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Posted by Jim on August 23, 2021 at 12:31:54:


For over thirty years, we have vacationed in Cozumel and always stayed at Scuba Club Cozumel. Please, check out their website Scuba Club Cozumel and see why we return, year after year. Go ahead, I'll wait.

After more than a year, COVID continues to be a pandemic. The newest variant, delta, is highly contagious and sweeping the globe. Luckily, Deborah and I are now fully vaccinated against COVID and unlikely to be infected. Even with a breakthrough infection, any symptoms are said to be either non-existent or mild. With that in mind, we decided to return to Cozumel for our annual three-weeks in August. We had been there last November with no problems. Many people had gotten their shots, were wearing masks, and Scuba Club Cozumel (our second home) was observing all of the safety protocols.

Scuba Club Cozumel. "Welcome home!"

We checked in to the hotel, assembled our dive gear and went for a shore dive on the house reef. We poked around for a while looking for small stuff before calling the dive. All was "go" for the next morning.

Water was a warm 82-83 degrees F. Visibility was 100 feet or more, air temperature averaged about 90 degrees, and skies were partly cloudy. Let's get to the pictures; I know that's what you want to see.

Warning: I did get carried away and posted way too many pictures!!!!

Harlequin bass (Serranus tigrinus), a colorful, small bass, only three inches long.

Peacock flounder (Bothus lunatus) I love the blue color. Flounders can mimic the color/background of their surroundings, making them hard to see. With their eyes on the top side, how do they know the colors underneath? A mystery.

Coral Diver with Nestor, Deborah, I, Scott, Margaret, Mike S, and a couple from Dallas (Jennifer and Brad.) Nestor, one of the best critter finders I’ve had the pleasure of diving with, took us to Dalila Reef and then to Paradise Reef to look for little stuff.

Red hind (Epinephelus guttatus). Red hinds are similar to coneys and graysbies. It’s always a treat to find one who will pose for the photographer. I just can't resist taking pictures of them.

Yellowtail damselfish (Microspathodon chrusurus) intermediate stage. Unlike red hinds, yellow tail damsels are always in motion and often hide from divers. It’s hard to take an acceptable image of this pretty little fish.

Some fish and critters are "cleaners," offering to pick parasites and debris from fish who visit a "cleaning station." Here are a couple of shrimp who advertise their services with long white antennae.

Spotted cleaner shrimp (Pericimenes yucantanicus)

Pederson cleaner shrimp (Ancylomenes pedersoni)

Fringed filefish (Monacanthus ciliatus). The inch-long fish hides in gorgonian and can change color patterns to match its surroundings. Camouflage in action.

Redspotted hawkfish (Amblycirrhitus pinos). Hawkfish are the only fish with tasselated dorsal fins. The redspotted hawkfish is very, very cute with freckles on its face.

Nestor found a seahorse for us. He said it was the first one they have found in many, many months. He was very excited.

Longsnout seahorse (Hippocampus reidi)

Here’s Scott looking at the caballito del mar.

Nestor – dive guide supremo, el mejor.

Coral Diver with Nestor, Deborah, I, Scott, Margaret, Mike S, Deb, Warren, Jennifer and Brad. Our first dive was on Palancar Gardens; the second was the northern part of Yucab Reef.

Butter hamlet (Hypoplectrus unicolor). Butter hamlets are the most common hamlet in Florida but are only occasional in the Caribbean. They tend to be shy and swim away from anyone with a camera.


Trumpetfish (Aulostomus maculatus), juvenile, hiding.

Highhat (Paraques acuminatus)

This tiny little fish dared me to take its picture. I don’t know what species it is.

Blennies are very, very small fish that often live in holes on the reef, only leaving their lairs to snatch food drifting by. By tiny, I mean really small, less than half the diameter of a pencil eraser.
Spinyhead blenny (Acanthemblemaria spinosa)

Roughhead blenny (Acanthemblemaria aspera)

Graysby (Cephalopholis cruentata). Graysbies are often mistaken for coneys and hinds. The differences are subtle.

Flamingo tongue (Cyphoma gibbosum), a snail with a white shell and a colorful mantle that often covers the shell – less than one inch long.

Formerly known as a fingerprint Cyphoma (Cyphoma signatum), recent DNA studies have shown this snail to be a rare color variation of the flamingo tongue (above). It’s always exciting to find one as they are not very common.


Coral Diver with Nestor, Deborah, I, Scott, Margaret, Mike S, Deb, Warren. We went to the wall outside of Paso del Cedral and then back to Yucab reef to complete the southern part.

Green moray (Gymnothorax funebris). The largest moray eels in the Caribbean, it’s always a treat to find one. Despite the big teeth, the greens are pretty laid back and will let divers get close.

