Photos courtesy of Dive Balam


As we celebrate the beauty of our oceans and our planet this month, it’s time to take the plunge and marvel at the reef that is just offshore. Part of the Mesoamerican Reef, the world’s second longest, Puerto Morelos Reef is famous for its spectacular coral formations and rich marine life.

Local dive masters know all the best places in this protected National Marine Park for snorkeling and scuba adventures so dive right in.

You’ll see queen angelfish swimming by, shoals of blue tangs and porkfish and lone parrotfish feeding on the coral. Larger fish such as jacks, snappers, hogfish, grouper and barracuda gather above the corals, and keep a look out for sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, nurse sharks and octopus.

Then there are the smaller fish guarding territory among the corals, hiding in crevices or in the sea grass. Here are five species you are likely to spot during your underwater adventures in Puerto Morelos and elsewhere in the Mexican Caribbean:


Bluestriped grunt

Haemulon sciurus

Gathering in small schools, this grunt is common on reefs, sea grass beds and in the mangroves. It owes its name to the sounds it makes and is known to face rivals and push them with open mouths, either as a courtship display or to defend its territory.


Scrawled cowfish

Lactophyrs tricornis

Also known as the trunkfish, this strange little creature owes it name to two protruding spines above the eyes that resemble cow horns. It can usually be spotted in sea grass beds where it feeds on algae, tunicate worms and hermit crabs.


Porcupine fish

Diodon holocanthus

This fish hides on the reef during the day and hunts for crabs, sea urchins and snails at night. Covered in spines, it swells like a balloon by taking in water and changes color when it feels threatened, hence its other names: balloon or puffer fish.



Holocentrus adscensionis

This small and timid salmon pink fish with protruding eyes and spines is often spotted in crevices or under ledges on the reef during the day and ventures out at night to hunt for crabs and crustaceans.


Cocoa damselfish

Stegastes variabilis

This colorful little fish is fiercely territorial and will chase larger fish away from the nest where it lays its eggs.