Hitting my underwater stride

It’s not always about tech. A recent trip to Cozumel has only strengthened my resolve to continue my underwater adventures.

Hitting the Road

Neither my wife nor I have ever been to Cozumel. Sure, we have been to Mexico a few times, including taking my kids to Cancun the past few summers. But, and I cannot quite stress this enough, Cozumel isn’t quite Mexico. This quiet little island situated about 12 miles off of the Mexican shores of Quintana Roo is a tourist mecca.

We were able to get 5 nights away this time. Rather than dive four mornings, we took the opportunity to rent a Jeep and drive around the island. You can pretty much divide Cozumel into 4 parts:

  1. Town: San Miguel de Cozumel is the port city where multiple cruise ships can dock and offload their thousands of passengers. Plenty of shops, restaurants, beach clubs, and activities are available.
  2. Leeward beaches: The leeward beaches on the west side of the island, south of town, are either resorts or beach clubs which charge an admission fee. Most of the coast is rocky, but little wave action and coarse white sand make for a great beach day.
  3. Windward beaches: The east side of the island has significantly more wave action, with some beaches that offer a little more fine sand (more waves = finer sand). Still rocky, but more opportunity for water activities like kite surfing and surfing.
  4. Nature preserve: The north end of Cozumel is mostly natural preserve. There are some beach clubs and islands north of town, but we did not venture in that direction.

The island caters to cruise ships. Certain activities, including the Mayan ruins, are only open when cruise ships are in port. “No cruise ships, no money” was a phrase I heard more than a few times. As we rented our Jeep on a day with no cruise ships, we missed out on some of those activities. We also missed out on the mass of humanity coming from those ships, so I was not terribly mad.

If you venture to Cozumel, bring cash! Many places on the east side of the island are remote, with little cellular signal of any kind. Many places do not take credit cards, or charge a service fee for using cards. The west side is a little more tourist friendly, but its never a bad idea to have some cash. Most places seem to accept the US dollar, but pesos aren’t a terrible idea.

Jump In!

The Cozumel barrier reef is part of one of the largest reef systems on the planet. A quick glance in the luggage area at the airport will tell you it is a scuba diver’s destination. There are a ton of dive shops on the island, so many that I used two different ones for my three dive days.

Nearly everyone does a two tank dive, with prices ranging from $80 to $110 for each two tank dive. Gear rental is available, I had to rent a BCD and regulator, which put me back about $25 USD a day.

In 6 dives, we dove 6 unique spots. Both dive shops did a “deep/shallow” dive, with deep dives being wall dives that range from 75-85 feet, and shallow dives in the 50-65 foot range. One thing that caught my attention was the lack of attention to certification levels.

I got my PADI advanced open water certification last year so that I would be certified for depths up to 100 feet. PADI open water certifications are only certified to 60 feet. By that standard, you need an advanced open water certification to dive on the deeper walls. I’m fairly certain that some of the folks I dove with did not have that level of certification. Now, it is not my business: I will always dive within my limits. But taking someone to 80 feet when they have not had some of the additional training seems dangerous, not to mention a bit of a liability.

Both dive houses, though, we accommodating during the dives. This trip marked dives 18 through 23 for me, but I can feel myself getting more comfortable. But, as comfortable as it is, it is never truly comfortable. There is an element of risk in every dive, and situational awareness is critical to keep yourself and your dive buddy safe. But I find myself becoming more aware with each dive, and with that awareness comes a great appreciation for the sights of the reef.

What did I see? Well, a ton of aquatic life, but the highlights have to be a 6 ft blacktip shark, a sea turtle, a couple large rays, and a few large Caribbean lobsters.

Next trip?

These dives brought my grand total to 23. Diving in Cozumel, I’m sitting next to folks who are easily in the hundreds, but never once was I intimidated. I have been very fortunate: my dive groups have been nothing but helpful. I get helpful pointer on nearly every dive, and it has made me more comfortable in the water.

The only question is, where to next?