Trip Report Trip Report - PDC/Cozumel/Tulum (cenote)

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grassybreakfast

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You may have seen my thread a few weeks ago asking about recommendations for first trip to Riviera Maya (Cozumel/Cancun/PDC recommendations), and we just got back, so here's a trip report!

For context, my partner finished her PADI OW there, and I have BSAC SD with about 25 dives before this trip.

PADI OW Referral with Blue Life in PDC​

We decided to spend the first 2 days in PDC because we arrived late into Cancun, and didn't want to have to sort out transportation to Cozumel right away, and we also thought that it may be calmer to do the OW dives in PDC, and that turned out to be a very good call. We went with Blue Life. They are on the north end of 5th Ave, and we stayed in a hotel nearby (Hotel Morgana). Both were great. Blue Life first took us to Casa Cenote, which is an open air cenote with some cool light effects, and my partner did her first 2 OW dives as I tagged along. Max depth was about 6m. Long-ish drive to the cenote, and lunch/snack/water provided. Water was around 25C (as with all cenotes I think), and I was happy in my 3mm, though I'm pretty cold resistant.

Last two checkout dives were boat dives, about 10m. Not much to see, but water was very calm, and my partner was able to get comfortable on these dives (she was pretty nervous before). Both instructors were great. They also offer full cave training, so we decided that if we end up deciding on diving a cenote at the end of the trip, we would do it with them, but we deferred the decision at this point.

Cozumel with Jungle Divers​

Then we took the ferry over to Cozumel, stayed at Wyndham (fine and cheap with a very nice pool, but quite dated rooms), and dived with Jungle Divers (mostly Stef, but Elena on one day who I think is there temporarily?). JD is a small shop a bit out of the way, which is really the only downside, but from Wyndham it's just a 100 pesos taxi ride, and they meet at 9am for the morning trips, so plenty of time for a relaxed hotel breakfast before heading out. Short drive on their truck to the marina, and ~8-10 divers on the boat. Jungle Divers do max 4 per DM, but it was just us on most days, and 1 additional person on one day. Full lunch provided by the boat, and post-dive beers provided by JD.

First two days we were in very strong current. I guess it was good practice for me as I've not dived in current this strong before, but my partner (these were her first post-cert dives) found it very challenging. We were just flying past the reef and had quite a bit of trouble staying together and somewhat close to the guide. It turned out ok, but I'm really glad we didn't decide to do the OW checkout dives there! On one of the dives it was choppy and we went so far out that it took both Stef and I waving our sausages for 10 minutes before the boat noticed us.

We dived to the OW limits of 18m, and there is no dive time limit, and I usually thumbed the dives because even with my AL100 I was still running out of air first at ~15L/min SAC.

I was on EAN32 AL100 (AL100 air wasn't much cheaper, so I used nitrox), which was $15 over Air AL80. They always had an analyser I could borrow. All the AL100 tanks were convertible, but I did have to use the yoke adapter once with my DIN regs because they couldn't get the insert out.

On the third day conditions were forecasted to be similar, so we took a break from morning diving, and rented a car (used Fiesta Car Rental, which was nice and seemed honest) to explore the island. In the afternoon they told us current was unexpectedly low, and we ended up doing a shore night dive that was definitely the highlight of the trip - rays, octopuses, squids, eels, crabs... we saw everything! On the 4th day (our last day on Cozumel), we finally had some quiet ocean diving, and saw a baby shark, some big turtles, an eagle ray, and a lion fish.

Stef was great. He spent about half an hour each day telling us all about the different animals we are expected to see, and lots of very interesting information about them, and we really appreciated that. My partner rented their "Pro" kit with integrated weights, open heel fins, and AL Legend regs, all in very good conditions. They were also happy to hold on to my kit at the shop.

I was in a skin suit and comfortable (26C), but everyone else seemed to be in a wetsuit of some description.

Dos Ojos Cenote with Blue Life​

At this point we decided we want to go for a cenote, so we went to stay in Tulum for 2 days, and arranged to do Dos Ojos with Blue Life. They picked us up in Tulum town centre, and the guide was again great. Very thorough briefing, safety conscious, and did everything by the books. He was full cave diving side-mount and open water instructor, though I don't think he was a cave instructor. We did the bat cave line first, then since we still had tons of air left (I got my SAC down to 14.5L/m on this dive!), we decided to just continue onto Barbie Line on the same tanks. I found it very easy, and was able to completely relax on both dives. My partner said she was a bit nervous in the beginning, and had a foot cramp at one point (while we were in overhead area I think), but handled it perfectly without panicking. Our guide noticed straight away and turned back, and helped her remove the fin and massage the foot. Nice and uneventful dive after that, and I ended the second dive with 58 bars, and she still used less than I did. She said she enjoyed the dives and was glad she did it, but didn't find it as interesting as ocean diving, and I'm afraid I may be the same. Dos Ojos was very impressive though, it's like an alien world. There's plenty of room both vertically and laterally, so as long as buoyancy control is reasonably good, I feel it's pretty beginner friendly with a good guide. That said, she already had 11 dives then, including one night dive (so familiar with diving in the dark), and a lot of current fighting, which made this seem easy in comparison.

