Cozumel May 2005
Wednesday, May 4th - We arrive on schedule on American Airlines direct flight from Dallas to Cozumel International Airport. After making our way through customs and on to the shuttle bus to the El Cid La Ceiba we check in and are greeted by all with familiar welcomes…it’s good to be home. From Ester the manager to the bellmen to the wait staff and managers at the restaurant every one greets us with big smiles and "welcome backs"
The weather is just perfect, upper 80’s to low 90’s with moderate humidity and gentile tropical breeze to make what humidity there is seem almost non-existent.
We check into the low rise rooms of the hotel, Ester promises to move us Saturday to the tower where she knows we like to stay. This is the first time we have stayed at this end of the resort the room is a 2 room suite, with microwave, fridge, coffee maker, blender, dishes and a Murphy bed in the living area to convert it to a 2 bedroom if needed.
The hotel is making the move to a time-share property and this is the one bedroom ‘condo’ that El Cid has developed. More on the time-share deal later.
I have just bought a Sea & Sea DX500G digital camera and underwater package through Holly at Island Photo. I’ve been renting from her and Armando for years and have finally made the move to buy. Along with the camera package, I also got a free lesson from Holly on how to set the camera up for underwater use.
We hooked up with Holly at Chopa Loca, the hotel restaurant and as we munched on guacamole & chips and had a couple of margaritas. Holly gave me a great photo lesson on setting up my camera and proper maintenance.
After the lesson we headed over to Martin Aguilar’s dive shop at the International Pier shopping center, Dive with Martin is a great dive op with very good DM’s and captains.
David and Orlando stand out as our favorites for their good humor and attention to detail.
We brought with us 10 pairs of used prescription glasses for Martin’s charity and paying cash for 6 days of 2 tank dives for 2 people our total bill was $575 with a free video and night dive. Not a bad deal at all!!!
Diner at Carlos and Charlie’s and pod people watching. We made it to Chedraui, the local "Wal-Mart", just before they closed at 10:00p to get some drinks and snacks for the room.
Thursday, May 5th – Cinco de Mayo – 05/05/05 – Now to the good stuff, what we are here for…diving.
First dive, Santa Rosa Wall, might as well start at the top! This is one of the nicest wall dives there is, nice coral formations, lots of sponges and soft corals. We maxed out at 94’, but I suppose you could go as deep as you want here, I love to hang out just past the wall over the deep blue, it freaks some people out but I think it’s cool. We didn’t see a lot of fish life, actually that was the general theme for most of the trip, maybe current water conditions, time of year or whatever, the reef is constantly changing. Saw some good sized silver grouper, one really big, lobsters, anemones and the ever present arrow crab.
Second dive, also a favorite, Yucab. Shallow dive 40-50’ max. depth, lots of sea life here, juvenile drum, good sized barracuda, trumpet fish, a small hawksbill turtle, small groupers and lots of lobsters.
It rained on and off most the afternoon and into the evening, but didn’t get in the way of anything.
Since we have gotten mixed messages about what’s happening at La Ceiba with the time-share situation we went to the time-share presentation, the 90 min. presentation turned into 2 ½ hrs.
After 2 ½ hrs. of being sideways and straight up insulted by the salesman and in no certain terms told that if we didn’t buy into their 20 year commitment time-share we should look for another place to stay next year, we declined and went to have a late lunch. The jury’s still out on whether we will be able to stay there again or not. Too bad, we love this place and have been loyal customers for many years. I think El Cid is making a huge mistake by the way they are marketing the place, it seems they are targeting retirees and families, not divers, the bread and butter of Cozumel.
Lunch was part of the presentation and of course was really around happy hour by the time we got to it. We just made a light snack of nachos and quesadillas.
We ended up meeting a nice couple from Michigan on their honeymoon and spent the evening talking with them and a retired Dr. from Calgary. Actually we a lot of folks from Canada on this trip. The good doctor had already eaten and we bought diner for Steve and Julie as a wedding present. We all sat up until way after the restaurant closed having good great time.
Friday, May 6th – After the previous evenings escapades we slept in and opted for afternoon diving. We headed down to Ernesto’s Fajita Factory for a late breakfast, just a short walk from the hotel. We had a good brunch of eggs, frijoles, toast, fruit and that good java that you get down there, (why is there coffee so good?) it was time to get ready for the afternoon dive.
One of our 2 favorite DM’s with Martin is a young guy named David; he has a great since of humor and does a great job both on the boat and in the water. He was our guide for the afternoon.
First dive, Palancar Caves. Another wall dive with tall pinnacles of coral and several swim-thrus. We dropped down to a sandy bed to be met my 2 seahorses several yards apart, one of them with babies in his pouch. Then we headed for the wall and the swim-thrus. The last swim-thru you are at around 60’ and on the other side end up around 40’, rough estimates. Just as we were heading into it David found a very small sea dragon maybe 1 ½" long. On the other side he dug up a heart urchin from the sand and entertained us by blowing air rings.
