Last year I got a scuba diving license and now I’m always itching to travel to places with beautiful underwater life. When I was planning my Mexican trip I came across MUSA – Museum of Underwater Art. I knew then that I had to go and see it:)
MUSA is the only in the world underwater museum! It’s a contemporary art museum, displaying over 500 life-size sculptures. You can’t see all of them in one dive, as they are scattered among a few diving spots. One of the spots is by Manchones Reef just off the island Isla Mujeres, that’s the one I opted for.
I flew to Cancun. From the airport take a cheap ADO bus to the main bus station (about 5USD), then a local bus (10-15 pesos) or taxi (40 pesos) to the port. And from there a short ferry ride (65-80 pesos) to Isla Mujeres. Voila!
I was so excited to scuba, that I booked a diving spot for the next day even before I checked in my hostel:) Actually, I went with Pocna Scuba Center which is right in the hostel anyway. Awesome and professional guys!
Unfortunately, the next day the trip was cancelled, as the port got closed because the seas were too rough. But I was determined to stay on the island as long as needed to make my MUSA experience happen. That’s the power of no-plan backpacking:)
The day after we were woken up at 7am and took off to the port: that day in the morning was the only window of okay weather for diving that week. As we crammed into a small speed boat, it started raining heavily and the sea was very choppy. But once you jump into the water, the world changes and calms down:)
The museum is fairly new, it was open in 2010. All exhibits were created by the talented British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. The idea of the museum is actually very interesting and unique: it “counteracts the effects of climate change” on oceans and reefs. And it demonstrates interaction between art and environment. So basically all sculptures are seeded with certain reefs, that eventually grow on these sculptures and we are able to see the gradual and inevitable change of the sculptures.
This is a part of one of the post famous MUSA installations, called the ‘Silent Evolution’. So we silently watch how with time sculptures evolve due to reef growth. Most of the installations have a loaded meaning.
These are office workers, kneeling, with their heads buried in the sand. Identical briefcases and calculators lying beside them. What could be the message here?:)
Each installation has a specific kind of reef on it, attracting specific types of fishes. There were sculptures of a VolksWagen and of little houses, and we saw fish living inside, so cute!
As we got on the boat after the first dive, I felt very seasick, for the first time in my life. One other girl actually threw up and skipped the second dive. I was just of a green color, and couldn’t move. But my instructor helped me set up my gear/ oxygen and just pushed me off the boat. Again, underwater it calmed down and nausea subsided. Second dive we only saw reefs, no MUSA.
WHAT ELSE TO DO ON ISLA MUJERES?
For me the sole reason of being there was diving. However, it is rather popular and chill spot for holiday making in general. I did a very very touristic thing there – swimming with the dolphins. It was very expensive – 165 USD, but I figured that I wanted to try it anyway at some point and it’s always pricey, so why not!
Basically it’s a group of about 10 tourists (really, tourists, no backpackers in sight:) and two dolphins in a very confined area. The dolphin guy makes them do different tricks, like dance, high five us, kiss with us… Now, always opt for two (not one!) dolphins, because you get to do the coolest thing ever: the superman pose! You lie on your stomach, hands and feet slightly apart. The dolphins swim to you, find your feet with their noses and start swimming and pushing you up, so you are standing up and moving forward, hands in the air, like a superman. Basically, for me it was all about that moment:)
No cameras are allowed (duh, of course!) and the official photographer keeps taking pics and you pose… Then they offer you to buy pics for like 150 USD. Whaaat? No, thank you!
What else? You can rent a bike or a golf cart and go around, I just hitch-hiked on these golf carts, pretty successfully:) Otherwise just walk around, swim, eat 15 pesos street tacos on the main square and enjoy the delicious Caribbean views.
I stayed at (I believe) the only and THE most awesome hostel on Isla Mujeres – PocNa hostel, and it deserves a word. Basically, it has all you need, so you don’t even need to look for much more entertainment beyond it. It’s located right on the sea. You can’t swim right off the hostel territory, but the beach is very close. They have an amazing free morning yoga, basically on the sand, with the ocean view, breeze cooling off your yoga sweat.. Priceless!
Each night they have some really great band playing, or even some performance, like a magic show! Then they have a beach bar and beach dancing parties. You also get a free welcome drink! People are pretty cool and you mostly likely will find someone who you will click with. And it’s really up to you there: you want to chill – do so, plenty of hammocks and hidden corners. You want to party – party is yours!
Overall I spent 3 days on Isla Mujeres. I usually prefer more remote, hidden and obscure places when I travel. But particularly due to the unique Underwater Museum of Art, Isla Mujeres is definitely worth a visit and it was a terrific start to my Mexican Odyssey. Get your underwater cameras and swimming suits ready!