Cozumel - August trip report and many, many pictures.

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Posted by Jim Lyle on August 24, 2011 at 20:11:45:

What follows is yet another Cozumel trip report. For more than twenty years, we have been returning to the island and staying at Scuba Club Cozumel, our home away from home. I’ve kept the narrative to a minimum and posted lots of pictures. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did taking them. Buen provecho.

Our plane landed at the airport on Cozumel Island and we passed through Mexican immigration before patiently waiting by the carrousel for our luggage. The clothing bags came off first, followed by Deborah's scuba gear bag…hmmm, where's my gear bag? We waited and we waited. A young man, who was loading the bags on the belt, pointed at one bag and shrugged his shoulders. I shook my head. No, it isn't mine. How about this one, he indicated. No, not that one either. Bad news – there were no more bags to unload. Somewhere between LAX and CZM, my gear bag was in luggage limbo. I spoke to Continental's representative and we filled out a "delayed" luggage form. It seems to me a "lost" luggage form would have been more appropriate. The agent assured me that my bag would be on the next flight from Houston and delivered to my hotel.

We joined our friends on the Colectivo bus (by the way, rates have increased 25% since our last visit!) and, a short ride later, checked in to Scuba Club. Sofia greeted us with, "Welcome home!" and things didn't seem so bad. Deborah did a shore dive to check out her equipment while I moped in the room. Later that afternoon, when my bag failed to show up, I called the airport, only to learn everyone had gone home for the day. Drat!

What to do? I rented fins, BCD, and a regulator from the dive shop at SCC, but they only had "shortie" wetsuits. So I walked across the street and bought a 3 mm suit to cover my cheap Irish skin. The rental fins were full-foot and I was afraid of rubbing blisters, so I would wear a pair of socks to protect my feet. I then had enough equipment to get in the water. I assembled the camera and got everything ready for the next morning. Let's go diving!

Water temperature was 84 degrees F and visibility was approximately 100 feet.

© Bonnie Pelnar (used with permission). Bonnie conducts photo workshops at SCC http://www.underwatercoulours.com

Scuba Club Cozumel is our favorite resort. The hotel is semi-all-inclusive (room, diving, food. Drinks and tips are not included. We love the unlimited shore diving; being able to take a tank and go is a real plus. The staff is friendly and attentive. The food is wonderful. The accommodations are spacious, clean and full of ambience. They offer a "light" plan for people who would prefer to eat dinner in town. Free, wireless connection to the internet is available to those who need to check their email or the web. There are no telephones or televisions in the room (you can watch TV at home!). Eat, sleep, dive – it doesn't get any better than this.

Day one - Scuba II with Jesús, Deborah, Mel, Juanita, Chris and Walt.

Dalila Reef – very little current, sunny, warm, good visibility, great friends, lots of fish; it just doesn't get any better than this. On the other hand, I hated the rental fins – grumble, grumble. Jesús pointed out three turtles, we were buzzed by a pair of large permits, two nurse sharks were patient with the photographers, and our bottom time passed all too quickly.

"Salad." It's hard to show what the reef really looks like.

Hawksbill turtle (Eretmoschelys imbriocata) and friends.

Nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

Jesús on surface

Paradise Reef – We dropped on the sand and headed towards the shallows to look for seahorses; there's one. Jesús found a second one before we moved back onto the shallow reef structure. I heard Jesús' rattle and swam over to see that he had found. Woo hoo, it was a baby frogfish! Drat, I was not set up for macro photography. The best I could do is a picture of Betsy taking a picture of the tiny fish – can you see it? It's very small!

Betsy with tiny frogfish

French angelfish, intermediate stage (Pomcanthus paru)

Spotted scorpionfish (Scopaena plumieri)

Seahorse (Hippocampus reidi)

Channel clinging crab (Mitrax spinosissimus) with eggs tucked under her tail.