Second dive, Columbia shallows…WOW what a great dive! I could do this every day! Very shallow most of it I think was around 30’. Lots of sea life, tube fans, Christmas trees, arrow crabs, scorpion fish, a nurse shark, one of the biggest schools of sweet lips I’ve ever seen. Peppermint shrimp, at least 4 turtles and a beautiful juvenile queen angle. David ended the dive with another round of air rings, took off his equipment and made a big one and swam through it. I’ll include it in my pics when I get around to posting them.
Saturday, May 7th – We decided not do any boat diving on Saturday opting for a shore dive on airplane flats, all the shore diving you want is included with the Dive with Martin package. This has always been a good dive spot for me, I enjoy the long bottom time, well over and hour and get to do what I like best, poke my nose in coral and see what I can find. On boat dives with the drift diving and having to keep up with the group I don’t get to take the time I’d like to. Everyone seems to be in a hurry to go somewhere and I’m always last in line looking for critters.
The main structure of the plane is still holding up and becoming a nice artificial reef, if folks would refrain from writing their initials on it. The coral formations around the plane looked like they had really put on some size in the past couple of years. We found some cuddle fish on the way out, my wife spotted 2 scorpion fish under the plane laying within a foot of each other. 2 yellow stingrays, lots of parrotfish, and the usual sweet lips and squirrel fish hanging out.
In the afternoon our buddy Ester the manager at La Ceiba moved us up to the 10th floor of the tower, now we are really feeling at home.
Went to Rock ‘n’ Java for diner, we love this place and highly recommend it. I had Thai noodles and veggies with peanut sauce and chicken, Thai food in Mexico!!?? Who would have believed it! Man, was it good!! The boss had black bean soup and salad. We only had enough room for cappuccinos, but if your there save room for dessert if you can, Lisa makes the best cakes and pies.
Sunday May 8th – Ok, here’s were things went down hill, we overslept for church and didn’t make it, so we got in the rental car which we got for doing the time-share thing for $5 for the day. You ask for a $5 car, you get one. VW convertible, the floor pedals were loose and the seatbelts didn’t work, we should have taken it back and gotten something else.
We went to the Museum for breakfast, this is another one of our favorite places to go, always a good meal and service. It was pretty busy because of Mother’s Day so we had a short wait. I had the tropical omelet and Lore had the croissant sandwich.
After breakfast we drove around town for a little while and were headed back to the hotel to regroup and get ready to drive around the island and have lunch at Coconuts. It didn’t turn out that way. At an intersection just coming out of the residential area I didn’t see a car coming because of other cars and trucks parked along the road too close to the corner and we had an accident.
We hit a local and his wife, they were in a small pickup and lucky for all of us it was a relatively slow moving accident. No one was hurt badly, the other couple checked out at the hospital, my wife has a fractured rib, which we didn’t get diagnosed until we got home, the local doctor down there only could detect a bruised rib and my left knee is bummed up pretty good.
So, I spent all afternoon at the police station being detained and working everything out.
If this happens to you call the American Consulate, Ann Harris, she will lay everything out for you and just by calling her, things at the police station and with the insurance guy went much smoother. Everyone at the station was very nice and we eventually paid the towing and the fine and were let go. After paying for towing and fine and the deductible for the insurance on the cars the final bill was a total $1000, my friend Holly said I did good.
The good Lord sent an angel by the name of Gary, a local who could speak perfect English; he just showed up at the accident and helped us with everything throughout the day. I don’t know where he came from but he was defiantly a Godsend. Thank you my friend where ever you are.
After this we needed a good meal and some wine, so diner was at another one of our favorites…Prima Pasta. They were out of the seafood lasagna so the wife opted for shrimp & scallops over pasta in a cream sauce and I had blackened grouper, yum, yum.
Monday, May 9th - Woke up and could stand on my left leg but couldn’t walk. Hobbled to the bathtub and ran as hot water as I could stand and soaked for 20 min. I was able to walk at this point. My wife’s chest was hurting pretty bad, so needless to say we canceled diving for the day.
We made our way downtown, by cab, settled with the car rental folks. Walked around town for a while and limbered up the knee. Went to Guido’s for lunch, really good salad of carrot, cucumber, beets, olives, radish, jicama & lettuce with a light vinaigrette dressing, garlic bread & some of the best pizza I’ve had a long time and a half of pitcher of homemade sangria. Found a new favorite!!!
Went back to the hotel and vegged at the pool for the afternoon and happy hour, ordered up room service for diner.
