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April 2002

Ali and I went to Cozumel in April 2002 for some incredible diving.  All of the underwater photos are hers.

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Day 1 - Aqua Safari.  It was a cattle boat, but we were just getting our feet wet.  16 people and we followed the typical Cozumel 80 feet for 40 minutes and 60 feet for 40 minutes with a dive guide in front, 16 people mushed together in the middle, and a dive guide.  Oh to be spoiled in the crystal clear waters of Cozumel.

Day 2 - Cenote Diving.

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These are picture of a cenote.  Derived from the Mayan word D'zonot, these sink holes in the limestone karst of the Yucatan reveal entries into a gigantic river system.  And, we got to dive them!   Signing up with German at Yucatech Expeditions in Cozumel we paid our $135 per person and met our dive guide Diego the following morning at the water ferry pier.  Everything was included that day including water taxi, our transportation from Playa del Carmen to the dive sites, lunch afterwards at a great local cafe featuring pozole, and transport back.  Once to Playa del Carmen we were driven to Chikin Hal for our first dive and the were the only three people there.

Diving a cenote must be like doing a space walk.  Looking back at Ali, it looked like she was hanging in empty space and there wasn't even a sense that you were in water.  In fact the bubbles looked like soap bubbles more than air bubbles.  Dive lights barely back scatter and because we're doing modified flutter kicks.

Our second dive was at Dos Ojos and if you've seen seen the Imax movie Journey Into Amazing Caves, you've seen a cave we dove.

Cave divers have made major progress with staged diving and rebreathing over the past decade and mapped hundreds of thousands of feet of caves by groups like Grupo de Exploracion Ox Bel Ha, Quintana Roo Spelogical Survey, and of course our dive operation Yucatech Expeditions.

Exhausted we returned back home and honored the old Mexican tradition of siesta time.

Day 4 - Aldora Divers

My travel partner Ali heard that an operation called Aldora was supposed to be a good operation.  After my lackluster experience with Aqua Safari I was glad to spot their shop walking to dinner the previous evening.  With Dos Equis in hand we walked inside and within 2 minutes were sold and then slightly embarrassed we had beers and weren't perfect divers :)

Bob explained some of the philosophical and technical differences that Aldora followed:

  • All dive guides are certified instructors. Where the minimum should be dive master and some Cozumel operations don't meet that--these guys go even farther and require their guides have the highest level of certs. 
  • They interview you to see if you are a reasonably good diver. We had a couple of beginners on our dives, but they were genuinely interested in improving their dive skills and were clearly ahead of the learning curve from the experience.
  • They require computers and will loan you one if you don't have one. Because they run 120 cubic foot steel tanks (100cf for easy breathing folks) they run deeper and longer profiles than the usual 80/60 for 45 minutes that other operators. The profiles are backed up by extra long safety stops at 20 and 10 feet. One day I had a dive that we'll say was close to 130 feet as deep spot and was 65 minutes in length. Second dive was shallow at 45 feet but lasted 96 minutes! We still all had air but people were getting chilled.
  • Two hour surface interval. Running profiles that tend to mirror the yellow nitrogen bar of a computer make for a great opportunity to drop you off at the Playa del Sol beach resort and have a bowl of their great chicken soup.
  • They treat you like an adult. Tank banging is an exception reserved usually for a suddenly found exotic creature. 6 people per boat is the norm. Maybe a 7th but they're usually some staff or friend of Aldora diving on a day off.

They're a little more expensive at $79 plus tax plus $2 park fee. That's probably $15 to $20 more than other operations, but dive times alone more than made up for that. I had 8 dives with them totalling 9 hours of dive time!

Our two dive this day were Punta Sur Sur (South of South Point), 102 feet max. depth with 56 minutes of underwater time.  The visibility was a little low and coral was not the point of this dive, but what incredible swim throughs.  Omar told us that we'd be close to Deco on this dive possibly within a minute or two either way and he didn't disappoint.  As I was the sixth and last diver I was at the :01 mark when I came out of a swim through and took a left deeper for another swim through.  Beep-beep as I went into deco mode and the a right-hander out across a big divide.  I ascended up to the 60 foot level on the other side of the divide and beamed as it was like a precision bombing run exactly like Omar described.  Spending a good 20 minutes at this half depth I began grabbing compression credit.

We hung at 20 feet watching the reef slowly drift by and some more time at 10 feet.  Breaking surface at about 500 psi it was my most technical to date.

We did our 2 hour surface interval at Playa del Sol and traded tall tale dive stories in the shade of a giant palapa.

Our second dive of the day was my 100th dive and at Paso del Cedral.  A bit of an important milestone in my dive history since 1994 I promptly tried to forget my fins.  Omar didn't disappoint us on this dive either at 70 feet for 66 minutes we saw 2 nurse sharks, 3 rays, one large green moray eel, and a nudibranch.  Hanging at 20 feet again off gassing I took in the whole experience of the bath tub 84 degree water and smiled again.

Hopefully Ali's underwater pics turned out and I'll come back and include them in this site.

The only complaint I could muster would be that they have had a string of bad luck on boat motors. Aldora I had some ignition issue that would make it slow to a crawl over the course of several days and another boat lost a water pump leaving us to run on one engine until lunch where they fixed it. Saltwater is hell on engines.

Day 5 - Tour the Island

We could have dove straight through, but doing a loop of the island in a jeep or moped is just an absolute requirement while visiting Cozumel.  If you go the jeep route, it's hard to beat the Less Pay $35 deal at the Barracuda Hotel (between PLG and town).  If you print their web page you get $15 off.

We chose the counter-clockwise route and ended up at my favorite place on the island an hour before they opened for lunch.  Not to worry.  Picturesque hammock views are in abundance at Bob Marley's Paradise Cafe.

Nothing better than a cold Dos Equis con limon and a hand pressed cheeseburger.  I swear they must film commercials at this place.

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A swim and brew at Chen Rio along with bloodletting via mosquito at San Gervasio and we finished our loop by driving by the Giant Conch and going back for another siesta and nurse the sunburn I got through my shirt!

Day 6 - Aldora Divers

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A turtle, nurse shark, and green moray eel

Day 7 - Aldora Divers

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Whitespotted Filefish (Orange Phase?)

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Splendid Toadfish (aka Cozumel Catfish)

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Queen Angelfish

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Honeycomb Cowfish

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Spiny Lobster

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French Angelfish

Cozumel Resources

Other great underwater pictures from Cozumel is at this site.

Aldora Divers

Cozumel Online Forum.  Conversations and topics are updated daily and with the thanks of some special locals like Carey gringos can get their first time visit questions answered and repeat visitors can share information about being Cozumelenos.

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