Spotted moray eel (Gymnothorax moringa)

When we returned to SCC, I spied one of the staff carrying a bag towards our room. Hey, that's mine! The gear bag that once was lost now was found. I was a very, very happy camper. I had my fins, my BCD, my regulator, and my booties. Life just gets better and better!

[As Chris and Walt geared up for the first dive of the day, Walt seemed to be having a hard time with his wetsuit. Chris, on the other hand, had on a baggy, yellow wetsuit that looked several times too big for her. Yep, they had each put on each other's wetsuit. Hey, guys, get a room! I told Chris I would not mention this; I lied.]

Day two. Scuba II with Jesús, Deborah, Mel, Juanita, Chris and Walt.

Palancar Horseshoe – The horseshoe is the middle of the Palancar Reef system. A statue of Christ used to stand here, but fell over several years ago and was removed to Chankanaab Park. A large concrete block is all that remains. The further south you go in the marine park, the larger the reefs are. Huge buttresses of coral, covered in sponges and corals are the principal draw, with many swim throughs penetrating the wall. This is a great place to practice wide angle photography. Although there are fewer fish to be seen on the deeper dives, turtles are common. Plus, at the end of the dive, you can move up to the shallow part of the reef for a long, long safety stop. On top of the reef, we found a nurse shark asleep under a ledge.

Note: Walt is a farrier – diving the "horseshoe" was appropriate.

Barred hamlet (Hypoplectrus puella)

Nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

Punta Tunich – about halfway up the island, a rocky point juts out into the current; this is called Rocky Point or Punta Tunich. Even when the current is tame on the reefs further south, it speeds up as it passes the point and PT can be an E-ticket ride. Luckily, the currents were only moderate and we were able to duck out of the flow to take pictures. Tunich is also a fishy place with many schools of grunts and larger fish. One cavern towards the end of the reef is usually filled with glassy sweepers and often a large, green moray eel or grouper is hiding inside the cavern. A couple of octopus, more turtles, black groupers, filefish, and pairs of angelfish were highlights of this dive.

PS Diving is so much better when you have your own gear!

Great barracuda (Sphyraena). I've never heard of a "less barracuda!"

What is everyone looking at? "Is that a shark?"

Porkfish (Anisotremus virginicus)

Shore dive – Betsy, Deborah, and I did a long, shore dive in front of the hotel. I found a cute, little bumblebee shrimp. Norbert Wu, a famous underwater photographer, once said, "Find a colorful background and wait for something to swim into the picture." Christmas tree worms don't swim, but this one was on a red encrusting sponge and I liked the contrast. Near the pyramid in front of Hotel Cozumel was a lone flying gurnard, walking across the bottom. We also found a sponge crab, a nice hermit crab, and two octopi before calling it a day.

Bumblebee shrimp(Gnathophyllum americanum). This shrimp is only 2 mm long! I shot this with my 50 mm Zuiko lens (100 mm film equivalent) and a SubSee 10X diopter). The image is a 50% crop. These shrimp are occasionally found on sea cumbers and quickly move out of sight. I way able to take only one image before the shrimp disappeared and as luck would have it, it was a keeper! Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.

Christmas tree worm (Spirobranchus giganteus). The red encrusting sponge makes a nice background.

Flying gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans). This strange fish "walks" on the bottom.

You can see the gurnard’s fins trailing along the side of the fish. When startled, the gurnard spreads its wings and flys away displaying a beautiful blue pattern.

Redeye sponge crab (Dromia erythropus). The crab carries around a sponge hat to hide from predators.

White speckled hermitcrab (Paguristes punticeps)

Caribbean reef octopus (Octopus briareus)

Day three. Scuba II with Jesús, Deborah, Mel, Juanita, Chris and Walt.

San Francisco Reef – in my opinion an underrated dive site. The reef is about 60 feet deep at the drop off and lies north of the southernmost reefs. As such, it is often done as a second dive. The reef has very nice structure, although not as large as Palancar. There's a wall, but it's not particularly steep, and there are lots of fish to see. While everyone else was looking into the reef, I spotted a large hawksbill turtle feeding on a sponge to photograph. Large groupers cruised down the reef but they like to tease photographers and stay just out of strobe range. Jesús pointed out a couple of juvenile spotted drum.

