Magical Diving at the Cancun Underwater Museum

September 7, 2015

It’s nothing short of surreal…

A man “on fire” with fire coral flaring out of his eyes, nose and ears…

A small smiling girl looks up to the surface…

A group of businessmen with their heads in the sand, oblivious to the world around them…

No, these are not real people, but just a few of the 500 magnificent life-sized underwater sculptures created by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor and submerged 30 feet below the ocean surface in the Museo Subacuático de Arte, or MUSA, off the coast of Cancun, Mexico.

The detail is amazing -- each "person" is unique and different than the others.

The detail is amazing — each “person” is unique and different than the others.

The collection, entitled “The Silent Evolution” was generated as an alternate dive site focused on the creation of a new artificial reef. With more than 750,000 tourists visiting the reefs around Cancun every year, the fragile marine system, particularly the deteriorating Manchones Reef, were being overrun and destroyed, albeit unintentionally, by tourists. Mexican tourism developed the idea of creating something new and unique which would spur interest and draw tourist away from the ailing reefs, while at the same time piquing their interests with a different kind of underwater experience.

Bravo! The effect is a win/win/win/win scenario for Mexico, tourists, conservation, and Taylor.

Entering MUSA through the "hoop" which makes for a great photo op!

Entering MUSA through the “hoop” which makes for a great photo op!

It took Taylor and five other artists 18 months – from 2009 to the end of 2013 – to complete the MUSA, using 120 tons of a special kind of cement that welcomes microscopic organisms. He painstakingly sculpted each piece with its own expression, personality, unique human features, clothing, props and even pets. The statues do not contain harmful materials that could potentially harm the underwater environment.

According to Taylor, who is also a master diver, “The Silent Evolution forms a vast gathering of people aiming to define a new era of living in a symbiotic relationship with nature.” Some of the statues are seen as positive – embracing conserving the environment, while others appear in a more negative light as being oblivious of their actions.

MUSA was carefully designed and produced so as not to hurt the natural marine environment.

MUSA was carefully designed and produced so as not to hurt the natural marine environment.

The conservation effort has two parts to it:

  1. The sculptures themselves were designed to draw divers and snorkelers away from the endangered reef system so it would have a chance to regenerate.
  2. An opportunity to observe what the marine environment will do to the sculptures, the goal being new coral growth and the eventual establishment of a new reef.

I am a frequent visitor to Mexico – I’m in love with that country! I’m also a certified scuba diver, and I can tell you, unequivocally, I’ve never been to a dive site anything like this. In addition to the already phenomenal, otherworldly feel that I get whenever I dive, there were the hundreds of sculptures to explore up close and personal.

A sculpture of a small house.

A sculpture of a small house.

And not only “people.” Other sculptures include a small house, bomb-styled anchors, and a life-sized Volkswagen Bug that looked so much like my first set of wheels I was tempted to try and adjust my buoyancy so I could climb in and sit behind the wheel for the world’s best photo op. No worries, I didn’t follow through on that impulse.

Wait! This looks familiar... I wonder if it has a burned out clutch...

Wait! This looks familiar… I wonder if it has a burned out clutch…

The MUSA sculptures have been submerged at different depths, up to 30 feet, so they can be enjoyed not just by divers, but snorkelers, and even those who prefer to stay dry in glass-bottomed boats.

Because of the algae and other marine life clinging to the sculptures, the Cancun underwater museum will be a constantly-changing adventure that tourist will want to return to experience again and again.

Cancun also has some of the prettiest beaches in the world, although at times seaweed can be a problem.  Here’s a guide to finding the best swimming beaches in Cancun!

Click on the image below to PIN so you can find again!

MUSA Cancun

You may also be interested in:

Swimming with Whale Sharks in Cancun

15 Reasons to Go to Mexico’s Caribbean Coast

24 Hours on Culebra, Puerto Rico

12 comments

  1. Comment by Chloe

    Chloe Reply December 15, 2017 at 2:23 am

    The main reason I love scuba diving is for the adventure, you don’t know what it may happen or what you may find below the water surface. In the past years I’ve taken a lot of pictures which I store in the https://dive.site logbook, along with all my diving logs. It’s cool that I can also search new dive spots or even add my own.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply December 18, 2017 at 11:25 am

      I agree, Chloe — I love the adventure!

  2. Comment by Michele Peterson (A Taste for Travel)

    Michele Peterson (A Taste for Travel) Reply October 14, 2015 at 9:52 am

    Your photos make me want to learn how to scuba dive! I’d love to see the Cancun Underwater Museum but really am not much of a swimmer. They have something similar on Grenada but I missed it too! Maybe it’s time for me to take the plunge…

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply October 14, 2015 at 11:21 am

      Michele — do it! I’m not a great swimmer either, but I’m good at diving. The equipment you have to wear actually makes it easier. The underwater museum would be a great first dive because it’s not too deep.

  3. Comment by The GypsyNesters

    The GypsyNesters Reply October 13, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    So cool. We didn’t get to see it when we were in Cancun, but it certainly looks like a good reason to go back.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply October 14, 2015 at 11:19 am

      I’ve been to Cancun six times, and went back specifically to dive in the underwater museum!

  4. Comment by Betsy | PassingThru

    Betsy | PassingThru Reply October 13, 2015 at 1:37 am

    Wow, this is really surreal! For a diver the Cancun Underwater Museum would be a must, I would think. I especially love the house and the car, which creates a sort of “Atlantis” vibe, doesn’t it?

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply October 13, 2015 at 10:27 am

      I agree! The car and house in Cancun’s Underwater Museum did remind me of Atlantis as well!

  5. Comment by Paula McInerney

    Paula McInerney Reply September 25, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    How bizarre to have underwater sculpture but then again, why not. That is the most unique art exhibition I have seen. It sort of reminds me of the underwater working post office in Vanuatua

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply September 29, 2015 at 7:37 pm

      It really is something to see. I’m a certified diver and I haven’t been to another site like that, although I hear there’s a smaller one in Grenada.

      • Comment by Acaysha

        Acaysha Reply August 18, 2016 at 8:41 pm

        I have been to the one in Grenada it was amazing, but not as large as this one. I look forward to traveling to see it. I have some pictures and videos of the event in Grenada, if anyone would like to see them.

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