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Posted by Jim on August 30, 2022 at 15:29:32:


“There are no seahorses in Cozumel.” That’s what we all thought thirty years ago. Since then, dive guides have discovered them hiding in plain sight on grassy areas off the main reefs. Although still uncommon, divers are often privileged to see and photograph these beloved creatures. This is an exceptional year (2022) for seahorse sightings, thus “The year of the (sea)horse. Lots of pictures to share below.

Friday - Our American Airlines flight out of LAX to DFW was delayed due to "crew rest." I'm guessing some of the crew had exceeded their maximum, daily work hours. In any case, there were no further delays and we arrived in Dallas a couple of hours after our scheduled ETA. We stayed overnight at the airport hotel so it wasn't a catastrophe.

Saturday - The next morning we flew to Cozumel without any hitches and arrived on time, with all of our luggage; praise the Lord. Of course, there were four airplanes on the concourse at CZM and we had to wait for all of the passengers on the previous planes to clear immigration and customs. It took an hour to finally get on a shuttle to Scuba Club Cozumel.

Scuba Club Cozumel

"Welcome home!" We unpacked our bags and geared up for a shore dive in front of the hotel. Warm, clear water made up for any hassle or stress in getting to the island. We swam around for more than an hour looking for little stuff.

Towel art

My new camera rig – Olympus Systems OM-1 in a Nauticam NA OM-1 housing with two Sea and Sea DS-1 strobes.

Atlantic spade fish (Chaetodipterus faber). Several years ago, a pair of Atlantic spadefish got lost in a storm and wound up in Cozumel. They have bred and divers are seeing more and more of them. I was shocked to find one under the pier at Scuba Club Cozumel.

Yellowhead jawfish (Opistognathus aurifrons). When startled, jawfish disappear tail first into a hole in the sand. Male jawfish brood their eggs in their mouths.

Juvenile blue tang (Acanthurus coeruleus). Yes, this fish is yellow; it's the adult that's blue.

Harlequin bass (Serranus tigrinus). Small, colorful seabass.

Yellowline arrow crab (Stenorhynchus seticornis)

Roughhead blenny – very small

Juvenile French angelfish (Pomacanthus paru)

Intermediate phase French angelfish

Sunday – Reef Diver with Choky, me, Deborah, Mike S, Tiffany, and Shelley.

Palancar Gardens – huge corral heads covered with sponges and life. Choky found a nudibranch he and we had never seen before!

Tasseled nudibranch ( Bornella calcarata)) Thanks to Anne DuPont for the identification.

Baby hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbriocota)

Shortfin pipefish (Cosmocampus elucens)

Chankanaab Reef –a low laying reef with much fish life.

Graysby (Cephalopholis cruentata)

Pederson cleaner shrimp (Ancylomenes pedersoni)

Fringed filefish (Monacanthus ciliatus)

Splendid toadfish (Sanopus splendidus) et al. There are a couple of tubeworms in the foreground, a scarlet striped cleaner shrimp on the toadfish, and a little cardinalfish in the foreground.

Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus). A big one, larger than five pounds.

School of cottonwicks (Haemulon melanurum)

Social feather duster (Bispira brunnea)

Squirrelfish (Holocentrus adscensionis)

Coney (Cephalopholis fulva)

Monday – the Reef Diver with Choky, me, Deborah, Mike S, Tiffany, Shelley, plus two.

Deborah packing her dive gear

Francisco (AKA Pancho) taking tanks down to the pier

Boats arriving at the pier

Palancar Bricks? – there was some confusion as to which dive sites were open and which were closed; the marine park authorities rotate closures to allow the dive sites to rest and restore. In any case, Bricks is a deep wall dive with spectacular coral formations. I took my wide angle lens on this dive.

Spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari). It's uncommon to see eagle rays here in the summer months. This was a big surprise.

Southern stingray (Dasyatis americana)

Yucab Reef – low coral reef with lots of fish action

A very strange looking filefish. Bicolor?

Sergeant majors (Abudefduf saxatilus). The male makes a nest and invites the female to lay her eggs. He then fertilizes the eggs (purple in the picture) and guards them until they hatch about a week later.

Fairy basslet (Gramma loreto). No, this picture isn't upside down, the fish is. Fairy basslets often swim upside down under the reef.

Great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda)

Reef scene

Tuesday – Reef Diver with Choky, me, Deborah, Tiffany, and three others.

