Posted by Jim Lyle on April 30, 2007 at 06:48:41:|
Cozumel April 2007
French angelfish (Pomacanthus paru)
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 made by 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
We are frequent guests at Scuba Club Cozumel. We started coming here back when it was called
the Galapago Inn and have returned once or twice a year since.
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 lens.)
Sculptured slipper lobster (Panibbacus antarcticus)
Banded coral shrimp (Stenopus hispidus)
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 (Narcine brasiliensis)
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 safely.
Yellow tube sponge (Aplysina fistularis)?
Clinging Channel Crab (Mithrax spinosissimus)
Horse-eye jacks (caranx latus)
Deborah says, when the dog dies we can come for a month. I love my dog, but...
Spanish grunt (Haemulon macrostomum)
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.
Toadfish (Stenopus splendidus)
"A little more to the right!"
Nurse shark (Gingly mostoma cirratum) & sharksucker (Echeneis naucrates)
Green moray (Gymnothorax funebris)
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
Shy hamlet (Hypoplectrus gutavarius)
Spotted scorpionfish (Scorpaena plumieri)
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.
Spotted drum (Equetus punctatus)
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!
Jesús also known as "el Guapo"
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.
Graysby (Chephalopholus cruentatus)
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.
A sight I though I would never see!
Long snout seahorse (Hippocampus reidi)
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.
Octopus (Octopus vulgaris)
Banded jawfish (Opistognathus macrognatus)
Glasseye snapper (Heteropricanthus adscensionis)
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]
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.
Who says there's no color on the reefs?
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.
Yellowline arrow crab (Stenorhynchus seticomis)
Banded clinning crab (Mithrax cinctimanus)
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.
French grunts (Haemulon flavolineatum)
Chankanaab - one of the "classic" dive sites of Cozumel, Chankanaab never fails to
deliver. We saw groupers, angelfish, snappers, etc. and the huge lobsters fow which this reef is
Caaribbean spiny lobster (Panuliis argus)
"There he is!"
Black grouper (Mycteroperca banaci)
Lunch - Chimichangas de carne molida.
Shore dive - just Deborah and me. We lazed out to the artificial reef that used to be 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, blennies, etc.
Juvenile Yellowtail damselfish (Microspathodon chrysurus)
adult yellowtail damselfish
Yellowheaded jawfish (Opistognathus aurifrons)
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
Sothern stingray (Dasyatis americana)
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
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
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.
Glasseye snapper (Heteropricanthus cruentutus)
Peacock flounder (Bothus lunatus)
Spinyhead blenny (Acanthemblemaria spinosa)
Dinner - Fiesta! Guacamole, tostadas, tacos, quesadillas, and more - followed by a
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
Queen angelfish in a window
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.
Porkfish (Anisothremus virginicus) and other fish on a coral head alive with life.
rock beauty (Holacanthus tricolor)
Lunch - carne a la Yucateca
Shore dive - I spent a quick hour out front shooting macro with the 105mm.
French grunt (Haemulon flavolineatum)
Highhat (Pareques acuminatus)
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.
Queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris)
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.
Fairly basslet (Gramma loreto)
Porkfish. (Anisothremus virginicus)
Lunch - flautas de pollo.
A favorite place between dives and meals.
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, etc.
Schoolmasters off the pier (Lutjanus apodus)
A blue tang (Acanthurus coeruleus being cleaned by a juvenile French angelfish (Pomocanthus paru)
black on black
Dinner - pea soup or shrimp-stuffed avocado; beef kabob, fish Verazruz, or spaghetti
Neapolitano with chicken parmesan; canolli cake or lemon pie.
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 dish.
Barjack (Carnax ruber) 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
Spendid Toadfish (Sanopus splendidus)
Neon goby (Gobiosoma oceanops)
Queen angelfish (Holocanthus ciliaris)
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.
Erect rope sponge (Amphimedon compressa)
Nurse shark (Ginglymostoma funebris)
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!
Trumpetfish (Aulostomus maculatus)
Fingerprint cyphoma (Cyphoma signatum)
George with seahorse
Lunch - enchiladas verde con crema.
Our shore dive was a twilight/night dive for macro subjects.
Bearded fireworm (Hermodice cariculata)
golden coral shrimp (Stenopus scutllatus)
Redhair swimming crab (Portunus ordwayi)
Dinner - Caesar salad or leek-potato soup; seafood kabob, Mexican platter, or Vodka
penne; carrot cake or pear pie.
Mushroom scorpionfish (Scopaena inermis)
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.
Great barracuda (Suphraena barracuda)
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
Banded coralshrimp with eggs (Stenopus hispidus)
Nimble spray crab (Percnon gibbesi)
Juvenile French angelfish (Pomacanthus paru)
Dinner - Turkish salad or mushroom soup; Fish Tikin Xic, cheese-stuffed chicken
breasts, or Whiskey linguini with mussels; apple pie or chocolate torte.
Punta Sur - the last pinnacle. Visibility wasn't so 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 (Spirobranchus giganteus)
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
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.
Clinging channel crab (Mithrax spinosissimus)
Spotted moray (Gymnothorax moringa)
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.
Porkfish (Anisotremus viginicus)
Spotted moray (Gymnothorax moringa)
Schoolmaster in window (Lutjanus apodus)
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
My web page
for previous trip reports and pictures.