One of the best things about Soliman Bay, Mexico and part of the reason we continue to return is the calm, serene waters where we can kayak and snorkel without the big waves of the open ocean. The reef outside the bay protects Soliman, and even on windy days when the water may be choppy, it is still a fraction of the wave action found along most of the other beaches in the area. You can see the waves crashing and hear their distant thunder at the mouth of the bay as the water gently laps up onto the beach.
This makes Soliman Bay a wonderful playground to swim, snorkel and kayak the day away. Buoys dot the bay where you can tie your kayak, jump out and see what’s below… It’s rather hard to get back in those kayaks and can be quite funny to see the various techniques to do that…
If you kayak out to the reef and tie up at one of the buoys, be sure all of your gear is tied on or secure on the way out, when you are getting in and out, and when you return. We’ve seen countless items lost as the boat tips, stuff gets kicked overboard, etc., and it’s sometimes hard to find once they go under. Take some water to drink when you come back up and make sure you tie up securely so your kayak is still there when you get back.
I would highly recommend life jackets for when you snorkel at the reef and don’t recommend going at high tide unless you are an experienced swimmer. The channels in and around the coral can be very strong and pull you out. Read the posted information in the vacation rentals to learn more about what to do and not do. Also, do not kayak out beyond the reef into the ocean waves – the waves can be bigger than they seem.
A few other tips before you head into the water. Do not wear shiny jewelry unless you WANT to attract big fish. Diamonds, gold and silver look an awful lot like those flashy fishing lures fishermen put on their hooks to catch big fish. Barracudas do come in the bay but they are just curious and won’t attack you. Just stay calm and move slowly.
If you sunburn easy or get cold in the water, wear a skin suit or a long-sleeved underarmor type shirt as your back will be exposed for a long time and these will help preserve your body heat. There are thermoclines in the water where some areas are warmer and some cooler. Also, keep in mind when you slather on sun screen that it comes off in the water and can affect sea life, so you should read to see if it is environmentally safe.
The bay is shallow, ranging from three to 10 feet, and a wide swath of sea grass runs along the shore. The sea grass is an essential part of the bay, as it provides cover for all sorts of sea babies to hide and grow, and is food for fish and turtles.
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of kayaking out to the reef to snorkel or for children, just walk in… Walk out through one of the paths that have been cut through the sea grass so you don’t stomp all over the sea creatures and plants. You can sit in the path and don your snorkel gear. To keep your mask clear of fog, spit inside the lens (yeah, I know, gross but it works) rub it all over the lens, then lightly rinse with the sea water. Then lie on your belly and start paddling out. If you don’t float easily, a life vest will help you float around without expending much energy and is a good idea for small children. Bring inflatable water wings with you for them too.
Look for the dark spots that dot the bay and these are either coral heads that will be swarming with fish, or grass, that you can see things feeding on. There is a nice coral formation in the middle of the bay that begins in the sea grass kind of out in front of the big yellow house. This is a good spot for children to get comfortable snorkeling and see lots of fish. Look at fish books provided by your vacation rental so you can know what you are looking at and come up with hand signals for your favorites. This is fun for children to play “I Spy” in the water and educational too.
Lots of the coral in the bay and on the reef are alive and doing well, but you will also see parts that are sand-covered and dead. The hurricanes a few years ago did this – coating them with sand and sediment when the big waves came in. Do not touch any of the corals or creatures in the waters as the oil from our skin with kill them. Be careful that your flippers don’t hit them as well and go around the big coral heads when it is low tide or they are near the surface.
Look for the little gray rays in the bay in sandy areas or hidden up under coral formations. If you’re lucky maybe you’ll see a spotted eagle ray come floating by. Lobsters like to hide in little crevices and caves in the rocks and its fun to see their tentacles poking out. You might also spy eels hiding in crevices as well. Tons of little fish will be hanging out around the formations and if you just stay still and float you’ll see lots of them come out of hiding. Constantly be surveying around you, as a turtle may come swimming by or big fish in search of little fish.
I’ve seen big barracudas and grouper in the bay and schools of gorgeous blue tangs. If you see a big school of little silver fish, be on the lookout for the barracuda “Albert” as he is usually having lunch on the little fish. One time I floated in the middle of the silver school as it rippled around me in big waves and it was an amazing sight. Luckily the barracuda was not in sight as they make me a little nervous.
You might also see Lionfish, which have moved into the area and are an invasive predator fish. Do not touch as they are poisonous!
There is nothing more relaxing and enjoyable than snorkeling the calm waters of Soliman Bay. Some days when the sun is shining and the waves are rippling just right, it throws moving light patterns on the sandy bay floor and you feel like you’re in a disco. If it is dead calm the visibility is amazingly clear.
Well, enough of this.. it’s time to snorkel!