Dalila Reef in a moderate current. We hit the trifecta on this dive, shark, turtles, and a large green moray eel.

Green moray (Gymnothorax funebris). "Hi, there. You don't happen to have any bait with you?"

Nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum). Taking a siesta under the reef. "Go away! Can't you see I'm sleeping?"

Rock beauty (Holacanthus tricolor). These "beautiful" fish are very camera shy.

Hawksbill turtle. We found this turtle munching away on some sponges. It's hard to believe a sponge is food.

Squat anemone shrimp (Thor amboinensis) AKA "sexy shrimp" for continual bumping their tails up and down, up and down.

Peacock flounder. It's unusual to find this blue display. Flounders are more often the same color as the rocks they are laying on.

Tormentos Reef

Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and a couple of shark suckers

Dive, dive, dive…

Pair of Gray angelfish (Pomacanthus arcuatus)

Under the reef

Choky over the sand

Wednesday – Reef Diver with Choky, me, Deborah, Mike S, Tiffany, Shelly, and Russell.

El Paso del Cedral bajo

Bar jack (Caranx ruber) being cleaned by a juvenile Spanish hogfish (Bodianus rufus)

Another cleaning station. "Wait your turns!"

Porkfish (Anisotremus virginicus). Tastes like chicken. (Tiene gusto a pollo.)

Channel clinging crab (Mithrax spinosissimus)

Nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

Sharksucker (Echeneis naucrates). The sharksucker has flat plates on its head that allow it to "attach" to sharks, rays, etc. They do not "suck" or parasitize their hosts.

Choky and friend

Paradise Reef

Spotted moray (Gymnothorax moringa). These eels are intermediate in size, 1.5 to 3 feet long.

Egg case of the West Indian chank (a large snail). Looks like a clothes dryer vent hose.

"Valonia ventricosa, also known as bubble algae, sea grape or sailor's eyeballs is a species of algae found in oceans throughout the world in tropical and subtropical regions, within the phylum Chlorophyta. It is one of the largest known unicellular organisms, if not the largest." Wilipedia

Fringed filefish (Monacanthus ciliatus). There's an isopod just below the fish's eye.

Thursday – Reef Dive with Choky, me, Deborah, Mike S, Tiffany, Shelly, Russell, Eric and Tammy.
Palancar Horseshoe – great visibility on the most spectacular reef formation in Cozumel.

Giant anemone (Condylactis gigantea)


Diver and sponges

San Francisco Reef

Gastropod eggs

Tiny, juvenile jackknife fish (Equetus lanceolatus) about the size of a mosquito.

Leech headshield slug (Chelidonura hirundinina)

Spotted cleaner shrimp (Pericimenes yucantanicus)

Goldentail moray (Gymnothorax miliaris). Goldentail eels are quite small, 1-1.5 feet long.

Southern stingray (Dasyatis americana) and bar jack. The jack shadows the stingray picking up any little critters that might be stirred up. The bar jack is normally light in color; this is its dark, hunting cloak.

Tiny seahorse; I do not know what species but it's not the common long snout seahorse. It could be a dwarf seahorse, but my references say it's found in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Shore, night dive. One of my favorite dives in Cozumel is to do a night dive in front of the hotel. The water is less than 25 feet deep and there are many interesting critters out at night.

Goldentail moray (Gymnothorax miliaris)

Small scorpionfish. I don't think this is a mushroom scorpionfish due to absence of fleshy bits at the top of the eye…could be wrong. More likely a juvenile spotted scorpionfish.

Banded clinging crab (Mitrax cinctimanus)

Spotted seahare (Aplysia cross)

Freckled seahare (Aplysia parvula) a tiny slug that has a shell

Another slug

Red-banded hermit crab (Paguristes erythrops).

Caribbean reef octopus (Octopus briareus)

Redhair swimming crab

Nimble spray crab (Percnon gibbesi)

Invasive red lionfish (Pterois volitans)

Two claw shrimp (Brachycarpus biunguiculatus)

Sea slug egg spiral, very, very small.

Spotted goatfish (Pseudupeneus maculatus) in its PJs.

Spotted seahare (Aplysia dactylomela)

Friday – Reef Diver with Choky, me, Deborah, Mike S, Russell, Eric and Tammy.
Santa Rosa Reef – wonderful dive site with a vertical wall dropping off into the deep blue.

Splendid toadfish (Sanopus splendidus). Russell told Choky he wanted to see a splendid toadfish. Choky showed him two of them on a reef where they are not common. If you want to see something, tell the dive guide and they will do their best to satisfy you request.