Rainbow parrotfish (Scarus guacamaia). This is a larger fish, up to four feet long. Born female, the adults can become males later in life.

Common octopus (Octopus vulgaris). This large octopus is the only one in the Caribbean that hunts during the day. It's also not the most common octopus despite the name.

Greater soapfish (Rypticus saponaceus). They secrete a poisonous slimy mucus, thus the common name.

Queen conch (Strombus gigas). I’m not sure I can eat fried conch or conch chowder ever again. The damn things have eyes.

Peacock flounder (Bothus lunatus). You can’t see me.

Queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris)

Intermediate queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris) juvenile. A "princess!"

Nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum). This docile shark is the one divers are likely to see in Cozumel. Other more toothy relatives are very rare. We did see two reef sharks on this trip but they were too far away to photograph.

Splendid toadfish (Sanopus splendidus). These beautiful fish are only found in Cozumel waters.

Spotted trunkfish (Lactophrys bicaudalis). This is one of Deborah’s favorite fish. Unfortunately, it’s very shy and tends to run away from divers and hide in the reef.

Coral Diver

Shore dive in front of the hotel in the afternoon.

File clam (Lima scabra)

Sea slug

Sea slug eggs

A single celled algae (Valonia ventricosa often called a sailor’s eyeballs.

Intermediate phase puddingwife (Halichoeres radiatus), if you dig in the sand, these little wrasse will often come close in hopes of finding something to eat. Much fun!

Spinyhead blenny (Acanthemblemaria spinosa). "Go away! Don't you have enough pictures of me?"

Juvenile French angelfish (Pomacanthus paru) distinguished by the yellow margin on the tail fin.

Bearded fireworm (Hermodice carunculata), beautiful but do not touch.

School of bluestriped grunts (Haemulon sciurus) giving me the eye, or is that eyes?

Spotted drum (Equetus punctatus)

Lantern bass (Serranus baldwini). Another small fish.

Coral Diver with Nestor, Deborah, me, Scott, Margaret, and Mike S. Our first boat dive of the day was Punta Tunich in a ripping current and second dive at Polo’s Reef. As far as I know, we have never been to this spot before. Lots of small coral heads and many, many small fish.

Nestor points out schooling fish


Nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum). I only got one shot at this nurse shark before it fled the scene.

Barred hamlet (Hypoplectrus puella), the most common hamlet in Cozumel waters.

Squirrelfish (Holocentrus adscensionis). My friend Roger says I have one picture of a squirrelfish that I use in all of my trip reports.

Juvenile French angelfish (Pomacanthus paru) in an azure vase sponge.

Coral Diver with Nestor, Deborah, me, Scott, Margaret, Mike S, Deb, and Warren. First dive was San Francisco Wall, second dive on Paradise, and the third, afternoon dive, was at Los Pecios. There was very little current on all three dives, making for leisurely drifts looking for fish and critters to photograph.

Spotted cleaner shrimp (Pericimenes yucantanicus).

Goldentail moray (Gymnothorax miliaris). A small moray eel.

Juvenile yellowtail damselfish (Microspathodon chrusurus). You would think this fish was on amphetamines. It flits from place to place, never standing still; very difficult to photograph but very pretty.

Graysby (Cephalopholis cruentata) are often confused with Coney (see below).

Coney (Cephalopholis fulva). "Hey! Are you following me?" Coneys can change color in an instant. This is a bicolor display. Coneys have characteristic two spots on their lower lip which distinguishes them from graysby and red hind.

Scrawled filefish (Aluterus scriptus). More of God's humor.

Trumpetfish (Aulostomus maculatus) camouflaged until the strobe light hits it.

Queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris)

Channel clinging crab (Mithrax spinosissimus) a big, eating size, crab.

Goldentail moray (Gymnothorax miliaris) There's an antenna in its mouth. A recently eaten shrimp?

Jon Bell-Clement and Joe Fish have suggested this is a Sipunculus sp. worm.

Fringed filefish (Monacanthus ciliatus) playing "you can't see me."

Mike S checks out the seahorse

Male sailfin blenny (Emblemaria pandionis) displaying.

Honeycomb cowfish (Acanthostracion polygonius). Proof God has a sense of humor.

One of the two wrecks at Los Pecios.

Coral Diver with Nestor, Deborah, me, Scott, Margaret, Mike S, Deb. We wanted to dive Colombia Deep but the Marine Park authorities have closed that part of the reef system for two months to let it heal, despite the fact that cruise ships not divers are responsible for the decline in reef health. Instead we headed for Palancar Horseshoe with its magnificent coral heads. The second dive was on Villa Blanca in hunt of the batfish

Scuba II

Mike S


Nestor having a good time.

