The Cancun Underwater Museum – Then and Now Part 1

This year marks the 10 year anniversary since the creation of MUSA. The very first underwater statues were sunk in 2009, the beginning of what seemed a crazy idea at first. The Cancun Underwater Museum, known as MUSA can only be called a success story, as still to this day the artificial reef it created, has made a difference to our reefs and ecosystem.

MUSA is made up of over 500 pieces now, each with its own meaning, each built with love and care by people who have a passion for both art and conservation.
It’s not just about building a statue and placing it underwater, there’s much more to it than that. Once the idea is born, each statue has to be molded from a real live person, special materials are used so the sculpture can serve its purpose as an artificial reef. Perhaps the biggest task is moving the sculptures, from the workshop to the dock, on a boat and hauling it down to the ocean bed.
A team of locals pulled together in what would become a mission to remember.

MUSA – Then and Now

The Cancun Museum is really thanks to three people, if it wasn’t for these courageous and determined individuals, MUSA would never have got off the ground, let alone into the sea.
Cancun had a problem, a problem that would not only affect the ecosystem of the local area but this, in turn, would affect tourism. The local coral reefs were showing signs of decay and damage; primarily caused by hurricanes but also because of the worldwide problem that many areas face. Overfishing, pesticides, pollution, and construction.

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Jaime Gonzalez, then president of the Cancun Nautical Association was concerned and together with Roberto Diaz, who at the time was general manager of Aquaworld, they came up with a plan. Roberto was browsing online one day and spotted someone who was going to start the creation of one of the first and biggest underwater museums in the world.

It is named a museum for a simple reason. Every day we dredge, pollute and overfish our oceans, while museums are places of preservation, of conservation, and of education. They are places where we keep objects that are of great value to us. Our oceans are sacred. Jason deCaires Taylor

So what do the weird statues look like now?

Some sculptures were sunk in 2009 and others followed later on. The statues were made out of stainless steel, PH neutral cement, basalt, and aggregates. These materials are used so that the algae and coral can form. It’s important to know that the statues are placed downstream from the natural reefs so that once the coral spawns they have somewhere to settle.

This is Charlie Brown – he’s a local fisherman and posed for the group of sculptures known as the Silent Evolution. When the sculptures are initially placed, it takes a while to see changes. First, the sculptures grow algae on them which provides a base for the coral to grow.

MUSA Nizuc – Snorkeling in Cancun

One of the museum sites is at a reef called Punta Nizuc. This is a shallow area where we have 33 sculptures. You can see them by taking our Paradise Snorkel Tour or the SubSee Explorer.

These days, 10 years later the sculptures look entirely different from when they were first placed.


Below is the underwater sculpture named ‘Inertia’

Ten years later, the sculpture is completely covered with coral and other flora which serves as a base for more coral to grow. Some corals grow faster than others, look how there are smaller corals only just starting to shoot through. The round shape that you can see on the left hand are Tube Worms. They can grow up to two meters long and they never leave their tubes. The tubes offer protection from crabs, fish, and toxic chemicals. The worms do not eat, they have no stomach or mouth. Instead, they live off sugars produced by bacteria living within the tubes. The sugar is created from oxygen, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide so now we can begin to see the effect on our coral reefs when these important compounds are thrown off balance.

Let’s look at the statue ‘Gardener of Hope’

This was one of the first statues placed in Punta Nizuc. All of the coral placed initially was rescued coral that had broken off the reefs. The difference ten years later is amazing and brings home the reason why MUSA was created. Staghorn coral is one of the fastest-growing corals which is why it was chosen for this particular piece.

MUSA of the Ocean

This sculpture was created by Roberto Diaz himself and was created using a photograph if his Aunt. This piece was placed once the project was well underway, around 2013.

Inheritance

This statue depicts how global warming and human’s bad behavior towards our ecosystem is leaving a negative inheritance to up and coming generations. 

It’s an important message about how we need to change our habits so our coral reef systems can thrive. Here’s the statue today showing lots of healthy Staghorn coral.

Jason deCaires Taylor’s message was very clear

As soon as we sink them, they belong to the sea

Last but not least we have Resurrection 

Another sculpture which has been a success in the growth of new corals. All of these statues also provide a breeding ground for fish and other sea life.

A classic case is the return of the Angel fish which had disappeared from our waters and have now returned in abundance.

The inauguration took place under the water, of course it did, where else?! If Jason and the Aquaworld team could sink tons and tons of cement, of course they could hold a ceremony at the bottom of the ocean.
Aquaworld was proud to take part in this project and supplied the boats used to transport and sink the statues as well as the manpower needed to do so.

The Cancun Underwater Museum is great to teach children, our next generation, about why and how we should protect our reefs.
Aquaworld’s Nizuc Snorkel tour is available to kids from 5 yrs upwards. In general, the Nizuc area is a calm place to snorkel and a great location for beginners of any age because it’s shallow. Snorkeling in Cancun is one of the most popular activities so if you would like to combine art with conservation, this is the choice.

What can you do to help protect our reefs?

Aquaworld Cancun Snorkel Tour Package Promotion

Aquaworld has come up with the ideal package so that you can enjoy MUSA to the max.

Snorkel in Nizuc + SubSee in Nizuc + Snorkel in MUSA Manchones
A two-day package for only $99usd per person.

Day One – Snorkel in Nizuc + SubSee
Enjoy a peaceful boat ride out to Punta Nizuc reef where you will then board the SubSee for a 30-minute ride over the statues and the coral reef area. There are four to six statues located here.
After the sub ride, it’s time for snorkeling. Our guides will take you round the Nizuc reef as well as the statues located at this site. There are approximately 20 statues to be found here.
* unlimited snorkel time*
with beers, sodas, and water available at all times, you could stay out on the reef all day of you wanted to.
Departs daily, every hour from 9 am till 2 pm

Day Two – Snorkel in MUSA Manchones
Join us on a fast boat ride to MUSA Manchones which is located just off the coast of Isla Mujeres.
Here you will snorkel over the main body of statues which now consists of over 400, including the famous Silent Evolution
These statues are located at a depth of 28 feet. If conditions allow, we will then take you to the famous ‘El Farito’ where you can enjoy a further 20 minutes of snorkeling at a shallower depth teaming with sea life.
Departs Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 am

* Snorkel in Nizuc + Snorkel in Manchones (without SubSee) – $79usd per person

Book the ultimate Cancun Underwater Museum expedition!