We arrive at Denver Int'l Airport at 5:30am and stand in line after line and get every bag searched and everyone wanded but finally leave for Cozumel right on time at 8am sharp. We land and get all the bags and green light, pick up the rental car, and off to PLG for check in. All goes fairly smoothly but we are the last there and last to check in.
We have scheduled with Papahogs to have 2 boats waiting for our group to arrive and sure enough when we get to the shop we have 2 boats and 2 DMs waiting for us. Raul is DM for our boat and Ivan takes the other group and all 8 of us: me, Ron, Tiffany, Dave, Tom, Kim, Chris, and Bill are in the warm crystal clear water at 3pm. What a great way to start a vacation!!!!
This is our (me, ron, tiff) first dive in warm water in a year and it is so exciting we know we will be sucking down our tanks in excitement. We are all a bit overweighted and it was not a graceful dive but it is great to see the wreck finally and we are all just happy to be back in Paradise. As we decend and swim towards the wreck we see a southern stingray take off from the sandy bottom. Then we spot two huge grouper hanging by the rope. We swim around the outside of the wreck and then up to the top and enter the swim throughs cut for divers. More than once we turned a corner into a pitch dark room and of course I had a camera in my hands and my light wasn't on. LOL Well, I just followed the diver ahead of me and made it out just fine without a light.
The wreck is inhabited by more fish than I expected, glass sweepers, and juveniles of every variety fill every corridor. Nice first dive.
Surface interval we head over to the Caleta and Dave tells us that there is a cenote there that he has snorkeled before. Well, of course Ron wants to do that and they grab their masks and off we go down the path. It is a large pool of fresh water, some fish, and some people say crocodiles. Dave and Ron jump in and ask us to watch for anything with big teeth for them. After 10 minutes or so we walk back to the caleta and board the boats for our second dive.
A quick backroll into the water and I am left floating at the surface while one of my weight pockets visits the reef without me. Dave and Tiffany immediately go searching for it while I go back to the boat and the boat captain hands me a few weights for my pocket. By the time I am ready, my group is no where in sight and the boat captain points and says 'go that way!". So down to the bottom and off I go. I run into Ivan and the other group: Chris, Kim, Tom, and Bill and join up with them. Soon I spot my group just ahead and discover Ron is carrying my weight pocket…. Whew!! They found it. The two groups join up as we drift through one of my favorite reefs. It is low, broken coral heads and sponges, but the fish life is incredible. And of course seahorses! First day and I get to see 2 large ones - one orange and one red!
I have the macro camera and tiffany is carrying the other camera and we get some good shots. Enormous rainbow parrotfish munch away and take no notice of us as we all stop to watch. A wonderful dive with the exception of my weight pocket issue and my swimming like a maniac trying to catch my group. Once again I am the first low on air due to my mishap. Hopefully this will be the last problem!Papahogs DMs
Back to Hogtown Café for beers and to socialize with Mike and Margaret and chat with the gang. A great time was had by all it seems and our Cozaholics members all seem to click. It is nice to finally meet Tom, Bill, and Dave and dive again with Chris and Kim. Leo will be arriving tomorrow and he will really fit in well with this bunch of crazy people! We all head back to the hotel and out to dinner.
We are up early and off to Hogtown Café for breakfast. Chris, Kim, Bill and Tom are diving with Deep Blue most of the week and have dubbed themselves "The Dark Side". Dave is doing his AOW today with Mike so he won't be joining us but a couple from Oklahoma are there and join us for the day. Raul is our DM again and we tell him we want to do the Horseshoe but he says the rain the day before has ruined the vis for today and he says we should try Santa Rosa instead. Santa Rosa? That's our favorite, no argument from anyone and we are off again.
A backroll in and we all descend, no wait, Tiffany is still on the surface! Oops! She forgot to put in her weight pockets. Raul goes back to the surface to assist her and soon all 5 divers are at the wall. This is Tiffany's first real 'wall' and she is thrilled. The current is barely pulling us along so we are able to really enjoy the dive and do swimthrough after swimthrough. I am still sucking down my tank and don't know why. I get some nice pictures and finish the dive earlier than I should have again. Tiffany has never been an air-hog and she is running low too so we go up for a safety stop. I think we are both overweighted but we are using the same thing we did last year so it seems very odd to me.
