Friday, July 25, 2008

Cozumel Dive Vacation – June 28th through July 5th, 2008

After almost three weeks at home, I am finally getting around to working on the blog entries recounting our experiences during our Cozumel dive trip. It was an amazing week full of awesome diving and great company – and while there was “issues” with the place we stayed, we had a great week of just hanging out, diving and being around friends. So, I can’t complain.

We flew out of San Francisco on a red-eye to Charlotte. In San Francisco we stopped into a bar near the gate and, lo and behold, ran into Susan and Vincent who I didn’t know but had been told were coming. Finding their luggage, I found them and introduced myself. How great that we weren’t even in Mexico yet but were already making friends with other divers in our group! In Charlotte, we met up with Lisa who I’ve known for years, but only in an online and telephone way. I was a little nervous about meeting Lisa, but after a hug, it felt like we’d been long time friends who were only recently living on different coasts. From Charlotte, we flew directly to Cozumel, all three of us sitting together in the same row, chatting the entire way down there. Going through customs and immigration felt like an eternity, anxiously awaiting to get to the resort, check in, bathing suits on and vacation started!

We were staying at the Wyndham in Cozumel which is a nicely situated resort for divers as it is quite far south, out of the city and close to the dive sites, making for shorter boat rides out and back. It is an all-inclusive, food and alcohol which is great but there are generally pretty long lines for… well, just about everything, especially the bar. But it was a nice enough resort. Rooms are spacious and the beds are comfortable, grounds are nice. The food is very good and the service in them tends to be very good by servers who, for the most part, seem very nice and interested in serving. But I will say that the hotel’s room cleaning was pretty bad and the management did not seem overly interested in remedying problems when they arose. But, as we all said, we weren’t impressed by the resort, but we were there to go diving and not hang out in the resort, so it didn’t matter.

We dove everyday with Sand Dollar Sports which was a decent operation. I believe that we benefited from the fact that we were on a dive shop organized trip. We had the same, large boat, DMs and crew everyday. We also had one of the best DMs I’ve ever had in my life – Alex Dorian. An amazing DM who really was genuinely interested ensuring that we had good dives with great critters and had as long as possible bottom times. It was awesome. Most dives were around 45 minutes, and we got to dive all the sites we were aiming to dive – so it was great.

When not diving, we were fortunate to have good snorkeling just off the shore from the hotel. During our snorkels there, we found schools of palometas (permits) that would aggressively bump into us, Sergeant majors, grunts, and even some barracudas. There was a Needlefish hanging out in the shallow reeds, and even a small octopus who had holed up in a rock. Mark even found a ray on one of the dives, in only about 2 feet of water.

Our DM was nice enough to suggest some other locations for snorkeling as well. One afternoon we visited Caleta where, after entering from the beach, the depth sharply increases allowing you to be in about 25-30 feet of water within 40 feet from the shore. There were tons of fish as the snorkeling boats generally feed the fish so they are quite accustomed to being around people, if only for their own selfish reasons. After putting up with the onslaught of inconsiderate snorkelers, we headed off to the second snorkeling sight down the road across from the Pirata Restaurant. While just about 1.5 miles down the road from Caleta, the site was completely different. The depth never exceeded 3 feet. The entire bottom was pitted and in almost all the holes were little urchins. Other than that, there were lovely purple sea fans. It was a lovely site although I always felt a bit nervous of being stuck by an urchin. While I am not overly interested in snorkeling most of the time, I was impressed by the quality of the snorkeling off the coast of Cozumel. It provided a very relaxing way to pass the afternoons after diving.

While the diving is different than what we are accustomed to in Northern California, it was wonderful to be in such clear, warm water. Having returned to California diving (this past weekend) with our 20’ (at best) viz – it made me appreciate the differences but, at the same time, there are definite benefits and disadvantages of both. But it was a wonderful vacation with great diving and I do miss being there. The nice thing about blogging, however, is that I guess to relive a little bit of the trip. So in the following entries, I’ll provide more detail about each of the day’s dives. Enjoy!

[PS: Mark recently bought me a download kit for my Suunto dive computer so I have been able to download my dive data. While I haven’t populated all of the information, I’ve got screen captures of the general information and will now be providing it along with my blogs! So, thanks sweets!]

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