Barred hamlet (Hypoplectrus puella)

Butter hamlet (Hypoplectrus unicolor)

Black durgon (Melichthys niger) are very, very shy. I caught this one just before it darted for a hole in the reef.

Stareye hermit crab (Dardanus venosus)

Fringed filefish (Monacanthus ciliatus)

Green moray (Gymnothorax funebris)

Shortnose batfish (Ogcocephalus nasutus). Not the best picture; the fish was surrounded by reef so I had no choice but to shoot down. I'm including this image as proof we saw one.

Night shore dive in front of the hotel

Pair of sand divers (Synodus intermedius)

Balloonfish (Diodon holocanthus)

Intermediate phase spotted drum (Equetus punctatus)

Sphaeromatid isopod. Very, very tiny, ~ 4 mm.

A small sculptured slipper lobster (Parribacus antarcticus)

Invasive red lionfish (Pterois volitans)

Caribbean reef octopus (Octopus briareus), the most common octopus in Cozumel; hunts at night.

Spotted goatfish (Pseudupeneus maculatus) in its pajamas, down for the night.

Dwarf sea hare (Aplysia parvula ). Thanks to Anne DuPont for the ID. Dwarf doesn't begin to tell how small this slug is. It was about 4 mm long! Very, very small.

Smiling parrot fish, down for the evening in its colorful pajamas.

Margaret, Scott, Mike S, Deb, Deborah, me, Warren, Lucianna, Mark

Coral Diver with Choky, Deborah, me, Scott, Margaret, Mike S, Deb, Warren, Lucianna, and Mark. First dive Dalila Reef and then Tormentos.



Juvenile smooth trunkfish (Lactophrys triqueter) AKA "dice."

Shortfin pipefish (Cosmocampus elucens)

Roughhead blenny (Acanthemblemaria aspera)

Painted elysia (Thuridilla picta) sea slug. It looks plastic.

Deborah over the sand dune at the end of Tormentos.

Reef Star with Nestor, Deborah, me, Scott, Margaret, Mike S, and John. Mark, Lucianna, Deb, and Warren dove with Miguel. Caracolillo was the first dive site, Chankanaab Reef was the second.

I shot wide angle (16 mm) on the first dive.



Mike S

On Caracolillo Reef

"Look! Over there!" No, I don't know what Nestor was showing us. I was too busy taking the picture.

One happy dive guide.

I switched to macro for the second dive with an Olympus TG-6.

Chelidonura hirindinina

Menage a trois. Sex in this species involves hypodermic injection of sperm. Ouch!

Sailfin blenny (Emblemaria pandionis)

Fringed filefish (Monacanthus ciliatus)

Caulerpa slug (Oxynoe antillarium)

Reef Star with Nestor, Deborah, me, Scott, Margaret, Mike S, John. Lucianna, Mark, Deb, and Warren went with Miguel and four other divers. This was Deb and Warren's last dive day, so we opted to go to Palancar Gardens. What a spectacular place with huge coral heads, swim thoughts, and colorful sponges/corals. The second dive was Yucab al Norte to look for the previously found fingerprint cyphoma. During dive briefings, Nestor always says, "nice and easy." Well, this wasn't to be on this dive; the current was very strong and the sand was blowing. Luckily our dive group consists of experienced divers in all sorts of conditions and they went with the flow.

Great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda)

Graysby (Cephalopholis cruentata). Grumpy looking fish.

Rock beauty (Holacanthus tricolor). These aptly named fish are very shy, especially when they are approached by a diver with a camera.

Reef Star

Great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda)

John and cowfish. John is a graduate of the University of Texas. I was going to label this as "John and longhorn," but the horns on this fish are not long. Blowing sand in the strong current.

This picture gives you an idea of what the sand storm looked like underwater. Note the divers' bubbles flowing downstream.

Reef Star with Nestor, Deborah, me, Scott, Margaret, Mike S, John,Mark, and Lucianna. With Miguel, Doug, Jodi, and Kyzer. Off to Paseo del Cedral on the first dive and Paradise on the second. Current wasn't as bad as the previous day but was running the wrong way on Paradise.

Porkfish (Anisotremus virginicus). Paso del Cedral is normally a great place to photograph a large school of porkfish - only a few there this year. Very strange.

Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbriocota). Everyone likes turtles.

Spotted scorpionfish (Scorpaena plumieri) their eyes always look empty in photographs.

Tiny snail

Baby queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris). Fourth in line for the throne?

