Trip Report - 2012 Cozumel, Mexico

March 30th - April 7th, 2012

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Friday, March 30th

Our last trip to Scuba Club Cozumel was in 2010, and was such a great experience both topside and underwater, we decided to make a return trip this year. As a bit of a change, we decided this trip to extend a day, arriving on Friday instead of Saturday. All went as planned, other than our plane leaving Dallas 20 minutes late, and we arrived in Cozumel just after noon. After a green light and getting loaded in the shuttle van, we arrived at SCC in time to check in and head straight to the restaurant for lunch.

We were given room #78, which is directly over the Dive Shop. The room is a triple, having 2 double beds, plus a single, which was fine for us as we have so much camera gear. The room also has a table and chairs, and balcony with chairs and drying racks on both end walls. The balcony served as a great drying spot for our wetsuits, swimsuits, and booties all week. The rest of our dive gear (BCs, fins, masks, wts) stayed down in our locker. The resort had 1 large group which was leaving in the morning, so most of the dive lockers were already empty. We grabbed to lockers down by the shore dive entry area, put on our locks, and went to check in at the Dive Shop.

After a quick check-in, paperwork for diving and nitrox, we signed up for Saturday boat dives, grabbed 4 tanks for shore diving and carried them to our locker. We then returned to our room to finish setting up camera gear. By mid-afternoon we were in the water, doing a check-out dive. Aaaaahhhh!

One of the things we really love about the shore dive area at SCC is that you never know what you will see each dive. Of course there are always the usual suspects: yellow stingrays, scorpionfish, schools of grunts and parrotfish everywhere, as well as eels poking out of holes in the rock piles. Hermit crabs are common sites, you just have to be still and watch for movement to spot them. One little yellow ray was so busy eating that we watched him swim right over a scorpionfish who never even moved. It was quite comical to us. It was a great dive, but almost dinner time so we took our regulators/computers and camera back up to the room to shower and change/

It was Fiesta Night at SCC, which means dinner is served oceanfront and is Mexican buffet style food. The grills were fired up and chicken and steak were cooked for fajitas and tacos. Trays of all types of burritos, enchiladas, tostados, and other specialties were brought out and placed on several long tables. Guacamole, salas of all heat levels, and several desserts like Mexican rice pudding were provided, also. We ate a bit of everything, as well as had some ice cream to cap off our busy arrival day, then we headed up to the room and were asleep by 9pm. Busy busy day... and the best was yet to come!


Saturday, March 31th

Breakfast was served at 7am, and boats began loading at 8am. Since it was departure day for many of the guests, only 2 boats were going out. It was also the first day of diving for us and several others at the resort, so the DMs would be evaluating dive skills and then placing everyone on the appropriate boats for the rest of the week. We were put on the Observer, with DM Nestor and his crew of Jose and Eduardo. Other divers on the boat were Bret, Bob, and Rob who had been there for several days, and Tony and Cindy who had just arrived.

Our first dive was Dalila. Reports of crazy currents the past 2 weeks had the DMs all briefing everyone that if we encountered anything unusual or dangerous the dive would be called and all divers would return to the surface after a 3min safety stop. The current at this first site was a bit fast, but nothing too difficult to manage and we were rewarded with 5 hawksbill turtles!

The second dive was at Chankanaab, which is always a very fishy site. We were treated to a large eagle ray swimming past us, doing a little dance swooping up and down. 3 very large grouper and dog snappers, tons of filefish, angels, and very little current. Great dive.

We returned to the resort around 1pm, rinsed off gear and then had a wonderful lunch at the restaurant of BLT and Club sandwiches and fries, salad bar, and iced tea. We signed up for the afternoon C-53 wreck dive which was scheduled to leave the dock at 3pm, so we ate and then returned to the room to change out camera batteries.

We arrived at the wreck to find another dive boat already on the buoy, so we did a free ascent to the wreck. Since we had 9 divers, we were broken down into 2 groups, each with their own DM. Our DM Nestor took us in first. There was very little current, and we went down inside the wreck first, looping room by room, as Nestor pointed out the many channel clinging crabs that had moved in. We then came out of the wreck, and circled around visiting the propeller and outside areas, before looping back through a few sections again. Outside once more some divers went up the line, as Ron and I did one more loop around the wreck. It was a fantastic dive with clear vis and tons to see, including all the eels, both spotted and garden eels outside the wreck.

We turned to SCC, rinsed gear and changed to dry clothes. Every room at SCC has a refrigerator, and we love having cold beverages in our room, so we walked a block out the gate north to Chedraui. There we bought beer and sodas, as well as a couple of snacks for the room. Around 7pm we headed down for dinner.

