Super Snorkeling Safari: A Sea and See Adventure!

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Though our company name "Scuba Shack" implies we do only scuba diving, nothing could be further from the truth! Our divers meet in the morning to do their own thing, but we have several snorkeling guides, specially trained to make sure your snorkeling adventure is one of the best ever! Because the Pacific Ocean is somewhat unpredictable, our responsible guides are trained to find the best locations for the day, though we have 3 favorite sites we frequent most.

Unfortunately for snorkeling enthusiasts, most tropical resorts cater to the needs of SCUBA divers rather than snorkelers. Not so with Scuba Shack. Our guides positively LOVE snorkeling with you. Not only do you get quality equipment (the same the divers use)--mask, fins, and snorkel--fitted perfectly to your face and feet, but we have other snorkeling aids--rafts and floating donuts with see-through viewing windows, mattresses and other flotation devices for the very nervous, and wet suits for when our water gets colder.

We have observed this typical, frustrating scenario for independent snorkelers with other dive operations in Manzanillo:

You arrive at your resort and find that SCUBA divers are provided with dive boats, all the best equipment, and if you go along with the divers, you are limited to just the spots THEY want to go, or you are relegated to snorkeling off the beach. While beach snorkeling is excellent in Manzanillo, many of the most exciting snorkeling sites are more easily accessed by boat. And snorkeling locations are not the same as dive locations. Snorkeling locations are typically shallow, with lots of natural coral and plenty of fish. Divers like to go deeper, and are looking to see different things.

In our opinion, one of the worst things you could do is "tag along" on a dive boat. First of all, the trip is longer, some of the locations are deeper and the waves are rougher (seasickness anyone?), and the focus is on dive, dive, dive! When the dive is over, so is your snorkel, and you will have missed some of the most extraordinary shallow water vistas. 

(In the case of families who are both divers and snorkelers, we will do a custom trip just for you, with everyone together on the boat, as long as you know up front what to expect. Divers will have to hang out (or snorkel) in shallow water while the snorkelers go in, then snorkelers will have to wait on board while the divers have their turn. There are some locations where the divers can dive and snorkelers snorkel, but sometimes divers prefer other locations. As a family, discuss it among yourselves, and talk to us, and we'll try to make everyone happy.)

Snorkeling when--and where--it's best!

On our Sea and See adventure, we have 28 ft. open "pangas" with an awning cover. One of the great features of this type of boat is that it has a very small draft, allowing us to anchor in very shallow water, so snorkelers don't have a long, marathon swim to get to the reef. The other advantage of this type of boat is that it is very fast--time to "The Aquarium," 3 minutes; time to Elephant Rock, 6 minutes; time to the shipwreck, 6 minutes--so you can see most of the time on the boat is spent snorkeling. 

Each of our boats is licensed to carry 12-14 passengers and/or snorkelers. If you have no desire to snorkel, but the rest of your family wants to take the plunge, take note that our snorkel boat heads north of Manzanillo, where you'll see many exciting things as we tour along Colima's rugged, mountainous coastline.

We have boats exclusively for snorkeling, and guides dedicated to your snorkeling pleasure. Snorkel trips generally are in the morning, because in Manzanillo, the wind comes up between noon and 1 p.m. making the water choppy and cutting down on  visibility. Our main snorkeling locations are inside calm, tranquil bays, so seasickness is usually not an issue. 

On the rare occasions that we do get a customer who is ill, in most instances, the beach is only a few minutes away. We try to do everything to make your snorkeling experience one of the best you've ever had, in part, helped out by some of the world's most pristine underwater treasures such as corals, fish, eels, rays, and sometimes a turtle.

With safety in mind, we beach our boats to board and disembark, and there is a captain on board at all time. All of our captains have been with us at least 12 years, and we have a 100% safety record. All boats are equipped with a ladder, first aid kit, dry bag, life jackets, and your guide brings "No Fog" to prevent mask fogging. Your guide is in the water with you to make sure you're doing okay, and is there to assist with snorkeling tips, or to point out an animal you might have missed.

You also will learn about "The Fisherman's Memorial," a tribute to the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of fishermen, and more. While emphasis is on appreciation of the marine environment through the joy of snorkeling, we believe it's important to appreciate and understand local cultures, too.

You will truly enjoy this great “three for the price of one” snorkeling adventure. First, in just 3 to 10 feet of water is the magnificent 10,000 year-old-reef, “The Aquarium,” replete with a plethora of colorful fishes and living coral. the reef is the size of a football field, in the corner of the Bay of Santiago, so the water is always calm and clear. When you understand that coral grows at one centimeter per year, you'll understand the magnificence of this ecological wonder.

"The Aquarium"

Butterfly fish on the reef

Rainbow wrasses and cardinal fish

Most asked about fish: juvenile giant damsel

Rare blue sponge prolific on the reef and Elephant Rock

Look in crevices for jewel morays

Broccoli hard coral and encrusting stony coral

Next, in some 25 feet of clear, warm Pacific Ocean water rests the 300-foot-long shipwreck San Luciano, the casualty of a 1959 hurricane. There are compartments galore in this old wreck to satisfy your exploratory appetites. 

