THE CHINCHORRO BANK
Being a Biosphere Reserve and haven to a rich submerged archaeological and historical heritage, Chinchorro is a magnet for divers from all over the world.
This false atoll is located 31 km east of Mahahual and -being offshore- it is considered a more pristine part of the Mesoamerican Reef System. Less than 1% of its 800 km2 surface emerges over the waters; the three keys: Cayo Centro, Cayo Norte and Cayo Lobos. These islands lie inside a lagoon which has an average depth of 5 meters and is surrounded by a ring of reef barrier that rises above the abyssal Caribbean.
The reef is home to almost a hundred species of corals. Anemones and sponges are aplenty, of which up to 20 species have been identified. There are 104 species of mollusks and crustaceans and over 200 of fish. Among the reptiles, the white loggerhead and hawksbill turtles stand out, as well as the emblematic American crocodile. Six species of sharks patrol its waters and mammals such as false killer whales and dolphins can also surprise us.
But if something makes Chinchorro famous, it is the abundance of wrecks, to the point that the Mexican government has declared it a marine archaeological sanctuary. Some ships that ran aground here still show their superstructure on the surface of the water and others, given the morphology of the bank, rest in shallow water. The INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History) has registered -as for now- 69 archaeological sites. Amongst these are 18 ships sunk between 1600 and 1800 and a long list of contemporary shipwrecks, caused by pirates who tricked sailors by mimicking the light of the lighthouse, thus directing them towards the barrier reef. In addition to some sunken treasures, old fishermen say that there is a German submarine lost during World War II whose location very few know.