Posted by jlyle on April 29, 2007 at 16:16:09:|
In Reply to: bug divers wanted posted by gm on December 24, 2006 at 10:28:58:
Cozumel April 2007
This was our third trip to Cozumel since Hurricane Wilma raged over the
island. All of the damage in town appears to have been repaired. The
International Pier to the south, is being demolished, probably to be
quickly replaced. The reefs are coming back quickly, the sand flats
are now alive with turtle grass and small sponges; the sponges are no
longer covered with a dusting of sand; and the reefs are teeming with
the usual fish and critters.
[This was my inaugural introduction of my new Olympus E-330 to the joys
of clear, warm water. The housing is an Ikelite and is connected to
two Ikelite DS-125 strobes. Lenses include Zuiko 7-14mm, Zuiko 14-
54mm, and Sigma 105mm. The E-330 is the first dslr with "live-view,"
which was a deciding factor in moving up from my beloved c5050.]
Scuba Club Cozumel - "Welcome home."
We are frequent guests at Scuba Club. We started coming here back when
it was called the Galapago Inn and have returned once or twice a year
Lunch - pollo asado blanco
Shore dive to see what's what. Spanish lobster, coral banded shrimps,
torpedo ray, saw school of squid but couldn't get close. (14-54 mm
Coral banded shrimp
Scuba Club Cozumel is a semi-all inclusive, room, food, and diving (no
beverages). The rooms do not have phones or TVs and the place is full
of serious divers. You can take a tank and do unlimited shore dives in
front of the hotel. Great diving, friendly staff, great food, clean
comfortable rooms keep us coming back, year after year.
Lesser Electric Ray
Dinner - shrimp-stuffed avocado; lasagna, beef stir-fry, or seafood
kabob; apple pie.
Breakfast buffet - nothing but fresh fruit for me, mangos, papaya,
three kinds of melon, kiwi, and a banana. I wish I could eat like this
at home. Other choices are eggs, bacon, chilequiles, huevos motuleńos,
pancakes, cereal, etc.
Over-under of boat & George
Palancar Gardens on the Coral Diver with Jesús - First things first,
water temperature = 80 degrees on my Genesis computer. I was
comfortable in a 3mm wetsuit. Visibility was good to great, varying
from 70 to 100+. Currents were mild and in the "normal" direction.
Our dive group met on the sand inshore of the reef, signaled "OK" to
the DM, and slowly kicked over the edge of the reef into the first swim
through. The sand that hurricane Wilma had deposited on the formations
was gone and the coral and sponges have started to regenerate. You
don't really appreciate the colors until you shine a light or strobe on
the sponges and they light up bright red and orange. After running out
of time at depth, we made our way through a tunnel to the shallow side
of the reef for a long safety stop, with a small school of permits and
another of horse-eyed jacks. We were surprised to find rough
conditions on the surface - a north wind was blowing...the dreaded El
Norte. It's not easy boarding a bucking boat, but everyone got back
Clinging Channel Crab
Deborah says, when the dog dies we can come for a month. I love my
Bolones de Chankanaab - This is one of my favorite dive sites and armed
with 36% EAN, we were comfortable doing a deeper second dive. Large
coral heads, the size of small houses are scattered on a sandy bottom.
These "bolones" or balloons are home to huge lobsters, clinging crabs
and large fish. We located an adult (I've never seen a juvenile) green
moray with a badly disfigured face; his jaw was broken and a scalloped
dorsal fin showed where it had been bitten and survived. I wonder how
long these eels live. Deborah pointed out our first splendid toadfish
of the trip - indigenous to the island, the purple, black and yellow
faces look out from their holes under the reef. A large nurse shark
was asleep under a coral head, with a remora resting on the shark's
back. Too soon, we ran out of time and had to come up...to a raging
windstorm and another exciting exit from the water. It was a rough
trip back to the hotel, with one of the divers calling the sea god
"Ralph" several times. Ralph is the patron saint of seasickness and is
often called when the ocean gets rough. Luckily, we were able to tie
up to the pier in front of the hotel and didn't have to go to the
harbor to disembark.
