http://www.diveparadise.com

Trip Report A month in Cozumel (Oct-Nov 2021)

Please register or login

Welcome to ScubaBoard, the world's largest scuba diving community. Registration is not required to read the forums, but we encourage you to join. Joining has its benefits and enables you to participate in the discussions.

Benefits of registering include

  • Ability to post and comment on topics and discussions.
  • A Free photo gallery to share your dive photos with the world.
  • You can make this box go away

Joining is quick and easy. Log in or Register now!

bassplayer

Registered
Messages
33
Reaction score
35
Location
Phoenix AZ
# of dives
50 - 99
Warning: stream of consciousness style novel to follow. To paraphrase Mark Twain, I don't have time to write a short trip report, so I hope this long one will do. Here goes...

A Month In Cozumel
I'm probably not the only person who got re-interested in diving during the pandemic. Having completed my AOW locally and on the heels of way too much research / gear aquisition, I visited cozumel for the first time in early September and had a great time. While on the trip, I met a guy who told me he spent a few months a year there and balanced work in with recreation; this sounded very interesting, given that my job is now fully remote.
I decided to try a month working from Cozumel. my goals:
- see how it feels as a place to live and hang out, would i want to potentially buy a place or stay for longer periods every year?
- get rescue diver certification
- do some more diving in general

Working From The Island
The condo I rented had fiber optic internet, and it worked out great. No issue whatsoever with video calls or working with online documents. Internet worked flawlessly the entire trip. I also found the internet on my mobile phone largely usable though LTE coverage isn't perfect. overall, Cozumel seems to be a great location for remote work.

Living On The Island
"Luxury" services were accessible, affordable, and nice to have. I didn't even try to shop around so I'm sure even better deals can be had, but for reference, having my 3 bedroom condo cleaned cost 500 pesos, getting my weekly laundry done cost around 70 + tip.
I didn't bother to rent a car or a scooter, did lots of walking everywhere. Taxis for the rare trips outside centro, and bummed a few rides with people. It feels good to get a lot of walking in every day though!

Rescue Class
Before arriving in Mexico, I took First Aid/CPR/AED training with the red cross locally, and did the PADI eLearning online. This left a todo list of pool sessions, open water sessions, emergency oxygen hands-on, and boat dive scenarios.

Aldora was very accommodating and organized the class sessions during nights and weekends. I was the only basic rescue student, but was joined in the activities by a divemaster student, an instructor candidate, and an in-water instructor. Sessions were run by Liang, who is the course director at Aldora. I thought it was great that she personally oversees rescue classes. She shared a number of additional references to review, including accident reports, risk management literature, a link to the accidents and incidents forum here, and some other items of interest. Eventually had a few scuba accident dreams from reviewing all this material but didn't find it too upsetting strangely.
One of the reference pieces I found essential was this: . (how long it takes to drain a tank with high or low pressure regulator failure).

The class was great, covered all sorts of things. The first day of doing open water simulated rescues, I found my bpw and long hose to be annoying, because I had to doff and don gear in the surge out in front of villa aldora during each cycle of being the rescuer or the victim. The doffing was fine, it's the donning while being tossed back and forth that was a bit less than pleasant.
I overreacted by switching to a rental BC and regulator set for the next few days. To their credit, the instructors always kept an expectation that we would be doing it many more times. I can see how that facilitates learning to do it right vs just muddling through a set number of attempts. The feeling I got was that they wanted to see us really learn the skills, not just check off a few boxes. we definitely did all of the exercises enough times to get some muscle memory going which i appreciated. As it happened though, by the time I switched BCs I only had a handful of doff and don cycles left.
Overall, I think a lot of things from that class are going to stick with me forever and that's the mark of a good class.

Day Dives
Nice mix of good old cozumel reef dives, some of the notables:

Dos Barcos/Two Boats: never been to this site, used it for one of our rescue scenario dives. Pretty cool - enjoyed the wrecks and relocated coral heads, and lots of life was present: eels, wrasses, lobster, hermit crabs, angelfish (and other typical reef fish), quite a few decent size trumpet fish also. It's a shallow site which allowed for a nice long 94 minute dive time with some rescue incidents mixed in.

Villa Blanca Wall: this was a dive for rescue course. on entry found Tom with disconnected inflator in "distress". had to evade his "drowning panic", establish boyancy, and reconnect inflator.
ironically, he then had a real problem with equalizing so did the dive without him. this may have saved me from a lot of fake emergencies.
During the dive, did vertigo sim: blackout mask, spun around by instructor. had to re-establish boyancy and trim blind.
at the end of the dive, encountered an "unresponsive diver" at surface. followed rescue proceedure, brought to boat, administered cpr and o2, called fake EMS.
many toadfish at this site. followed by a giant eagle ray and then a medium one.

Tunich: loaded with turtles, in particular saw one huge turtle chomping away with an entourage of queen angelfish enjoying the scraps. Quite a feast

Palancar Gardens: Took Sherief's special route which is quite different than the usual. 3 different reef sharks came up from the deep to check us out.

