Baths of Cozumel
It’s funny where your mind can wander while your waiting to surface at the end of a long dive. Kneeling in the sand 20 feet underwater, when I should still be concerned with time, depth, and pressure; I found myself watching as the bubbles from my scuba regulator gently ascended to the surface. As the tension mounted, each bubble erupted as it breached the surface. Looking around for my dive buddy, numerous fish, soft coral and sponges swayed in the current as if presented with a stiff wind.
The waters of Cozumel are unlike any you might visit. Hidden in their depth is an abundance of life from the smallest jellies to the largest colonies of coral. You will be astounded as you turn from side to side trying to focus on any one thing. And, as soon as you do, a new wonder will surely pull your attention away.
This was my first trip to Cozumel. Although diving for over 12 years, I had never ventured to this part of Mexico. I had always heard of the large crowds who frequent Cozumel and of their rude behavior. Generally, I like diving in more remote areas. I feel most at home when I can look out onto the horizon and see nothing but clear blue water. Recently however, a friend convinced me to take a chance and head down South. I was assured; everything would take care of itself.
Since I travel quite often, I have learned the value of the Internet when it comes to researching travel destinations. Finding the ins and outs of any location can mean the difference between a good trip and a great adventure. Since my friend had been to Cozumel before, I left the hotel plans to him and concentrated on finding a dive operator. Searching online I came across a company who promised fewer divers on board than other operators and long bottom times on each dive. Perfect! Dive with Martin has 10 fast boats that each carry only 8 -10 divers so there's no crowd. They also arrive on the best dive sites earlier in the morning before any of the other operators.
During our trip, there was only 1 other diver onboard for 12 of our 15 dives. This meant we were our own and would not have to watch as herds of divers disturbed the marine life or reduced visibility. We had an exclusive opportunity to take great photos and see undisturbed areas before the throngs of other divers hit the scene. Our dive master David was a true professional. He was always careful to fully explain their policies and procedure. He never made us feel rushed or neglected, and as promised, Dive with Martin delivered large capacity scuba tanks giving us long bottom times. On our first day, we were required to make an orientation dive with David so he could evaluate our skills. Although some may consider this an inconvenience, I understand the necessity because of the large volume of divers that pass through this island. We were told this dive would determine what types of dives we would be able to make the coming week. As we headed out on the Ana Marie II, David asked us about our past dive experience quickly determining we were ready for anything he had to offer.
The sites we dived were all along the western side of the island. These included; Palancar Bricks, Palancar Horseshoe, Palancar Gardens, Columbia Deep, Santa Rosa Wall, Las Palmas, Punta Sur, Barracuda, San Juan, and the wreck of the C-53 (Xicotenantl). Many of these sites offered amazingly large coral formations which you can actually swim through. Others offered tall coral pinnacles rising from sandy slopes near shear drop-offs. There were several mini walls that kept us visually entertained as did the many encounters with marine life including hawksbill turtles, eagle rays, sharks, and seahorses.
As diving was our main attraction for coming to Cozumel, we planned 15 dives during our 8 day stay. Of these, I had 2 favorites. One was the wreck of the C-53 (Felipe Xicotenantl). This 184 ft Mexican Minesweeper lies at a depth of 80 feet and offered a perfect backdrop for some very surreal photography. After descending the line from the surface, we moved around the port side toward midships where a hole had been cut to allow divers to penetrate the wreck. From here we explored all 3 levels finally emerging onto the back deck. During the dive it was amazing to see the large variety of marine life that had come to call this wreck their home. Also, bubbles from the exhaust of other divers still remained creating eerie mirrored reflections on the ceiling of almost every room. As we exited off the back deck, we headed up to the fly bridge to wait for our chase boat to pick us up. Looking down, we could still see bubbles slowly seeping out and heading to the surface creating a dazzling array of colors as the sun's light past through.
Another great dive was a trip down the Devil’s Throat. Also called Punta Sur, this dive would prove to be our deepest dive as we hit 135 ft. On this dive, David brought a video camera so we would have footage to remember the event. Devil’s throat is a series of swim-through caves. You swim from one cave to another as it leads you down through the reef until you pop out below at 120 feet. There is an unusual sponge formation in the shape of a cross near the base of the system. This is a main landmark for all divers making this dive and creates a sense of foreboding as you think about your depth. As we exited the last swim through, we dropped a little deeper to head around a coral pinnacle and then headed up shallower to continue our dive. Because of the depth, we were required to make 2 stops before surfacing.
Dive with Martin calls these stops safety stops but they were actually deco stops which were necessary to keep us safe on our way to the surface. As we moved further up the reef, we were delighted to see a wide variety of star fish as well as several eagle rays. Dive with Martin has certainly proven themselves to be an reputable dive operator. True to their word, they provided a great service for a great price. We were able to make all 15 dives for $325.00 and this included the use of large capacity scuba tanks. And, best of all, no dive was under 50 minutes long and most were over an hour.
Now we did tip after every dive which increased our cost but it was still very reasonable. We appreciated the concern and expertise David and our boat captain provided and felt they earned the extra money. Overall, we were very happy.
So, the next time you are heading down to Cozumel, make sure and give this dive company a call. You can contact Dive with Martin at:
Cozumel Q.Roo, Mexico 77600
Located on the International Cruise Ship Pier/ Diamond Plaza in Cozumel, Mexico just south of the El Cid/La Ceiba Hotel.
Phone: (011 52) 987 872-2610