Cancun’s Underwater Museum, Museo Subacuático de Arte, offers a unique, otherworldly gallery of sculptures in an underwater garden. It is the largest collection of underwater sculptures in the world, offering a rare opportunity for visitors to explore their beauty while snorkelling or diving. Also known as MUSA, it is one of Cancun’s most popular attractions. Here is everything you need to know about this stunning gallery that is like no other place on earth.
MUSA is located off the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in beautiful Cancun. In the early 1970s, this town grew in popularity as a go-to vacation spot, taking attention away from the then more popular town of Acapulco. Today, many argue it is the number one destination in Mexico, attracting sun-seekers from around the world. It combines the best of everything you want in a sunny vacation town, including pristine white sandy beaches, the tranquil Caribbean ocean, and all the conveniences of a high-end vacation destination.
Jaime Gonzalez Canto came up with the concept for MUSA with British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. Their idea was to help protect the local coral reefs by bringing visiting divers to a special diving location. They chose an area where the waters are pristine to begin constructing the museum in 2009. A year later, a mind-boggling 500 sculptures were in place covering two sections of Cancun National Marine Park. Today, the galleries attract close to 200,000 visitors a year.
The underwater park is located between the northern tip of Cancun’s “Hotel Zone” and Isla Mujeres. The park requires special access, and cannot be reached using your own boat. Local tours make it easy to book transportation with resorts in the area happy to help you find a trip. Ferries can be bordered at different docks, and run every half-hour until 9:00 p.m.
The collection of sculptures is made from pH-neutral marine concrete, so they are safe for the environment. Each sculpture had to be anchored to the ocean floor where they become one with underwater life. Part of the design incorporated the idea that the sculptures would change as they merged with their aquatic environment. As a result, they provide protection to animal species, as well as underwater plant life.
Of the 500 installations, one of the most popular, “The Silent Evolution” is a mesmerising collection of life-sized figures in a group of 450, depicting a harmonious coexistence of not just humanity, but the world in which we live. Designed by MUSA founder Jason deCaires Taylor, it speaks to the origins of the museum and what it means when humanity and nature coexist peacefully.
Another work, “Anthropocene”, uses an actual Volkswagen Beetle, which is submerged near Manchones Reef. Since it was added as an installation, it has experienced a stunning metamorphosis, now blending into its surroundings with various plants covering its surface and providing shelter for several species of underwater creatures.
As an underwater museum, MUSA is best viewed by scuba diving and snorkelling. However, if this is not something you feel comfortable doing, you can book a seat on a glass-bottom boat tour. The waters at the park are pristine and crystal clear, so although scuba diving provides the best views, the majority of the sculptures are about 25 feet down and are quite visible. Scuba diving is a viable option even for less experienced divers with the easy depths. Also, snorkelling is not an option at all the galleries, so it’s best to decide on which galleries you wish to see, and plan based on the viewing choices available.
There are three galleries:
They are spaced apart quite a bit, which makes it exhausting for divers and snorkelers. Depending on how you plan to view them, it can be challenging to see everything in one trip. If time is limited, then your best bet is to go the glass-bottom boat tour route where you can see several of MUSA’s famous exhibits. The tours take about 5 hours to complete.
The Cancun Underwater Museum and AquaWorld offer industry-standard courses and certifications. Although certification is not required, if you invest in training, you can then explore not just MUSA, but the caverns, mangroves, and shipwrecks in the area.
When planning your visit to MUSA, make sure you aren’t carrying plastics that you could drop and spoil the clean marine environment. Be prepared to tip tour guides and ferry operators for their service on top of any fares you pay. It is worth investing in waterproof camera equipment to preserve your experiences. People of almost all ages between 10 and 60 can join the diving tours. Those who don’t fall within this age group can enjoy the glass-bottom boat tour instead. The highest demand times are June through August during whale shark season.
Be sure you arrive on time for booked tours, as they won’t wait. If you want more information during your MUSA visit, keep in mind that diving tours do not include commentary. Therefore, be sure to ask any questions before you head down for your dive. Diving tours do include one-on-one training with an instructor. Touching the sculptures is a no-no, so be sure you obey the rules and respect the environment.
Whether you are an avid scuba diver checking off all the must-see dive spots on your list, or are a family looking for an exciting adventure, MUSA and Cancun offer a rare experience. You can explore the Cancun Underwater Museum either by boat, diving, or snorkelling, and still enjoy the beauty of this unique, inspiring museum.
If you want to re-create the awe and wonder of MUSA for your video or movie, you need to contact a professional set design company like Club Ink in Toronto. With our team of set design experts, we can provide the knowledge, supplies and skills needed to build engaging sets that take viewers into new worlds and locations, including those that look like MUSA.
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