Scuba Diving at Punta Sur (South Point)-Isla Mujeres
Updated: Aug 8
Manchones National Park offers amazing diving for entry-level and certified divers but, within the park, there is a hidden gem of an adventure dive that happens right off the Southern end of the island. Punta Sur boasts a dive, unlike anything you have tried before. A strong current will take you flying around the tip of the island with mating loggerhead turtles, dolphins, and in some rare moments, manatee families.
While most of the diving within the Manchones National Park is perfect for training purposes and certified divers, this one is for those with a bit more experience. This dive is not for the newbies nor those who have not dived in a while.
Punta Sur is a very spiritual area of the island. It is home to the ruins of the Temple Ixchel. Ixchel is the Mayan goddess of the moon, medicine, gestation, textile arts, and love. It is because of the carved statues of women that were used in the worship of the goddess that Isla Mujeres (Island of Woman) gets her name.
The dive starts near the Garrafon park and from the boat, you can see the start of the cliff pathways that surround the entire Southern Point.
You enter the water from the boat with a negative entry backward roll; this means that you start with no air in your BCD and you descend as quickly as possible. It is important that everyone descend together and that there is no dawdling at the surface. You must have good buoyancy skills, that your ears equalize quickly and that you listen and follow your guide.
While the actual entry in front of Garrafon Park is shallow, the current will take you quickly to the deeper end of the island. You need to be underneath the water well before you get there and closely connected with your guide and group. The instructor then gives the signal and you drop down into a channel that starts with a swim through full of fish. You need to be together as a group and attentive to the guide to do this.
If you miss this drop, you miss the channel and things will be a lot more difficult. You will also miss a great sight. In this channel, you can see a huge old chain which you follow to the anchor, and then the fun begins. Huge barracuda are generally seen around this area.
You have done the hard work, now you can ride those currents and take in the sights.
The chain and anchor are part of a ship that was at Isla Mujeres to hunt turtles, as was a common occupation in 1922. A hurricane sunk this ship and the chain and anchor remain and mark the start of the drift dive.
Now that you are flying along in the currents does not mean that you can let yourself be distracted. These currents are strong and if you do not pay attention to your group, you can easily be separated. Being "lost" means that you cannot see your group, the guideline handler, or the line, even though you and your buddy might still be together.
It is important to remember if you get separated to first look for the group's bubbles (they expand as they ascend) or buoy line (which is sent up not long after you pass the anchor), sometimes you can see the line of the group and locate them by this. Do not look for more than a minute and if you cannot locate the guide or group, you reunite at the surface. Pay attention to the briefing, follow your guide, and you won't get separated.
Every year between May and September the loggerhead turtles return to the island to continue the circle of life from whence they came. These months are a frenzy of mating, egglaying and hatching. The optimum months to view this phenomenon of multitudinous mating couples while diving in Punta Sur is from May to around August. You can read more about it here.
You frequently hear the distinctive clickings and squeaks of dolphins on these dives and they often come to swim amongst the divers. There is nothing quite like seeing a dolphin swimming with you, in the wild where they belong.
There are many types of rays that frequent Punta Sur. These include the common Southern Stingray as well as Lesser Electric Rays, Yellow Stingrays, Spotted Eagle Rays, and, occasionally, schools of mobula rays. The huge and beautiful Roughtail Stingrays are a regular feature at this site.
Another common visitor to this site is from the group of odd-shaped-bottom-dwellers; the Roughback and the Shortnose Batfish.
In June of 2022, the island was blessed with the visitation of a family of manatees. This extraordinary experience was enjoyed by many fortunate divers and although it is an extremely rare event, it has happened occasionally over the last years.
There are also many fish that are found around this area and you can see this via the reef.org surveys. Click here to view
While not every dive is a guarantee of seeing the above (pelagic animals being transcient), even out of season dives here are highly enjoyable. Just the joy of being swept around the island with the feeling of flying in the currents is worth the experience and a great way to see the island from above and below the water. Not to mention seeing the chain and anchor that remain from the ship that sunk 100 years ago, mentioned above.
This dive is not a deep dive. At an average of around 16 mt/ 52 ft, you will spend around 40-45 minutes in the currents. The dive is ended by the group completing a safety stop together. This is when you realise that you have been swept completely around the bottom end of the island. A long way away from the starting point of the dive. Now all you have to do is sit back and wait for the boat to pick you up.
With so much to see it is definitely a bucket list dive. Every dive is different and it is a wonderful way to experience the island from above and below the water.
16 meters / 52 feet
Certified divers / Recent dive activity
Average Visibility Underwater
20-30 mt / 66-99 feet
Average Water Temp
28 C° / 82 F°
Resorts, P. (2019, February 27). Goddesses, Iguanas, and More at Temple Ixchel. Best Travel Tips and Tourism Information | The Travel Current. https://www.thetravelcurrent.com/mexico/isla-mujeres/explore/culture/goddesses-iguanas-and-more-temple-ixchel-isla-mujeres
Rosado, M. (2022, May 3). Maya Goddess Ixchel. Yucatan Today. https://yucatantoday.com/maya-goddess-ixchel/?lang=en#:%7E:text=Ixchel%20was%20revered%20as%20the,the%20Maya%20rain%20god%20Chaac.
Profile, V. (2017, July 11). The Hurricane of 1922. Isla Mujeres History. http://islamujereshistory.blogspot.com/2017/07/the-hurricane-of-1922.html