Scuba Club Cozumel restaurant has a menu posted each morning and each guest picks an entree for the dinner service during the day (tell the nice lady at the desk and she will write it on her room list). Our choices for tonight were Hawaiian shrimp, Chicken Cilantro, or Mediterranean pasta. We ordered one of the shrimp and one of the chicken so we could share. The Shrimp dish consisted of bacon wrapped shrimp on skewers, which were grilled and then had pineapple and potatoes on the side with steamed chayote and carrots. The Chicken dish was a sauted breast with a creamy cilantro sauce, rice and veggies. Both dishes were quite delicious! Appetizers and desserts were also quite good and we headed up to the room to download photos and videos, change out batteries and to relax before bed.


Sunday, April 1st

Time change day! Since Cozumel does observe Daylight savings time, but does it on a different cycle from US, we made sure to set our clocks ahead an hour. It was a bit darker when we got up, but in no time the resort was bussling with activity. The Dive shop employees were downstairs, checking tanks before taking them out to the pier. We had our usual huge breakfast, then headed to the dive shop to test our nitrox tanks we had ordered the day before. In the classroom next to the Dive Boat chart, tanks are placed and one of the dive staff is there to help you analyze them, with a clipboard that you sign for each one. We ordered 2 tanks of 32% each. The system at SCC is to have the Staff use the analyzer, and show it to you for each tank, you write it down on your sheet and on a piece masking tape that is applied to the tank. YOur name is put on the tape, along with your boat's name, and your MOD for the mix, as well as the exact mix amount.

The boat assignments were put up on the board, and we found that we were on the Observer with Nestor still, Yeah! We also saw that Tony and Cindy were still there, but 4 new divers were added. These divers, Randy and Connie, Barb and Scott, were friends and like taking trips together every year. All four of them were return guests to SCC and diving nitrox. Randy had a camera even bigger than Ron's, and Scott had a smaller one, as did Tony. I had my tiny GoPro video rig (first trip with it). We hopped on the Observer and Nestor asked us where we wanted to go.

The decision was unanimous - Palancar Gardens.

Wow. The Gardens are back to Gardens!! Truly the recovery from the hurricane is now evident here. The green algae is hanging from the walls, like an exotic garden, and the sponges of every color again decorate the walls of every coral formation and swim-through. It was wonderful to see this. As soon as we dropped over the wall, a free-swimming green moray cut through our group and caught everyone by surprise. Nestor missed it completely. LOL Shortly after that, a big nurse shark came swimming by as did a large souther ray with a friend on his back. There were a couple of lionfish killed here, and Nestor took them to a large lobster who was under an overhang... feed a lionfish to a lobster??? Really??? Yup. To our amazement, the lobster grabbed the lionfish carcass and chowed down. Ron got photos, too. Sooooo Awesome.

For the second dive we went to Paradise reef. This reef was hit the hardest by the hurricane damage and it is still in recovery phase, but lots of colorful sponges are beginning to grow and the fishlife is still very abundant. We hunted for seahorses but didn't fnd any.

Lunch was calling my name - the lunch special was Pollo Pibil, a Mayan dish with chicken cooked inside banana leaves in a sour orange sauce. Mmmmm. One of my favorites! It came with rice, beans, and tortillas. So amazingly good! After lunch, we decided to do another afternoon shore dive, this time though heading straight south along the coast to see if we could find anything exciting. Ron found a mantis shrimp in a hole, stuck his muck stick in and the mantis came out clicking away, trying to fight!

Dinner tonight - Salad or Corn chowder for appetizer, main course of Grilled tuna steak or several other options (we both went for the tuna), and dessert was pineapple cake or carrot pie (like cheesecake). It was a great dinner, but we needed to hurry - a shore night dive was calling us!

The night dive was the OCTOPUS show! They were out everywhere, big ones and little ones, and they all put on a light show for us. It was fantastic!


Monday, April 2nd

Our first dive of the day, my personal favorite of the deeper dives on the island, was Palancar Bricks. We enjoyed a fantastic dive of swim-throughs and lush coral structure. After this dive, we headed to Tormentos reef. There we saw huge parrotfish, both midnight and rainbow, 2 splendid toadfish, and a huge lobster out walking on the sand.

We returned to the resort for lunch then went out for a nice long afternoon shore dive. To the south of SCC, out past the buoys, we found an engine block which was filled with eels and all types of fish. It was the busiest little area I have ever seen. In fact, the more we looked at it, the more we saw. We thought there were 2 spotted eels intertwined there, but on later inspection think there may have been 3 eels.