After an hour surface interval we go to another of my favorites - Tormentos. This reef is another shallow easy ride with tons of fish
and since I am a photographer at heart I love it. I finish off the film in the camera on a great turtle Ron found resting on top of the reef.
Great dive again and a little better bottom time.
Tonight we are doing a night dive so we head into town for an early dinner and then back to Papahogs around 7pm. Dave was supposed to join us for this dive but he and Raul are having a beer tasting session at Hogtown Café… seems they decided to night dive tomorrow instead. Well, a group from Okla has arrived and a few of them want to do a night dive, plus a guy from D2D and his wife (sorry I forgot your names.. zdiver maybe?). Since we have 8 divers they put us on the Chris Nelly, one of the fishing boats that can also be used for diving. Our DM is to be Giovanni and we tell the group we want to do ANY reef but Paradise. They all agree and someone suggests we do Villa Blanca Wall (this is straight out from the Papahogs pier). We all agree and off we go! This is Tiffany's 50th dive and her first ocean night dive and we are hoping for a great one! We giant stride in the water just as the sun sets and there are 4 trumpetfish hunting together. Wow! This is going to be a great dive…. We start coasting along, some current but not out of control, and "ting, ting, ting' someone signals. We all go straight for the diver and it is an octopus! Tiff is so psyched. 'Ting, ting, ting' another one! 'Ting, ting, ting' a spotted eel, and another, and another! Yellow stingrays, crabs, and lobsters greet us everywhere we look. Wow, wow, wow! Every time someone bangs on their tank Tiffany is off like a flash. Luckily she has yellow fins or I would never have been able to keep track of her. She was the first person to see whatever creature was found and usually stayed to watch it awhile after everyone else had drifted on. We hit 45 minutes before we realize it and start up for our safety stop. Tiffany is so excited and it really makes me happy to see her enthusiasm for night diving. She has gotten to see 5+ octopus, 5+ rays, and 5+ eels, all on one dive. We head back to the hotel and try to unwind before bed but we are so excited it takes forever to fall asleep. Tiffany proclaims this dive to be her favorite dive ever and she can't wait to do another night dive.
Once again, up early, breakfast at Hogtown Café, and we are ready for the boat. Today we have scheduled for a videographer to
join us. Raul is DM again and he has recommended an independent guy, Cesar, who arrives and we start for the boat. But where is
Dave? He is supposed to join us so we decide to wait a few minutes longer. At 8:30 we start loading the boat and Dave comes running
down the ramp. He jumps in the boat and we head down south for a place we haven't tried yet - Palancar Deep.
Palancar Deep, 89' max depth, 38 minutes
What a spectacular reef! It is so lush and green and feels like you are diving in the Rocky Mountains, just like we were told. Beautiful coral pinnacles seem to reach all the way to the surface and fish cover the reef. A wonderful dive once again. I take the camera and when I raise it to take the first shot it doesn't work. Now what? I look at the front of the camera and I have put it in the housing with the lens shut. Oh well. Cesar gets some great footage of a turtle and an eel along with shots of us and the reef.
During the surface interval I opened the housing and turned the camera on so this dive I can take pictures, yeah! Raul catches a smooth trunkfish and hands it to Tiffany. She has been taught not to touch anything but Raul assures her it is okay so she reluctantly takes it. After I take a few pictures she lets it swim away. Lots of lobsters, grouper, sand divers, and I get a nice picture of an angel.
After lunch we arrive back at the hotel (we all stayed at Plaza Las Glorias) and find the rest of the Cozaholics sitting by the pool enjoying a bucket or two and Leo has arrived and we all decide to go over to the Dive Paradise office together to get the Cock-a-doodle dive scheduled and paid for the next day. After that we all head downtown to eat a quick bite them me, ron, and tiff have to run down to meet Cesar at 7pm to view our video he had done. The tape is fabulous and we highly recommend him to anyone who wants a profession video. His name and e-mail: Cesar Medina, firstname.lastname@example.org. He is very busy so you need to schedule with him a few weeks ahead of time but he is worth it.
We are up at 4am and standing at the PLG pier at 5am…….. yes, I said 5am. Divers today are me, ron, tiffany, kim, chris, tom, bill, and leo. The Cock-a-doodle is a special 3-tank dive trip that starts early while it is still dark, almost another night dive for tiff!
