COZUMEL TRIP REPORT - JULY 2002

After much discussion of finances, school, and work schedule conflicts, we decided to go ahead and book another trip to Cozumel. This time would be a 4-night stay for obvious reasons (we were just there a month ago) and possibly our last out-of-country dive trip of the year. We also decided it was time to try air-only with Apple Vacations and book our hotel with our diving and actually stay at the hotel we wanted for a change. Papahogs Scuba Emporium has a few rooms right at the dive shop and this short trip would be the perfect opportunity to try them out.

whitespotted filefish pair

DAY 1 - SUNDAY, JULY 28TH

The 3am wake up came way too early for us but we packed up the car with luggage and off we went to Denver for 5am check in and the 8am direct flight to Cozumel. The round trip air-only airfare was $290pp (including taxes and fees) and with 3 divers in the family it seemed like a deal we shouldn’t pass up. We arrived at DIA on time and after checking and scanning and all the necessary procedures were complete, we arrived at the gate and chatted with our buddy Chas. The very nervous Chas was heading down to Cozumel to decide on whether he would be moving there permanently and it was fun for us to be with him for his adventure. We arrived right on time, grabbed our bags, and the four of us hoofed it out to the main road where a taxi sat waiting for us. Off to Alicia’s to drop off Chas and then on to Papahogs to check in, where we were greeted at the curb by Jorge and the gang who grabbed our bags and carried them to our room. We had rented Rooms #1 and #2 which are located just behind Hogtown Café. Room #1 has a sitting room with kitchenette, a large bedroom with king sized bed and single bed, and a large bath. Room #2 has a bedroom with queen bed and bath and the two connected which was very convenient for us. The front doors to the rooms were actually long sliding doors which opened into the gardens behind the dive shop.


It was already 1pm and we asked Jorge if a boat would be available for an afternoon dive. He assured us that a boat was just leaving for a 1-tank dive but would be back around 2pm to get us for 1 or 2 tanks, whatever we wanted. We changed and attempted to call Chas at Alicia’s to see if he wanted to join us but were unable to get a message to him. Gabriel arrived back with the boat around 3 pm and the 3 of us jumped on the boat and off we went.

Dive 1 of day- Las Palmas, 53 fsw, 40 minutes, vis 150’

DM Gabriel, divers: Ron, Tiffany, and Robin

Ron drifts along watching the fish

After one dive we headed back to Papahogs hotel/dive shop for shower and then off downtown for an early dinner. We soon discovered that staying at Papahogs was going to be so convenient and less tiring than staying elsewhere. This day particularly, having gotten up at 3am, this was very important. We took a taxi down to Prima’s and by 9am were back at our rooms fast asleep.

DAY 2 - MONDAY, JULY 29TH

We all awoke refreshed and starving. The Hogtown Café opens for breakfast at 7am and we were dressed and seated at "our" table right on time. We were joined by Kyle and Shelly, a couple staying in Room #3 with whom we became fast friends and dive buddies. They are both instructors from Mike and Margaret’s old dive shop up in Toronto (www.groundhogdivers.com) and were down for a 2-week honeymoon. After chatting through breakfast we decided to ask M&M to put us on the same boat for the day. We were joined by Uke, a young fellow who had booked three days of 3-tank diving. As a group we decided on Columbia for the first dive and once again it proved to be one of our favorite dive sites.

Dive 1 of day - Columbia, 84 fsw, 40 minutes, vis 100’

DM Gabriel, Divers: Ron, Tiffany, Robin, Uke, Kyle, & Shelly

While the other divers went deep, Tiffany and I hung out a bit shallower as she was having trouble equalizing her ears at first. The others went through several swim-throughs as we went over the tops. On one, we came upon a turtle napping on top of the coral head. We swam with him awhile and I snapped several pictures.

He didn’t seem to mind us at all. It was a wonderful experience and soon it was time for a safety stop. As we all approached the sandy side of the reef we saw a southern stingray with a jack of some sort shadow feeding with him. The stingray found quite a few treats buried in the sand and munched away as we hovered above him. I was too far away for a picture but it was fun just watching him feeding and the jack hovering above him waiting for a scrap or two.

Dive 2 of the day - Dalila, 57 fsw, 52 minutes, vis 100’

DM Gabriel, Divers: Ron, Robin, Tiffany, Kyle, Shelly, & Uke

This is one of my favorite reefs in Cozumel because of the diversity of life. White spotted and scrawled filefish, angels of every sort, and trumpet fish abound and since I had finished the film on the first dive I had the macro camera with us. We saw two hogfish, a large grouper and a 5-6’ nurse shark. The hogfish were exciting for us since we have never one up close. They were hunting out over the sand next to the reef and oblivious to us so we all fought against the current as long as we could to watch them. I finally now know why they are called a ‘hog’ fish. One opened his huge mouth and began to cough up something he ate and was unable to swallow… he wrinkled up his nose and amazingly he looked just like a pig! It was too funny as we all looked at each other and laughed. What a strange looking fish he was!

