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Return to Cozumel after 6 year absence

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DeltaWardog

DeltaWardog

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Normal radio does not work well or at all underwater, especially in salt water.

Sure, the range is tiny but it worked for Oceanic, Aqualung, Shearwater, etc for the last 20 years. I'm sure Garmin had their reasons for changing, maybe to get better range when monitoring your buddy's transmitter. Since tucking it away on the side of my BCD with a short hose, it has been mercifully 'silent' so I won't complain about it anymore. :)
 
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DeltaWardog

DeltaWardog

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Last night I decided it was time for some Italian food so I put on a nice shirt, dived into the taxi van, and headed for New Especias.

My experience with Italian food on the island had pretty much been limited to Guido's and Rolandi's before this, so that's the benchmark to consider when reading the rest of this review.

I arrived a bit before opening (which is at 6pm) and loitered around the open front door. Somebody came out, maybe to see if I was lost, and I said I was just patiently waiting for them to open. They invited me in five minutes early and, as per usual I had my choice of the entire restaurant for seating. I looked upstairs and it seemed nice and airy but it was still a bit hot out so I elected to sit downstairs in the AC.

The place is very tastefully decorated with sharp clean lines, neutral black and white tones, with fun but tasteful celebrity art on the walls and perfect lighting. I think they were going for 'upscale but fun' and they nailed it. I started with a glass of the house cab and admired the room for a bit while I pondered the menu.

NewEspecias_1.PNG


For an appetizer I had the caprese. It was perfect. The mozzarella and tomato were both top notch and very flavorful. They also brought me a sampler glass of a pear wine on the house (it's untasted yet, in this picture). It was too sweet for me to ever drink a glass of, but the sample size was just perfect and a nice complement to the tart tomato.

NewEspecias_2.png


For an entree I selected the Fettucine frutti de Mare, aka seafood pasta. It had a clam, a mussel, and a shrimp (maybe two) chopped up. My only complaint about the dish is that it could have used more meat. Next time I would ask them to double the seafood portion and tack on a surcharge. But I did enjoy it. The pasta was as good as it gets, the sauce was light and not salty (my usual problem with this kind of dish), and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

NewEspecias_3.jpeg


At this point I was about 50 minutes into my visit and another group of customers finally walked through the door! I was getting worried that a place this good wasn't getting business, but by the time I left after dessert there were at least four other tables seated, so I think they are doing ok.

The benefit of not being overloaded with seafood in the entree was that I had plenty of room for dessert. Looking over the menu the bells went off and I remember being told about this '20 minute dessert' so as soon as I saw it I ordered it. It's a chocolate torte baked when you order it (hence the 20 minutes) with a side of vanilla ice cream and some dollops of sweet cream and raspberry glaze. Small lines of a rich chocolate sauce and a sliced strawberry finishes everything off. It was absolutely as good as it looks, and was worth waiting for:

NewEspecias_4.jpeg


All told I walked out the door with a big smile on my face after eating everything you've seen here and drinking 2 glasses of cabernet, to the tune of 755 pesos before tip. An absolutely fantastic value. I'll be back!

To finish up the food reviews, after diving today I scrambled over to Dona Chely and finally got to try one of their famous tortas. I chose the shredded chicken, "un poquito" when asked if I wanted jalapeno, and it was all done in just a couple of minutes. I asked what time they close and he said 2pm. This whole time I had thought it was 1pm! I could have been eating here all this time instead of making ham sandwiches in my room! Oh well, live and learn. I asked how much I owed him, "55 pesos". I was like... what? Ridiculous. I gave him 120.

I hurried back to the room and unfolded the paper wrapping around my prize. The pic below isn't going to win any awards but you can see it has shredded chicken, plenty of cheese, lettuce, a very generous slice of avocado, and tomato, plus a couple of jalapenos as requested.

It was gone within 3 minutes of taking this picture. I was hungry and it was good! I think I'll be hitting them up for the rest of the week and the remaining sandwich stuff I bought at Super Aki can just stay in the fridge.