Scuba II

Rainbow parrotfish (Scarus guacamaia)

Betsy with hawksbill turtle

Tormentos Reef – There are two parts to Tormentos, separated by a single, large sand dune. Tormentos gets deeper towards the end, so this is a good dive for nitrox. There are nice windows in the coral heads and many, colorful fish.

Margates (Haemulon album)

Window on Tormentos. This porkfish (Anisotremus virginicus) and schoolmaster (Lutjanus apodus) were in the same place a week later!

Queen angelfish (Holocanthus ciliaris). Why do some fish display such vivid colors? Sexual attraction? In any case, this one is a real beauty.

Jesús on the sand bar

Betsy with the sand bar in the background. It looks like she's floating on air.

Shore – Betsy and I went to see El Presidente, the big barracuda that hangs out under the pier. While I burned pixels, Betsy worked her way up the iron shore looking for jawfish. The barracuda was very patient but wouldn't let me get too close to it. There's an artificial reef offshore made up of the old pier that was destroyed by hurricane Wilma; the gate from the hotel makes a nice backdrop for a school of grunts.

"El Presidente" – Great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda)

School of grunts & iron gate (Haemulon sp)

Day four – Scuba II with Jesús, et al.

Palancar Gardens – WOW! What a wonderful dive. The magnificence of Palancar Gardens defies verbal description. Huge coral heads, the size of apartment houses, are covered in colorful sponges. A large school of baitfish hugged the wall while being watched by black groupers ready for lunch. There was almost no current on this dive and visibility was off the chart.

Black grouper and bait (Mycteroperca bonaci). This is my favorite picture of the trip!

Jesús and blue tangs (Acanthurus coeruleus). Schools of blue tangs mob the reef as they feed.

Lesser electric ray (Narcine brasiliensis). Don't touch! Shocking.

El guapo.

Yocab Reef – A shallow reef, Yocab is home to many colorful fish. A huge grouper hung under the reef and allowed me to get up close and personal. It rained while we were doing our safety stop, but the sun came out on the way back to SCC.

Black grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci)

Red hind (Epinephelus guttatus)

Reef scene with Jesús

Scrawled filefish (Aluterus scriptus)

Scuba II under cloudy skies

Shore – I put my 50mm macro lens on the camera and went out to play with the small stuff in front of the hotel.

Grunt faces (Haemulon sp)

"Yawn." Bluestriped grunt (Maemulon sciurus). Timing is everything.

Trumpetfish (Aulostomus maculatus). It's hard to get a fish to look at you head on. They seem to prefer to have their sides facing you; I guess in order to be able to escape faster in case they're attacked by the fearsome photographer.

Juvenile smooth trunkfish (Lactophrys triqueter) AKA "dice," or should that be one die?

Blue-eye hermit crab (Paguristes sericeus) with urchin shell

File clam (Lima scabra). In Paul Humann's book, he claims file clams' tentacle color changes from red to white with depth. Not so. Further down, you will see another file clam taken at the same depth showing a different color.

Fiesta! Almost every week, there's a fiesta at SCC, complete with a pińata.

Group picture (Deborah, Betsy, Jim, Juanita, Mel, Walt, Chris)

Day five – Scuba II with Jesús et al.

Santa Rosa Wall – SR is always a crowd pleaser. The wall approaches vertical and there's structure on the top. At the end of the reef, you can cross the sand to another low lying reef with scattered coral heads and sponges. Large groupers were out in force on the wall and a very unconcerned turtle posed for the photographers at the end of the dive.

Betsy in window

Yellowfin grouper (Mycteroperca venenosa)

Hawksbill (Eretmoshelys imbriocata). "Haven't I seen you here before?"