Tuesday, April 3rd

This was going to be our busiest day of the trip as we had signed up for the afternoon 2-tank Twilight/Night boat dives. After breakfast we loaded onto our boat and headed south. First dive - Santa Rosa! Reports of fast crazy currents at this reef had been circulating all week, but we entered the water and discovered it was actually mild. The reef was in very good condition, much better than our last trip here 2 years ago! Our second dive was to another favorite dive site - Punta Tunich. Punta Tunich is known for screaming current, but this wild current brings in the biggest fish found in these waters. The dive started off with everyone tumbling out of control at times, but current would slow down allowing us all to recover before it would kick back up again. We were treated to a large nurse shark, two HUGE groupers, dozens of huge angelfish and filefish, southern rays and a turtle. We also even had a school of squid swim by. Great great pair of dives!

Back to the resort, we had lunch and prepared for our afternoon 2-tank boat trip. The board showed that 15 people had signed up so the decision was made to use the ScubaCat boat and two Divemasters. Nestor would take our group, and another DM would take the others onboard. We left the dock around 5pm and our first stop was Paseo de Cedral. The reef current was pretty fast, but the groups were dropped about 5 minutes apart and we never saw them until we surfaced. A nurse shark was found under a ledge with a large green moray, and also a HUGE hawksbill turtle was crawling across the reef eating sponges and did no mind us stopping to watch him.

We surfaced while it was still light, and headed towards Paradise reef at a slow pace in order to give it time to become dark. Snack bags were handed out which contained an apple, a banana, and cookies. We all ate while we waited for nightfall and arrived at Paradise reef along with a half dozen other boats full of divers. The first group entered the water and we joined them a few minutes later. Wow wow wow... octopus, eels, crabs, lobsters! In fact, we found 3 different types of lobsters, as well as 3 different types of eels out hunting, and several octopus put on quite a show for us. There were many divers in the water, but the DMs kept the groups spread out in all directions, and with a mild current it was easy to navigate and stay down as long as we had air. Great dive again!

We returned to the resort at 9pm and Mario, the Restaurant Manager, met us on the pier and told everyone to hurry and dry off quickly. Our dinners were being held for us. We dropped our dive gear in our lockers and ran upstairs to change into dry clothes and were back downstairs in 5 minutes along with all the other divers. We were served our full dinners: Ron had ordered the Seafood platter and I had ordered the Mexican Platter. Food was fantastic, and after dessert we rinsed our gear and headed upstairs to crash for the night.


Wednesday, April 4th

Today we headed back to Paseo de Cedral for our first dive, Nestor wanted to see if the nurse shark and green moray were still under that ledge. Yes, they were there, and we were all able to check them out, take photos and admire the cute couple. The nurse shark finally got tired of all the divers, and swam out and directly under Nestor! As the shark took off away from us it circled around a small coral head. Nestor went after him, and I went to circle around the other side --- but I was met head on with a huge loggerhead turtle! Wow. This was the first loggerhead I have ever seen in Cozumel. Hawksbills are very common sites, but loggerheads are not. It was the highlight of the dive.

For our second dive, we asked to go back to Chankanaab reef.

Back to the resort for lunch, we decided to do a shore dive down in front of Hotel Cozumel again, looking around the wall area for something special.

Dinner tonight was fantiastic - we both chose the Grilled Wahoo with rice and mango salsa. Yum. Dessert was a choice of kalua flan or carrotcake. Once again, fantastic food and fantastic service. Ron was itching to do a shore night dive, so he geared up and headed down to the dock. There were already several other divers in the water, and conditions looked good.

After the dive, we put away dive gear and headed up to our rooms. It was another great day of dive at Scuba Club Cozumel!


Thursday, April 5th

After another great buffet breakfast with eggs, fresh fruit, and breads, we headed down to the boat. Today Nestor suggested we try out Punta Sur Cathedrals. This is the reef which has "Devil's Throat" however, we would not be going through that tunnel, we would be going through all the large cathedral-like swim-throughs south of the entrance, and then over top of the throat. None of us had done this area, so it sounded great. Nestor also insisted that we all dive Air instead of the nitrox mixes we had been using for our dives, as the depth of this dive is deeper than most other reefs, 120-100' max depth for the swim-throughs. We dropped into the deep water and headed over to the reefs first swim-though and found we were in formations very similar to Palancar Bricks reef, only deeper. One "cathedral" though was absolutely spectacular and rose above us just like the inside of a gothic church at least 40' high. The sunlight twinkled down on us through various openings and it was obvious where this reef area got its name. This was just one of several such swim-throughs we weaved through, before starting our ascent. We spent several minutes directly over the Throat tunnel, and we could see bubbles coming through the reef as divers must be inside it. As we took a 5 minute safety stop, we saw 5 large southern rays on the sand below us, and a hawksbill turtle also made an appearance. Great dive! Thanks Nestor for suggesting it.