Villa Blanca – in search of another caballito del mar otherwise known as a seahorse.

Lettuce slug (Elysia crispata)

Longsnout seahorse (Hippocampus reidi). It's amazing the dive guides can find such well camouflaged critters. It took me a couple of minutes to realize what I was seeing.

Longsnout seahorse (Hippocampus reidi). "You can't see me!"

Saturday – with Nestor, me, Deborah, Mike S, Russell, and several other divers.

El Paso del Cedral Pared – the wall.

Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbriocota). There was a strong current on this dive and I only had time for one shot as I was carried past the turtle. Nailed it!

Green moray (Gymnothorax funebris). This moray was about five feet long. I was able to get under the ledge and up close for this portrait.

Splendid toadfish (Sanopus splendidus)

Shark skin. A nurse shark was sleeping with its head in a hole. I put the camera in macro mode and took this shot of its interesting skin.


Peacock flounder (Bothus lunatus)

Fringed filefish (Monacanthus ciliatus). This little fish likes to hide, pretending to be part of the background; less than one-inch long.

Banded coral shrimp (Stenopus hispidus). This common shrimp is a "cleaner." It advertises its services with long white antennae.

Chaos! Snappers.

Milk conch (Strombus raninus). Conch have eyes! The green part is its mouth. I no longer eat conch chowder or fried conch!

Juvenile highhat (Paraques acuminatus)

Sunday – Reef Diver with Nestor, me, Deborah, Mike S, Mark K, Lucianna, Roger, and one other diver.
We had a big thunderstorm last night and another one this afternoon. Luckily, it was only partly cloudy and we were able to do two boat dives.

Palancar Gardens.

We saw a very large loggerhead turtle – too far away for a photograph. But a hawksbill turtle let me get up close and take a picture.

Chankanaab Reef (bajo)

The group did a slow drift over the beginning of the reef, looking for small critters. Many splendid toadfish were seen and large schools of snappers.

At one point, I looked down and noticed the vacuum light on my camera housing was flashing yellow; it should have been green. I signaled to Nestor that I was headed up and slowing ascended to the surface. The Reef Diver wasn't too far away and once they spotted me, they picked me up. I left the camera on the boat and went back down to rejoin the group. Back at the hotel, I opened the housing and sure enough there was a little water in the bottom of the housing. A close examination of the housing revealed a tiny, thin hair parallel to the door's gasket that I had missed when sealing the housing. The camera was dry and there was no major damage. The downside was no pictures to share from today's dive.

Monday – Reef Diver with Nestor, me, Deborah, Mike S, Lucianna, Mark, and Roger.

San Clemente Wall – this was my logged dive #4,000. Unfortunately, the leak alarm flashed on my camera housing and I only took a few wide angle pictures on this dive. Back in the room, there was no water inside the housing! Oh, well. I switched to my Olympus TG6 for the second and afternoon dives.

Scrawled filefish (Aluterus scriptus)

Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbriocota)

More ray/jack action

Intermediate queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris). "Hi, big boy!"

Coney (Cephalopholis fulva)

Fringed filefish (Monacanthus ciliatus)

Reef Diver

Yucab Reef

School of misc snappers. "OK, guys, on my signal, spread out!"

Graysby (Cephalopholis cruentata)

Los Pecios

Fighting snappers. The fish with the larger mouth wins.

Pair of Banded butterflyfish (Chaetodon striatus)

Rock beauty (Holacanthus tricolor)

Odd couple – trumpet fish and cottonwick.

Sargassum triggerfish (Xanthichthys ringens)

Longsnout seahorse (Hippocampus reidi)

Redspotted hawkfish (Amblycirrhitus pinos)

Lu on the wreck

Balloonfish (Diodon holocanthus)

Tuesday – Reef Diver with Nestor, me, Deborah, Mike S, Lu, Mark K, Judy, and Roger. Choky dove with John, Deb, Mark W, Eric, and Tammy. My big camera worked as it should! Yay.

La Francesa

A large red lionfish (Pterois volitans)

Flamingo tongue (Cyphoma gibbosum) snails – about one-inch long.

Roger’s rig is neutrally buoyant.


Intermediate queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris)

Tormentos – very light current made for a lazy dive.

Wednesday – Reef Diver with Nestor, me, Deborah, Mike S, Roger, Judy, Mark K, and Lucianna. Choky with John, Mark W, Deborah W, Jana, David, Beth, and Wren.