Villablanca (dive of the seven cables) – We only saw one of the seven cables on this dive. We spent a great deal of time looking for seahorses – found two, a yellow one and an orange one. As an added bonus, a large, green moray eel was hiding in a hole on the top of the reef.

Seahorse (peekaboo) (Hippocampus reidi)

Yellow seahorse

Symmetry – banded coral shrimp (Stenopus hispidus)

Shore – We visited the artificial reef in front of the hotel to shoot fish faces and poke around looking for small stuff.

Peacock flounder face (Bothus lunatus)

Roughhead blenny in worm shell (Acanthemblemaria aspera)

School of French grunts (Haemulon flavolineatum)

Juvenile longfin damselfish (Stegastes diencaeus)

Day six – Scuba II with Jesús et al. plus Dave and Mike

Colombia Deep – Spectacular coral buttresses the size of apartment houses line the drop off. We started the dive on the southernmost pinnacle and traversed the sand gap to reach the rest of the reef. When we started to run out of bottom time, we moved up to the shallower reef to extend our time. A couple of southern stingrays were hunting in the sand along with a shadowing bar jack and a permit. A small turtle teased us on our safety stop, swimming slowly beneath us as we hung at fifteen feet.

Jesús with lionfish (Pterois volitans)


Southern stingrays (Dasyatis americana) with shadowing permit (Trachinotus falcatus) and bar jack (Caranx ruber). The permit and jack are hoping the ray scares up a fish or two while it hunts in the sand for crustaceans.

Colombia Shallows – Located inshore from Colombia Reef, the Shallows is a large, shallow area where large schools of snappers and grunts hang out between coral heads. Mike found a shark sleeping under the reef, but its head was inside the reef and I didn't go for a butt shot. A pair of turtles was feeding on the sand off the reef, as well as a pair of terminal male rainbow parrotfish (no, I wasn't able to get close enough to them for a photograph.) This was Chris and Walt's last dive of the week. I hope to see you next year!

School of Caesar grunts (Haemulon cabonarium) on Colombia. One fish just can't help but head the wrong way.

Mixed school of grunts on Colombia Shallows.

Another hawksbill. I never get tired of seeing turtles on the reef.


Betsy demonstrates technique and gets the shot. After seeing my "yawn" picture from before, she got a great image with three fish yawning at the same time. I'm green with envy.

Day seven – Coral Diver with Ariel. Ed joined us after the departure of Chris/Walt.

La Francesa – The northern end of Palancar Reef is called "the French lady" or La Francesa. Here, the reef is moderately high, but has no associated wall. On the open water side of the reef are great overhangs to search under for crabs, lobsters, groupers, etc. Ariel killed a couple of invasive lionfish and fed their carcasses to a splendid toadfish. A nice hawksbill turtle let me take its portrait. At one point I looked up and a free swimming green moray was up close and personal with Deborah. At that point the eel decided it liked my fins and smelled along the edges before swimming off, down the reef.

"Make way!"

Diver with sponges.

Green moray sniffing my fin. "Please don't bite me!"

Deborah and green moray. "Eeek!"

Swimming moray (Gymnothorax funebris)

El Paso de Cedral – The best place on the reef to see porkfish and often home to many groupers, Cedral is a short reef with a wonderful tunnel system under the reef that's fun to explore. After the end of the reef, we drifted over to Santa Rosa shallows.

Porkfish school (Anisotremus virginicus). Tastes like chicken?

Mel in swimthrough

Spotted drum (Equetus punctatus)

Sculptured lobster (Parribacus antarticul). This is a new one. We've seen the Spanish lobsters in Cozumel, but not this species.


"Go away. You bother me!"

Spotted moray eel (Gymnothorax moringa) being cleaned by banded coral shrimp (Stenopus hispidus)

Juv. Scorpionfish. I suspect this is a small spotted scorpionfish (Scorpaena plumeri) due to its color, and not a plumed scorpionfish (S. gandicornis) which is mottled brown. Unfortunately, I didn't have my macro lens on the camera and had to settle for a "compare this to the size of my finger" shot.