Two spotted morays (Gymnothorax moringa). It's unusual to see more than one eel in a hole.

Coney (Cephalopholis fulva). Note the two spots on the lower lip.

Intermediate phase highhat (Pareques acuminatus)

Safety stop

Reef Star with Nestor, Deborah, me, Scott, Margaret, Mike S, John, Lucianna, and Mark. Miguel with Jana, Mike T, Dave, Beth, Drew, Doug, Jodi, Kyzer, and Tiffany. Palancar Horseshoe and San Clemente Bajo were the reefs visited. Very little current on Horseshoe and moderate current from the north on San Clemente.

This is the second week "Lyle group": Margaret, Scott,Tiffany, Jodi, Kyzer,Doug, Deborah, me, Lucianna, Mark, Mike S, John, Peggy, Jana, Mike T, Drew, Beth, and Dave.

Lucianna and Nestor


Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbriocota)


Scott and colorful sponges on Palancar Reef.

Black grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci). Over the years, we are seeing fewer and fewer large black groupers. Speculation is the invasive lionfish are eating the fry. It was a treat to find this large fish that wasn’t skittish around the divers and photographers.

Roughhead blenny (Acanthemblemaria aspera)

Balloonfish (Diodon holocanthus). A dive friend, MJ, and I discussed the sparklies in the eye of the balloonfish. After some research, MJ found an article that says the reflective bits improve the fish's eyesight.

Schoolmaster (Lutjanus apodus)

Spotted moray (Gymnothorax moringa). Note the teeth. When lobster hunting, never put your hand in a hole without checking for moray eels.

Sharpnose puffer (Canthigaster rostrata) with a large isopod parasite on its side! Poor fish.

Reef Star with Nestor, Deborah, me, Scott, Margaret, John, Mike S, Lucianna, and Mark. With Miguel, Mike T, Jana, Dave, Beth, Drew, Doug, Jodi, Kyzer, Tiffany, and Tim. San Francisco Reef and Paradise in the morning and Los Pecios in the afternoon.

People pics:

Mike T.

Tiffany, new diver

Jodi and Doug







Beth and Drew

Gray angelfish (Pomacanthus arcuatus)


Spotted trunkfish (Lactophrys bicaudalis)

Yellow phase Coney (Cephalopholis fulva)

Banded coral shrimp (Stenopus hispidus)

Juvenile angelfish in azure vase sponge

Spotted moray (Gymnothorax moringa)

Longsnout seahorse (Hippocampus reidi)

Porcupine fish (Diodon hystrix) "Hey, handsome. Give me a kiss!"

Pair of large, adult spotted drum (Equetus punctatus) under one of the wrecks at Los Pecios.

Social feather duster worms (Bispira brunnea). Sure don't look "wormy" to me.


Reef Star with the previous group. Mike S and John's last dive day. Friday the thirteenth. Palancar Caves and Chankanaab Reefs

Juvenile Red lionfish (Pterois volitans)

Juvenile coney (Cephalopholis fulva). I think this is a first for me. The fish was very shy so I had to shoot directly into a hole where the fish was hiding. Very cute and exciting to find.

Juvenile spotted drum (Equetus punctatus)

Gray snappers

Sailors choice (Haemulon parra)

Roughhead blenny (Acanthemblemaria aspera). Yes, I know. They are just so cute I can help but take lots of pictures.

Yellow crinoid

Adult highhat (Paraques acuminatus)

Bluestriped grunts (Haemulon sciurus)

Scuba II with Tony. James and Drew were taking Advanced Open Water training and were going out on a boat night dive to Paradise Reef. I was planning to do a night dive in front of the hotel but asked William, their instructor, if there was room on the boat for one more. He said, yes!

Sculptured slipper lobster (Parribacus antarcticus)

Caribbean reef squid (Sepioteuthis sepiodea)

Parrotfish sleeping in a sponge

Circled shrimp ( Gnathophyllum circellum). A new find for me, very exciting. These shrimp are very tiny, less than a quarter of an inch. A close relation of bumblebee shrimp.

Dive Cat with Choky, Deborah, me, Scott, Margaret, Mark, Lucianna, and John F. The Trevino clan, Doug, Jodi, Kyzer, and Tiffany went with Geiser. First dive Dalila Reef and second on Yucab Reef in a moderate current.

Rock beauty (Holacanthus tricolor). These colorful fish are camera shy. They swim away from divers with cameras and hide in the reef. I trapped this one in a sponge and it couldn't escape until I had taken its picture.

"Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home. A band of angels coming after me…"

Green moray (Gymnothorax funebris). This was a big one, about six feet long!

