Photographing American Crocodiles at Banco Chinchorro, Quintana Roo, Mexico (Cancun area)
With Reef diving at Chinchorro
This is a place few people have been to and a chance to see and photograph pristine Caribbean reefs and also get close to the rare and endangered American Crocodile
Chinchorro Atoll (Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve) is the best place in the world to get close to American crocodiles. Located south of Cancun, Mexico and near the Belize border. The Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve is the largest stand – alone reef in the Northern hemisphere and one of the healthiest. Currently only 1,928 hectares of the 144k hectares are zoned for diving and fewer than one thousand divers get to see these remote and unspoiled dive sites per year. It teems with fish and other sea life, and contains more than 100 shipwrecks as well as the largest population of American crocodiles found in the Americas.
This July, myself and 6 guests traveled on a unique adventure to see American Crocodiles and dive these beautiful and remote reefs. This is a safe encounter with guides who have done years of experimentation and careful planning to make this safe. Our outfitter and guides in Xcalak: XTC Dive Center, were the first operator to organize croc encounters in Chinchorro and they remain the only dive operator with an official concession. They are committed to sustainable tourism and conservation.
We started out at the beautiful beachside resort in Xcalak for some amazing dives. The reefs are healthy and colorful with many fish. Some dives we encountered turtles. Manatees are resident and we were lucky enough to have a visit from one while on a dive.
The dives are shallows and some deep walls covered in healthy sponges and large stands of black coral. There are several wrecks and plenty of large and small fish species.
On the Chinchorro Banks, we stayed in utilitarian fishing huts on stilts over the shallow waters in a lagoon surrounded by the reefs: 36 nautical miles off shore and across from Xcalak, Mexico. (2 -4 hours boat ride)
Each morning we dive and while taking in the pristine reefs and marine life, we hunt lionfish. There is a duo purpose in this; to help eliminate the invasive lionfish population and to get food to attract the crocs. Guests are also invited to participate in the spear fishing of the lionfish and will be equipped and taught the safest techniques.
This is a remote adventure at its best: The fisherman’s’ hunts have no wifi, cell phone, mobile services, no running water, only marine toilets, and 2 or more hours from shore. Guests and I slept in hammocks in the huts and delicious food was prepared and cooked by our boat captains with the aide of a small generator and ice storage chests (all food must be transferred out with us). We also had the chance to buy fresh catch from passing fishermen to make a special, though rustic feast.
At Chinchorro, we are surrounded by water and 700 American crocodiles and a few fishermen. We photograph the crocs when they show up at midday (after they warm up) in the 1.2m deep water around our huts. We are able to maintain a level of safety even when we are getting up close due to the experience of our guides. A safety diver and guide are nearby with a pole to ward off any advances from excited crocodiles. We took turns two at a time. We had between 1 and 5 crocs close by with still more in the area during our sessions Generally they are extremely well behaved and tolerant of divers getting close. They are rewarded with the captured lionfish.
The Whale Sharks were Extra Special this year
We spent 4 days on the water and 5 nights on Isla Mujeres. Always a fun place with great food, we had nonstop whale shark encounters to keep us busy on our 4 days on the water. We also had a few manta sightings and 1 good photography session with them.
Find out more about the whale shark portion of the trip: Whale Sharks
and my Trip Log
Ready to Jump in Next Year?
If ancient reptiles and remote adventure is calling to you, get more information on price and availability from Gregory Sweeney at www.GregorySweeney.com
2 Days scuba diving (2 tank dives) in Xcalak in the Reef National Marine Park
3 days snorkel with crocodiles at Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve
4 nights hotel in Xcalak (we keep our rooms while at crocs)
2 nights accommodation in Chinchorro in rustic/ basic fishing huts
Morning dives at Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve to gather invasive lionfish
Tanks, weights, dive master, guide at Chinchorro
All meals while at Chinchorro Atoll
Breakfast and Lunch while in Xcalak
Transfers to/from Cancun Airport ( or other location TBD – 6 hour journey)
All fishing huts are shared and we sleep in hammocks.
|July 30||Transfer to Xcalak|
|July 31||2 dives on reefs|
|Aug 1||Transfer by boat to Chinchorro Day 1 Crocodile Encounter at Fishing Huts – 3 hour boat ride|
|Aug 2||Day 2 Crocodile Encounter – morning dives for lion fish – night 2 at Fishing Huts|
|Aug 3||Day 3 Crocodile Encounter – morning dives for lion fish – afternoon return to Xcalak|
|Aug 4||reef diving, Xcalak|
|Aug 5||Transfer back to Cancun area|
|Aug 6 – 11||Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres (optional)|
Limited spaces – contact me with questions or to reserve your space