Day eight – Scuba II with Jesús, Mel, Juanita, Dave, Mike, George, Deborah and me.

Bolones de Chankanaab – Bolones is offshore from Chankanaab Reef and consists of a sandy bottom interspersed with large coral heads. We were greeted by several large groupers that have learned that the dive guides will often kill lionfish and offer them to the large fish.

Giant hermit crab (Petrochirus diogenes)

Splendid toadfish (Sanopus splendidus) and busy body fish. "What cha doing? Taking a picture of the toadfish? How about me? Won't you take my picture, too?"

"You can't see me!" Trumpetfish (Aulostomus maculatus) doing its best to hide from me.

Deborah and grouper

Rock beauty (Holocanthus tricolor)

Dos amigos (Panuliris argus)

Chankanaab Reef – There are lots of large lobsters, big crabs, and many colorful fish on this reef. The current usually runs to the south due to an eddy created by the shoreline. This is a great dive site to find the endemic, splendid toadfish.

Linesnout goby (Gobiosoma sp) on fingerprint coral

Splendid toadfish (Sanopus splendidus)

Social feather duster worms (Bispira brunnea). These worms have been at this spot on Chankanaab Reef for as long as I can remember.

Red hind (Epinephelus guttatus)

Jesús with big lobster

"Come to me! I have some butter I want to show you."

Shore – Last August, John found a yellow frogfish on a shore dive. Common elsewhere, it's rare to see any frogfish in Cozumel. We were able to locate the yellow frogfish on subsequent dives, but it was gone when we returned to the island two months later. Yesterday, on this trip, Betsy reported that she had found the elusive fish and offered to take us back to the spot where it was last seen. Upon arriving, we discovered the fish had moved. After a couple of minutes, Betsy spotted the frogfish doing its best imitation of a sponge, flat up against the side of a rock. Returning to the artificial reef in front of the hotel, Deborah found a Spanish lobster.

Longlur frogfish (Antennarius multiocellatus)

Spanish lobster (Scyllarides aequinoctialis).

Day nine – Scuba II with Jesús et al.

Palancar Caves – There aren't any "caves" at this dive site, instead there are large passages through the coral heads with many exits and openings. The structure along the edge of the wall is fantastic, huge and colorful. We saw a turtle feeding many feet below our maximum depth, so I didn't get to take its picture. After the main reef, we moved up and across the sand to a shallow reef area and poked around until the end of the dive. A large barracuda was being cleaned by a juvenile Spanish hogfish and allowed me to get within strobe range.

Jesús, sponge and baitfish. I really like this picture! I think it's the curve of the baitfish over the sponge that gives it punch.

Great barracuda being cleaned by juvenile spotfin hogfish (Bodianus pulchellus)

Las Palmas – Near the Fiesta American hotel, the current splits, with one part going south towards Chankanaab and the other part heading north. We dropped in on the north current and were blown in that direction and had to swim to stay on the drop off. There were schools of small bar jacks, feeding in the current and other fish, but it was almost impossible to stop and take pictures, the current was so strong. We swam over a large sandy area to get to the inshore side of Paradise where we looked, unsuccessfully for seahorses.

Shore – Betsy had signed up for the twilight/night boat and Deborah was resting, so I did an afternoon dive with Margaret.

Goldentail moray (Gymnothorax miliaris)

Lionfish (Pterois volitans). An invasive species that is threatening the reef ecology in the Carribean.

Rough box crab (Calapa galus)

Day ten – Scuba II with Jesús. My sister, Jana, and brother-in-law, Mike, joined us today!

Paso de Cedral Drop Off – Offshore from Paso de Cedral Reef, the drop off is a wild, current ride on top of the drop off into the deep blue. This is a great place to see turtles, sharks, large parrotfish, and many colorful fish. Unfortunately, I had failed to notice a smudge on the inside of my lens port and most of my pictures from today's dives aren't worth sharing. Part way through the dive, we moved over to Paso de Cedral Reef and made two dives out of one.

