Posted by Don on October 22, 2001 at 14:31:43:
Trip report – Mazatlan
Not strictly California diving, but since I asked for opinions on the board before I went, I thought it was only fair to report afterwards….
In view of the many negative reports of the diving here, and dreading the hassles of dive gear meets LAX, I decided (foolishly) to leave my gear behind and just free dive during the week. For any of you who have done this, you will know that it is the best way to ensure beautiful diving conditions and tempting opportunities to submerge yourself at your destination. This trip was no exception.
Just a quick description of the area – Mazatlan has a harbor/marina area near the real city part, and a hotel strip north of the city that is reminiscent of most Mexican tourist spots. What is unique is that about 1km off shore from the hotel strip area (zona dorado) is a cluster of three fairly large islands. The biggest, which filled the view from our balcony, is Isla Venados. It has a large sandy beach in the middle of the landward side, but rocky points that trail out into visible pinnacles to the north and south. Just staring at them made my fingers start to twitch.
We began by taking a catamaran out to the beach area (20$ US) and snorkeling/free diving our way along the rocky shoreline. After swimming about 100 yards the rocks began to extend out underwater away from the shore and we played around here for quite a while. Visibility was about 5-10 feet only with a lot of suspended particulates, but when you dove below 20 feet or so it seemed to open up a bit. Saw the usual culprits – pufferfish, angel fish, etc. and had a great old time. Unfortunately this pushed me over the edge into full-blown dive withdrawal and more drastic measures were called for. After all, I hadn’t been diving in over 3 days now at this point and I was starting to get the shakes.
When we returned I asked the ubiquitous “guy on the beach” if he knew of a dive shop or outfit in the area, and was quickly hooked up with Caesar and Sergio, a pair of brothers who ran excursions out of the Royal Villas Hotel. Wincing at the 50$ 1 tank price, I consulted with the monkey on my back (who assured me that it was money well spent), and arranged to meet them the next morning at 8:00.
Cut scene to next morning. I grabbed my snorkeling gear and headed down the beach to meet them in front of their panga. Surprisingly, it was just going to be me and Sergio (the spousal unit is 4 months pregnant and contented herself with sleeping in and mumbling imprecations at me as I snuck out of the room). I made a beeline for the gear, as I was dreading this moment and was pleasantly surprised to find that both my regulator and BC were in excellent condition, (even after I surreptitiously checked under the hose protectors etc.) No DIR here however (Sorry MHK), straight Seaquest jacket BC, US divers conshelf reg’s (on short hoses), AL80’s and lead slabs were the order of the day. There was a brief moment of confusion when I realized it has been years since I dove in anything less than 7mm of neoprene, and had no idea what weight I needed with a 2mm shorty. I played around on the shore for a bit and settled on 10lbs (since the choice was 5, 10 or 15). Of note, apparently wetsuits aren’t available here so definitely BYOWS.
The ride out took all of 10 minutes and we anchored in about 40 feet of water off the southern landward tip of Isla Venados. Peering over I could just make out a large boulder that came to within 20 feet of the surface. We reviewed some signals, checked gear and made a sketchy plan to “do a big circle” then backflopped in. We dropped down to the bottom (40fsw) and headed off. Sergio was a pleasant divemaster/buddy who let me set the pace and made sure we didn’t miss anything interesting. The terrain was eerily reminiscent of Long Point (old Marineland) in Palos Verdes. Lots of jumbled boulders, some interesting caves and no kelp/hard coral. Occasional sponges and soft corals added variety. Vis ranged from 5-25 feet due to suspended particulates and there was no surge but a lot of funny currents among the rocks that resulted in small vortexes with poor visibility. Life was as abundant as any California dive I have done, with many puffers, large Angel Fish, occasional morays (nice black and white spotted ones), conch type shells, many lobster and some huge octopi. One major surprise was the presence of small sea pen like feathery structures on most of the rocks. These it turned out pack quite a whallop if you brush them, and they burn for a good 30 min, and itch for days thereafter. I brushed one with my forearm (damn that shorty suit) in the first 5 minutes and felt it for the rest of the dive! Water temps were 85 on surface, 80 at depth (guessing). Max depth 45 feet, bottom time 75 min.
For Seahunt – I grabbed one lobster just to let them know who was boss, and marveled at the differences in colour compared with our home grown variety – mottled black and white with orange tracings. All the ones I saw were quite small however.
All in all a nice little dive. I hate to try and rate dives, but for those of you who like these things it was better than Corral Canyon Beach on a good day, but not as nice as Christmas Tree Cove on a good day.
No saltwater crocs were seen or heard from.
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