Aquatic Safari

Cozumel, Mexico

I recover from the ferry ride to Cozumel mostly by collapsing on a lounge bed on the beach, overdosed on Gravol (not that it did much good!), mojito in hand, as the sky clears and the sun comes out. Yay!

Cozumel could not be any more different than Playa del Carmen. Instead of designer shops, there are local artisans. Instead of thumping electro-pop music, there are roaming minstrels serenading diners at cafes along the central square. Instead of the usual tourist restaurants selling mediocre quasi-mexican food, there is the real thing. The first night I feast on the tastiest fajitas. AAHHHH!!

Our hotel is a quaint old (read: needs some work) hacienda style resort that could use some upgrading, but that will likely wait until after the next hurricane. It still functions so there is really no rush. The hotel elevator provides a bit of drama for Craig. After an hour long run one morning he grabs two coffees for us to enjoy on our balcony and, because of the coffees, he opts for the elevator rather than the stairs. The doors close and the power goes off. The elevator stays immobile on the first floor. Stuck there, sweating, for 20 minutes he waits to be rescued. We chuckle every time we walk by and see the “preventative” maintenance sign.

We are mostly here to dive and have chosen our resort because it has a dive shop on site. We immediately sign up and early Monday morning we head to our first dive site. The seas have calmed, the wind blown itself out and the skies cleared. Perfect weather for a boat ride.

We go down to 50 feet with Joacoman, our dive master, a fit, handsome middle-aged guy. He doesn’t baby us even though he knows we are not very experienced. A few times he signals for me to do something different, like stop flapping my hands, and swim closer to him and Craig, but mostly he leaves us to take in the amazing sights. Lots of fish and coral and plant life. So much color! Giant lobster. And I mean giant. Maybe 4 feet long. A huge spotted eagle ray. Moray eels peeping out from under the coral. A barracuda swims along beside us for most of the first dive. It is magic!

Tuesday, our second day of diving, we go with Pascal. He was born in Austria, speaks fluent French and Spanish (with a French accent), learned English in Australia and has recently married a local woman, which means he will stay in Mexico. A global citizen! We witness his adeptness with a harpoon when he spears three lion fish on our first dive of the day.

In the boat he explains he’ll be carrying a harpoon because of the invasive and aggressive lion fish and as the words are coming out of his mouth I form a picture of him protecting us from attacking fish. Man eaters, most likely. My anxiety, already at a fairly high level, goes off the charts and I barely hear the rest of the explanation. The lion fish have few predators, are highly reproductive and eat the smaller fish, so it is his duty to kill as many as he can. Apparently they won’t be attacking us!

The final day we dive “the wall”, a famed site consisting of a wall of coral so long and so deep that it boggles the mind. Geraldo is our dive master, a lank, pony-tailed local with an Aztec nose. We experience a couple of diving missteps. I end up going down to 115 ft, far deeper than I am certified for, and not part of Geraldo’s plan. He is not impressed and sends another diver after me. Craig runs out of air at the end of our second dive of the day just as he surfaces. A bit of a close call.

Nevertheless, the diving has been amazing, we lucked out on the best weather of the week, and now that it has started raining again we are on to our next adventure, meeting friends Donna and Ron in Guadalajara, the home of mariachi bands and tequila. OLE!!

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