Queen Cozumel

I sing your praise Mysterious Lady of the Sea, I sing your praise Ix’Chel, I sing your praise Cozumel. I sing of your beauties and your mysteries for all to hear.

As you no doubt gathered from the none too subtle opening of this post, I’m thoroughly enthused by our scuba trip to Cozumel. Expectations exceeded.

I must apologize to you, because perhaps, now that I’ve raised the bar of your expectations, your own eventual experiences might seem a little lackluster.

Then again, they might not, the diving is that good.

There’s a saying among divers, that wherever you go, either the diving is great but the living kinda crappy, or it’s the other way around. Clearly no one goes to Paris for the scuba diving, or to Utila for the fine dining. Cozumel however is an exception to that rule, it offers the best of both worlds. The scuba diving is excellent and if you are looking for luxury you can find it. Additionally, the mainland is only a 30 minutes boat ride away. Isolated in the middle of an ocean, on a tiny half deserted island, you are not (though I can see the appeal of that as well).

Cozumel generally gets a bad rap. You hear the name and automatically it conjures up nightmarish visions of huge cruise ships disgorging wave after wave of translucent or lobster skinned humans, even worse, it might bring to mind the cheap all inclusive crowd. Let’s just say that people heading south with the goal of drinking away a resort’s profit margin, will inevitably end up making very public and very poor life choices. Frequently at three in the morning, outside your extraordinarily poorly soundproofed room, and repeatedly. In many ways Cozumel can be a victim of its own charms and proximity, to the point that some very experienced divers, will only reluctantly, and under duress, agree that it is among the very best diving in the Caribbean. Keeping all this in mind, should you still go? Absofuckinglutely.

Underwater Cozumel has lots to offer. The topography of the reef makes for fabulous swim throughs and great drift dives, pretty much the two types of dives you will do there, and the sea life is abundant and varied. In terms of fauna, the star of the show must without doubt be the splendid toadfish. In the whole world, Cozumel, an island not even 30 miles long, is the only place it has ever been found. There is no other place in the world you can see this creature. I can’t help but wonder what peculiar evolutionary circumstances led to this.

Cozumel’s splendid toadfish hiding (as usual) under a rock.

Maybe it was the marine park environment where we dove, or maybe it was the abundance of food brought by the dominant south to north current (and the deeeeeeeep bottom along the western shore), but several species of fish seemed either larger than usual or more abundant. The angel fish (queen, grey and french) were positively huge, and the number and variety of trigger and file fishes very impressive. One of us commented that it was like swimming through an aquarium. Also the turtles, pretty much seen on every dive, seemed completely at ease with scuba divers, ignoring us and calmly coming very close to us if we happened to be across their paths. Likewise for the eagle rays we saw, several times large specimens flew right underneath or really close to us. You can tell there’s no fishing in the area. Fabulous sights.

Everywhere you cared to look there was neat stuff, big and small, including the loud and proud pistol shrimp, nudibranches and the “sexy” shrimp, which we quickly renamed twerky shrimp. That’s its official name from now on btw, the sexy anemone shrimp is now all over the world to be called the twerky shrimp. You’re welcome.

Interestingly, some other species that you see a lot of in the Caribbean were almost completely absent. I spotted only one trumpetfish and there seemed to be very very few lionfishes, which was really surprising considering how invasive that species is in some places. Seahorses were also rare, only one was spotted, but it was hard to miss.

This scorpionfish however, I passed right over, it was only thanks to my dive buddy’s super power eyes that I got to see it.

Another cool critter we saw a few times was the rainbow parrotfish in its so called terminal phase. These were positively huge.

Though moray eels were seldom seen, and were really small when found, we came across this big specimen swimming freely on top of the reef. Right after our DM told us during the pre-dive briefing that this only happens once every one hundred dives or so.  Wow.

Besides most of the Caribbean usual suspects (black durgons, blue tangs, sergeant majors etc.) there were also nurse sharks, lobsters just walking around (during the day!) and the ever territorial damsel fish, one of them even bit my partner.

The fearsome damsel fish protecting its home.

Between swimming through canyons and tunnels, drifting over the reefs, looking under rocks or into anemones for hidden creatures,  Cozumel made for fantastic diving. I just know we will have to go back, cruise ships or not.

I sing your praise Cozumel, I sing your praise Ix’Chel, I sing your praise Mysterious Lady of the Sea.

Stay tuned for part two.

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