We returned to Papahogs and Hogtown Café for lunch at our table and chatted again with Kyle and Shelly. They were planning a shore dive for the afternoon so around 1pm we jumped back on our boat for the afternoon dive.

Dive 3 of the day - Villa Blanca Wall, 50 fsw, 60 minutes, vis 80’

DM Gabriel, Divers: Ron, Robin, Tiffany, and Uke

This dive site is directly out from the pier at Papahogs and since we had never done it in the daytime we all agreed it would be a perfect afternoon dive. No other boats were in site and we backrolled in at 1:19pm. We love this site because the terrain is so different from most others there in Cozumel. It consists of a slopping wall covered in giant barrel sponges and very little coral. The sea life is different here because of the flatness and Gabriel immediately spots a small scorpion fish. We find a large peacock flounder, starfish and eel. As I am swimming along at the back of the group snapping pictures, I looked up and a school of small squid was just in front of me.

I grabbed my shaker and frantically tried to signal the others. Finally Tiffany turns around and I point to the squid. She grabs her shaker and we get the others attention. I saw a pair of squid last year on one reef but no one else saw them so of course they didn’t believe now. Finally I have proof that there are squid in Cozumel waters.

We head back to Hogtown Café for after dive Happy Hour and chat with Kyle and Shelly about their shore dive. They saw a funny looking fish there at Villa Blanca Shallows that was walking around on it flippers like a dog. We think they saw a batfish! Kyle says he got a picture of the odd creature. Hopefully he will be e-mailing it to us for confirmation. How cool, a batfish at Villa Blanca!

It is Jorge’s birthday

and as a Papahogs tradition, he gets a cake and beers and Mike takes all the dive shop, Dms, boat captains and Café employees to the go-carts for a few hours. They all have a blast and return for more Happy Hour festivities and cake. It is just one more thing that makes the crew there love working for Papahogs. They aren’t just employees, they are family and treated as such.

Tonight is the big get together/Birthday Party for Chas at the French Qtr around 7:30-8pm and we head into town around 6. After shopping for awhile we are starving and so decide to go to FQ at 7pm and have dinner before the others arrive. After we eat, Chas and Christi arrive. Chas filled us in on the exciting events that have occurred in the past day since we dropped him off at Alicia’s and his joy is overwhelming. The waiters pushed several tables together and we all sat and chatted as the others partiers arrived. Christi, Glassman, Carolyn, Steph and Filipe, and Trudy - it was nice to meet and chat though we had to leave (before the cake arrived). As we got into the taxi to ride home at 9pm I realized I had never taken the camera out of my purse. LOL

DAY 3 - Tuesday, July 30th

Up at 6:30am again and breakfast at 7am with Kyle and Shelly. They have decided not to dive in the morning but want to join us in the afternoon and the night dive we have scheduled. DM Raul was diving with another group this week and asks us if he can do the afternoon dive with us instead of Gabriel. We agree and he informs Gabriel that he is stealing us away.

Dive 1 of the day - Palancar Caves/Horseshoe, 89 fsw, 43 minutes, vis 100’

DM Enrique, Divers: Ron, Tiffany, Robin, Uke, and a couple from FA

We pick up a couple staying at FA and head off for the reefs. The couple inform us that they wanted to do Punta Sur but we tell them that the rest of us don’t, we want to do Palancar. After much discussion we agree on Caves -Horseshoe area for the first dive. This is another great dive, we see more turtles and we all hit the boat exhilarated.

Dive 2 of day - Dalila, 63 fsw, 44 minutes, vis 80’

DM Enrique, Divers: Ron, Tiffany, Robin, Uke, and that couple from FA

After an hour surface interval, we all agree to do Delila for the second dive. We don’t mind doing this again since we really enjoy this dive but the current is really ripping.

Tiffany does the whole dive backwards (feet first into the current) and laughing the whole way. She finds a large nurse shark sleeping under a ledge and I crawl along on the sand to get close up pictures. After the 3rd time the flash goes off the shark flinches and I decide I have worn out my welcome and we swim away.

We return for our usual lunch spot and chat with Kyle and Shelly again.

Dive 3 of the day - Tormentos, 57 fsw, 50 minutes, 100’ vis

DM Raul, Divers: Ron, Robin, Tiffany, Uke, Kyle, & Shelly

Another great dive spot for photographers! Ron takes the regular camera and I take the macro ready to get some great photos. As we are cruising along I look back and there is Kyle "strolling on the beach".

He said it was such a lovely beach he wanted to walk on it. LOL (Yes, Kyle kept us laughing all week. From asking the DMs how the ‘breathy thingy’ worked to his constant jokes, we found diving with them this trip to be the most fun we ever had on a boat.) Raul found some cute little eel-like creatures on the bottom and I tried to get a picture but have yet to identify them.

Ron got some really good pictures of the reef

and actually got one of the illusive yellowtail damsel (every picture I get is a blur of those guys).

Since we are doing a night dive tonight, we decide to eat an early dinner at Hogtown Café. Ron orders the fajitas which he says were as good as at Ernesto’s and half the price. I have the chicken burrito and Tiffany has quesadillas while we sit and chat with our buddies Kyle and Shelly, DMs and M&M, of course.