Lunch - beef & beans with quesadillas y pico de gallo
The north wind continued to blow all afternoon and night. No shore
diving for us, so I played with the camera and downloaded some
pictures. Scuba Club Cozumel has free wi-fi in the bar area and I was
able to check my email; isn't modern technology wonderful?
Dinner - French onion soup; choice of cheese-stuffed chicken breasts,
fish in red pepper sauce or linguini with mussels; strawberry cake or
chocolate mousse for dessert.
EL NORTE - the north wind continued to blow all night long. After
breakfast, we checked with the dive shop; they said they were waiting
for the port captain to decide whether or not to open the port. At
about eight o'clock, the port was declared closed, with a reevaluation
at 10:00 am...no such luck, it was too rough for even the bigger boats
and no one went diving.
Lunch - pollo en pibil.
By afternoon, the wind had begun to die down and we decided to go in
off the shore in front of the hotel. I had bought Deborah an Olympus
SP-350 and surprised her with the housing and strobe when we got to
Cozumel. This was her first dive with her camera and she was stoked.
Unfortunately, my lens wasn't responding to the camera so I went back
to the room to change lenses. When I returned to the water, Deborah
and George were nowhere to be seen; after poking around for an hour or
so, I got out. Deborah and George followed much later - they had done
a 2:15 dive!
Dinner - summer salad, steak & baked potato or shrimp Creole, carrot
pie or coconut cake (with ice cream!).
Colombia Deep - great conditions after the wind, flat seas and clear
water. Jellyfish have been blown in from wherever they keep them -
thimbles, little purple ones, and even a man o'war. We dropped in on
the last pinnacle at Colombia - our first turtle of the trip was
resting on top. With a very mild current, we circumnavigated the coral
formation, and swam through one of the tunnels before crossing the sand
flat to the main reef. The garden eels are alive and healthy in their
burrows, but far too shy to get their pictures taken by this
photographer. Two more turtles put in appearances before we ascended
for our leisurely safety stop.
boat - great vis
Paradise Reef - Four of the divers in our group were leaving the next
day, so we opted to run back up to Paradise for a long, shallow dive.
Jesús led us to three seahorses on the portion of the reef that we now
call Paradise Meadows. I found an arrowshrimp hiding on a gorgonium
and tried to take a picture, but it kept moving away from the camera.
Deborah now has a housed camera and strobe. This was her second dive
with the rig and she got some nice pictures.
Deborah with camera
A shy seahorse?
Lunch - Tortas de carne (steak sandwiches) & fries.
Shore dive - George, Deborah and I decided to do a twilight/night dive
from the shore and then a late dinner. We entered the water through
the well and began to poke around looking for small stuff. As we
proceeded south, into a very light current, we found an octopus, and a
field of sailfin blennies - try as I might, I couldn't catch one of the
blennies displaying in the water column. I would wait and wait and
wait...but the blasted little fish wouldn't cooperate. I vowed to
return and try again. As it got dark, we started to make our way back
to the hotel. We saw more octopi, lobsters, sleeping parrotfish and
schools of tiny baitfish that reflected our lights. The banded jawfish
that we discovered on our last trip were still in their holes.
Dinner - mushroom soup; choice of seafood platter, chicken cacciatore,
or almond fussili; cherry blintzes or chocolate torte.
Palancar Horseshoe - visibility has improved to gin clear! I took the
8" dome and my widest lens to work on my WA shots. The structures at
Palancar are ideal for wide angle pictures with divers and blue water
backgrounds. [Zuiko 7-14mm]
WA Deborah n window
WA Jesus in swim through
Tormentos - I didn't think I would find a lot of wide angle
opportunities on this low reef, but the overhangs on the deep side of
the reef were great. The current was moderate on the reef and several
groups of divers swept by us like there was no tomorrow. We dropped
behind the coral, out of the current, and let them pass by before
continuing our slow drift down the reef. A school of permits
paralleled the reef, out of camera range.
WA sponge arch
Lunch - tamales de pollo.
My son and his wife arrived to spend a week with us.
Shore dive - we went in for a twilight/night dive. I took my Sigma
105mm macro set-up and shot the heck out of small, very small, stuff.
