continues at a steady 330° as this is how the current (mild that it is) has travelled for the time the reef has formed (many thousands of years). As with the National Park, the reef's name comes from the fact that if you look down upon it from the sky, it would appear as Manchas (stains in English) in the ocean.
Three large reef outcroppings are at the top of Manchones 1 (just down current from Cross of the Bay). These signify the start of the Manchones 1 reef and have many areas underneath with little caves the fish use for habitat. In the centre reef outcrop, a huge puffer fish is almost always found looking back at you.
Just North of these is a large sandy centre area. The star feature of this area is one of Jason deCaire Taylors' MUSA statues, Man on Fire. He stands solitary here and is an excellent marker to establish your bearings. If you follow the direction he faces, you will come across the second Jason deCaire Taylor MUSA statue called The Dream Catcher—a Hemingway-esque statue of a man leaning on a bar. The history of these statues is fascinating, and you can learn more about their individual stories by clicking on the links.
As mentioned earlier, the reef continues at 330°, taking you to short swim-throughs, large sandy patches, and eventually, if you go far enough, MUSA. However, you would generally not have enough time or air to travel this far on a single dive. MUSA is a complete dive within itself and one well worth doing.
The shallow waters mean a large amount of marine life can be viewed from above and below the water. There are many coral plantations around the park to aid in the restoration of the Elkhorn and Staghorn coral. The Blue Tang and Sergeant Majors are the most common fish here, but large schools of Yellow Tail Snappers are always found around the reef. Parrotfish, butterflyfish, Trunk and Cowfish, Stonefish, Lionfish (unfortunately) and the occasional Nurse Shark, Rays (both Southern and Spotted Eagle), and Turtle (Hawksbill, Green, and Loggerhead), to name but a few of the reefs inhabitants, are features of this incredible dive.
Entry to the National Park requires payment in the form of a bracelet. This is generally included in the cost of the tour. All guides need to be trained and certified by Semarnat to ensure the companies' legalities and the guides' safety and knowledge.
The dive time is restricted to 45 minutes to ensure an efficient turnover in boat traffic and visitors to the reef, so it is not unusual to end the dive with a good half a tank of air if you are efficient with your air supply. It is important to be always conscious of the dive traffic on the reef, so diving to your tank does not apply here. At 10 meters/ 33 feet, you could be in the water for 219 minutes according to the NDL of your dive plan, air supply permitting. The congestion this would entail for the reef and the sheer number of visitors would be highly stressful. This 45 min rule alleviates many of these issues and is in place for the benefit of all but the reef and its inhabitants.
Because the dive is so shallow, no safety stop is required, so do not be surprised if your guide does not brief one. It is only 10 meters/ 33 feet deep, and mandatory safety stops are unnecessary at this depth for this dive time.
That said, Manchones 1 is a delightful dive or snorkel tour and should be included in your list of things to do on the island.
9 meters / 30 feet
Divers - Entry Level, Beginners, and all levels of certified divers
Average Visibility Underwater
20-30 mt / 66-99 feet
Average Water Temp
28 C°/ 82F°
45 min (Parque Nacional Regulations)