For our second dive, we made a slow trip to Villa Blanca giving us a nice long surface interval. We watched wind surfers and hang gliders for awhile just off one of the beach clubs, and several groups of snorkel boats with dozens of snorkelers in the water. Nestor's dive briefing included a seahorse known in the area, so we all decided our top priority of the dive was to find him. Yes, a big yellow seahorse was found hiding in the coral. For those who are not familiar with Villa Blanca reef - it is not a typical reef, but an underwater ridge that is covered with soft coral and sponges of every color. This topography is perfect for sealife, like seahorses, as they can easily blend in and hide. This dive was our last boat dive of the trip, and a perfect way to end.

Lunch - Tostados de Pollo. After lunch, we geared up for a shore dive in front of SCC. Rumors of seahorses in the seagrass area and a search for pipefish were our goal this dive. Chris joined us for this dive and we were all treated with a pair of squid doing a dance for us. They dipped and flashed colors and zoomed back and forth for at least 5 minutes, before inking in the water and dashing off. It was a great show, and of course no video rig! We did not find any seahorses, but did find a pipefish in the grass, as well as 3 eels in that engine block we had discovered earlier in the week.

After dinner, Ron decided he wanted to try out shooting video on a night dive. I set up the GoPro and off he went, on his first video dive of the trip. He found several octopus, including one of the little pygmy octopus, and all the usual lobsters and sleeping parrotfish.


Friday, April 6th

Since we were leaving on Saturday afternoon, today we were only doing two shore dives there at SCC, before setting our dive gear out to dry. After the dive boats left for the day, we entered the water and found all the fish were up and active, cleaning stations active everywhere. Our second dive was equally exciting and we explored the area north of SCC, finding a set of tires which had a school of fish and a lionfish inhabiting them.

After the dive, we rinsed out our gear, and set it to dry on our balcony. We then headed down to lunch just as the boats began returning from their morning dives.

Shopping was next on our agenda, so we started walking to town. There were several cruise ships in port, which meant that the streets were clogged with taxis, and people, honking horns, and scooters zipping by. Uggghhh, I really don't think I like all the changes over the past several years. Town is now very bustling and noisy, for sure. We headed directly for the group of stores we like, just north of the square, near Wet Windy's bar. There we found the wood carvings we were looking for as gifts and to add to our growning collection, and had refeshment as Wet windy's. We then started our stroll back towards SCC, stopping in various stores to pick up some t-shirts and souvenirs for the family back home.


Saturday, April 7th

After enjoying our breakfast, we did our last minute packing, placed our tip envelopes in the box up by the Office, paid our hotel tab (drinks), and cleared the dive shop (paid our bill for nitrox tanks and our afternoon boat dives). We then dragged our luggage down to the front gate where the gate guard hailed us a taxi to the airport.

Final thoughts: Coming Soon!

ALL Trip Photos can be found Here: Cozumel 2012 Photos


Our dive profile for the week

Dive Day Type Site Max Depth Time
1 Friday shore check out dive - SCC shore 23' 63min
2 Saturday boat Dalilah 72' 40 min
3 boat Chankanaab 49' 57 min
4 boat C-53 wreck 72' 42min
5 Sunday boat Palancar Gardens 79' 46min
6 boat Paradise 46' 63min
7 shore SCC shore 20' 53min
8 shore SCC - night 22' 54min
9 Monday boat Palancar Bricks 83' 38min
10 boat Tormentos 58' 60min
11 shore SCC shore 24' 53min
12 Tuesday boat Santa Rosa Wall 80' 47min
13 boat Punta Tunich 67' 53min
14 boat Paseo de Cedral 71' 45min
15 boat Paradise - Night 46' 57min
16 Wednesday boat Paseo de Cedral 70' 47min
17 boat Chankanaab 48' 65min
18 shore SCC shore 20' 53min
19 shore SCC - Night (Ron solo) 24' 61min
20 Thursday boat Punta Sur Cathedrals 101' 38min
21 boat Villa Blanca 59' 63min
22 shore SCC shore 23' 61min
23 shore SCC - Night (Ron solo) 23' 60min
24 Friday shore SCC shore 23' 77min
25 shore SCC shore 24' 66min

My Videos: Cozumel 2012