Punta Sur Sur: Nice visit tol the cathedral, and upon exiting the tunnel a large Eagle Ray was crusing by up close and personal

Night Dives
Did a few of night dives with Aldora throughout my visit and in some ways these are my favorite. Lots of animals out and about including a lot of hunting octopii, a snake eel, lots of morays, big crabs

Continued in the next reply (character limit)
 
OP
bassplayer

bassplayer

Registered
Messages
33
Reaction score
35
Location
Phoenix AZ
# of dives
50 - 99
Continued - other interesting dives

Blackwater Dive
I learned about this from another diver on an aldora boat. The ringleader is a delightful and enthusiastic UK expat who takes some great photos (examples at @cozumelblackwater on instagram). The gist of it is, trek out to deep water at night, drop a buoy with a string of very bright lights rigged below it at 5, 10, and 15 meters, then circle the area in a leisurely fashion and ogle the strange creatures rising from the deep. Seems like a great place to meet serious photographers and check out some fancy camera rigs as well.

Tikila Shore Dive
I wanted to check this out for future reference so I booked a guided visit with Steph from Jungle Divers. Was pleasantly surprised - lots of life including a small group of squid, and it was interesting to see the electrified coral growing stations. Seems like a good option for taking someone who wants a refresher or when time doesn't permit a boat trip.

Zapote Cenote
First time with centotes or playa del carmen in general. When I woke up around 6am and looked out into the darkness at a mild deluge of rain, was tempted to bag it. Glad I did not.
Ferry ride was uneventful, not a huge crowd on the 7 o'clock boat. I was a bit startled by the large scale and posh character of the outdoor shopping center at playa terminal.
Carlos from CenoteXperience was there to meet me. We picked up a couple more passengers, a nice couple from California, and headed to Zapote.

I dont have any direct personal points of reference, but my impression was that Zapote is on the higher end of manicuring for a cenote park. Outbuildings, signage, and facilities were closer to Disneyland than rustic.
The cenote itself was in heavy use. While we were there, it hosted a group of freedivers doing drills, a rotation of tour groups coming to have a look and dare each other to jump in from various perches (the sight of a dignified family patriarch shouting "chinga tu madre" and executing a rusty but half decent swan dive is not to be missed), multiple groups of divers, and a few snorkelers. The whole thing seemed quite organized and regimented in an unobtrusive way, I assume the guides responsible for herding these groups around know what they are supposed to be doing and keep things from getting too unruly.

As for the dive itself, there are a lot of descriptions and photos online for anyone curious. I'll just say I was amazed and if you haven't seen it, its well worth a trip. The only problem is that the route through the formations is at about 100 feet of depth, so NDL time goes quick even with nitrox.
One note on comfort, I was wearing a 3mm full suit with a well worn shorty over it, paired with a 2.5mm beanie, and was a bit chilled by the end. Given the short dive time not a big deal but would definitely recommend a 5mm. Computer put the water temp at ~77 F.

My dive companions both felt it was the most interesting cenote they'd seen yet so we decided to do our second dive at the same place. Will have to come back and dedicate a trip to Tulum / PDC to see more in the future. We successfully squeezed ourselves into the rotation and had another very enjoyable dive, ascending to loud cheers. A large tour group had been patiently watching our bubbles and waiting for us to get out of the way so they could start doing some high dives. Pretty funny to ascend out of the peaceful silence into a cheering crowd.

Its so strange to me that the waters above this amazing dive site also double as a place for tequila enthusiasts to practice their cannonballs. I suppose it helps pay for the fancy toilets though.

Restaurants
Just some quick notes here. Dinner options have been well covered on this forum already so going to jot down some notes on breakfast.

Corazon Contento: If you're dying for an omelette with American style bacon they have it. good, popular, and affordable for breakfast in general

Amparo's Breakfast Bistro: decent, not the best value, good option if there's a line at Corazon Contento though

Burritos Gorditos: ok breakfast burrito if you're on the go

Sucre Sale Cafe: French bakery with decent breakfast

Tentaciones: a bit of a gem, good breakfast and underpriced

Jolly Cafe and Late Breakfast: reliable good breakfast, reminds me of eating at an international hotel if that makes sense

Aqui+Ahora Coffee: Popular, worth a visit. Good wifi, good food and atmosphere.

El Coffee: Good coffee and decent breakfast. Tempting to just get dessert for breakfast here. Convenient spot to hang out if you're diving with Aldora and the port is opening late. they don't open until 8 now sadly, used to be 7

El Citio: classic locals style morning taqueria, very affordable, food average.

Noventa Ola: this is the second floor balcony above the museum. I actually came back here a couple times, because the view and ambiance are nice in the morning. Food is OK and on the pricy side as you'd expect from the location

Bonus notes:

La Cucina Italia: only open for lunch. pick from a few entrees of the day on the counter as you come in, served with soup and salad. Good value, worth a visit

Pancho's backyard: seemed to be completely deserted at all times, though open and staffed. Didn't go in, not sure what's happening

Bar la gitana: went with some of the Aldora staff to celebrate Tom's (instructor in training) birthday. What a great place! They kept the table loaded up with food, festive atmosphere. the bill for food and drinks for 5 of us was under 500 pesos.