Margaret and large porcupine fish (Diodon hystrix)

Green turtle (Chelonia mydas). This was an old turtle, huge, with a shell more than three feet across.

Gray angelfish (Pomacanthus arcuatus). This pair posed for me!

French angelfish (Pomacanthus paru). "Hey, haven't I seen you before?"

Mayan word for the day: Ch' ilib = rod or branch. Used for a coffee stirrer. At least that's what Alonzo told me.

Reef Star with Nestor, Deborah, me, Scott, Margaret, Mark, Lucianna, and Amy; with Miguel, Jana, Mike T, Dave, Beth, Doug, Jodi, and John F. Palancar Horseshoe and Tormentos. The "horseshoe" is spectacular. Tormentos wasn't…more like "Nice and "Easy."

Red hind (Epinephelus guttatus) aka "grumpy."

Spotted drums (Equetus punctatus) intermediate stage. They won silver in synchronized swimming at the Olympics. They would have taken gold but the German judge only gave them an 8.5.

Yellowline goby (Elacatinus horsti), white stripe variation, hiding in a tube sponge.

Lettuce slug (Elysia crispata). Finally, after more than two weeks of searching, we found one. Some years they are found everywhere, not this year.

Yellowface pikeblenny (Chaenopsis limbaughi). Male in display mode - about two inches long.

Squat anemone shrimp (Thor amboinensis). A family of "sexy" shrimp hiding in a giant anemone.

Reef Star with Nestor & Miguel, Deborah, me, Scott, Margaret, Mike T, Jana, Dave, Beth, Drew, and James. Dalila Reef in a moderate current looking for little stuff. Then, back to Polo's Reef where we found a HUGE loggerhead turtle.

Red hind (Epinephelus guttatus). I love these colorful fish. They are very patient and unafraid of divers with cameras. Second to the red hind, coneys are also favorites for the same reasons.

Coney (Cephalopholis fulva)

Splendid toadfish (Sanopus splendidus). The endemic fish of Cozumel are found nowhere else.

Queen triggerfish (Balistes vetula)

Southern stingray (Dasyatis americana) and bar jack hunting together.

Sand diver (Synodus intermedius).

Squirrelfish (Holocentrus adscensionis)

Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). This was a large, female loggerhead about five feet long! She was feeding on milk conch, crushing the shells and sucking out the meat, totally unafraid and ignoring the divers. I was the only photographer not shooting macro.

My nephew James took this picture of me taking a picture of the loggerhead and James.

Here's the picture I was taking of James at the same time!

Reef Star with Nestor, Deborah, me, Scott, Margaret; with Miguel, the Trevinos, and two other divers. Punta Tunich (aka Rocky Point) in a ripping current was the first dive, followed by Chankanaab. We also did an afternoon dive on Los Pecios (aka Nestor's).

Trevino family (photo by Margaret).

Reef Cat

Red lionfish (Pterois volitans) in black and white.

Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbriocota) – Margret found this turtle asleep under a ledge. I guess I woke it up as it looks pissed.

Splendid toadfish (Sanopus splendidus)

Graysby (Cephalopholis cruentata)

Juvenile threespot damselfish (Stegastes planifrons). Another nervous fish that won't stand still for more than a second.

Grunts. "Ok guys, he's getting close with his camera. On three, break formation and swim away."

Star horseshoe worm (Pomatostegus stellatus)

Mushroom scorpionfish (Scorpeana inermis), named for the upside down "mushrooms" above the eye. This is an adult and only about two inches long.

Scott and Margaret

My sister, Jana.

Margaret on the wreck.


Hurricane Grace decided to pay us a visit. We were moved from the first floor front room to one on the second floor above reception. We were given sandwiches and fruit for breakfast, water, and old towels to mop up any water intrusion. The storm passed south of the island early in the morning with torrential rain and strong winds. There was no damage as far as I could see and we never lost power.

Scuba II with Nestor, Deborah, me, Scott, Margaret, Jana, and Beth. Last day of diving, first dive on Chakanaab Bolones and second on Paradise. Low visibility due to sand kicked up by the hurricane the previous day. Green morays came to play and wish us goodbye.

Juvenile red lionfish (Pterois volitans)

Green moray (Gymnothorax funebris)

Juvenile coney (Cephalopholis fulva). Only the second one I've ever seen. Like the first one, this one was hiding under a coral head and I had to shoot into a hole to get this shot. Note the freckles.

Beth and friend

Graysby (Cephalopholis cruentata)

Fringed filefish (Monacanthus ciliatus)

Scarlet-striped cleaning shrimp (Lysmata rathbunae)

Deborah and I (photo by Margaret).

The end of our underwater diving experience.

I hope you enjoyed all the fish! Jim

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