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June 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 29, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Cozumel and Akumal, Mexico

two unique dive trips in seven days

from the June, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

For more than half a century, divers have flocked to the reefs of Cozumel, so famous for drift dives along coral walls that some consider it a diving clich. Yet most of those visitors overlook a truly unique diving experience right across on the mainland -- the freshwater cenotes of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. In January, I and others from my dive club joined a trip organized by my local dive shop to dive both locations in one short visit. It was like having two dive trips in one.

It was one of those trips where I made no decisions at all; I didn't pick the hotel, the dive shop, my flight or even the departure day. Having made endless trips with one buddy or another where my fingers did the walking (leaving me to sweat over details, connections and dive arrangements), there's a lot to be said about joining someone else's group: just pack your gear and show up. Sure, you may not get the best of the best, but it's stress-free from beginning to end. And the price can be attractive -- for 10 nights, double-occupancy, all diving and meals, my tab was $1,814.

The Dock at Casa del MarWe first booked into Casa del Mar, a clean, cozy resort about 2.5 miles south of San Miguel de Cozumel, the island's main town. The resort, with 98 rooms plus eight cabanas, is located on the inland side of the Malecon, from which I took a footbridge over the busy thoroughfare to access a pier with three different dive operators. I and eight others from my dive club had been pre-assigned to Cozumel Marine World, which provided good, attentive service through four days of diving.

On our first dive, at Palancar Cave under gray skies, I was struck by the drab corals and sparse fish life. In the April 2005 issue of Undercurrent, I described a nearby site as "a glorious jumble of hard and soft corals, studded by a rainbow of sponges and faceted by grottoes, tunnels, and overhangs." This time, the corals looked like sepiatone photos of themselves, albeit under a cloudy sky.

A brilliant exception was Punta Dalila, a shallower reef just north of Palancar, where we did a second dive the following day. At 59 feet, with visibility well over 80 feet, I was greeted by an eight-foot moray out prowling in the morning sunlight, keeping company with a silvery grouper. A bodacious green turtle stood on its hind flippers, munching at the underside of a coral ledge. A smaller turtle dove directly beneath me. Since Dalila is a preserve, like virtually all Cozumel dive sites, lobsters were fearless and huge. One brute had feelers the size of Alaskan king crab legs. On my safety stop, an eagle ray passed majestically below me. So, all was not lost....

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