I was very comfortable in a 3mm again, though my partner said she got a bit cold towards the end in a slightly oversized 5mm.

Overall great experience and we can't wait to go back to Mexico! Very jealous of you Americans. It's a 14-16 hours combined flight for us each way from London, UK.

Sorry for the wall of text and hope it helps someone!
 

drrich2

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Glad you had a fine time! A few follow up questions:

1.) Cozumel has a great reputation in the U.S. as checking the boxes in terms of being easy to get to, easy on the budget, good diving, good food cheap topside, a range of accommodation options and just overall being a really good destination choice for scuba divers.

You are in London in the U.K. From looking at the globe in Google Maps, it looks like the Red Sea is closer to you, and I think it's got a reputation for beating out Caribbean diving (note: I've never been to the Red Sea, that might depend on what one values in diving and I'm not looking to start a fight, just commenting on the impression I've gotten from other posts).

What led you to choose Cozumel?

2.) Is there anything you'd have done differently on your trip, knowing what you know now?

3.) There are a few op.s, including Living Underwater and Aldora, that offer 120-cf steel tanks which enable longer dives. Would that have been of interest to you? A 100-cf AL tank is only 100-cf at 3,300 PSI fill pressure; when I was in Cozumel years ago, fills tended to be closer to 3,000 PSI, so around 90 or 91-cf maybe? Still a meaningful bonus over an 80-cf (which I've read tends to have around 77 or so cf of gas?), but my point is, bigger is an option.

4.) Do you plan to return to Cozumel?
 
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grassybreakfast

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Glad you had a fine time! A few follow up questions:

1.) Cozumel has a great reputation in the U.S. as checking the boxes in terms of being easy to get to, easy on the budget, good diving, good food cheap topside, a range of accommodation options and just overall being a really good destination choice for scuba divers.

You are in London in the U.K. From looking at the globe in Google Maps, it looks like the Red Sea is closer to you, and I think it's got a reputation for beating out Caribbean diving (note: I've never been to the Red Sea, that might depend on what one values in diving and I'm not looking to start a fight, just commenting on the impression I've gotten from other posts).

What led you to choose Cozumel?

2.) Is there anything you'd have done differently on your trip, knowing what you know now?

3.) There are a few op.s, including Living Underwater and Aldora, that offer 120-cf steel tanks which enable longer dives. Would that have been of interest to you? A 100-cf AL tank is only 100-cf at 3,300 PSI fill pressure; when I was in Cozumel years ago, fills tended to be closer to 3,000 PSI, so around 90 or 91-cf maybe? Still a meaningful bonus over an 80-cf (which I've read tends to have around 77 or so cf of gas?), but my point is, bigger is an option.

4.) Do you plan to return to Cozumel?
1) That's a very good point! We actually originally planned to go to the Red Sea, which is indeed much closer. However, it's very hard for my partner to get time off work, so we don't have a lot of flexibility on dates, and last week just happened to be Ramadan in Egypt, and we didn't really want to go there during Ramadan. We are planning on doing a short trip there later this year though.

2) I don't think so! I probably wouldn't have bothered diving in PDC if already certified, but we got some very nice and quiet conditions there for the checkout dives.

3) That's a good point! I did see that as well but we preferred smaller groups as my partner was very new. According to my computer most of the fills were about 210 bar (3045 PSI), so really closer to 90. I got that to match my partner's bottom time since she has much lower air consumption, but now that I got my SAC down to about 14-15L/min the difference is not as big and I may switch back to AL80, though as my partner gets more experienced I suspect the difference will grow bigger again. I have very high lung capacity so it seems unlikely that I'll be able to get my consumption much lower than this.

4) I would love to! I had a great experience, though it is very far and very expensive for us, so we will probably explore closer options first before going back. Also didn't get to visit Chichen Itza or Coba on this trip, which we would like to do at some point.
 

rick00001967

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so glad everything turned out. great choices.
 

drrich2

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Thanks for the follow up explanations. It's quite possible other U.K.-based divers fairly new to the hobby may run across your thread while researching dive travel options. When they see someone in a similar situation choose a give destination, it's like you 'voted' for that one. It sets an example.

ScubaBoard has a broad international membership, but a large enough number are concentrated in North America that the conversation often unconsciously assumes a North America-based perspective. What makes sense is often heavily dependent on where you're based.

The decision process used in plotting a trip is valuable.
 

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