Enjoy, don't destroy!

Each year, the number of visitors to Manzanillo
is growing.

Unknowingly, your activities are causing damage to our pristine coastal areas, underwater reefs and water resources.  


How our government helps:
Colima is one of the most beautiful states in Mexico, with 45 miles of pristine beaches and lush, tropical forests. The state and local governments work very hard to protect its natural resources.

  To poach a turtle or its eggs, for example, can bring the thief a fine or jail time. Iguanas are also protected, and people are not allowed to capture or kill them. As a tourist, you can no longer have your photo taken in this state holding a green iguana.  

Great lengths have also been taken to protect the Mexican bobcat and its habitat, and efforts have been made to preserve and protect crocodiles and the lagoons where they live.

Unfortunately, nothing is being done to protect our ocean’s ecosystem and the animals that depend on it. The main reason tourists visit our area is to enjoy and make use of the ocean. Sometimes, in doing so, primarily because of a lack of education, they do irreparable harm. This lack of knowledge extends to some of our locals, too, who make a living off the sea.

This story is not just about what everyone is doing wrong, but how we, working together, tourists and locals alike, can make it right. Easily, and immediately.

Lic. Edgar Lepe Vasconcelos, sub-director of tourism for the state of Colima offers free brochures (in English and Spanish) to tourists and locals on how to protect the marine environment. He invites all visitors to Manzanillo to visit the tourism office for information and brochures on what to see and do in the state. 


According to REEF (Reef Environmental Educational Foundation) Manzanillo has the highest rating in the Tropical Eastern Pacific region for varieties and numbers of sea life. Simply put, we've got many different species and lots of 'em!

Unfortunately, we have no way to protect them. One way is following the examples of other popular destinations in Mexico, such as Cancun or Puerto Vallarta. These towns, along with the federal government, have enacted laws and have designated certain areas as underwater national parks. Making and enforcing laws takes time, and our city fathers are working on it, but you can help right now, and it doesn’t cost a peso!  


Look but don’t touch.
You sign up for a snorkel trip, or snorkel on your own off the beach at your hotel.  Although, at first, they may look like rocks or plants, many aquatic organisms are fragile creatures that can be damaged or harmed by the touch of a fin, or even a hand. It is also important to know that some aquatic organisms, such as corals, are extremely slow growing (one centimeter/year). 

By breaking off even a small piece, you may be destroying decades of growth. Don’t take it home, stand on it (even if your dive guide does—he just doesn’t know any better), and try not to kick it accidentally. By being careful, you can prevent devastating and long-lasting damage to our beautiful reefs.

Be a fanatic against plastic.

Many all-inclusive hotels deliver drinks in plastic cups, as do the “booze cruises” that are so popular. Most of these disposable cups end up in the ocean, and divers end up being sanitary engineers by cleaning up after you. Divers at last year’s ocean clean up removed more than 6 tons of garbage, most of it plastic. 

Instead of using the throwaway cups, buy or bring from home a reusable plastic glass. Take it with you wherever disposable plastic cups are used. Please don’t stand in the ocean with a drink in your hand! Just when you least expect it, a wave will take it from you. When on a boat where drinks are served in plastic cups, remember that the wind will ensure your cup ends up in the sea. The same people who wouldn’t think about ever throwing trash out the window of their car, never know about what divers and their fish amigos see down under.  

Paper, plastic and fishing line at Playa Audiencia in front of the Hotel Gran Costa Real.

Resist the urge to collect souvenirs.

The sports of snorkeling and scuba diving allow visitors to Manzanillo to see one of our most important ecosystems. We have dozens of sites available, many shallow enough for beginners. Sites that are heavily used can be depleted of resources in a short period of time. 

Collecting specimens, coral and shells in these areas can strip the fascination and beauty of the area. If you want to return from your adventure with trophies to show friends and family, please consider underwater photography!

“Catch-and Release”—Let the “big one” go.

Deep-sea fishing is one of the most popular sports in Manzanillo, and our town is known as “The Sailfish Capital of the World.” 

Advocate “catch and release.” It’s done in many other areas of Mexico, and around the world as well. Join The Billfish Foundation and encourage your boat captain to do the same.

You’ll still have a great time reeling in your trophy fish, and he will live to fight another battle. Make sure you make your wishes clear to the owner or captain of the charter boat you choose.

Don’t let the tide do your work for you.

When you leave the beach for the day, don’t assume that the resort staff will pick up your mess. 

Take your cups, straws, cigarette butts, and other trash back to the hotel. Do you know who really cleans up after you? Mother Ocean & her son, Tide.  

Don’t make waves (Avoid PWCs).

Perhaps the worst way a human can impact our bays, animals that depend on them, and even other humans, is through the use of PWCs (personal water craft). They go by many names: Jet Skis, Waverunners, Sea-Doos, Bombardiers.

The primary reason PWCs are so harmful to the environment is that they are powered by 2-stroke engines, which pollute the water and air, are very fuel inefficient and create an extreme amount of noise, disturbing both wildlife and people alike.

According to EPA statistics, these engines are the number one source of toxic water pollution. They discharge as much as one third of their fuel and oil unburned into the water and air, which means a 2-hour ride on a PWC dumps 2.5 gallons of gas and oil into the water. That’s enough gas and oil to cover an 8-acre pond!  Running a typical model for two hours releases about the same amount of smog-generating pollutants as driving a new car 139,000 miles.  

It gets worse. Hydrocarbons found in gas and oil float on the surface of the water and can settle within shallow ecosystems along the shoreline, a critical habitat area. This engine was banned from use in motorcycles years ago. It has been estimated that PWCs contribute the equivalent of four Exxon Valdez spills to America’s waters annually! (Mexico is part of North America.)