Almost 100 years old now, this ship was one of 9 that went down in the only category 5 storm Manzanillo has ever had. One side hosts hundreds of balloonfish--we call the area "Puffer Fish City"! In the front of the wreck, reef cornetfish school, feeding on smaller species. Look carefully in holes and crevices; there's usually an octopus lurking, hoping to snatch a meal. Another unusual fish that has two color phases--bright yellow or black with small white spots--is the guinea fowl puffer. They move slowly, searching for small organisms. With their beak-like mouth, they can bite into the hardest coral or barnacle and get the animal inside. Float silently, and you'll see what we mean.

Since the deck of this behemoth is only in 4 ft. of water, it is tempting to stand on the wreck. But as these photos below prove, the ship (even the deck) is teeming with life. Be careful not to touch the ship; it is metal and can be rough and sharp, and it is a artificial coral reef--every inch of it covered with some type of marine life.

The "San Luciano" Shipwreck

Panamic fanged blenny on the ship's deck

Gorgonians (soft coral) with a huge jack in back

Octopus well camouflaged 

Porcupine puffer or balloonfish

"Puffer Fish City"

The wreck from the surface

Big-eyed squirrelfish

Aerial view of snorkelers on the shipwreck

Stack, a good hiding place for octopus

Roca Elefante (translate that to “Elephant Rock”) is the third and final stop on this three-hour snorkeling smorgasbord. It earned its name from the rock outcropping, which happens to look just like an elephant. Before the earthquake of 1995, our ancient elephant had a trunk, which was a piece of rock stretching to shore. He lost his proboscis after our 8.0 temblor, but it only changed our pachyderm slightly. Now it looks as if his truck is hanging down. 

This unique underwater wonder boasts a booming, surging blow hole, where the water, pushed by wave action, enters a small cave, and literally "blows" back out. In Spanish, a blow hole is called a "bufadora," meaning "snorter," and you will see it is true to it's name. Roca Elefante also boasts tunnels and arches, and lots of fine fishes, all in 10-25 feet of water. 

A highlight at Elephant Rock is the feeding of hundreds of King Angels at the surface by the boat. Everyone gets a chance to feed, and you can be in or out of the water. The tour continues on up the coast to the “Elevator,” which surges 2 stories high and 2 stories down, just like its name.

Elephant Rock

Spotted sting rays

Dolphins on the way to Elephant Rock

An unusual sight: a school of Moorish Idols

Partiotic red, white & blue sea anemone 

Blue sponge and spotted sting ray

Schooling "bonita," a type of tuna

CorteZ Angelfish

Territorial giant damSels, different color phase

Balloonfish check out the camera
All skill levels are welcome. This trip features equipment especially for beginners and children, including snorkel vests, exposure suits for warmth and protection, and snorkeling rafts with special viewing windows. A 28-foot open-bowed fiberglass boat with a canvas cover moves you from adventure to adventure. There is dry storage on the boat for personal belongings, and it is equipped with life jackets and a ladder for easy egress from the water.

An English-speaking guide is in the water with you. Snorkeling lessons are included, as is a refresher course if you feel the need for one. A cooler on board is stocked with water and soda. Our insurance does not allow us to provide alcoholic beverages, but you can purchase your own and use our cooler. There is a convenience store next to our PADI Dive Center.

Horseback riding is one option for "apre-snorkel" entertainment. We suggest you bring pesos instead of dollars because the restaurant and most vendors and taxis don't grasp the fluctuating peso-to-dollar exchange, and think in pesos. Most don't have bank accounts and none of the beachside restaurants accept credit cards.

After your snorkel trip, you are welcome to purchase lunch and drinks (full bar available) and use the facilities of a nearby restaurant, plus there's horseback riding, rentals of jet skis, kayaks and boogie boards. There are also vendors of souvenirs, ice cream, mangos and other treats on the beach, as well as exciting “banana” boat rides. 

When you're ready to leave, the restaurant staff will be happy to call a taxi (at your expense, about $12-15) for your return to your cruise ship or hotel. If you opt not to have lunch (although you are missing the best seafood in all of Manzanillo), you can ride back with the crew. If the guides have time, they will stay with you, but it may not always be an option for them. At the very least, they will stay long enough to make sure you are taken care of to your satisfaction. 

Would you believe there is a bicycle under there somewhere. Vendors sell everything from fake tattoos, jewelry, T-shirts, beach cover-ups, hand-crafted gift items, floats, food, and more. You can even have your hair braided like Bo Derek in the movie "10." A braid is a "trensita." The braiding takes 1˝ hours, so allow enough time.

Don't worry, it is perfectly safe for you to remain at the beach without a guide. We have been patronizing this restaurant for 17 years, and the wait staff will take great care of you. La Boquita, as this beach area is called, is very popular with the locals because the waves are small and the slope of the beach is gradual, making it easy and fun for everyone from children to grandparents to play in the water.

Although we strive to make each Sea and See Adventure as enjoyable and informative as possible, our aim is not to overwhelm you with information you'll never remember. Rather, if after our Sea and See experience, you have become more intimate with the ocean, and are further motivated to explore issues surrounding the sea, then our goal will have been achieved.

