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Tim Hooker

Dive Report member, Tim Hooker, recently went to Cozumel. He has provided us with an in-depth report about his trip. We hope it is useful for those planning to go Diving in Cozumel in the future!

Dive Travel - From February 27 through March 5, 2016

Weather: Rain on Saturday @ arrival, Sunny and 75’ air temps through Wednesday. Rain Thursday afternoon and on departure day.

Flying in to the Island was a breeze as there are regular flights from almost anywhere every day of the week. Getting through customs was about as easy as it gets with the normal customs paperwork filled in before you land. Getting taxi service is also very easy. As soon as you’ve cleared your baggage just head towards the exit and you will find a ticket counter just before you go out the doors on the left where you can purchase a shared cab ride to anywhere on the island. If you miss it you will be pointed in the right direction. They will designate your cab based on the area you are traveling to. We went to Hotel Cozumel, which was a 10 minute ride that cost me $12.00 and trust me a $2-3.00 tip is more than enough. While you’re on the island if you don’t rent a car or motorcycle and choose taxi remember, everything is negotiable, and if you wait on the right taxi you’ll get the right price Downtown is only 5 minutes from the Hotel. It cost us $6.00 to get there. Coming back one driver said he would transport us for $10.00. We passed and the next cab took us for $5.00.

Cozumel Downtown

Downtown is great for fantastic food and if you like shopping or for your typical tourist stuff there is plenty of it there.  While we were in town there were 7 cruise ships at port. If you average 3K travelers a vessel, that puts you in town potentially shopping with 21,000 people. The town of San Miguel’s population is about 75K so that makes shopping crowded. Every shop you pass buy you are solicited by vendors standing in the street yelling, “Hey it’s my turn now. come in my store I have what you want!” Long story short only one vendor spoke the truth when he said, “Hey sir! You want to come in my store and give me a chance to rip you off just a little bit?” True story! Long story short there are numerous shops, and all of them have the same stuff. You can however, work some good deals.  It’s a fun place to visit during your off gassing day before your flight home.

Hotel Cozumel was our choice as we’ve been there before so being familiar is very convenient. It does happen to be one of the best deals on the Island if you like an all inclusive 3 dives a day package. The hotel boasts a buffet style restaurant with several cook stations. Hours of operation will guarantee you a meal no matter when you dive.  There is a well stocked bar at the restaurant and also a bar at every eating station at the place.  Outside by the pool there is what they call a snack bar but it’s more like a meal bar. You can eat there throughout the day. Just across the street next to the Dive Paradise Dive Shop is their Beach Club where drinks and food flow all day long. You can access the Beach Club and dive shop by walking across the street, or avoid a treacherous traffic crossing travel across in an underground tunnel that connects the hotel to the other side. The food was for the most part pretty darn good and there was plenty of it. You will not have an opportunity to go hungry during your stay! Rooms are comfortable. They boast free internet, which actually works. The TV’s get a limited amount of American channels that are blessed with Spanish subtitles, but there’s not much time for TV. This is Mexico so “Don’t drink the water.” holds true in this case. Water at dining facilities is ok, just not out of the tap in the rooms. They give you bottles that you can constantly re-fill at stations throughout the hotel. Beds are, well, hard. However, if you’re doing 3 dives a day it really won’t matter as you should sleep fine. Bathrooms are small. Each room comes with a vault if you have need for that. Rooms come with a balcony that has convenient racks for hanging stuff that needs drying and provides a view of the pool. All floors are tile which makes for some loud noise when maid service or patrons with wheeled suitcases are traveling through, but who’s trying to sleep late? You’re there for the ocean right? There is a huge pool. Not many folks were in it on this trip as the water was a bit chilly. This was early March after all. Hotel staff  perform various forms of entertainment in the early evening on an outside stage, but at least they are courteous enough to cut it off at a decent hour. The Hotel boasts several other amenities such as massage services, workout room etc. However, diving was our workout.  Overall, hotel staff was very helpful and informative and made for a very pleasant stay.

Accommodations

Dive Paradise runs out of the shop at the beach across the street from the hotel. However, it is not their headquarters as they have several locations throughout the island. It is, if I’m not mistaken, the largest of the 100 dive operators in Cozumel. That’s right, I said 100. The island is now on Central Daylight Savings Time year around. Boats are scheduled to depart the dock at 8:00am for 2 dives, sometimes you leave at 8:30, then you return for lunch and head back out around 2 for #3. FYI, when you leave dock you may venture to several other docks to pick up other passengers before heading to the dive site. Extra dives may be purchased, plus special dives for qualified divers such as a fast boat ride to Punta Sur for a 130’ confined space dive through Devil’s Throat, night dives, dusk, and dawn dives etc. Boats vary in size a capability. From over the side fast boats for 6-8 to modern decked boats for 18. Unless you get on a fast boat the operation is mostly cattle boat diving. However, Dive Paradise did well at managing this as they’d split the boat and we’d have no more than 8 in a group. In the 15 dives we took there were only a few circumstances where the water became crowded because of the sheer number of boats on the water. However, the absolute quality and health of the reef made it tolerable. Water temps on this trip were a very uncommon 77’. We were wearing a 3/2 and there was an initial shock of cold on every entry. Visibility was commonly 80’+. Not every dive was on a schedule, which means it was passengers choice. While heading out on several dives we would vote on a preferred sit which is why I dove Columbia reef 3 times. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as those who are new to the area get seasoned and experienced diver’s opinions of the best sites, not to mention the fact that there is no bad site in Cozumel. Only one dive locker is provided per room. The issue here is they are on the small side and there is NO room to hang anything. You can get two tightly packed rigs inside with some effort.  There are dunk tanks near the lockers and bars to hang your suits and BC’s, but you may have to fight for room. I don’t know of anyone who had a problem, but we chose not to leave ours there over night. Service here is not hands off for you! On every dive you carry your gear to the boat, they will assist you getting it on, then it’s mostly up to set up and prepare for the dive. MAKE SURE you confirm which boat you are on every day as this will change, a lot. The week we were there we were on 4 different boats with completely different staff. This made tipping difficult so we didn’t worry about it as we just tipped the shop at the end. I had mixed feelings about this because most days you were with different divers and this made it difficult to build relationships. Regardless, we met and dove with some fantastic divers. Most days the sea was lake water calm, but just a few days before we arrived the harbor master closed down all operations for a few days because of high winds and rough water. Rumor is a dive boat sank if that gives you the idea. Marine life was very diversified and every reef had something to offer. We saw more scorpion fish than ever on this trip. Also of note we didn’t see a single lion fish although others said they saw a few. The opinion now is that they have been so effectively culled, that they are now populating at deeper depths. On another note for those of you who are un- aware, this is drift diving. Pretty much jump in, get to depth, trim, and with very little effort cover a vast distance in a single dive. My advice to you, especially if you are documenting in photo or video, is to prepare for some form of drift control. I came with the bright idea on our last dive there and opted for a 12” plastic tent stake clipped to the BC that offers great stability on reef or sand with limited impact and costs about two bucks.



Long story short we had a fantastic trip! The reef is extremely healthy and colorful. There is a wide range of marine life from macro to huge eagle rays. There is something for every diver. It is convenient to the U.S. and a very easy trip. Cozumel should be on every divers list so if you have not been, go! If you have been, perhaps you should put it on your re-visit list. It is a great place to get wet! 

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