The Cancun Underwater Museum


On a recent trip to Cancun, Mexico, I had the opportunity to snorkel in Isla Mujeres, and experience first-hand the breathtaking Cancun Underwater Museum (MUSA).

Over the years, natural coral reefs were being damaged by tourists, pollution, anchors, and over fishing, and the largest and most popular coral reef in Mexico, Manchones Reef, was becoming the most damaged. In response, MUSA, a non-profit organization focused on marine conservation, was created. In an effort to protect existing coral reefs, an idea to build an artificial reef which would attract tourists away from the damaged reefs was formed. Artificial reefs are usually created by sunken ships and other objects that have fallen to the bottom of the ocean, however MUSA discovered sculptor Jason DeCaires Taylor, also an avid scuba diver and instructor, and contracted him to create an underwater sculpture museum, merging art and the ocean environment.

DeCaires Taylor’s statues are inspired by the people he experiences in his community, each with their own personality and features, and made of a pH-neutral marine concrete not harmful to the water, sea-life or reefs. Anchored to the ocean floor, the statues also have holes in them allowing wildlife to feed off the coral, and as the coral reefs increase, so too will marine life. This short Discovery Channel video explains the fascinating process of creating the sculptures, getting them into the ocean and anchored.

With names such as “Resurrection”, “The Speaker”,  “The Listener” – and the most impressive exhibit, “The Silent Evolution”, the impressive sculptures display humans interacting with the environment around them, meshing and also destroying, in an effort to bring awareness of our influence on the environment. Having the opportunity to experience this underwater museum first-hand was awe-inspiring. Even underwater, these sculptures are surprisingly life-like, making them a bit eerie and even intimidating!

As a frequent scuba diver and snorkeler, I am fortunate to have experienced the underwater museum in an early state, as hopefully someday nature will embrace these the sculptures, coral will grow, marine life will flourish, and a new reef will form, leaving this art phenomenon completely unrecognizable.

With two underwater galleries, Punta Nizuc and Manchones, there is an opportunity for both snorkelers and scuba divers to experience this underwater wonder.

~ Kim Marshall

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