Trip Report - Cozumel, Mexico   10 May - 18 May 2000

I thought I was a Newbie, until I went to Cozumel:

  Janet and I made our first trip to Cozumel in May after getting Certified in September and making about 20 cold water dive in Puget Sound over winter. Here are some of the highlights from the trip:

Windows Media Clip of Cozumel DivingDay 1, Dive 1 was to Palancar Horseshoe (also called Palancar Bricks), 80'. 

Janet and I were both a bit nervous about our first dive, and about going to 80', as we'd never really been deeper than about 60' before. I dropped down about half-way to the bottom, and gazed up at several divemasters stuffing lead into Janet's pockets trying to get her to submerge. It was pretty amusing, as I'd told the DM he wasn't giving her enough weight (he gave her 14 lbs, and they wound up stuffing another 8 into her pockets to get her to sink).

 As I was floating along, watching her, and the rapid stuffing of the lead in the pockets, I saw a
weight-belt come sinking down past me. It wasn't Janet's (her's are integrated) so I looked around, and one of the Newbies on the boat had lost his belt on entry. One of the DM's swam down and retrieved the belt, and eventually we were on our way.

It was beautiful and clear down near the reef. We swam through a cut in the reef and sailed out over the edge of the wall. I was looking down into the dark-blue abyss below me, thinking to myself, "boy, it sure looks dark and scary down there at 80'". I then looked at me depth gauge, and I was already at 84', so it turns out, it really wasn't that dark and scary after all.  It was brightly colored, and the surface looked like it was only about 35 feet away. We swam along the wall, through swim-throughs with vividly colored sponges and corals. I was having a great time, when I saw our divemaster streaking past me, heading for another group of divers from the same boat. One of the divers had spit her regulator out and was obviously in some kind of distress. Our DM grabbed her, stuffed her regulator back into her mouth (air being very important when you are 80' underwater), grabbed her husband (who was acting fairly spastic at the time), and escorted her to the surface.

I found out later, that she felt as though she wasn't getting enough air from her regulator (even though she really had plenty).  In the meantime, our group wasn't sure where to go, or what to do, so they started following me as I swam slowly along the reef. I'm thinking to myself, "Oh great, now we have the blind leading the blind".

Eventually, our DM showed back up, and his timing was fortunate, as right about them, one of the Newbies in our group signaled he was low on air, which astounded me. It was his first open water dive since certifying the day before, so Scuba-Du had given him a HUGE tank of air (25% more than the rest of us), which he managed to suck dry in less than 25 minutes. Oil Well, better safe than sorry. We made our slow ascent to surface and got back on the boat.

Dive 2. After a pretty short surface interval. We were back in the water for our second dive. I was struggling with my Mexican dinner from the night before, so just sort of coasted along with the current, admiring the reef and the marine life. The fish life was beautiful, but the funniest moment came when the DM spotted a couple of big Lobster for us to look at. We swooped down into
this little cut in the reef and hovered at the entrance to a small cave, admiring the huge lobster. Then came our Newbie, sort of like the Spruce Goose, coming in for a landing. He swooped down, lost his buoyancy control, and crashed to the sandy bottom of the cut, tumbling and rolling in the current. He wasn't hurt, and I laughed pretty hard at all of the flopping about, (it's a good thing you can't hear laughter through a regulator, as I was trying not to laugh), even though he was obviously very embarrassed. Once we were back on the boat, I assured our good-natured Newbie that he'd only hit sand and hadn't damaged any coral, killed any marine life, or done anything that I hadn't done myself just a few short months ago, for which he was very grateful. 

That was enough excitement for one day, so we headed back to the hotel, wondering if our diving adventures were going to get any better (they did). 

The next day, we were off to Palancar Gardens and Chankanab Reef. The highlight of this dive (besides the beautiful scenery) had to be a HUGE black grouper that was following us around on the second dive. The grouper swam towards a different Newbie in our group, who was back-pedaling, and thrashing the water trying to get away from the "big fish". The DM finally calmed him down, and the fish swam by. However, that night, when we reviewed the video-tape from the dive, the "scared" diver had his girl friend with him, and she remarked, "honey, it looks like you were scared of that fish". He responded, "Oh no, darling, I was just trying to get out of its way." It was hard not to chuckle...

On Day 3, we dove Palancar Caves and many of the Sponges were spawning. They looked like little smoking forrest fires all over the reef. The newbies were less entertaining today, one simply forgetting to put on his mask before his giant stride entry. The best part was the deck-hand, "senor, your mask!" chasing him off the end of the boat.

On Day 4, we dove Colombia Reef, and began to spot lots of Toadfish, which the DM would coax out to play. They sure are cute. I think it was the more experianced divers that were providing the entertainment on the boat today. They were very forgetful, and kept trying to jump in the water without fins, or weights, or other fairly necessary components.

On Day 5, we dove the Santa Rosa wall, which was beautiful. There were no Newbies on the boat today, so our bottom times were long enough to get our computers into the caution zone, which was a nice change, but I sort of missed the entertainment, and I already miss Cozumel.


Other Information about the trip

The El Presidente Hotel had such a great review in Scuba Diver Magazine, that we decided to give it a try.  The service was outstanding, and I would recommend the Hotel to others, with a few caveats; 1. the room we stayed in was quite noisy.  There's no sleeping in (which is not a problem for divers) with the raucous birds waking you up every morning.  2. the on site, luxury restaurant El Arrecife had great service, and great food, but did make me sick as a dog (forced me to miss a day of diving).

 The Diving:

We dove with the hotel's on-site operator, Scuba Du.  We are both relatively new divers (30 dives), and Scuba Du had a good, safe reputation, plus we liked the convenience.  We did enjoy diving with Scuba Du, but would probably choose another dive operator for our next trip.  This would be mostly because they cut all but the last day's dives short at 30 minutes on the first dive and 35 minutes on the second dive, irregardless of NDL limits or the air we had left.  I finished with at least a half tank of air every dive.