The boat arrives at 5am and we are off for Palancar Horseshoe. We backroll into the water at 6:02am just as the sun begins to come up and it is very strange being in the water at this time of day. We decide to leave the camera on the boat for this dive but regret it as soon as we get down to the reef. It is a gorgeous dive and we do swim-through after swim-through. We definitely need to do this dive again when the sun is up and with a camera.
We backroll in and discover that Cedral is flying at mach 3. Tiffany immediately signals that she wants to go up but Ron convinces her to stay a few minutes longer. We do find some slow pockets behind coral heads but this is the fastest current we have ever seen and it is hard to really do much but try to stay low and not run into anything. There are tons of barracuda and I did manage to take some pictures. Right at the end of the dive the DM spots a scorpionfish and I turn to signal Ron but he and Tiff have already started up for their safety stop. I grab the sand and pull myself along and take a picture. What a wild ride! We surface and a boat pulls up to us and hands us a cooler full of snacks - we were hoping for Dominoes pizza but it was just sodas, fruit, and some breadroll things with meat in them.
Ahh, back to this wonderful dive again. I could do this one every day and not get bored. Right off the bat Ron finds a scorpionfish and he is elated.
I snap several macro shots of him and we find another seahorse, some brittle stars, a few splendid toadfish, rainbow parrot fish again, and tiff finds an eel and a balloon fish all by herself. We found 3 scorpionfish on this dive and the two large seahorses. Another great dive and Tiff and I are doing better on air but we are beginning to think we are just overweighted and that is our problem. We decide to drop some weight for the next dive and see if it helps.
We finish the 3rd dive of the day and it isn't even noon yet. We get back to the PLG pier and tom's wife Christa is there at our usual table waiting for us. We run up the gear to the rooms and all return in time for buckets again, and snacks.
After an hour or two we decide to move the party to Mezcallitos and just as we are leaving Dave shows up. He finished up his AOW and is ready to party. We all jump into our rental cars and convoy over to the other side of the island. If you have never ordered the Super Shrimp at Mezcallitos I am telling you that it is the best I have ever eaten and I am a Florida girl! Lots of shrimp and nachos and quesadillas are ordered along with some adult beverages and the party continues!
After a few hours Tiff, Ron, and I decide to head back to the hotel and unfortunately we seemed to have missed some of the festivities…. Sorry, we will have to get a full report and pictures from Leo (he says he took several). LOL
It was nice to sleep in until 6am today, hahaha, and we are up and breakfast at Hogtown Café (yes, we like their breakfasts) and we are waiting for Dave to arrive. We had planned to do a deep dive today and Dave is supposed to be Ron's buddy for it. Tiff is only 14 and not supposed to go deeper than 70'. We think she is a good enough diver to go a bit deeper. Ron and I have never been below 90' ourselves so we both want to break 100' on one dive just to see how it feels and if we get narced. Dave shows up but tells us that the 'dark side' has talked him into diving with them… (that would be Kim, Chris, Bill, and Tom). It seems someone spotted a hammerhead at Maricaibo the day before so they want to go look for it. We tell Dave what a Dive Slut he is and he doesn't care… gotta go search for the hammerhead! Geez, some people!!! LOL Well, Mike and Margaret tell us that we have our own boat then and send us off to explore the deep…. Just us 3 and Raul again.
Ron tells Raul that we want to go deep. Tiff and I will stay at 100' and the two of them can go as deep as they want for a few minutes then meet back up with us. Raul says no problem and down we go. Let's just say we all got a new max depth!!!! The reef was spectacular and I got a few nice pictures before it was time to come up. This is a beautiful reef and we will definitely do it again. Just like Palancar Deep - very lush and huge coral pinnacles.
Awesome scenery and our deepest dives ever for all 3 of us.
We have never done this reef before and we are glad we finally got the chance. Tons of fish, we find a baby flounder, cleaner shrimp, lobsters and barracuda are everywhere. I swim under an overhang and get a portrait of a grey angel. The fish at this reef seem very friendly and do not mind my presence.
We are all 2 pounds lighter in our weights this time and still all feel overweighted but we are finding it easier to swim horizontal now. As we surface from this dive the skies open up and it begins to pour.
