Questions re: Socorro, La Paz, Xcalak, Tulum, Bay of Pigs in April/May 2022

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dumpsterpurrs

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COVID willing, my friend and I are planning to spend about a month diving around Mexico. We will be flying in from Taiwan after diving there too, and then hopping over to Cuba to dive the Bay of Pigs. Scubaboard was so helpful when I asked for Galapagos advice. Sadly, I can no longer go since Ecuador recently withdrew my country from their visa-free/VOA country list. The silver lining is, trading in the 1-week Galapagos LOB, now we can easily afford 5-6 weeks of diving all over Taiwan, Mexico, and Cuba, including a Socorro LOB! We're planning to spend the first or second half of April in Taiwan before crossing the Pacific to Mexico. I hope you can help us with a few pointers:

1. What would be the cheapest way to get on a LOB to Socorro? I want to go to San Benedicto and Roca Partida, which all LOBs seem to go. Online off-the-rack prices tend to hover around $2700/22dives on several boats. Can we get lower last minute rates somehow, either online or on the spot?
2. Considering we're based in Southeast Asia with easy access to Raja Ampat and Komodo, should we still dive Banco Chinchorro? It's quite a bit more expensive than sticking to Xcalak with XTC Dive Center.
3. For cenotes-diving, is there another option to base ourselves other than Tulum? We're a bit intimidated by the crowds...
4. Bay of Pigs: we want to dive in Playa Larga, Cueva de los Peces, Punta Perdíz, and Caleta Buena. Should we base ourselves in Playa Giron or somewhere else, and dive Playa Larga last on our way back?

Many thanks!!!
 

FettSolo

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I'll answer what I can:

1. You might be able to snag a "Black Friday" deal where they shave another $100-200 off the price. Otherwise, to get cheaper usually requires a last-minute cancellation on a trip, which could be difficult to plan for.

3. Most of the cenotes are between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, so you could stay in PDC (though plenty of crowds there) or find some other lodging on the road between the two of them. Any dive shops you work with will probably be based in PDC or Tulum though.
 

Manuel Sam

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1. Additional costs you have to factor into your total Socorro Liveaboard cost are (a) $75 per dive day park fee, so about $375 for typical 9 day/8 night trip with 5 full days of diving; (b) the cost of Nitrox, which can be anywhere from $100 to $150; (c) gratuities; (d) an overnight hotel stay plus airport transfers if you plan on arriving the night before boarding, as well as meals; (e) other personal expenses. Some liveaboards also tack on a 16% Mexican VAT tax to the quoted price.

2. In my opinion, there is really no comparison between Indo-Pacific diving and Caribbean diving. In terms of diversity and sheer number of species - both vertebrate and invertebrate - the Caribbean to me is a relative desert. Is there something specific that you expect to see in Chinchorro that you cannot see elsewhere?

I would only go out to Chinchorro if there were something there that is really unique to see, aside from being able to say that you were at one of the four atolls in this hemisphere. For example, if there were mermaids. And I don't mean manatees, which are related to dugongs. I do know that you can see crocodiles there while wading in shallow water with mask and snorkel - not sure if you can dive with them tho.

3. Add Akumal as another place where there are multiple lodging options, but Playa del Carmen definitely has more lodging and dining options.
 
OP
dumpsterpurrs

dumpsterpurrs

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2. In my opinion, there is really no comparison between Indo-Pacific diving and Caribbean diving. In terms of diversity and sheer number of species - both vertebrate and invertebrate - the Caribbean to me is a relative desert. Is there something specific that you expect to see in Chinchorro that you cannot see elsewhere?

I would only go out to Chinchorro if there were something there that is really unique to see, aside from being able to say that you were at one of the four atolls in this hemisphere. For example, if there were mermaids. And I don't mean manatees, which are related to dugongs. I do know that you can see crocodiles there while wading in shallow water with mask and snorkel - not sure if you can dive with them tho.
That's what I need to know! Chinchorro is off then. What do you think about Xcalak? We think Socorro is likely worth it even in comparison to Southeast Asia, and Tulum has cenotes, which I expect to be obsessed with. La Paz is for seals. I'm not too sure about Xcalak. It sounds like a good kind of experience, but not sure if the diving is worth the effort of getting there.

At the moment I still need to sit tight and wait for the COVID situation to play out a bit more, but if liveaboards allow me to change dates for free, I might as well book our spots over Black Friday. $100-200 is not worth risking not getting any spot. I would only wait to book last minute deals if I can save like $500.

