On June 12th Ian and I left DFW for Cozumel on AeroMexico
at 7 am arriving at 9:40 am. We were checked in and unpacked by 11.
We had pre-arranged a boat dive at 1 pm which included other divers
from our local dive shop, so we had a quick lunch at the hotel, got our
gear together and headed off for the first dive of our trip.
The first dive was at Santa Rosa Wall, my second favorite dive
in Cozumel. This was our first trip to Cozumel in 14 months (historically
we have gone to Coz every three months for three years). Our last trip
was about 18 months after Wilma and the reefs were still obscured with
the sand that Wilma had dumped. This time the reef was beautiful. It
looked fully recovered. The soft corals are renewing themselves in
abundance. The fish life is young and energetic. There are fewer large
fish, but many juveniles and smaller adults. Plentiful on the reef were
blue chromis, blue tangs, yellow tangs, black durgeons, yellowtail snapper,
grunts. There were a few spotted trunk fish and an occasional large French
angel and gray angel. I saw queen angels for the first time in a while.
The second dive was El Tormentoes. This is one of my least favorite
dives on Coz. I have never cared for this dive because it always seems to me
that the dive leader spends the whole dive looking for an elusive seahorse.
I really prefer to see fish going about their fishy business. I do not need
(or want) to harass a solitary animal out in the middle of a desert. Well, this
dive seems to have improved also. There were actually coral heads with plenty
of life on them. Ian and I simply ignored the dive leader when he started shaking
the maraca at us to let us know that he had found the elusive seahorse. The
people that were diving with us said that it was the largest seahorse that they
had ever seen, about 6 inches. I still preferred being at the coral heads.
Ian and I love Casa Del Mar. It is not right on the beach, but the access
to the dive shop and boats is via an overhead walkway that seems much shorter
than other hotels that are on the beach. I like the open air restaurant, La Palapa,
for their tasty Steak Tampiquena and Arroz con Camarones. Most rooms at the
hotel have lovely ocean views and the hotel is landscaped with tropical flowers:
bright red hibiscus, purple Mexican petunias, red and white pentas, banana trees,
coconut palms and ferns. It is a really relaxing place to stay. Everyone else was
staying next door at the more upscale, but less relaxing, Park Royal Cozumel -
which is an all-inclusive. Our friends were happy at the Park Royal — they do
not care for the Mexican food at Casa Del Mar and the American food is over-
priced (club sandwiches and hot dogs - not exactly gourmet fare either).
We were happy at Casa Del Mar, we elected to upgrade our room to a
cabana for an additional $50 per night. That gave us 2 bathrooms and a full
living room to store our scuba gear. It just made the trip more pleasant. Our
bed was comfortable and we had a patio with a table with umbrella and two
chairs with views of the ocean. The access to the dive center was as convenient
as ever. After a pleasant dinner (both of us chose Arroz con Camarones - it was
as good as we remembered), we turned in early.
On Saturday morning, we woke up early and went to eat breakfast
which had been included in the cost of our room. I had huevos rancheros, juice,
a small fruit platter, and toast. Ian opted for the Huevos Mexicana with the same accompaniments. We took our vitamins and headed over to the pier to board
the boat for our second day of diving.
There were only 6 of us on the boat on Friday, most of the group had opted
to do shore diving. On Saturday, there were 11 on the boat, so two dive masters
went into the water with us. The group was divided up by experience level. Those
of us with more than 100 dives (the same six that were on the boat on Friday) were
with one dive leader, the other group was with a second leader. The dive instructor
that owns the shop that we were with had the only true newbie with him.
The dive masters took suggestions for dive sites, I was thrilled when the
group decided to request Palancar Caves — my all time favorite dive spot. Ian and
I decided to not do the swim-throughs, but to stay on top of the reef — both to
extend our bottom time and to enjoy more of what we like — diving in an aquarium.
This site was spectacular. Absolutely lush with corals, sponges and fish. Yep,
we missed the shark and the crab and the lobster. But we saw Queen Angels that
were 15 inches long, gray angels, and French angels, spotted trunk fish, tetras, a
giant grouper, eels. Vase coral, cup corals, brain corals, barrel corals, sponges.
Just lots of lots. The dive was the best dive I have ever had.
The shallow dive was at Yucab reef. It, like El Tormentoes, is a spotty reef
rather than constant. The current was running north at the beginning of the dive and
was not much of a factor, after about 40 minutes, the current turned and the divers
that had passed us came sweeping back towards us. The current did not quite turn
into the Cozumel Express that I have sometimes experienced, but it was a factor in
the dive. The fish hunkered down in their cubby holes and we exited much earlier than
we would have otherwise.
Cozumel was EMPTY. The hotel was not close to full. We only saw two other
dive boats - both of which were six packs - on both days. We did not go into town to
see how the restaurants were doing because the trip was so short. However, it was really
sad to see the place so empty.
It was a great, short trip. The cost for the “Hot Deal” on FunJet Vacations was
$499 for hotel for 2 nights and airfare. That price included breakfast, but no other meals
and did not include the upgrade that we paid for at the resort. The diving we paid separately
to our local dive shop.