Today many opportunities are available for appreciating the beauty and wonder of our aquatic world: excellent television documentaries and films, a growing number of superb aquariums and interpretative facilities, and many outstanding books and periodicals. (We have fish I.D. books in the office, and submersible fish charts on the boat.)

Yet the best way to appreciate the underwater world is by simply putting on a mask dipping your face beneath the surface, and getting wet. Open up an unforgettable window of wonder by snorkeling--one of the easiest, safest, and most delightful ways to enjoy the water. We invite you to enter the Sea--and See for yourself!

Scuba Shack's Sea and See Adventure strongly encourages environmental awareness. We have watched other companies here urge their snorkelers to stand on the coral reef to take pictures. We have also seen guides take puffer fish out of the water to show people, not caring that once the poor fish has inflated himself with air instead of water, he can 't get the air out and will die. We have seen dozens of beautiful puffers die this way, and the guides just laugh.

Through the practice of responsible snorkeling, in tandem with the snorkeling tips we present here, we hope to expand your awareness of the reef's strengths and vulnerabilities, as well as relevant conservation efforts to preserve the marine ecological equilibrium. Another article, "Enjoy, Don't Destroy," highlights other types of conduct that tourists unwittingly do to damage or destroy the aquatic environment.

We have highlighted our morning snorkeling trip, from 9 to noon, cost $45, but we can also custom design and organize programs for groups, families and organizations.

All photos on this page were taken with an Olympus Stylus 1030SW underwater camera good to 33 ft. without housing. 

If you would like to rent this digital camera with dozens of underwater settings including macro, cost is $35 and a CD will be prepared for you with the photos of your snorkel. This camera has a 2 gig memory card, so there is no limit to the number or size of photos you can take.

The owners and operators of Scuba Shack in Manzanillo are Susan Dearing and Carlos Cuellar. With 22 years in the area, their PADI Dive Center is the oldest in Manzanillo, and supported by the department of tourism and the chamber of commerce.

Susan Dearing is also the author of a guidebook for tourists and residents, and the owner of She has lived in Manzanillo 18 years, and holds a rank of scuba diving instructor with PADI, CMAS and YMCA. Carlos, a former marine from the Viet Nam era, has alternated living in the U.S. and Mexico his entire life, and his first diving took place at the age of 12 at Audiencia beach with  his stepfather.

Videos taken with the Olympus Stylus 1030SW. See more on You Tube.

Heading to "The Aquarium,"
a 2-min. ride from the beach

Sea Turtle
at Club de Yates

Beautiful scenery
along the coastline of Colima
Sea Turtle
at Club de Yates
Giant Damselfish
at Elephant Rock
The "Bufadora," or blowhole
at Elephant Rock
"Puffer Fish City"
at Club de Yates
Mexican Dancer
at Club de Yates
Panamic Star
at Elephant Rock
Coral Reef
The "Aquarium"
Curious puffer
at Club de Yates
at Los Carrizales
at "San Luciano" Shipwreck
Cortez Angelfish
at Club de Yates
Peacock Flounder
at Club de Yates

What's in a crevice
at Elephant Rock?

Hiding in the coral
at "The Aquarium"

Feeding the King Angels
at Point "B"
Brittle Star
at Elephant Rock
Spotted Snake Eel
at "The Elevator"

Zebra Moray
 at Tail of the Elephant

Balloonfish having lunch
at The Pyramids
Stone Scorpionfish
at Playa Audiencia
Spotted Stingray
at Copper Belt
Golden Cownose Rays
at Playa Audiencia
Going to the "San Luciano"
shipwreck at La Boquita
"The Elevator,"
one of the stops
"The Elevator"...
.....going up!
Snorkeling at Club de Yates
with Yellowtail Surgeonfish
Grunts invade
"Puffer Fish City"
White Spotted Puffer,
a rare find
Spotted Snake Eel
at Club de Yates
Big-eyed Squirrelfish
in Playa Audiencia
Feeding & photographing
King Angels at Point "B"
Free Diver
hunts for octopus


Number of Snorkelers
Children age 3-6
Passengers (any age)

Children over the age of 6 are treated as adults: We have found that kids really enjoy snorkeling as much or more than their parents! This is one reason why children over the age of 6 are full price. We have small masks, fins and snorkels, flotation devices, and small life jackets. It is the smaller ones, usually 3-6 years of age, with a shorter attention span, who don't spend as much time in the water, even though we have seen 5- and 6-year-olds who are having so much fun they do not want to get back in the boat! Because they spend less time in the water (although they are more work), they are charged at a lower rate. Though there is a trained guide in the water who can assist you with your children, we ask that you assist the guide whenever necessary. Children under 3 are welcome to come aboard, as long as there is one parent in attendance on the boat. Many times, one parent snorkels while the other holds the baby, and they take turns so both can enjoy. If you bring a baby, and you would like to introduce him or her to the ocean, please feel free to do so. For very small children, please bring your own flotation device.

More than 10 people in your group? E-mail us.