DonaChely_Torta.PNG


Tonight I'm off to Casa Mission for another dinner with friends and some tequila tasting! I have a 4 tank diving day tomorrow so with tequila tonight plus 4 back to back dives, tomorrow might be my last day on Earth. If you don't see any more reports from me, you'll know what happened. Don't let anyone say I didn't know what I was getting myself into. Just kidding, I'll behave tonight, I promise!

The dive report today is going to be pretty minimal. All the big stuff was apparently still asleep this morning. Maybe Tuesday nights are rough out on the reefs? I don't know what the clubbing scene is like down there but last night must have been a helluva party.

We hit Columbia Deep first and I was excited to catch a glimpse of the juvenile reef sharks I saw there last time, but alas they were nowhere to be found, nor was much of anything else of significant size.

The second dive was Delilah and it was its usual serene self. A nice, chill, 50ft average dive with plenty of nooks and crannies to peek into. We did see about 10 lobster over the course of Dive 2 though, including one big chonker who got tired of me staring at him and decided to go for a walk across the bottom from one coral head to another so he could show off his lobster muscles. That was pretty cool. We also spotted a rockfish hanging around towards the middle of the dive. He was as unimpressed to see us as as they always are.

So no turtles, no sharks, no rays today. It was just two great dives with incredibly slow current, plenty of time to look at whatever you wanted, lots of beautiful fish, beautiful scenery everywhere you turn, a group of solid divers and a mild nitrogen hit to really bodyslam you into that zen state of mind. It was, you know... Cozumel. :)
 

ReefHound

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In general, Mexicans eat dinner a lot later than Americans. The restaurants that cater to tourists are often shutting down by 10pm whereas the ones catering to locals are just getting started.
 

ggunn

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Last night I decided it was time for some Italian food so I put on a nice shirt, dived into the taxi van, and headed for New Especias.

My experience with Italian food on the island had pretty much been limited to Guido's and Rolandi's before this, so that's the benchmark to consider when reading the rest of this review.

I arrived a bit before opening (which is at 6pm) and loitered around the open front door. Somebody came out, maybe to see if I was lost, and I said I was just patiently waiting for them to open. They invited me in five minutes early and, as per usual I had my choice of the entire restaurant for seating. I looked upstairs and it seemed nice and airy but it was still a bit hot out so I elected to sit downstairs in the AC.
It's been a few years since I last ate at Especias, but when I did I believe the downstairs was a gift shop or gallery of some kind. At any rate, the whole restaurant was up that set of outside stairs, assuming that it has not moved to another building. We always go to Cozumel with my mom who doesn't handle stairs well, but next time we'll put it back on the short list.
 
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DeltaWardog

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The last couple of days have been busy! As the trip wound down I plugged in extra dives to try (unsuccessfully) to fend off that "I didn't dive enough" feeling, had another dinner with friends, and today had to run out and get my COVID test. I'm still waiting on pins and needles to see if I'm going home on Sunday or not. But I finally have a moment to sit down and write about my latest experiences.

First off, dinner with friends at Casa Mission on Wednesday night was great. Since my friends used to be locals they know the staff and the staff knows them, so we got the super secret menus. We all ordered different flavors of fajitas and got to work. I'm not going to review the food because gringos like us order from a different menu and the plates that you get are a little different, so it wouldn't apply anyway. But it all comes from the same kitchen, and the fajitas were great. Towards the end of the evening two of us ordered a margarita (my friend says they are the best on the island for his tastes) and I can confirm it's top notch. I wouldn't put it above El Moro but if you blindfolded me I might have trouble telling the difference, it was that good. Come to think of it, blindfolded margaritas sounds like the beginning of a great disaster movie.

Diving on Thursday was a four tank day, morning and afternoon trips. I decided to dive nitrox all day just for safety's sake - four tanks in a row is pretty rare for me. I think it was a good choice because at the end of the day I had no fatigue and still felt fantastic. Perhaps nitrox will become the order of the day for me on future trips? I'll definitely be considering it more after breaking my 13 year streak of diving air only.