Does this plan look a-okay to y'all? Am I missing something amazing or wasting our time somewhere we'd be disappointed with? not sure why I have the impression that Socorro is better than Jardines de la Reina, which is why I'm skipping Jardines. But a fellow ScubaBoarder suggested Jardines is far better than Bay of Pigs. Which makes me wonder if Bay of Pigs is really that bad xD it wouldn't be a problem to do a few dives then bail to travel on land, since we're interested in Cuba anyway.
 

Manuel Sam

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I've been to Socorros 9 times since 2006. It is really a world-class destination for big animals, and if you like mantas, dolphins and sharks, and are in luck , you will have some really neat encounters. There are also big schools of fish and huge tunas. Y

are not gonna find this kind of stuff in SE Asia. There are also some occasional encountners encounters with other big stuff like false killer whales.
 

Manuel Sam

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Sorry, ran into some technical difficulties typing the above reply with my dumbphone.

I should say in defense of Caribbean diving that the fish that you can see on this side of the world are different than the ones you see in SE Asia. That is to say, that the butterflyfish, angelfish, damselfish, etc. on this side of the planet are different than the ones you have seen in SE Asia. If that is enough to make you happy, then you should be able to see them whether in Xcalak, Chinchorro or Cuba.

I don't know much about Xcalak other than it is located at the Mexican border with Belize. But to me, it still boils down to what am I going there to see?

For rather unique experiences, I would suggest La Paz to dive at the sea lions colony in Los Islotes even tho it is not the ideal time for the best viz.

Also if out of La Paz, and if towards the end of April and early May, snorkeling and freediving for the humongous schools of mobulas, and if really lucky, the Orcas that hunt them.

You could also entertain the idea of diving in Cabo Pulmo, which is south of La Paz, for bull sharks and for arguably the largest school of big eye jacks (called big eye trevallys elsewhere) in the world - if those sound appealing - altho again, it is not the best time in terms of viz. Also, do read a recent posting by Kumimonster on his recent experience at Cabo Pulmo, because the best divesite there to see the bull sharks is El Vencedor, and it is not a sure thing that you will be able to dive it if you only go for a few days. That is because the number of divers at each of the premium sites is restricted.

Since you are coming from SE Asia, where water temps are typically 27-28, except for some places in Indonesia, please be aware that April-May water temps in Socorros and in the Sea of Cortes are typically 21-25C.
 

mcohen1021

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COVID willing, my friend and I are planning to spend about a month diving around Mexico. We will be flying in from Taiwan after diving there too, and then hopping over to Cuba to dive the Bay of Pigs. Scubaboard was so helpful when I asked for Galapagos advice. Sadly, I can no longer go since Ecuador recently withdrew my country from their visa-free/VOA country list. The silver lining is, trading in the 1-week Galapagos LOB, now we can easily afford 5-6 weeks of diving all over Taiwan, Mexico, and Cuba, including a Socorro LOB! We're planning to spend the first or second half of April in Taiwan before crossing the Pacific to Mexico. I hope you can help us with a few pointers:

1. What would be the cheapest way to get on a LOB to Socorro? I want to go to San Benedicto and Roca Partida, which all LOBs seem to go. Online off-the-rack prices tend to hover around $2700/22dives on several boats. Can we get lower last minute rates somehow, either online or on the spot?
2. Considering we're based in Southeast Asia with easy access to Raja Ampat and Komodo, should we still dive Banco Chinchorro? It's quite a bit more expensive than sticking to Xcalak with XTC Dive Center.
3. For cenotes-diving, is there another option to base ourselves other than Tulum? We're a bit intimidated by the crowds...
4. Bay of Pigs: we want to dive in Playa Larga, Cueva de los Peces, Punta Perdíz, and Caleta Buena. Should we base ourselves in Playa Giron or somewhere else, and dive Playa Larga last on our way back?

Many thanks!!!
My 02 cents

Socorro goes on sale and you can get it for anywhere between 22-2600 USD. I would not use the Socorro aggressor again because of the boats electrical issues I experienced 1st hand.

As a Cuban American, i wish everyone would boycott travel to Cuba.
 

horn34

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If I had that much free time and cash in Cuba, I would add a liveaboard to Jardines de la Reina to your list.

Definitely go to Banco Chinchorro, but go from Mahahual. You can go with Amigos del Mar or Tritones for $150/person. XTC just charges too much.

Which doesn't mean you should skip Xcalak. You can see some really cool unique stuff with XTC, #1 would be the La Poza tarpon.
 