Overall
Good experience, will be back. Need to do some comparison shopping, e.g. Roatan. But, if all goes well, am definitely thinking my future lifestyle will include at least a few months a year somewhere tropical and Cozumel is in the running for sure
 

Rob9876

Contributor
Messages
531
Reaction score
355
Location
Knoxville, Tennessee
# of dives
100 - 199
Great report! For the blackwater dives I have a question: I've seen some great pictures, and I'm sure it's great for photographers, but I was wondering if it's good for non-photographers? That is, are the creatures you see so small that you basically have to be zooming in on them through a camera in order to really comprehend what you're seeing, or are they large enough to be appreciated with the naked eye?
 
OP
bassplayer

bassplayer

Registered
Messages
33
Reaction score
35
Location
Phoenix AZ
# of dives
50 - 99
Great report! For the blackwater dives I have a question: I've seen some great pictures, and I'm sure it's great for photographers, but I was wondering if it's good for non-photographers? That is, are the creatures you see so small that you basically have to be zooming in on them through a camera in order to really comprehend what you're seeing, or are they large enough to be appreciated with the naked eye?

I'd rather dive a reef but I did see enough weird creatures large enough to appreciate with the naked eye to make it worthwhile. I also heard that at times there can be amazing sightings like huge groups of squid and such.
For me, strictly in the novelty category for now, but glad i checked it out.
 

marginwalker

Registered
Messages
26
Reaction score
32
Location
Fresno CA
# of dives
0 - 24
Excellent report! Thanks for sharing. I'm curious what water temps you normally dive and what exposure suit you wear. We're heading to PDC in a month to dive cenotes (and reefs) and trying to decide between bringing a 3mm or 7mm wetsuit.
 

drrich2

ScubaBoard Supporter
ScubaBoard Supporter
Messages
9,554
Reaction score
7,822
Location
Southwestern Kentucky
# of dives
200 - 499
The gist of it is, trek out to deep water at night, drop a buoy with a string of very bright lights rigged below it at 5, 10, and 15 meters, then circle the area in a leisurely fashion and ogle the strange creatures rising from the deep.
Very interesting. Are the creatures drawn to the light, or just coming up anyway and the light happens to show them passing?

Here's why I ask. Let's say someone goes to Bonaire and is inspired by your black water dive account. Let's say he heads out into the blue (black) due west away from shore, at a site where he knows he's probably over a bottom that's 200+ feet deep. Then he pulls out his SMB and finger spool, sends it up, and hangs out at 30 feet for 40-minutes, stationary, shining his dive light around hoping to get lucky.

I wonder what the odds are of that plan working out? For Bonaire, or anywhere independent shore diving is an option?
 

ggunn

ScubaBoard Supporter
ScubaBoard Supporter
Messages
11,555
Reaction score
4,858
Location
Austin, TX, USA
# of dives
500 - 999
Very interesting. Are the creatures drawn to the light, or just coming up anyway and the light happens to show them passing?

Here's why I ask. Let's say someone goes to Bonaire and is inspired by your black water dive account. Let's say he heads out into the blue (black) due west away from shore, at a site where he knows he's probably over a bottom that's 200+ feet deep. Then he pulls out his SMB and finger spool, sends it up, and hangs out at 30 feet for 40-minutes, stationary, shining his dive light around hoping to get lucky.

I wonder what the odds are of that plan working out? For Bonaire, or anywhere independent shore diving is an option?
For some reason that makes me feel very uneasy. What if something shows up that you would rather did not? Irrational, maybe. Too many monster movies when I was a kid, maybe. Whatever the reason, for night diving I'll stick with a group in shallow water.
 

Ian Fatzinger

Contributor
Messages
78
Reaction score
18
Location
Oahu, Hawaii
# of dives
200 - 499
Jealous you got to do blackwater with my boy bobtec. Gonna make it down soon to do just that!
 

Ian Fatzinger

Contributor
Messages
78
Reaction score
18
Location
Oahu, Hawaii
# of dives
200 - 499
Very interesting. Are the creatures drawn to the light, or just coming up anyway and the light happens to show them passing?

Here's why I ask. Let's say someone goes to Bonaire and is inspired by your black water dive account. Let's say he heads out into the blue (black) due west away from shore, at a site where he knows he's probably over a bottom that's 200+ feet deep. Then he pulls out his SMB and finger spool, sends it up, and hangs out at 30 feet for 40-minutes, stationary, shining his dive light around hoping to get lucky.

I wonder what the odds are of that plan working out? For Bonaire, or anywhere independent shore diving is an option?
Every night the largest migration in the world happens. Predatory zooplankton and other larval creatures migrate from the disphotic zone to the euphotic zone under the cover of darkness. They are then able to feed freely on the phytoplantkon that photosynthesized throughout the day, and then sink back down into the darkness as the sun comes up. Super incredible and worthwhile, but definitely donʻt recommend trying this on your own without professionals. The environment also has to be over a lot more water than 200 as light generally penetrates deeper than 300m in oligotrophic tropical waters
 
https://www.shearwater.com/products/teric/

Top Bottom