Tuesday – May 10th – Both feeling somewhat better, Lore felt pretty bad early on but felt better as the day wore on. We decided to not let this ruin the vacation and try and afternoon dive. She’s quite a trooper, I know she was suffering but wanted to give it a go anyway.
First dive- Los Tormentos – Lore got in the water without her equipment and the DM Jorge helped her put it on in the water. Once we got down we weren’t too bad, I was actually the most comfortable I’d been since the accident. She had some occasional pain but also felt better with the water surrounding her. Saw several grouper, small spotted moray eel, hadn’t seen too many on this trip, 2 barracuda, 2 big gray angels, actually the most angels we’d seen on the trip yet. Another seahorse and lots of jaw fish poking in and out of their holes. Encountered a large school of the dreaded thimble jellyfish at the surface, I was the last out of the water and noticed I was actually in a large school of plankton, several types of jellies and other tiny critters all around, pretty cool actually.
Second dive – Chankanab shallow. As the name says a shallow dive just off Chankanab Park, large crab, a VERY large lobster crossing the sand from one hole to the next, he actually came right up to me as I was trying to take his picture. Gray, French and Queen angels, found a white spiral egg sack of some sort and some nice clusters of tube fans. I think it was on this dive I saw a type of sea cucumber called a lion’s tong; I’ll include it in the pics.
Diner at the French Quarter, Ok, we may have found a new all time favorite restaurant, Mike the owner met us at the door, introduced himself and made us feel right at home, like a good ‘ol boy from Louisiana should. The service as great and the food was wonderful. We started off with a really fresh salad and complementary hushpuppies, I love hushpuppies!!! Lore had the seafood platter, a big plate of deep fried everything! Shrimp several ways, some of the best catfish ever, (and I grew up next to the Mississippi River), and I can’t even remember what all was on that thing! I had the Wahoo marinated in a lemon butter sauce, served with soy and wasabi sauce, just great!
For dessert we had the Island Passion Chocolate Cake, Oh My!!! So rich and smooth, I don’t even have the words!
Wednesday, May 11th – breakfast at the hotel and afternoon dive.
First dive, back to Santa Rosa Wall, no problem, love this dive saw a couple of turtles, lots of arrow crabs, grouper and got a pretty good pic of a peppermint crab.
Second dive, San Francisco Reef, pretty good current moving us along. Found a good sized nurse shark 6’+ in a small cave crawled up there with her and got a couple of good pics. Yes, I’m nuts. Found a group of sea carpets all bunched together, saw the biggest parrotfish I’ve ever seen, it had to be at least 3’ long. Another scorpion fish, lots of anemones and real pretty drum.
Diner at Ernesto’s, Lore had the famous seafood burrito, huge and packed with seafood morsels, I had the Plato Mexico.
Thursday, May 12 – Our last full day on the island. We headed out for a morning dive, still hurting some but getting better by the day. Lore still putting her equipment on in the water, this is working pretty good for her. The winds were up some and the water was choppier than it had been most of the week.
First dive, Palancar Horseshoe, the best part of this dive is the end of it, you actually have a very long shallow safety stop hovering over some really nice coral heads. The current was moving us along pretty good again, I’d love to do this dive with a very mild current there is a lot to see if you can stop and take your time. Found a large crab, a couple of turtles, lots of filefish and triggers.
Second and last dive of the trip, La Francesca. Shallow dive lots of coral and sponges, again the current moving us along. Got a good pic of a juvenile filefish trying to act like a plant. French and Gray angles and several kinds of butterflies. Another dive that would be really cool with low current conditions to poke around.
Headed down to Playa Corona for afternoon sun and light lunch of guacamole, quesadillas and margaritas.
Couldn’t leave the island with out going back to the French Quarter for another diner, once again service and food were fantastic. Thanks again to Mike and his staff.
Friday, May 13th…they make us go home!! We checked out of the hotel and checked our bags early at the airport and took a cab back to town to Guido’s for salad, pizza and sangria again before we had to head back to the airport for a 3:00p flight back to the big ‘D’.
In spite of the accident it was really a great trip, we ran into Scubaboarders, Gordon from Austin (ggunn), Herman and I finally got to meet Christi from Blue XT Sea, all recognized me from my ScubaBoard photo. Only met Christi and Herman in passing, but got to talk to Gordon for a while on 2 occasions at the photo shop, really nice guy, hope to go to Austin some time and see him play in one of the bands he’s in.
As usual my pal Holly and her husband Armando at Island Photo were the best, I can’t wait to get back to see them again. When there, please go see them and use their services.
Well, I’ve rambled on long enough, hope I haven’t put y’all to sleep. Be looking for my post letting everyone know I’ve updated my photo gallery with the latest, I’m still sorting through the 200+ images so give me a little time.