Arrow crab eyes
Dinner - zucinni soup or Mexican salad; filet mignon, orange mahi mahi,
or penne Andaluz; carrot cake or pear tarte.
Colombia "normal" - wonderful visibility, 100+ feet. Very mild
currents were the norm all week. Only one turtle was spotted on this
dive; many fewer turtles were seen than our last trip, due to the lack
of jellyfish in the water. The white sand chutes between the
buttresses are no longer snow white, stuff is beginning to grow and
accumulate on the fresh sand that was deposited by Wilma.
Chankanaab - one of the "classic" dive sites of Cozumel, Chankanaab
never fails to deliver. We saw groupers, angelfish, snappers, etc. and
the huge lobsters that this reef is famous for.
Lobster & jesus
Lunch - Chimichangas de carne molida.
Shore dive - just Deborah and me. We lazed out to the artificial reef
that used to the concrete pier in front of the hotel, and watched the
sergeant majors defend their nests. Moving offshore, we found small
patches of turtle grass that are making a comeback on the flats.
Turning around, we paralleled the shore looking for small stuff,
yellow-headed jawfish, banded jawfish, small eels, arrow crabs,
Dinner - lentil soup or Turkish salad; BBQ stuffed-shrimp, Pollo en
salsa de mostaza, spinach linguini alfredo; pineapple upsidedown cake
or banana pie.
Santa Rosa Wall - one of the premier dive sites in Cozumel, SRW is
subject to wild currents, but we found nice conditions for a slow drift
along the wall, enjoying the coral structures along the edge of the
drop-off. Jesús found a green moray eel hiding under a ledge and a
barracuda made a close fly-by on the safety stop. Jesús shook his
rattle to get our attention and make a flapping motion; I thought he
was pointed to an eagle ray and looked and looked...he pointed down and
I saw the large Southern stingray laying on the sand.
Villa Blanca (also known as the dive of the seven cables) - starting in
front of the Villa Blanca hotel we dropped in on a moderate current
that swept us along the edge with its large sponges and colorful fish.
I concentrated on wide angle...we only made it to the first cable.
The International Pier was being demolished. Hurricane Wilma did so
much damage to the massive structure, it needs to be removed before
they can rebuild the pier. I don't know if they will take the other
pier out or not. The "space needle" has also been taken down. Hotel
El Presidente looks brand new from the water.
Lunch - papadzules (Yucatecan dish of hard boiled egg enchiladas in a
pumpkin seed sauce).
Shore dive - with my 105mm macro lens (the Olympus has a crop factor of
2, so this lens is the equivalent to a 210 mm lens on a 35 mm film
camera. Capable of 1:1 magnification at a working distance of 6", this
is a dynamite lens for ultra macro. The problem with the lens is
finding the blasted fish through the lens. But, as tricky as it is, it
does great work.
Dinner - Fiesta! Guacamole, tostadas, tacos, quesadillas, and more -
followed by a pińata.
El Paso del Cedral Wall - located in deeper water, parallel to the
famous Paso del Cedral Reef, the Wall is a series of long hills set at
an angle to the current. When you finish one structure, you swim over
to the next hill and continue down the reef. Normally, Jesús veers
towards the shallows near the end of the dive. This time, he took us
farther down the reef to a neat little place, alive with fish.
Grunts in a window
Angel in a hole
Las palmas - in front of the Hotel La Fiesta Americana, the current
splits with one fork running towards Paradise Reef and the other
towards Chankanaab. You can drift along the slopping wall in either
direction, depending on where you drop in. This dive was towards
Chankanaab, to the south. There are lots of colorful sponges along the
top of the wall and many colorful fish. At one point, Jesús led us
across the sand towards the shallows to a series of small coral heads
that aren't dived much. Here there are many lobsters, schools of bait
fish, groupers, and other beautiful fish.
Reef scene with porkfish
Lunch - carne a la Yucateca
Shore dive - I spent a quick hour out front shooting macro with the
Dinner- mushroom crepes or salad; pollo Vallodolid, gnocchi, or
seafood in papilotte; coconut pie or swan creampuffs.
