Mexico Diving holiday – part 1
Having all met up in the airport we headed off to the business lounge for some pre-flight refreshments. The group of 29 was split between 2 flights; Virgin and BA which ended up leaving at the same time making for a bit of a race.
On arriving in Mexico the group was reunited but we were soon aware that we were already a man down. Rumour has it that Richard decided to pay a visit to the champagne bar before boarding the flight, and on taking his seat the cabin crew decided that it was probably best to remove him and his luggage from the aircraft. Oooops!
The diving holiday is split in to 2 parts, Cozumel for the first 5 nights and then Playa del Carmen for another 5.
On arrival at our first hotel the 5* Occidental in Cozumel there was just enough time to eat some tacos, sip a couple of tequila cocktails and chase them down with a few cold cevezas.
Looking at Dan and Andy’s faces the next morning they clearly had managed to find the hotel nightclub too.
After a feast of eggs, sausages, pancakes and a few spicy Mexican treats we made our way down to the dive centre to check ourselves in and drop off our diving equipment. After a quick pre-dive BBQ lunch we boarded the 2 dive boats and headed to the nearby reef. The reefs in Mexico are part of the worlds largest second largest barrier reef and have a reputation of being sublime, only time will tell.
Ockey was celebrating her Birthday today and there can’t be many other places in the world that are more idyllic.
After plunging in the turquoise waters for the first dive we were clearly in for some splendid diving for the next few days. Viz was about 30-40m and the water temp was 28 degrees. Our guide took us along a reef plate that was made up of carpets of soft and hard corals. The large rock formations had lots of large cracks which meant as well as a sheltered home to lots of pretty marine life, we had some nice easy swim-thrus too. The main highlights of the first dive were lots of huge spiny lobsters, some pretty box fish, large grumpy looking groupers and a small spider crab.
After a quick change of tanks we went for our second dive. This was along a ridge that was encrusted with corals including some really nice sponge barrels and dead men’s fingers. The top attractions were a couple of hawksbill turtles and a very lethargic 4 foot reef shark that cruised by.
After a quick rinse of equipment we headed to the all-inclusive pool bar were we could choose from the cocktail menu, or if you prefer you can even pour your own beer. Sitting around the pool everyone was still buzzing from their first two dives and for many people it was there first in clear, warm tropical water.
That evening Richard finally managed to catch up with the group having bought a next day flight via Miami for a bargain £1k.
The next day we enjoyed another two spectacular morning dives. The first was along a reef wall that had masses of pinnacles and we saw some huge groupers, massive lobsters (yum yum) and the largest parrot fish ever. The scenery was so spectacular and being accompanied by my chilled dive buddies, it meant that I ranked this in my top 20 dives. The next dive was not quite as scenic as the first was still so good it was off the chart. The gentle current meant this drift dive was even more chilled and that even after a 60 minute 20m dive we were coming up with 1/2 a tank of Nitrox.
The afternoon consisted of beers, cocktails and lots of banter by the pool. Lee and John decided to hit the mojitos early, a decision that would have painful consequences the next morning. As night fell a few of the group went to watch the fireshow that apparently was really good while others went for a night dive. The night divers raved about everything they’d seen so another has been planned in two nights time.
After I disappeared to bed the younger members of the group carried on in the hotel nightclub. Apparently Andy managed to ‘make friends’ with a young American girl but I don’t believe they exchanged phone numbers.
For our 3rd day of diving I changed boats to take some photos of the guys in the group. Typically my camera went on the blink but it did mean I could lie back and enjoy the dives and take everything in. The first dive was on the shoulder of another reef wall. This had the best swim-thrus so far and made for some dazzling hues of blue as the sun found its way through the cracks.
On the next dive we meandered along the reef wall spotting spider crabs, scorpion fish, a couple of dopey turtles, and right at the end of the dive during our safety stop we spotted a sleeping nurse shark.
As the diving is so fantastic many of the group have decided to do 2 afternoon dives too. For this hardcore group the effort seemed to be paying dividends. They each had a selfie taken with a turtle, except for Kerstin who was photo bombed by an Angel fish. It also seems to be the time of the day when the sharks are a little more active as several were spotted going for a potter along the reef wall.
Afternoon drinks by the pool were cut short due to a quick tropical downpour. At 7pm we all met in the bar for some pre-dinner drinks.
Trey joined us that evening having managed to squeeze a weeks holiday from work. Dinner was served in one of the a la carte restaurants where we were treated to Mexican soup, tacos and a choice of coconut shrimp or fillet steak. After dinner the oldies headed for nightcap while the youngsters journeyed for another night out on the tiles.
For our final morning of dives we headed up the coast for a wreck dive. The ship was an ex-Mexican navy frigate that was donated by a previous president as a present to the diving community. The wreck lies in about 20m of water and is still in tact. Andy had a sulk as he wasn’t allowed to go inside.
The following dive was a fast drift, the only way I can describe the typography was it was like flying over a mini version of the Yorkshire dales. There were no real reefs but small hills covered with soft corals and sea grass. This meant that there was plenty of fodder for the local turtle population that were springing up all over the place and were very accommodating when it came to having their picture taken. About 30 minutes in to the dive we spotted 2 nurse sharks having a feeding frenzy. We took refuge from the current and spent 10 minutes or so taking photos. We were joined by another 2 sharks which meant we had almost has one each to play with. At the end of the dive John rated it as his favourite dive ever, not bad for a guy whose been to the Red Sea, Maldives and Wraysbury.
In the afternoon half the troops went out for a 3rd and 4th dives to some local caves. More shark and turtle sightings were reported and the swim throughs were out of this world, although the most memorable thing for most of the divers was watching Richard shoot to the surface having lost one of his weight pockets.
Tinged with an element of sadness to be leaving Cozumel tomorrow, this signifies the end of the first part of our adventure. Tomorrow with a sense of excitement we head over to Playa del Carmen for part 2 of this trip of a lifetime.