Palancar Reef (unknown section)

Yellowhead jawfish (Opistognathus aurifrons)

Intermediate spotted drum (Equetus punctatus)


Red lionfish (Pterois volitans)

Black grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci)

Seahorse (Hippocampus sp). We were drifting over the sand at the end of our dive when I noticed something that looked like a small seahorse. As I got closer, I was surprised to see it was one. It was very tiny. Serendipity.

San Clemente Bajo

Juvenile longfin damsel (Stegastes diencaeus)

Spotted moray (Gymnothorax moringa)

Juvenile rock beauty (Holacanthus tricolor)

Thursday – Reef Diver with Nestor, me, Deborah, Mike S, Roger, Judy, Mark K, and Lucianna.

San Francisco Reef

Lined sole (Achirus lineatus). Yes, those are grains of sand. Judy spotted this tiny flat fish.

Sharpnose puffer (Canthigaster rostrata) about two inches in length.

Squat anemone shrimp (Thor amboinensis)

Chankanaab Reef

Bar jack (Caranx ruber) having its gills cleaned by a juvenile Spanish hogfish

I don't know what was taking place here. Either the two bar jacks were competing for attention from the cleaner or fighting.

Graysby (Cephalopholis cruentata). "Go away! Haven't you taken enough pictures of graysby, already?"

Ciliated false squilla (Pseudosquilla ciliate). Fast and shy, squilla are hard to photograph. I got lucky this time. The critter disappeared after I took this shot.

Shore dive

Chain moray (Echidna catenata). Not as common as the other eels, it's always a treat to find one.

Fringed filefish (Monacanthus ciliatus) with its dewlap extended.

Highhat (Paraques acuminatus) One of the drum fish, this adult looks very different from the juvenile.

Friday – Reef Diver with Nestor, me, Deborah, Mike S, Roger, Judy, Mark K, and Lucianna. Choky with Jana, Beth, Dave, Wren, John, Deb W, and Mark W.

Chankanaab Bolones

Barred hamlet (Hypoplectrus puella)

Elkhorn coral crab (Domecia acanthophora)

Paradise Reef

Spotted scorpionfish (Scorpaena plumieri)

Orange longsnout seahorse (Hippocampus reidi)

Yellow longsnout seahorse (Hippocampus reidi)

Lu and seahorse

Mike and seahorse

Roger and seahorse

Sargassum triggerfish (Xanthichthys ringens)

Red seahorse

Los Pecios

Black seahorse

Shortnose batfish (Ogcocephalus nasutus)

Pair of batfish

Giant hermit (Petrochirus diogenes)

Sailfin blenny (Emblemaria pandionis)

A very large, adult spotted drum (Equetus punctatus)

Saturday – Reef Diver with Nestor, me, Deborah, Mike S, Roger, Judy, Mark, and Lucianna. Choky with Jana, Beth, Dave, Wren, John, Deb W, and Mark W.

Palancar Horseshoe – the most spectacular coral formations on the island.

Hawksbill turtle. Thank you, Mark, for pointing this one out to me.

Seven of us

El Paso del Cedral Bajo – a very fishy place.

Porkfish (Anisotremus virginicus)

One of these is not like the others. Schoolmasters (Lutjanus apodus) with one Bluestriped grunt (Haemulon sciurus)

Mahogany Snapper (Lutjanus mahogoni)

Schoolmasters (Lutjanus apodus) in formation

Another school of snappers

Sunday – Reef Diver with me, Deborah, Mike S, Roger, Judy, Mark K, Lucianna, Jayne, Cathy, and Kristen. Choky with Jana, Mike T, James, Dave, Beth, Wren, Deb W, Mark W, John.

Dalila Reef

Nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

Polo's Reef (Jose's Reef, Iguano's Reef…)

Intermediate queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris)

We found several hats and a cell phone on the bottom. This is me. Dapper, don’t you think?

Juvenile Red lionfish (Pterois volitans)

Beth with hat

Monday – Reef Diver with Nestor, me, Deborah, Mike S, Roger, Judy, Kristen, Mark K, Lucianna, Jayne, and Cathy. Choky with Jana, Mike T, James, David, Beth, Wren, John, Mark W, and Deb W.

Palancar Horseshoe – a requested repeat on John, Mark/Deb, Mark/Lu's last dive day.

Black durgon (Melichthys niger). Another shy fish that’s hard to photograph.