OP
dumpsterpurrs

dumpsterpurrs

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For rather unique experiences, I would suggest La Paz to dive at the sea lions colony in Los Islotes even tho it is not the ideal time for the best viz.

Also if out of La Paz, and if towards the end of April and early May, snorkeling and freediving for the humongous schools of mobulas, and if really lucky, the Orcas that hunt them.

You could also entertain the idea of diving in Cabo Pulmo, which is south of La Paz, for bull sharks and for arguably the largest school of big eye jacks (called big eye trevallys elsewhere) in the world - if those sound appealing - altho again, it is not the best time in terms of viz. Also, do read a recent posting by Kumimonster on his recent experience at Cabo Pulmo, because the best divesite there to see the bull sharks is El Vencedor, and it is not a sure thing that you will be able to dive it if you only go for a few days. That is because the number of divers at each of the premium sites is restricted.
You have such good advice! Really helped me focus and improve my plan. Definitely adding Los Islotes and Cabo Pulmo. Skipping Xcalak and Chinchorro - sounds a bit too similar to my previous experiences for too much money (sorry @horn34 , it's hard to justify the price/quality ratio when you can easily find top of the world diving in Southeast Asia for $18-22/tank)

If I had that much free time and cash in Cuba, I would add a liveaboard to Jardines de la Reina to your list.
How does Jardines compare with Socorro? My budget might not be able to stretch so far as to cover both comfortably.

Socorro goes on sale and you can get it for anywhere between 22-2600 USD.
Where and when can I find those good deals? In advance online somewhere, via email with a local agency, or last minute after arrival?

As a Cuban American, i wish everyone would boycott travel to Cuba.
Would it make a difference if I'm from and working to defend human rights in another brutally repressive Communist state? I grew up having fond feelings of closeness to Cuba due to my own country's Communist propaganda, which have grown into a fascination for Cuban stories and history as I become more aware of your reality. I've always been interested in learning how individuals and their yearning for freedom can survive in environments like yours and mine.

Without putting the burden to educate on you, would you mind pointing me to reliable sources where I can read more on ethical tourism/travel boycott in Cuba? I guess the context must differ enough since I can categorically say my activist colleagues in other Communist countries would welcome tourism and the chance to tell our stories to the world, as do I and the people of my country. I honestly don't know anyone in my country or other Communist countries, who oppose tourism altogether and consider international tourism to be supportive of state sanctioned violence and oppression/pro-Communism. But there were calls to boycott travel to Myanmar when their economy was almost all owned by the junta. Would you say the situation in Cuba is more similar to Myanmar rather than other Communist states?

In any case, it looks like I'll have to skip Cuba this time due to time constrain.
 

mcohen1021

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Where and when can I find those good deals? In advance online somewhere, via email with a local agency, or last minute after arrival?


Would it make a difference if I'm from and working to defend human rights in another brutally repressive Communist state? I grew up having fond feelings of closeness to Cuba due to my own country's Communist propaganda, which have grown into a fascination for Cuban stories and history as I become more aware of your reality. I've always been interested in learning how individuals and their yearning for freedom can survive in environments like yours and mine.

Without putting the burden to educate on you, would you mind pointing me to reliable sources where I can read more on ethical tourism/travel boycott in Cuba? I guess the context must differ enough since I can categorically say my activist colleagues in other Communist countries would welcome tourism and the chance to tell our stories to the world, as do I and the people of my country. I honestly don't know anyone in my country or other Communist countries, who oppose tourism altogether and consider international tourism to be supportive of state sanctioned violence and oppression/pro-Communism. But there were calls to boycott travel to Myanmar when their economy was almost all owned by the junta. Would you say the situation in Cuba is more similar to Myanmar rather than other Communist states?

With regards to Socorro, you just have to keep shopping it and wait for the right price, we came across a deal of 2600 and jumped on it…. That being said the Socorro aggressor was a new boat and not rated, so we took a chance on it because of the brand name… I will take a different boat next time.

With regards to Cuba, it wouldn't make a difference if you were from a Communist country or not, other than I feel your pain… I know my family's suffering and I know my dad was about to be executed at la cabaña… by Che Guevara before being stuck at Isla de pinos for 4½ yrs, a concentration camp prison….

My family was stripped of educations, businesses, bank accounts, property, they lost everything, even friends and family members who were killed.

There really is no ethical tourism in Cuba because no matter how you look at it you have to pay money to the government…. The people do not benefit from that. Even if I have a place to stay with my family there, I still have to pay for a hotel that is Communist controlled

So I have a very hard line stance towards Cuba,

if I never go so be it.
 
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