The aggravating, high-pitched noise associated with these watercraft disturbs wildlife, as well as others trying to enjoy the peaceful serenity of Manzanillo’s bays. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, with their research vessel Atlantis and underwater submersible, Alvin, have visited Manzanillo numerous times. Their controlled study describes how PWCs, which lack low frequency sounds, do not warn surfacing birds or mammals of approaching danger until they are almost on top of them. By then it is too late.  

The endangered and protected brown booby (right) can dive down for its dinner up to 15 ft. You can never tell where he will come up. Turtles, dolphins and whales are surface breathing mammals. Pacific mantas and eagle rays play and mate near the surface.

How sad that our turtles are protected when they leave the sea, but in the water they are harassed and killed by speeding jet skis. How horrible to be conducting a dive or snorkel trip and see a dead turtle on the bottom with a partially severed head. Turtles, dolphins, whales and rays have used our calm bays as a refuge for hundreds of years, but now, what has been a delight for residents and visitors, is rapidly becoming a memory of the past.

Because a PWC's unmuffled engine exhausts through its jet, which is out of the water, the high frequency noise travels for miles, and doesn’t demonstrate the same Doppler effect as a motorboat. Swimmers, snorkelers, divers, birds, turtles and other wildlife can’t hear it coming (although with speeds that can be up to 60 mph, it might be a moot point).  

Numerous studies have demonstrated that PWCs disrupt the nesting of shore birds, and that even low levels of hydrocarbon in aquatic systems can have acute toxic affects on various forms of zooplankton, fish eggs, larvae, algae, crab, mussels, and shrimp, the foundation of our ecosystem food chains.

In shallow waters where PWCs can easily operate, the bottom gets stirred up, suspending sediment, which cuts down on light penetrations and depletes oxygen. They interrupt feeding and nesting wildlife (who fly away and leave their nests), and cause animals to deviate from their normal behavior.

If the impact on nature doesn’t convince you to try another form of water sport, think about this: Of the total number of registered motorized water sports vehicles, only 7-9% are PWCs. However, PWCs account for up to 50% of all boating accidents, and the victims aren’t just the drivers, but are people in other boats, in the water and even on shore. Drinking and driving a PWC plays a large part in many of the reported accidents.  

A turtle swimming near the surface in Playa Audiencia

PWCs have no brakes, and if the driver needs to stop he must either execute a sharp turn or allow the craft to glide to a stop.  If you quickly release the throttle of a jet ski, you loose your ability to steer! Once the water jet is disengaged, the PWC essentially becomes a missile heading in the last principal direction of thrust. It takes a jet ski traveling at 60 mph nearly 300 ft. to glide to a stop.

Some argue that PWC users have a right to enjoy their recreation along with fishermen, boaters, swimmers, snorkelers, surfers and all others who enjoy marine areas. However, the PWC industry has made no attempt to correct the problems with their craft or their use, and the harm to the environment and people continues to rise at an alarming rate.

Even the noise levels are a factor, with PWCs generating the same decibel levels generated by jackhammers, chainsaws and freight trains. If PWCs were used in a work environment, OSHA would require their riders and everyone around them to wear hearing protection.

Safer, less invasive forms of non-motorized watercraft, such as kayaks, boogie boards and pedal boats are available everywhere.

Go ECO—Explore, Conserve, Observe--Project AWARE

Some snorkeling sites are very shallow. The young man is floating above it. Respect our reefs.

This 10,000-year-old coral reef grows one centimeter/year. Coral is a living animal
forming a foundation of the food chain.

Same reef, the white tips of the coral showing that it has died from snorkelers standing on it.

Be a role model for others.
  • Enjoy nature but don’t chase or touch animals.

  • Don’t remove anything that is part of the natural environment.

  • Urge your guides to act responsibly and tip them for their cooperation. (If you witness any abuse, notify your hotel in writing, and contact the Colima Department of Tourism by e-mail.) Make it concise and report offenses including date, time and name of boat.

  • Pick up all trash you see and leave the site cleaner than you found it (above and below the water).

  • Patronize locally owned businesses, but avoid items made from endangered species, threatened species, coral or shells (turtle oil, stuffed iguanas, eel skin boots).

  • Interact with and show respect for local people, their culture and traditions. Visitors respecting a destination are key to ecotourism.

  • Learn about and join Project AWARE ("Conserving underwater environments through education, advocacy and action"), a non-profit environmental organization and subscribe to their newsletter. Project AWARE is part of PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). There's also a Project AWARE for kids. It's a great site to get your youngsters ready for the beach and ocean.

  • Get on the web site for The Ocean Conservancy. Please believe them when they say, "For centuries people have exploited the oceans with little thought to the future. But we now face a crossroads. Our very existence depends upon healthy oceans. We at The Ocean Conservancy believe it is not too late. By changing the way people think about the oceans, we can turn the tide of failing ocean health."

A popular snorkeling and diving spot: The "San Luciano," an 86-year-old shipwreck that sunk in the hurricane of 1959. It rests in only 25 ft. of water in Santiago Bay, and is home to numerous seahorses of various colors, and a plethora of sea life. 

Since the deck of the 300-foot-long ship is only 4 ft. beneath the surface, many snorkelers stand on it to take a break. How would you feel if your fins cut the orange seahorse in half (above, right) ?

Above, the deck of the "San Luciano" as it looks underwater to a snorkeler or diver. Though the deck only 4 ft. beneath the surface, it is teeming with life, from the soft corals above, to the jewel moray and blenny below. Think before you stand. Please.

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”-- Baba Dioum, Senegalese Conservationist.

Photos by the dive team at Underworld Scuba/Scuba Shack.