We started the day at Palancar Caves and and the two big highlights of that dive were seeing a few more trumpetfish, and a baby trunkfish. Now that I'm finding more trumpetfish on the dives I feel a little better - after going over a week without spotting one I was really worried for those guys. They are quite obviously in some sort of decline here because I used to see them all the time, but they aren't gone yet.

The baby trunkfish sighting is just one of my favorite things. They are the super cutest cute fish of all cuteness. This guy was black with white spots and looked like he fell out of a box of reverse colored dice. I watched him swim around in a soft coral for 30 seconds, looked over to see if I could get the attention of another diver I thought might want a picture of him, and when I looked back I'd lost him. Maybe he was late for a Dungeons & Dragons game, I dunno.

Second dive was at San Clemente, and this time the ticket taker at the entrance was a medium size puffer just chillaxing under a soft coral that was gently blowing in the current. He posed for a couple photos and we went on our way.

Just past him was the unique highlight of the dive - there were two Flamingo Tongues hanging out on a branch, but right next to them was a Fingerprint Tongue! Those guys are super rare from what I understand. It was neat to see all three of them together.

Next up Martin pointed out four tiny algae covered rocks that, upon closer inspection, turned out to be what he later called Leather Slugs. I didn't know these things existed and would never have noticed them on my own. Their camouflage is very, very good.

To cap off the dive I got a knee right in the face. Yeah, another diver decided that swimming right by my mask while I was looking the other way was a good idea. When I turned my head back to the other direction his knee punched me right in the cheek and rang my bell pretty good. I have absolutely no idea what possessed him to swim that close to me with a whole ocean of space around, or why he thought vigorous swimming next to another diver's head was a good idea. The impact took my mask off my face for a second and partially flooded it, so I fixed it, cleared it, rubbed my cheek, and tried to recover my zen. Up on the surface I asked if he knew that he kneed me in the face and he was pretty nonchalant about it. Nothing close to an apology. I considered my options and decided not to go ballistic since it was his last dive with us anyway. But man... that certainly damaged my calm for a few minutes.

Third dive of the day, first of the afternoon, was at Palancar Gardens. We had two divers on board that hadn't been in the water for about 5 years and they wanted a quick refresher. So after dropping in I left the three of them to it and poked around in the neighborhood for interesting stuff to see - after all, nobody wants an audience when they're doing air sharing drills and mask clears. I did manage to find a lobster tucked away, and soon enough their refresher was over, I showed them my important discovery, and we were on our way.

Now I love Palancar Gardens in the morning but diving it in the afternoon is a special treat. The afternoon light bouncing off some of those massive formations is breathtaking. Staring at the god-rays of sunlight punching through the water and lighting up the towers of coral all around me, I felt like I was staring at a gigantic, gleaming monument to Poseidon. Rolling over on my back at 70 feet and looking back up at the beautiful mountains gave me an incredible sense of awe. It was special. My friend (the DM) and I raised our hands up in praise and thanks.

The formations were just about all the Gardens had to offer us on this dive though. We found a tiny baby flounder on the sandy bottom, and I did spy another couple of trumpetfish in the soft corals (yay) but that was about it.

Last dive of the day was at Delilah, and after 2 days of no sharks I finally struck gold. Thanks to my trusty dive light I found a medium sized nurse shark napping waaaaaaay back in a tiny cave under a long ledge. Would have been impossible to see without the dive light, and it's always a rush when I finally find something cool after peering under the umpteenth ledge or empty hole.

We also bagged a splendid toadfish sighting on this dive, but otherwise it was just the regular fish - but SO many of them. Delilah is absolutely alive with juvenile activity, and the swarms and school of little babies everywhere are a delight to swim around.