Dive 4 of the day - Night dive at Chankanaab, 46 fsw, 54 minutes, vis - dark!

DM Gabriel, Divers: Ron, Tiffany, Robin, Kyle and Shelly

What a fabulous dive. I think this is one of my favorite dives EVER and it is also my 100th dive. Yeah! Gabriel is fantastic at finding critters and the lobster and channel clinging crabs are out in force tonight. He finds a splendid toadfish but of course I am overshooting most of my pictures this trip for some reason so I didn’t get him. Then Ron finds a large octopus, and I mean Large!
The head on this guy was the size of a grapefruit and the arms are at least 6’ long each. Gabriel tries to pick it up but it swam away and under a ledge so fast he was unable to catch him. A few minutes later I see Gabriel holding something and I start signaling for everyone to come see. He opens his hands and there is a baby octopus!

It is so cute! He plays with it for several minutes and then it scurries up his arm and around his back and tries to get in his BC! Finally he gets it off of him and it swims away. What a fabulous night dive! All too soon we have to circle up and I am really mad because I want to stay longer!! What a GREAT dive!

DAY 4 - July 31st, Wednesday

We head up for our usual breakfast with friends and Tiffany says she is too tired to dive at all that day. We agree that maybe she should sit out the morning dives but we plan to do the afternoon dive at Villa Blanca Shallows and look for that batfish. Kyle and Shelly say they want to do Maricaibo and after a discussion with M&M we decide to go with them. A couple of guys staying at the Iberostar had requested the reef and so we will stop and pick them up on the way.

Dive 1 of the day - Maricaibo, 110 fsw, 38 minutes, vis 100’

DM Enrique, Divers: Ron, Robin, Kyle, Shelly, and 2 guys from Iberostar

This is a long boat ride and a rough one too. On the fast boat it still took about 45 minutes to arrive from Papahogs pier and when we arrive Enrique tells us to hit the water and head for the bottom immediately. We all head down and meet at around 110’. It is a lush slopping reef with little coral heads, tons of fish and sea fans and sponges, then a big drop off to our left. We opted to stay shallower on this one as we want to stay as long as possible. Enrique spots several turtles, one sleeping under a small ledge that is huge! We gradually worked our way shallower every 10 minutes or so and finally end the dive all too soon.

Dive 2 of the day - Paseo de Cedral, 54 fsw, 55 minutes, vis 100’

DM Enrique, Divers: Ron, Robin, Kyle, Shelly, and 2 guys from IB

Since we have to drop the guys off back at IB we opt on a dive site close to their hotel. Cedral is a great dive but it is busy today. We dropped into the water and there are huge dive groups everywhere. I didn’t take the camera on Maricaibo so I have a full roll of film ready for anything. Ron found an octopus under a ledge and another nurse shark, plus a splendid toadfish. The group does several swim-throughs and I snapped pictures instead. A large grouper was hiding under a ledge and a big barracuda appeared to be imitating a trumpet fish by hanging head down near a coral head. He was the largest barracuda I think I have ever seen, easily 5’ long and dark in color, almost black. A baby turtle was trying to escape the throngs of divers in the water and we watched him surface for air and then descend to hide under some coral. He was less than a foot in diameter and the smallest turtle was saw on this trip. All in all, a very nice way to end the dive trip.

Back at Hogtown hotel we find Tiffany too pooped to do a shore dive still….. Actually I think that night dive was so incredible that no other dive can compare with her so why bother!! We decide to call the dive trip to an end and buy beers for all the Dms and boat captains while we eat a large lunch. After many Sols, and after Happy Hour 2 for 1, and more snacks and Sols with Kyle and Shelly and the Boys we shower and change for our last trip to town. We arrived downtown and after "power shopping" for a few hours we head to Plaza Leza for dinner. A very good dinner and great service, plus two adorable kitties to make us miss ours back here at home even more round out our last evening in Cozumel. We return to our rooms exhausted and thinking that these short 4-night trips are great. We did 10 dives (Tiff did 8) and all great quality and still had plenty of social time with our extended family in Cozumel. Mike and Margaret run a very special dive op where all the employees are family. It was great spending time with Kyle and Shelly also and hopefully we will see them again down there.

LAST DAY - August 1st, Thursday

We are up early again and join Kyle and Shelly for breakfast. They are going over to do the Green Wall/Tarpon City dive like we did last month and their boat is leaving at 8am so we have hugs and goodbyes with them before they go. We reluctantly pack up our room and say goodbye to all the Dms and boat captains as well as Mike and Margaret. It is nice to be so appreciated and I am sure they all know we will be back to see them and do it all over again. We arrive at the airport early and run into Ron Lee and he doesn’t even recognize us. Chas arrives and he is absolutely glowing with excitement. He is set and will be moving down and we are thrilled that we are able to share in his joy. After an hour delay, the plane leaves for Denver and we are home again already planning the next adventure to Cozumel!

Robin, Ron, & Tiffany

other websites: www.papahogs.com, www.groundhogdivers.com, www.rnrscuba.net