How refreshing it is to jump in the ocean and get wet for a change!
This post is primarily for divers, with my reflections on the differences between cold-water and warm-water diving, and tips for going to Cozumel. I dive in California, and have used a dry suit for the past several years, meaning only my head and hands get wet when I jump in the water. In Cozumel, the water temperature was 75-78F for the entire trip, and no drysuit (and only a 3mm wetsuit) was needed.
We stayed at Scuba Club Cozumel, which I highly recommend. It is not the cheapest option on the island, but you will get your money’s worth as a diver. The resort is built specifically for divers, which means it has:
- A rack outside of every room where you can hang your wetsuit and other dive gear to dry.
- Several rinse tanks of fresh water for your gear.
- Lockers next to the rinse tanks, so you can leave your weights and other gear behind (bring your own lock).
- No carpet in most of the resort. The rooms are all tiled, which means that you can come to your room still wet from a dive and head straight for the shower without having to get dry first.
- Diving-centered operations. The hours for meals are set by the diving schedule. If your boat is late, lunch of dinner is held, as the crew has called in and notified the restaurant. Maids come by in the afternoon, after your morning boat dives, to see if you need any more fresh towels.
- Two boat dives a day (in the morning), optional wreck and evening dives, and unlimited shore diving.
- An on-site dive shop with equipment rental and instruction.
The diving is different from California, and required some adjustment. In Cozumel there is a strong current, and the diving style is drift diving — a go-with-the-flow style. The boat finds you at the end of your dive (it’s handy to have an inflatable dive sausage in case you need to signal the boat, but I never had to use mine). The boat dives are done in a group of four to six people, led by a dive master.
The diving I do in California tends to be diving with a buddy, returning to the same location (boat is anchored, or returning to the shore entrance), and diving at a much slower pace. I like to hang out at a rocky point for a little while, and look for the smaller life, poke my light into nooks and crannies, see if I can find an octopus or eel or something else interesting that is hiding. Next time, I think I will do the “Taxi Dive” — take the Taxi down the road (a mile or so? not sure) with your dive gear, enter the ocean at Papa Hog’s, and drift down the current back to Scuba Club. No dive master, you can go at your own pace and see what you want to see and take your time.
Some lessons learned:
- Pretty, feathery sea plants can sting, even if they look similar to the California plants that cause no problem..and you often don’t feel it when you brush up against one of them, it’s only later that you feel the pain. I bought a dive skin to wear under my (rental) shorty wetsuit and that helped a great deal.
- If you can, go into town on a Sunday, or when there are not many cruise ships in port. Go off the main road where the cruise ship passengers tend to stay, you’ll find more interesting shops with a greater variety of items.
- Bring water/reef shoes for wearing around the resort and on the boat between dives. More comfortable than wet booties, and not as hot as shoes with socks.
- Walk to the grocery store for drinks, cash, and any forgotten items. It’s about a five minute walk, and they do take credit cards. Scuba Club is all-inclusive, save for drinks (including soft drinks) at meals. You’re not allowed to bring your own drinks into the restaurant, but you’re welcome to have them on your patio and in other areas (and there are small refrigerators in each room).
- Computer access is everywhere! In 2000, when we last visited, we had to hunt for an internet cafe. There are internet access shops all over the island, and for a reasonable rate (a dollar an hour in one case). Scuba Club Cozumel has wifi access in the main courtyard area, and you often see divers either checking their email or downloading pictures from their cameras. The airport also has wifi access.
- If you bring a lot of camera gear, pay attention to the weight of your bags as well as the size. You can easily reach the 50 pound weight limit before your bag gets full.
- Cozumel My Cozumel is a great website in English, written by locals, about how to get around the island — where to shop, eat, stay, what to avoid, common myths, etc.
As a side note, I hadn’t realized how much diving with a drysuit had become automatic, until I went for a dive off the beach to check my weights. I was a little buoyant, so I raised my left arm to get rid of some of the air — and realized I was in a wetsuit, that there was no extra air in my suit to vent. When I reached bottom on another dive, my hand went to my chest to find the inflater valve that wasn’t there. Yes, I still wear a BC while diving dry, and I use it for most of my buoyancy, but I use the drysuit to make minor changes to my buoyancy. The inflater valve is always in the same place, you never have to search for a hose. Dumping air is just as easy: roll over a little to your right, lift up your left arm, and air goes out. Again, no hoses or valves to find.
In short, I had a great vacation. I would go to Cozumel and Scuba Club Cozumel again, but maybe not as my next warm-water trip. I’d love to explore Indonesia, the Philippines, and other places. I will make every attempt to book the trip with the Finstad’s Worldwide Diving Adventures however. Nothing compares to having a couple of enthusiastic tour leaders with marine biology degrees on your dive trip.