After four tanks I cleaned up and headed out for dinner, and I'm sad to say it was my first disappointment of the trip. I went to Soy Gardel and... things just didn't go well. I don't like to beat up on places online, and this place has a great reputation from what I can tell, but my experience was not good. As far as I could tell I was the only customer, and I really felt like the staff just didn't want me there. It was such a weird vibe I was getting, and I struggled to find a groove while trying to talk to them. I ordered an appetizer that never came (but I wasn't charged for), and the entree was just not up to the standards I expected from the reviews and recommendations I'd seen. I normally like to take my time at a restaurant but I cut this visit short with my food only half eaten and headed out the door. For those of you that like it, I hope you continue to get great food and good service there. I don't know what was up last night, but I won't be going back.

So as to not end today's report on a bummer, I'm going to flip back in time to lunch. Between the morning and afternoon diving I got dropped back off at 'home' for a quick lunch break, and I once again headed over to Dona Chely's to try something else on the menu. My driver had raved about their Sopes and since the Torte had been fantastic the day before, I had to try it. I got the pork version and scrambled back to my room to eat it. But I wasn't sure how! Is this thing supposed to be eaten with a fork and knife, bite by bite? It came on a flimsy styrofoam plate so I felt that wasn't the proper method. With no one around to judge me, I elected to fold it in half and eat it like a big sloppy taco. I wasn't going to get any points for table manners, but I got through it with a minimum of collateral damage, and it was delicious.

Sopes.jpeg


I'm going to skip reporting much on this morning's dives - other than a few turtles on the second dive, they were super chill without much excitement. We did Palancar Bricks and La Francesca, and they were both great. The second dive was so chill I set a new personal record for SAC rate, and I think there were a few moments there where I came close to becoming one with the universe. Life was good today.
 

DandyDon

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COVID test. I'm still waiting on pins and needles to see if I'm going home on Sunday or not.
It should only take an hour, IF they got your email addy right. The clinic I used didn't, but I was walking back that way anyway and did want a hard copy, so no biggie there. Maybe you need to call them.
I have absolutely no idea what possessed him to swim that close to me with a whole ocean of space around, or why he thought vigorous swimming next to another diver's head was a good idea.
I think I would have asked if he was the only idiot in the family.
 
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DeltaWardog

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It should only take an hour, IF they got your email addy right.

I went to the International Hospital and was getting a little worried that I'd have to go back tomorrow, when I didn't have the results after a couple hours. But I did finally get the email a little more than 3 hours after I left, and the test says I'm going home.

Other than that minor delay, it was a piece of cake. I was in and out of there in less than 15 minutes. No appointment, just walked in. There was only one other person there getting the test while I was there.
 
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DeltaWardog

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And so, inevitably, the last day of diving arrived. It turned out to be the last diving day for all 6 of us on the boat, so we hoped it would be special.

We decided to try Palancar Horseshoe since nobody on the boat but me had done it on this trip yet. The current today was a concern, so divemaster Miguel told us we would drop in to Palancar Caves for the first 10 minutes, see how the current was, and then he'd decide which way to go. We ended up doing about 2/3 of the dive on Horseshoe and near the wall, and the bookends of the dive on Caves, because the current near the wall did get a big gnarly towards the end. A couple of turtles graced us with their presence on this one, including one that snuck up behind the backs of 3 divers waiting as the rest of us exited the swimthrough. I saw him coming up behind them just as they turned around and they all got a cool surprise - he was only a few feet away when they turned around and he swam right through a bunch of us. I love how fearless those guys are.

Towards the end of the dive as we were cruising a sandy bottom between coral, Miguel pointed out some tiny black worms in the sand. There were a little over a dozen of them, jet black and featureless, about 2mm long. It was neat to watch them crawl around on the sand but even back on the boat nobody was able to identify them. Miguel guessed it might have been teeny nudi's, but wasn't sure.

During the surface interval we got a really cool treat. We pulled up to a deserted bit of shoreline, and just a couple minutes later a saltwater croc swam right by the boat! Unfortunately he didn't grace us with any surfacing so I had to settle for this lousy pic of him cruising by while still underwater. We slowly followed him for a bit in the boat but he wasn't interested in coming up for air, and eventually we lost him in the sea grass.