Paso de Cedral – We had so much fun on the first dive, we voted to repeat the reef!

Channel clinging crab (Mitrax spinosissimus)

Black grouper (Myctoperca bonaci)

Grunts. Can you see the dive boat?

Shore – Deborah, Betsy, George, and I went a long way along the ironshore in search of the frogfish. It had moved from its last position, but Betsy found it again after some close inspection of the wall. On the way back, I spotted a needlefish just under the surface.

Frogfish ()

Houndfish (Tylosurus crocodilus)

Trumpet fish in jail (Aulostomus maculatus)

Curved trumpet fish, ready to strike.

Day eleven – Scuba II with Jesús et al.

La Francesa – Today was Mike and Dave's last day, so we opted for a couple of shallower dives. This was our second visit to the "French Lady" on this vacation. On the first part of the reef is a tunnel that runs much of the length of the coral head. While there isn't much to see in the swim through, sunlight penetrating the reef gives the tunnel a religious aspect that's hard to describe and hard to photograph! We saw the big three, turtle, green moray, and nurse shark.

Green moray

Nurse shark (Gingliomostoma cirratum) & shark sucker (Echeneis naucrates)

Paradise Reef – A good selection for Dave/Mike's last dive, Paradise offered a long, slow drift with lots of time to poke around and look for small stuff.

Rock beauty (Holacanthus tricolor)

Patterns on a coral head

Queen angelfish (Holacantus ciliaris)

Safety stop

I skipped doing a shore dive due to a creaky ear.

Day twelve – Scuba II with Jesús, Jana, Mike, Deborah, Mel, Juanita, Betsy, George.

Colombia Bricks – Another fabulous dive on the Colombia/Palancar reef system. A slow drift through the huge coral structures at the top of the drop off before moving up to the top of the reef to extend our bottom time. We saw only one turtle on this dive, very unusual for this dive site. I played with wide angle photography and my favorite yellow sponges.

Bluestriped grunt (Haemulon sciurus) eating a brittle star – Predation on the reef is hard to capture with a camera; either the action is too fast or too infrequent. This snapper had just grabbed a brittle star and was having a hard time getting it down!

Yocab – This dive was a repeat of one we did the previous week. The huge grouper was still under the overhang about half way down the reef.

Black grouper (Myctoperca bonaci) showing off one of its color changes.

Shore - I put my macro lens on the camera and went to look for small stuff. There's a lot to see on a shore dive if you look closely.

Orangeclaw hermit crab (Calcinus tibicen)

Goldtail moray (Gymnothorax miliaris)

Squat anemone shrimp (Thor ambiensis. These little shrimp are found in a commensal relationship with an anemone. I was overjoyed to find two shrimp close enough together to get them in the same frame and, even happier, to have a red sponge for background.

Spanish lobster face (Scyllarides aequinoctialis)

Spotted sorpionfish (Scorpaena plumieri). Can you say "ugly?"

Juvenile smooth trunkfish (Lactophrys triqueter) (50 mm Zuiko lens with SubSee 10X diopter)

Day thirteen – Scuba II with Jesús

Bolones de Chankanaab – This was Mel and Juanita's last day of diving and they requested a return to Bolones. There were fewer groupers on this dive than there were last week, but lots of other colorful fish to keep everyone happy. There's a brown looking sponge on Bolones that turns a bright red-orange under strobe light, making for some nice wide angle shots that attempt to show what the reef looks like.

Erect ropesponge (Amphimedon compressa)

Chankanaab Reef – After a short surface interval, we dove on the normal Chankanaab Reef. A barracuda was being cleaned by some neon gobies and was not going to back away from the photographers. Too soon, we had to end our dive and ascend for a safety stop.