Dalila - normally done as a second dive, we chose to dive Dalila as our
first boat dive of the day. Consisting of low profile reefs, lying
parallel to each other, this is a "fishy place." Large schools of
grunts and snappers congregate beneath the ledges and overhangs. The
sponges were spawning - giving off sperm and eggs, they looked like
they were smoking. A small nurse shark dozed in a hole. Jesús pointed
out a very tiny pipehorse (I didn't have my macro lens on my camera -
one downside to dslr cameras!). A small school of horse-eye jacks made
a close pass to the divers' bubbles. All too soon we had to come up,
only to see a turtle below us on the safety stop.
San Francisco - the northernmost part of Palancar Reef, San Franciso is
a shallow wall dive with lots to see on the edge of the dropoff. I
concentrated on the undersides of the reef and photographed the fish
against the colorful sponges.
Lunch - flautas de pollo.
Shore dive - the group met at 6:00 pm for a twilight dive in front of
the hotel. It was dark by the time we left the water, a couple of
hours later. The usual suspects were out, octopi, sleeping parrotfish,
Grunts on the pier
black on black
Dinner - pea soup or shrimp-stuffed avocado; beef kabob, fish Verazruz,
or spaghetti Neapolitano with chicken parmesan; canolli cake or lemon
Palancar Caves - this reef is everything that makes diving in Cozumel
wonderful. It has great structure, apartment sized coral heads, swim
throughs, tunnels and lots of colorful fish. Two turtles, log size
barracuda, and myriads of grunts and snappers added spice to the tasty
barjack being cleaned
Yucab Reef - a low profile reef, with lots to see. Hundred of large
oceanic triggerfish were nesting in the sand patches between the coral
heads. Oblivious to divers, they would let you get up close while they
tended their nests in hopes of enticing a female to lay her eggs, or
fought with other males to defend their spot on the reef. We've dived
this spot many, many times and this was the first time we have observed
the triggerfish nesting.
Lunch - frijoles y carne con quesadillas y salsa
We opted to skip our afternoon shore dive and make a run to Chedraui
for beverages to put in the fridge.
Dinner - Italian salad or carrot soup; Hawaiian shrimp, cilantro
chicken, or Mediterranean spaghetti; pecan pie or strawberry cake.
Chankanaab Bolones - home of the submarinefish! One of these days,
I'm taking a big wrench down with me and wave it in front of the
submarine as it passes - that should worry them...or not! It's hard to
moon the pod people in a wetsuit. A baby nurse shark was asleep under
one of the coral heads and a green moray eel was hidden way back in a
hole. There are some brown sponges at this dive site that photograph
red when lit with a strobe - very colorful.
Paradise Reef - four seahorses. I'm amazed at how adept Jesús is at
spotting little stuff. He pointed at something and even knowing what
it was, I had a hard time finding the critter. We also saw several
slender filefish hiding in the gorgonia, but I was not set up for
macro. Near the end of the dive, Deborah pointed out a juvenile
trumpetfish pretending to be invisible in the midst of a gorgonium. I
found a fingerprint cyphoma!
George with seahorse?
Lunch - enchiladas verde con crema.
Our shore dive was a twilight/night dive for macro subjects.
golden coral shrimp
Dinner - Caesar salad or leek-potato soup; seafood kabob, Mexican
platter, or Vodka penne; carrot cake or pear pie.
I surprised Deborah with a housing & strobe for her Olympus SP-350
camera. She had a great time learning the camera and taking lots of
pictures. Here is one of her best efforts - not bad!
Deb's queen angelfish
Colombia "Bricks" - we never saw the bricks, but they are still there.
Visibility wasn't as great as it had been previously in the week,
perhaps due to a moderate current on the wall. The huge coral heads
never fail to impress, what more can I say? We found a couple of
turtles on top of the reef and numerous little purple jellyfish on the
safety stop. One of them had a little fish hovering over its bell.
I'm not good at photographing jellyfish...they tend to be out of focus.