Midnight parrotfish (Scarus coelestinus)

Stoplight parrotfish (sparisoma viride), terminal phase

Stoplight parrotfish (sparisoma viride), initial phase

Butter hamlet (Hypoplectrus unicolor)

Tormentos Reef

Sailors choice (Haemulon parra) under the reef

Balloonfish (Diodon holocanthus)

Roughhead blenny (Acanthemblemaria aspera)

Intermediate queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris)

Banded coral shrimp (Stenopus hispidus)

Tuesday – Reef Diver with Nestor, me, Deborah, Mike S, Roger, Judy, Jayne, Cathy, and Kristen. Choky with Jana, Mike T, James, Beth, Dave, Wren, Doug.

Santa Rosa Wall – a very impressive wall dive in a nice and slow current.

Banded clinging crab (Mitrax cinctimanus)

Viscous sponge (Plakortis angulospicutatus) It's always a treat to find this aptly named sponge hanging from the reef.

Red hind (Epinephelus guttatus)

Spotted eagle ray (Aetobatus narinari)

Yucab Reef – slow current

Graysby (Cephalopholis cruentata) with a sneer.

Pair of Atlantic spade fish (Chaetodipterus faber)

Sailors choice (Haemulon parra) school

Hawksbill turtle

THREE big, nurse sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum)sleeping under the reef. Plus a photobomb from an intermediate blue tang, halfway between juvenile yellow and adult blue.

Count 'em, THREE!

Wednesday – Reef Diver with me, Deborah, Mike S, Roger, Judy, Jayne, and Cathy. Choky with Jana, Mike T, James, Beth, Dave, Wren, and Doug.

Punta Tunich – there was only a mild current running to the north, very unusual for this dive site known for strong flows.

Splendid toadfish (Sanopus splendidus) with a pleasant smile. "My, what little teeth you have."


Green moray (Gymnothorax funebris). I went in under a ledge to get up close to this big eel. The open mouth is not a sign of aggression, but part of circulating water over their gills.

Punta Tunich 2.0 We had so much fun on our first dive, Nestor suggested doing it again. No need to bend anyone's arm.


Spotted moray (Gymnothorax moringa)

Graysby (Cephalopholis cruentata)

Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). The loggerhead turtle is uncommon in Cozumel waters. Its huge neck and head are described by "loggerhead." In addition to eating sponges and jellies, loggerheads eat conchs and other large mollusks, crushing the thick shells with their strong jaws.

Thursday – Reef Diver with Nestor and Choky

Chankanaab Bolones followed by Chankanaab Reef Bajo

Spotted scorpionfish (Scorpaena plumieri)

Intermediate spotted drum (Equetus punctatus)

Trumpetfish (Aulostomus maculatus)


French angelfish (Pomacanthus paru). I was mobbed by four French angelfish! Instead of swimming off, four of these beautiful fish decided to check me out, up close and personal. They looked my camera gear over very carefully; one tasted a string attached to a strobe diffuser; another cleaned one of my clamps. Mike S observed this strange behavior but no one with a camera was there to document the event.

Pair of French angels

Cathy and lobster

Cowfish with sucker. One of this pair of cowfish has a small shark sucker as an unwanted companion. Its mate was very supportive but they were unable to shake the pest.

Fun with sponges

Shore night dive.

Prunum labiatum – ID thanks to Ann Dupont and Linda Ianniella

Two juvenile boxfish

Caribbean spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) eyes

Sea slug

Spotted goatfish (Pseudupeneus maculatus)

Baby red lionfish (Pterois volitans)


Sleeping parrotfish

Atlantic yellow cowrie


Friday – Reef Dive with Nestor, Choky, and the group.

Paradise Reef in a final pursuit of seahorses.

Longsnout seahorse (Hippocampus reidi)

Beth with seahorse

Sailfin blenny (Emblemaria pandionis)

Brown seahorse

Little puffer

Juvenile queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris)

Group with seahorse. No wonder they hide from us.

Brown seahorse

Los Pecios to hunt, unsuccessfully, for a seahorse and batfish.

Spotted drum (Equetus punctatus)

Group safety stop at fifteen feet for three minutes…or more.

Sunset – can’t wait until next August.

Cast of Characters (Rogue’s Gallery)


Mike S




Eric and Tammy

Sandy and Hannah




Mark K


Mark W

Deb W





James and Mike T







Nestor, Marin, Giovanni, and Choky

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