Great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda)

Social feather duster worms (Bispira brunnea)

shore – After a nap, I did a shore dive in front of the hotel. Highlights of this dive were an arrow shrimp pretending to be a twig and a juvenile butterflyfish,

Arrow shrimp (Tozeuma carolinense). It is head down. You can see the white eye near the bottom of the critter.

Juvenile spotfin butterflyfish (Chaetodon ocellatus)

Day fourteen – Scuba II with Jana, Mike, Betsy, George, Deborah, Mark and Lu.

Palancar Gardens – We returned to Palancar Gardens. I had hoped to find the school of baitfish that had been on the wall the previous week, but they were gone. A hogfish shadowed us as we slowly drifted down the reef. The school of jack that's been at the end of this dive for many years was still there. Several turtles delighted the divers and photographers.

Spanish hogfish (Lachnolaimus maximus)

School of horse-eye jacks (Caranx latus)

Betsy and turtle


Jesús in the window. That sounds like a religious statement – "I have Jesus in my window."

Greater soapfish (Rypticus saponaceus). Greater than what? Soapfish secrete a slimy toxic mucus, hence the name.

Same pair, porkfish and sschoolmaster, in the widow as last week.

Shore – Deborah and I spent a couple of hours in front of the hotel looking for small stuff.

Reef scorpionfish (Scopaenodes caribbaeus)

File clam (Lima scabra). This file clam was at the same depth as the previous image where the tentacles are red. The theory is proven false.

Juvenile spotted scorpionfish (Scorpaena plumieri)

Web burrfish (Chilomycterus antillarium)

Day fifteen – Scuba II with Jesús et al.

Santa Roda Wall – Santa Rosa is Jayne's "happy place." This dive was dedicated to her for her birthday next week. We were sorry she couldn't join us this August. After a huge group of divers passed us on the wall, we enjoyed a leisurely drift in and out of the coral formations before moving across the sand to the shallow, upper reef to extend our bottom time.

Traffic jam on Santa Rosa. How many divers can you count?

Jesús demonstrates perfect buoyancy inside the cave. "żDonde están los otros?"

Mark on the wall.

Villablanca – While Jesús paused to look for the yellow seahorse that we saw here the first week, I drifted further up the reef looking for the hole where the green moray eel was. Found it. A little turtle decided it needed to go to the surface and get some air just as we got to where it was feeding on sponges.

Green moray

Diving hawksbill

I took the afternoon off to work on this trip report and off-gas a little.

Day sixteen – Scuba II with Jesús, Deborah, Betsy, George, Jana, Mike, Roger and Judy.

Palancar Caves – We had a mild current and drifted along the wall for a while before moving up onto the shallower reef system. Only one turtle was seen and a single free swimming nurse shark was spotted in the distance. Still, a nice first dive for Roger and Judy.

Sponges on the wall

Pair of balloonfish (Diodon holocanthus)

Yucab – At this point, there aren’t many reefs that we haven't visited, some more than once. The big grouper wasn't in his usual place when we got to the cut out. Instead, a large grouper was lying on the sand and let us get close. After taking a few pictures, I move over to the reef to shoot some fish schooling images. It was then that the big grouper showed up and poised with his mouth open to be cleaned by a Spanish hogfish. We were treated to a turtle encounter – can't have too many of them – at the end of the dive.

Grouper and Judy (she forgot to bring her wetsuit on the boat).

School of margates (Haemulon album) in the grouper's hole

Grouper being cleaned by Spanish hogfish.

Juvenile queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris)

"What kind of camera are you using?"

Shore – My oldest son, Mike, met us when we return from our boat dives. He has come down to dive with us this last week! He did a shore dive with Deborah and me in preparation for the next day.

Mike in the well

Mike underwater

Day seventeen - Jesús was sent to the mainland to take a class in Scubapro equipment repair. Scuba II with Ariel et al.

San Franciso – This was a good choice for Mike's introduction to Cozumel. The drop off isn't that deep, there's some vertical structure at the top of the wall, and shallower reef at the end to extend the bottom time. We saw a nurse shark, out for a morning swim, at the beginning of the dive. Unfortunately, the one turtle on this dive was out of sight before Mike got to see it.

