Scuba Diving the Shallow and Deep Colombia Reef in Cozumel

Colombia Reef in Cozumel is an oceanic paradise, that is renowned for its vibrant aquatic life. Its flourishing wildlife includes turtles, barracudas, and rays; while its geographical features provide a safe haven to a multitude of marine creatures. Immersed in an underwater universe of corals and fishes of all colors make this spot is one of the most popular dive sites in Cozumel.

colombia reef cozumel

About Colombia Reef

The Colombia Reef is located just off the Colombia Lagoon and sheltered by the southernmost part of the island, Punta Sur. It’s about a 15-minute boat ride to reach the dive location. The Colombia Reef and Lagoon are both protected areas for not just marine life but the entire ecosystem: birds, mammals, reptiles, you name it. 

The reef can be separated into two dive sites: Colombia Shallow and Colombia Deep. As the names indicate, the dive site routes are taking place at different depths. The dive spots sit south of the Palancar Reef and north of the Devil’s Throat dive site. 

Colombia Shallow can be snorkeled if you don’t mind the strong swells. It’s also great for beginner and Open Water divers. The shallow reef is located at a depth between 15 and 35 feet (4 to 10 meters).

Colombia Deep is suited for advanced divers and is one of the most beautiful dives in Cozumel. The reef starts at 50 feet (15 meters) and drops all the way to the recreational maximum depth of 100 feet (30 meters). Actually, the reef gradually descends to a depth of over 300 feet (90 meters) before dropping all the way down to 1300 feet/400 meters.

Colombia Reef is a protected environment. Once a year, it will shut down during the summer month for coral and marine life protection.

Scuba diving at Colombia Shallow (The Dive Plan)

Diving at the Colombia Shallow Reef is ideal for beginners, as you will stay at a depth between 15 and 35 feet (4-10 m). However, many SSI and PADI operators don’t come here often. Most beginners’ dives take place in closer, shallow dive sites like Paradise Reef.

After rolling off the boat into the water, divers will navigate the shallow part of the Colombia Reef with the current from south to north. Like most dives in Cozumel, it’s a drift dive – the diving boat will drop divers in the south and pick them up further north.

The shallow part of Colombia Reef is famous for its abundance of marine life like turtles and fish like bar jacks and snappers.

The visibility at Colombia Shallow might be less than you may expect from Cozumel. Cold fresh water from the Colombia Lagoon might mix with the ocean’s warm salt water. The visibility can drop.

hawksbill turtle in colombia reef

Colombia Shallow Reef dive site brief

  • Access: from boat
  • Certification: Open Water
  • Max depth: 15 – 35 feet/ 4 – 10 meters
  • Max. Visibility: 120 feet/ 36 meters
  • Water temperature: 77 – 86 °F/ 25 – 30 °C 
  • Current: medium to strong currents 
  • Dive type: reef & drift dive

The dive plan for Colombia Deep

The reef at Colombia Deep starts at approximately 50 feet and drops all the way down to over 130 feet. The dive boat will drop divers in the south part of the reef. Divers will descend to 50 feet and make their way north – drifting with the at times strong and unpredicted underwater currents.

After about 10 minutes into the dive, you will reach a big slope dropping to over 140 feet.

What’s most exciting about this dive is its diversity. Even regular divers frequent Colombia Deep (sometimes also referred to as Colombia Regular). Whether you decide to travel through the numerous swim-throughs or explore by swimming along high walls, there is no lack of exploration opportunities. The current is usually not as strong in between the coral and rock formations.

The dive guarantees marine life encounters, from large animals such as turtles, eagle rays, and nurse sharks down to spectacularly vibrant small creatures living amongst lush coral gardens at the top of their respective reefs. Even during the safety stop, you will explore the shallow part of the reef.

No two dives are the same at Colombia Reef.

Colombia Deep dive site brief

  • Access: from boat
  • Certification: Advanced Open Water
  • Max Depth: 50 – 100 feet/ 15 – 30 meters
  • Max visibility: 90 feet/ 27 meters
  • Water temperature: 77 – 86 °F/ 25 – 30 °C 
  • Current: medium to strong currents 
  • Dive type: reef & drift dive
columbia reef cozumel

What to see at Colombia reef in Cozumel?

The coral pinnacles are a mesmerizing sight, composed of many kinds of hard and soft corals with vivid sponges interspersed throughout. For the intrepid explorer, there are multiple swim-throughs to traverse and explore. Divers share the reef with colorful tropical fish like damselfish, barracuda, creole wrasse, and trumpetfish. It’s common to see turtles – especially at the shallower parts of Colombia Reef.

You may also be lucky enough to encounter large groupers, eagle rays, or even nurse sharks in the Caribbean waters. At night, chances increase to spot Octopus.

What certification is required to dive at Colombia Reef in Cozumel?

The recommended PADI certification for diving the Colombia Reef in Cozumel is the Advanced Open Water to take advantage of the deep dive site. However, it’s possible to dive just the shallower part of the reef with the Open Water level. 

Nonetheless, you should be physically fit and be aware of the risk of strong and unpredictable currents.

Related dive sites

Experienced divers should book a dive at the Santa Rosa Wall and C-53 shipwreck in Cozumel. But don’t forget about other locations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. From diving the Manchones Reef and Underwater Museum in Cancun to diving some of the most amazing cenotes. Witness the unique halocline at Cenote Angelita or El Pit Cenote in Tulum. Lastly, don’t miss out on the bull shark observation at Shark Point in Playa del Carmen, when pregnant female bull sharks migrate to the area between November and February.

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