One of these days, I'll get it right.
this is your brain...this is your brain on scuba
Punta Tunich - is a reef that we had not dived since before Wilma
(BW?). The current was the strongest we experienced on this trip. We
told Jesús, we wanted to fly the reef in the water-wind. It's an E-
ticket ride. This is a long reef and it used to have great fields of
finger coral covering vast areas of the reef; it's gone! I did not
take my camera in the water on this dive, big mistake. There was a lot
to see, and we did - midnight parrotfish, rainbow parrotfish, a green
moray eel, turtle, large angelfish, etc.
Lunch - pan de pescado.
Shore dive - the current had picked up and there was some surge, making
macro photography a real challenge. I stayed near the front of the
hotel and found some neat little stuff.
Coralshrimp with eggs
Dinner - Turkish salad or mushroom soup; Fish Tikin Xic, cheese-stuffed
chicken breasts, or Whiskey linguini with mussels; apple pie or
Punta Sur - the last pinnacle. Visibility wasn't as good as it has
been. The currents have picked up and I think sand was blowing off the
shallows. Still, it beats southern California on a good day. We
circumnavigated the pinnacle; played with a turtle; Jesús spotted an
black-tip reef shark; and we then crossed the wide sand-gap to the next
part of the reef. Two stingrays hunted in the sand below us on our
safety stop. Camera problems, no pictures.
Colombia Shallows - Jesús said he had not been to the shallows at
Colombia since the hurricane. We had heard from other divers that
damage to CS was minimal. They were right, amazingly, the coral,
sponges and reefs look like they did the last time we were there, years
before. Large schools of grunts and snappers congregated between the
coral heads. The sun was bright, there was no current...fantastic
conditions and better vis than on Punta Sur. One hour and forty-five
minutes, we called the dive and boarded the boat for the long ride back
to the hotel.
Lunch - tostadas de pollo.
No shore dive - it was raining and I needed to diagnose a camera
problem; just a loose connection to the hot-shoe on the camera.
Christmas tree worm from a previous shore dive
Boat crews (photo (c) Jesús Zetina)
DMs (photo (c) Jesús Zetina)
Dinner - Fiesta! The rain had stopped and we gorged ourselves on
salsa, guacamole, nachos, quesadillas, etc. accompanied by our favorite
beverages before the traditional pińata.
La Francesa - the end of the Palancar Reef system, this site consists
of a low reef. Normally done as a second dive, we were early enough to
have the place to ourselves. We worked our way down the deep-water
side of the reef, looking under the ledges and tunnels for neat little
stuff. Rattle, rattle, rattle...Jesús was frantically signaling
"SHARK, BIG F. SHARK!" A six-foot nurse shark was moving leisurely
down the reef. I followed him a long way watching to see where he
might hole up; by the way, sharks swim faster than I do, even when
loafing. The shark turned into the reef with me not far behind. Where
did it go? I looked in all the holes and dark places, to no avail; the
shark had eluded me. It was an exciting moment, nonetheless. We were
also rewarded with a turtle feasting on some sponges. Visibility was
poor due to the sponge spawn that was going in. It looked like the
sponges were smoldering - a white smoke of sponge eggs or sperm was
pouring out of the tops. We even saw a Nassau grouper - a rather rare
fish in Cozumel and endangered elsewhere.
El Paso del Cedral - is a short reef, so the dive begins with a drift
over a rocky flat punctuated by overhangs to look under. Eels,
juvenile jackknife fish, spotted file fish, etc. were seen before we
got to the main reef. One of the attractions to EPDC is a large number
of porkfish that school under the ledges. A beautiful green moray was
lying under the reef, in a place where it was easy to get a picture.
Sadly we ascended to our safety stop for three minutes before the boat
came to pick us up from our last dive of the trip - big sigh.
Spotted eel 2
snapper in window
The end of our u/w diving experience!
Dinner - lime soup or mixed salad; BBQ shrimp stuffed with cheese,
lasagna, or Pollo en Mole Poblano; cherry blintzes (with vanilla ice
cream), or ...
leaving the island
Travel agent - Deb Lanham at Maduro Dive
Scuba Club Cozumel
page for previous trip reports and pictures.