Paradise Reef - Ariel chose to start the dive on the flats to look for seahorses. He didn't have to look for long, he pointed out four of them! My brother-in-law discovered a juvenile seahorse, black in color. There were some very tame permits riding the current on top of the reef, but I was sticking close to my son and didn't swim up to take any pictures; call me "Dad."

Day eighteen – Scuba II with Ariel et al.

Dalila – The current was strong enough on this dive that I could not swim directly into it! We flew along, occasionally dropping behind the coral or an overhang to stop and wait for everyone. There was a green moray under a ledge and a couple of green turtles to take images of.

Green moray

Lobster hotel

Green turtle (Chelonia mydas). Green turtles are not common in Cozumel waters and are endangered by overfishing.

Ariel's Chankanaab – Ariel asked if it would be OK to dive a portion of Chankanaab that isn't normally dived. The first part of the dive consisted of a series of big coral heads that were closely spaced. This is a place to find Atlantic spadefish, but none were seen. Instead, a school of ceros tantalized this photographer by staying out of range. A large school of horseeye jacks was also too shy to get close to.


WA sponges and family

Juvenile spotted drum (Equetus puntatus)

Shore – While Deborah and Mike explored around the pier, I concentrated on some macro photography. There's a lot to see on a shore dive and a great place to play with your camera.

Odd couple. This image is strangely appealing. I think Norman Rockwell would approve.

Thuridilla picta

Sergeant major (Abudefduf saxatilis) eggs, about to hatch.

Atlantic triton's trumpet (Charona variegata). Note the eye spots at the base of each tentacle.

A spotted moray being groomed by a banded coral shrimp. "A little off the top, please."

Roughhead blenny (Acanthemblemaria aspera)

I found another bumble bee!

Day nineteen – Scuba II with Jesús et al.

Colombia Deep – What more can I say about Colombia Deep? Fantastic!

Colorful sponges on Colombia reef.

Colombiasponge with diver

Anchor near the bricks.

Colombia Shallows – Another slow drift over the shallow coral heads. Mike and I were given the close up by a small turtle.

School of grunts


Shore – Night dive in front of the hotel with Mike. There was only one octopus out hunting, lots of sleeping parrotfish, and the odd eel or two.

Sleeping stoplight parrotfish (Sparisoma viride). What Larry, the cable guy, would look like if he were a fish.

Day twenty – Scuba II with Jesús et al.

Paso de Cedral – I remembered where the green moray eel was hiding a couple of weeks ago and was able to locate it for a couple of pictures before the rest of the photographers showed up. I took lots of pork fish pictures to short through later. Mike and Deborah went through the tunnel under the reef and played with a big lobster at the exit.

Junkyard green moray on Cedral

Porkfish. A school of porkfish has been in residence on Paso de Cedral for as long as I can remember.

Caribbean spiny lobster (Panuliris argus)

Paradise "grass" – "Grass" is inshore of the reef at Paradise and consists of a sandy bottom with low vegetation. This is a great place to find seahorses – we saw six of the reclusive critters.

Slender filefish (Monacanthus tuckeri)

Seahorse. "Hey there, big boy, come here often?"

Too soon our vacation came to an end and we had to leave the gates of Scuba Club to head for the airport. Adios, Cozumel, regresaremos.

These are my favorite images from the trip. Which one do you think is the best? Are there any others that you like better?

Image 1 - Grouper and sliver sides

Image 2 - Pair of squat anemone shrimp

Image 3 - Turtle on Colombia?

Camera: Olympus E-330 in an Ikelite housing with dual Ikelite DS-125 strobes. Most images were shot with a Zuiko 14-54mm lens or a 50mm lens for macro. All images are copyrighted and may not be used without permission.

Debbie at http://www.clickndive.com made all of our travel arrangements. She's the best!

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