Wreck Diving in the Caribbean Sea  – All You Need to Know

The Caribbean sea offers great conditions for all kinds of water activities. For sure more than once you have seen a movie about a wreckage and a group of heroes descending against strong currents to find an amazing treasure or an archeological discovery that could change history as we know it. Well, you don’t need to be a hero or an archaeologist to explore the remains of a ship or a plane underwater.

What is Wreck Diving?

For recreational diving, exploring ship wreckages, aircrafts or any artificial structure, no matter how they ended on the bottom, is considerate as wreck diving, let’s go a bit deeper…Most dive sites are at shipwrecks, but there is an increasing trend to sink obsolete ships to create artificial reefs, to help preserve marine life. Diving around crashed sunken aircrafts is also considered as wreck diving.

Why should you try wreck diving in Mexico at least once?

If you need any reason to get your fins and mask ready and explore some wrecks, here are some:

  • Wrecks work as great coral holders, which is attractive for many kinds of animals looking for refuge – so you get to see plenty of fish and marine life.
  • You can visit some areas which are not open to the public in floating ships, as the machinery or propellers – so you can explore a ship fully.
  • Wreck diving a way to challenge your dive skills, such as buoyancy, trim, and kicking.
  • You get access to a rich archeological resource and part of underwater cultural heritage.
  • Some divers do “treasure hunting” as sometimes wreckage could contain artifacts of historical or monetary value.
  • Some marine animals as eagle rays love hanging around shipwrecks, making it a great dive highlight to meet them.

 

What are the kinds of wreck diving?

According to Gary Gentile is his book “The advanced Wreck Diving Handbook” we find three categories:

  • Non-penetration wreck diving
  • Limited penetration wreck diving
  • Full penetration wreck diving

 
We can say it is going from crawling to running as each next level involves new hazards and therefore more risks. Additional training and experience are needed to develop the confidence you will need in this new environment. Next to these skills you will need special equipment and knowing how to use it properly.

What dive skills and training are required for wreck diving?

  • Non-penetration wreck diving is the first step, it is considered the safest. But you still have to be careful, as shipwrecks are popular fishing sites, you have to be aware of fishing nets or fishing lines which present entanglement risks. The underlying terrain may present a greater risk of sharp edges, too. Currents could take you away from the area of interest or could push you against a wall full of corals or rust.
  • Penetration within the light zone presents new hazards due to an overhead environment, proximity to the structure, and light silt which could be a problem if you don’t have an efficient frog kick. Anyways these new hazards are manageable thanks to the proximity of a visible exit point and a good amount of natural light. Skills such as being able to swim close to the bottom without silt out inside the ship or moving laterally to a defined exit before surfacing become a priority.
  • Full penetration is the most dangerous and our final step to becoming one of the heroes we watch in movies. We dive in complete darkness so the risk of getting lost within the structure or a malfunction in our flashlights could lead to a bad experience. So careful equipment examination, getting extra flashlights, and gas supply is our very first concern.

 

What is the PADI Wreck Diver Specialty Course?

One of the best ways to start exploring wrecks is with a proper course with a certified instructor. If you are at least 15 years old and have earned a PADI Adventure Diver certification this is the course you want to enroll in!

During your dives you will learn:

  • Safety considerations for navigating and exploring wrecks.
  • Surveying and mapping a wreck.
  • Using penetration lines and reels to guide exploration.
  • Techniques to avoid kicking up silt or disturbing the wreck and its inhabitants.

Why are deeper shipwrecks better?

Shallow waters have a higher biological activity making wrecks deteriorate faster. That’s why deeper we go, the better. Most of the older and larger shipwrecks which offer full penetration dives tend to be in deeper waters.

Depth is a new challenge, plus all that has been mentioned above,  we should also mention the decompression limits. You may want to bring an extra tank or a special mix of gases to make exploration worth doing.

Are there any shipwrecks around Riviera Maya in the Mexican Caribbean?

If you are planning to visit the Caribbean in Mexico we have a lot of options for you!

C-56 Juan Escutia Wreck near Puerto Morelos – 90ft/27m deep – open water certification

It is a 150ft long war ship purchased from the US NAVY after the Second World War along with 5 other sister ships. It was sunken in front of Puerto Morelos town in 1996 as part of an Artificial Reef Program. This shipwreck is in very good conditions and it has been covered by a big variety of colourful corals and sponges making it ideal for a big amount of marine life.

Spotted eagle rays are usually hanging around in the current among other species like barracudas, big snappers, lionfishes, and many others that have made this wreck their home.

The wreck offers penetration possibilities through the engine room and the staterooms. Divers generally visit the bow, stern, and bridge. The shipwreck is located at 90ft/27m deep.

As the wreck was sunken for diving purposes, there is no need for special wreck diving certification. The wreck is wide open, for easy access.

General Anaya C-58 Shipwreck near Cancun – 100 ft / 30m deep – advanced open water certification

The C58, also known as General Anaya, is a shipwreck near Cancun, If you are in the area this is a must-do for scuba divers. The ship was a US navy minesweeper during World War II, originally named the USS Harlequin, in the 1980s Mexican authorities sunk the ship to create new coral

The wreck lies in an area of water frequented by manta rays, barracuda, groupers, and other impressive marine life. In the 2005 hurricane Wilma broke the ship in two so all the ship’s rooms are accessible to divers, it is in a strong current area so you better stay close to your guide while descending.

When is the best time to go wreck diving in the Caribbean?

The best time of the year to visit shipwrecks in Mexico is from October to March, so there are more chances to dive with spotted eagle rays and other big animals that are in seasonal migration.