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Xcalac, an underwater gem off Mexico’s southern coast

Xcalac, turtle

Xcalak, in Mexico’s far south, is the kind of unspoilt gem divers dream about and it’s all thanks to the local fishermen. There are very few places, in our overpopulated world, which retain an atmosphere free from the complications of modern life and tourism. However, the forward thinking local fishermen banded together to make their local waters a marine park. The result is extremely healthy coral reef system, mangroves and seagrass beds which support an enormous diversity of marine life, including a large population of the illusive manatee.

The story behind the creation of Xcalac Marine Park is an inspiring one. In the late 1990s the local fishermen saw a dramatic drop in catch numbers. Average fish sizes were also going down and prize fish, like grouper, were becoming rarer. This did not bode well for their future. They realised that the main reason for this decline was that the reef and fish stocks were being put under pressure by fishermen from neighbouring villages. In order to preserve their fish stocks for future generations the “Andres Quintana Roo” cooperative took action, which resulted in the creation of the marine park, covering a total area of 17, 949.456 hectares which encompasses the manatee reserve located on the Mexico-Belize border.

Gallo, one of the boat captains, summed up the essence of Xcalac ‘I feel privileged to be one of only three captains who take divers out to the reef, to explore the marine environment’ Visiting Xcalac is fantastic as the only dive shop in the area is XTC so there are no other divers and the reef is all yours to explore.

Within this park there are some incredibly stunning dive sites home to a diverse array of marine creatures such as nurse sharks, turtles, huge groupers, many species of ray and other fascinating species. La Poza is Xcalac’s most famous dive site, when the weather is windy and it is impossible to dive other sites, this site comes into its own. La Poza is a drift dive home to 100 or more huge Tarpons, these unusual fish are air breathing and use the reef wall to shelter from the surge which affects the rest of the reef during windy weather. Diving with such a variety of marine life would not be possible if it had not been for the action taken by the locals. The establishment of the marine park has ensured the sustainability of their livelihood and in doing so has improved the biodiversity of the reef dramatically. Everyone who dives in Xcalac is lucky enough to be able to experience the wonders of a relatively healthy reef system which in today’s world is a rare occurrence and the chances of encountering manatee’s is remarkably high.

Xcalac Marine Park is a conservation success story, a blueprint for other coastal regions throughout the globe.

Diver at Xcalac

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