Many people are drawn to Cozumel by the staggering beauty of the reefs in the Palancar area. Often they hear of other dives, farther out and typically more challenging. When they ask about diving these reefs, they are frequently told that the operator only goes there on special occasions.
Over Thanksgiving week, a hardy crew set out to dive Cozumel and find their ways to some of those lesser-dived sites. We went with Aldora Divers, an operator that uses 120 cubic foot steel tanks to give divers extra bottom time. Aldora dedicated their biggest, fastest boat to us and our divemaster, Javier, led us through a week of excitement. We started with the typical Palancar dives, but once we warmed up, we spent the rest of our time on sites like the tunnels of Columbia Deep, Punta Sur Devil’s Throat and Punta Sur Cathedral.
We did two night dives as well and they were both memorable experiences. The first was an 80 minute dive on Paradise Reef. This reef had been hit hard by the hurricane a few years ago and it is no longer a good site for day dives because of extensive damage. That characteristic, ironically, made it an excellent night dive location. Lobsters, crabs and other night life were readily exposed and could not easily retreat into hiding places once spotted. This was especially true of the octopuses. We were able to watch them each maneuver in the open. Late in the dive, we were joined by a goliath grouper that was evidently hoping our lights would scrounge up a meal. He stayed with us for the rest of the dive and we watched him make several unsuccessful attempts at dinner.
The second night dive was deeper, so we could “only” spend 70 minutes on the Santa Rosa wall. Once again, lobsters, huge crabs and octopus appeared in abundance. We had dived that same location earlier in the day, where we encountered a raging storm. This time we surfaced in bath tub conditions. It culminated two of the best night dives we've ever had in Mexico.
The city of San Miguel has many fine restaurants and we frequented them as a group almost every night. In fact, one of the best things of the trip was that our group really got along well and spent much of our free time enjoying our vacation together. The fact that Cozumel is so close means we are fortunate to have one of the world’s greatest dive locations only a short flight away.