Lunch at Hogtown Café again - they make enormous cheeseburgers with real french fries - YUM. We sit and watch the rain while we eat and decide we want to do a shore dive. Today there are no cruise ships so there are no snorkelers there at Villa Blanca shallows. It will be the perfect opportunity for us to do a shore dive. Tiffany wants to go back to the hotel so we run her back and arrive back at Villa Blanca just as the rain begins again.
We suit up and head it and discover the housing wasn't shut all the way on one of the cameras…. Oh S****!!! It is flooded. We hand it to the guy at Papahogs tank rentals and he puts in the office for us while we head back in. The water is clear even though it is raining hard and we start zigzagging along near the pylons. I can't believe all the fish life there!!!
Trumpetfish are everywhere and every little coral head has an eel in it.
We find a yellow stingray buried in the sand and a flounder. Baby and juvie fish are everywhere and we find flamingo tongues and Christmas tree worms as well as feather dusters. We snap a whole roll of film in no time and actually find a free swimming golden eel. He was only about 18" long and swam along watching us as we watched him. This has got to be the best place to shore dive on the island. After an hour we decide to head back into shore. We had enough air to stay longer but decide an hour is plenty and we were out of film anyhow. Tiffany should have joined us! We will do this again next trip for sure.
Today is the day we had scheduled our special trip to Green Wall/Tarpon City. If you have never heard of these dive sites, there is a reason…. They aren't on Cozumel!!! Papahogs runs a special all day fishing/diving trip over to these sights in Playa del Carmen area and have come highly recommended to us. We (me, ron, tiff) have been planning to do this trip for the past 6 months and we needed 3 more people in order to afford it. The boat is the Buena Vida, Papahogs big fishing boat, and 6-8 people are needed in order to make it cost efficient. Tom has agreed to leave the 'dark side' and join us, and Leo also is interested. Christi, a local in Cozumel, had wanted to join us but couldn't get out of a prior commitment and Dave had to go home so we were left one person short. Mike and Margaret said, oh well, go ahead and take the Buena Vida and we will only charge you for the smaller boat, Chris Nelly. Hey, works for us!!! We load the boat with dive gear, tanks, food, 2 cases of sodas, 2 cases of beer, lots of fishing gear and are off for Playa at 8am.
We arrive somewhere north of Playa, don't ask me the exact location, I have no idea. We don our gear and giant stride into the water. The Green Wall is an oddity….. sandy bottom, then a sudden vertical drop off wall at around 70' down to 100'. We were told to expect turtles and possibly real sharks. We drop in and drop down to the wall, the current is moderate and we sail along and sure enough a turtle sleeping next to a sponge. Then another! Next a green moray, and another! A large southern stingray and a group of garden eels sway in the current. The vis on that side is not as good, maybe 60-80' max but the fish life seems completely different. Huge porcupine fish and squirrel fish, 3 large green morays and 5 turtles on one dive! It is a very unique dive and we all surface quite exhilarated.
As soon as we hit the boat and take off our gear the crew, a captain, a first mate, a fisherman extrodinaire, and our DM Raul have the fishing lines in the water and we start trolling as our surface interval. After only 5 minutes or so Ron is in the seat and reeling in a large horse-eyed jack. We fish for around 2 hours without any more success but it was fun just being on the boat together, chatting and watching the gorgeous scenery.
Around noon we decide it is time to reel in the lines and get ready to dive again. We head somewhere south of Playa this time, no other dive boats to be seen anywhere and only a few small fishing boats. We are to expect so many turtles here we will get bored with them!! Yeah, that will be the day - we think! And also - Tarpon - lots of huge 6-8' long tarpon. Something we are told we will never forget. Into the water we go and 'ting, ting, ting' a turtle, and another and another - HOLY COW! I counted 15 turtles on one dive! And they were huge!!!
The smallest one was still bigger than any we saw over in Cozumel and we had already seen several this week. Then Raul starts banging on his tank again and pointing off in the distance. We don't see anything but he is adamant so we all begin to swim in that direction. I had just handed the camera off to Ron a few minutes earlier to take a picture of me petting a turtle and I am so glad he has it now. We finally see what Raul is signaling us about….. Tarpon. Oh MY GOD!!!!!