Saltwater Croc cropped.jpg


For the second dive I suggested a 'custom route' that my op likes to call Eric's Reef, after one of the divemasters that used to work there who came up with it. It's basically the end of Dalilah and then a short swim across the sand to the beginning of Paso del Cedral. I always have amazing luck on this dive and Cozumel wanted to send me off with a smile, so she gave us a fantastic presentation. We covered a lot of ground on this dive because the current was really ripping in some places, but it was calm in others so we occasionally got to stop and loiter for interesting critters.

We spotted a huge hermit crab digging away early on, and I got right in his face and watched his mandibles chewing up the sand like a piece of heavy construction machinery. It was pretty cool to watch him chew through the ground, filtering whatever it is those guys eat. There was also a pretty big lobster close by who I guess was supervising the construction work.

Just past them was a smallish puffer fish having a bit of a lie down in some soft coral. He had the same sparkly eyes as the one I wrote about in an earlier report. The crazy eye coloring must be something they have when young and then grow out of, but whatever it is it looks awesome. I spied a pretty good sized spotted drum, and just past him a large fish I didn't recognize. He had a couple of spines coming off the top of his head almost like a porcupine. My cheat sheet tells me it was probably a hogfish. Cool! A splendid toadfish rounded out the sightings on that section of the reef, but he got spooked as soon as we found him and went quite a bit back in his hole, so it was hard to get a really good look at him.

Then the really cool stuff started showing up. We found a small spotted eel, black and white, hiding quite well under a tiny coral head. His tail was easy to spot poking out of the back of the coral, but I really had to get my mask down in the sand to peek under that ledge and get a good look at him. Shortly after that the current really picked up so we were flying. Suddenly Miguel spotted a pretty large nurse shark hanging out in a little indentation in the side of the coral - not under a ledge at the end where they usually seem to like to nap. I'm so thankful for these eagle eyed divemasters because I'm sure without him we would have all sailed right past it without noticing. It took all we had with swimming against the current and using finger holds on the sandy bottom just to stay in place long enough to look at the sleepy shark for a little bit. Totally worth it though; it was cool to be basically face to face with a napping nurse shark.

The current finally let up a little bit and the next discovery was the head of a huge green moray barely peeking up from the bottom of a coral head. Everybody seemed to be hiding from this wicked current except us! He looked like a pretty big boy, but he was tucked in there so far we could only see his jaws peaking out while he huffed and puffed at us, as they do. Seeing these two eels in one dive was pretty rad, because they seemed to be hard to come by on this trip. I think I only saw maybe 4 green morays total in 30 dives.

The rest of the dive was calmer and as we moved up to the 30-40 foot shallows it turned into the glorious fishy dives that we all love. There were baby everything everywhere, and it was fun to peek into barrel sponges and around the tubers and soft corals to see what little guys where swimming about.

As the clock and the PSI ticked down, I basked in the glow of this glorious dive while at the same time feeling that tinge of sadness I'm sure we all feel on the last dive of a trip. I watched the reef pass by under me as long as I could, but 600 PSI finally showed up on the computer and I had to say goodbye. I turned back to the reef at 30 feet, blew it a big double handed kiss, and said goodbye. As if to give me a parting gift, a barracuda swam right between the 3 of us still in the water as we did our safety stop.

Glorious.

Thanks everyone for reading all my trip reports. I really enjoyed writing up my adventures to share with you, and I hope it gave you a small spark of that joy that we all feel diving and enjoying the wonderful food in this lovely place. I have one more dinner at El Pique to look forward to, and then that airplane home tomorrow. Of course, the wheels in my head are already turning, trying to figure out how soon I can come back.

Adios, amigos!
 

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THANK YOU so much for sharing! I have felt that JOY we all feel when diving the Cozumel reefs by reading your awesome reports in this whole thread! I too am SOOOOO sad to come up that last dive of the trip. I have often sobbed underwater on my last safety stop of our 2 week trips. Kinda hard to do with regulator in my mouth, but I assure you it's happened! Safe travels home to reality of life. I really have appreciated you taking the time to share and post your dives and meals that I miss on the island so terribly!
 
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