Hundreds of them floating off in the distance, and I mean hundreds, and they are enormous - 6'- 8' long is no exaggeration. The look like huge silver school buses in a convoy nose to tail as far as the eye can see!!!! There is no way I can fight this current and get to them for a picture but Ron takes off and I look back and Tom is doing the same! They both went right up to the tarpon who never seemed to even notice them or care. It was so amazing to watch. Words just don't describe that dive. All I can say is that we will be doing it again!!!After returning to the boat, all of us completely out of air because we didn't want to come up, we all jumped head first into the food and beer. The fishing began again and Leo caught a large king mackerel. We fished and ate and drank beer and fished and drank beer….. and radioed Papahogs to get the grill ready that we were coming in with dinner for everyone. When we arrived back at the dock, Mike and Margaret met us and told us the Chef was busy getting things ready for the fish we brought in. He prepared each fish 3 ways, grilled with butter and garlic, blackened and Veracruz. Plus there were rice and veggies as side dishes. We all had a fabulous meal there and we let the crew take half the food home to their families. It was another wonderful day.
This is our last day of diving and Ron has decided to turn to the 'dark side'. Yes, my own husband has deserted me to dive with Kim, Chris, Bill, and Tom with Deep Blue. They want to do Barracuda and San Juan and Tiffany and I have no interest in doing either one this trip. So Ron has breakfast at Hogtown Café with us then drives off to meet the others. Tiffany and I are on our own and Margaret finds us a good boat going to Santa Rosa Wall. We have already dived it this trip but we don't mind, we love that reef. It had rained all night and seemed really cold outside but we really didn't think much about it. Ivan was the DM and the other group of 4 divers on the boat were from Chicago. I decide to drop 2 more pounds of weight from my pockets and I am glad I did. It really made a huge difference. I wish I had done it earlier in the week.
We arrive at Santa Rosa to large swells and Ivan tells us the current is flying and is going north to south (the opposite direction from normal). This is not a good sign.
Tiff says she is fine and doesn't mind the current and we will go up if it becomes a problem. We hit the water and immediately notice that the current is ripping and the vis is maybe 30-40' max. This is gonna be ugly!!! We start flying along and suddenly hit a pocket of freezing cold water. The vis immediately goes wacky, like your eyes are out of focus and then we swim out of it into a warm pocket. Gee, that was weird. Then it happens again and again. We see divers going all different directions as the current is flying in an up down back forth pattern….. the Santa Rosa washing machine as we have heard it described. Divers are everywhere and the warm/cold pockets are really driving me crazy. We do a swim through and half our group misses the entry because of the current. Then it happens again and Ivan is getting worried that we are all going to get separated. We flip over the reef to the inside and run into more divers. It is a zoo and I am not enjoying it at all!!! No reason to take any pictures either, the vis sucks! Tiff and I decide we have had enough and up we go for a safety stop after signaling Ivan. When we get back on the boat Ivan tells us that was one of the worst dives he has ever done. We tell him to find us a warm reef where there aren't any divers and we take off for a surface interval.
After an hour surface interval we head out to Tormentos to see how it looks. Ivan jumps in and free dives down to the reef. He comes back to the boat and says no current and nice and warm - everybody in! We all backroll in and sure enough….. calm and quiet. Well, there were a few other dive groups there and we didn't even mind after that wild ride before. We followed around another group and let their DM find everything (less work for Ivan!! LOL) and they found a sailfin blenny and two pipe horses.
This was such a nice relaxing dive and we got some great pictures of the fish and gorgeous reef. This was a nice way to end our diving vacation.
Back at Hogtown Café for lunch and Ron shows up from Barracuda. Seems the current wasn't that strong afterall. Of course not, we had the #$%^@*! current down at Santa Rosa!! We got the wild ride he wanted… LOL Anyhow, the sky opened up again and the rain came down. Tiffany had wanted an afternoon at Mr. Sancho's beachclub to kayak and sit in the sun but it wasn't to be this trip. We decide to go downtown and shop instead and dinner at Prima's. We get back to the hotel early and start packing for the trip home…. Booo!!!!
Up early, packed, check out of PLG and off to - yes, once again, breakfast at Hogtown Café with Mike and Margaret. We honestly consider them family and can't imagine being on the island and not seeing them before we leave. The DMs are all huddled around a tiny tv set over at the pier watching the Mexico world cup game and we say our goodbyes to them and off we go to the airport. It has been another fabulous week in Cozumel and yes we are planning to go back again before the end of the year. When you have such great friends and such great diving, why go anywhere else. Now we just have to start planning the next trip!!! Hey, Cozaholics, how does October or November sound???