Hello. My name is Jim and I’m a Cozumelholic. It’s been one week since I last did a dive in Cozumel.
The next best thing to being in Cozumel is reading a trip report about it, so here is my contribution for the rest of you fellow Cozumel junkies just waiting for your next fix. You will also read about a find by the DM and a bunch of pics I took with my new Olympus C5050: fish portraits, wreck dive, macro stuff, and other neat things.
Take the test at the end of this report to see if you, too, are a Cozumelholic.
(This report is very long and has lots of images. If you are on a dial-up connection, it will take a looooong time to download. I hope it's worth the wait.)
We just returned from our latest Cozumel trip. This was an annual group affair with nearly fifty of our closest friends. By traveling together, we have been able to share group discounts on airfare and amortize the "free spots" over the entire group. It's also wonderful to be at a resort where you know almost all of the guests and your fellow divers.
The gate at Scuba Club Cozumel
The interior courtyard at Scuba Club Cozumel
Each year we have stayed at Scuba Club Cozumel, an all-inclusive resort several blocks south of town. Scuba Club is a small, dedicated dive resort. There are many good things to say about this place: friendly staff, great food, ambience, charming rooms, no phones, no TV's, competent dive guides, fast boats, and unlimited shore diving in front of the hotel. I'm afraid to say too many good things about SCC for fear that it will become too popular! RogerC said that if my comments were too positive, I would find the head of a seahorse in my bed!. Yes, SCC isn't El Presidente and the on-site dive operation isn't DWM, but for my money, it's the best bargain in town. When we return and first walk through the front gate, Sofia greets us with "welcome home", and we truly feel like family.
This is what the hotel looks like from the water:
The group of us from Southern California and other misc. places:
When my wife and I first learned to dive, I asked several been-there-done-that divers about where they would return to if they could only back one more time. Nearly all of them said "Cozumel". Since then, we, too, have become been-there-done-that divers. We’ve dived Truk (twice), Palau (twice), Yap, Hawaii (twice), Coco (twice), Galapagos (twice), Turks & Caicos, Fernando de Noronha, Papua New Guinea, Borneo, Thailand, Myanmar, the Maldives, Southern California (where we live, many times), and Cozumel (seventeen times!).
Yes, that's not a typo; we've made seventeen trips to Cozumel and many of those trips were for two weeks. I've logged over 400 dives on Cozumel's reefs. For those of you who share my affliction, you understand. For those of you who don't, it's not hard to explain. Yes, there are better places to see manta rays, hammerhead sharks, wreck dive, and find exotic creatures in the muck, but no other place is as convenient to get to; is as affordable; and has such consistently clear, warm water filled with a kaleidoscope of healthy marine life.
Highhat (Equetus acuminatus)
hind (Epinephelus ?)
Note: The new Olympus C5050 was the camera of choice for our group. There were six of these cameras in PT-015 housings with Ikelite DS-125 strobes on this trip. Film is dead; come over to the dark side!
Senior Weeb one-hands it with his c5050:
Trumpetfish (Aulostomus maculates) plays "you can't see me" on Chankanab Bolones:
Bigeye (Priacanthus arenatus) on the wall just in front of SCC:
Scarlet-striped cleaning shrimp (Lysmata grabhami). This little guy was in a coral head on Paradise reef. He was dancing, bobbing to and fro to an unheard tune. We did the inshore side of the reef at Paradise; Cozumel muck diving looking for little things.
Juvenile scrawled cowfish (Lactophrys quadicornis). After letting me take his picture several times, he attacked my mask. I was laughing so hard that my mask flooded and he took the opportunity to scoot away and hide.
Caribbean reef squid (Sepioteuthis sepioidea) inshore of Paradise reef. There were a dozen squid flying in formation, breaking up into duos, changing colors and then lining up again. They stayed tantalizingly out of camera range and I was only able to get this one useable shot.
Whitespotted filefish (Cantherhines macrocerus) showing both the spotted and orange phases. It looked like they were doing some sort of courtship ritual.
Santa Rosa wall showing some of the coral buttresses and divers:
Black grouper (Mycteroperca bonaci). This one turned from black to this pale mottled color with the wonderful black tail just before I took this picture on Chankanab.
I think this is a juvenile barbfish (Scorpaena brasiliensis). We found several during night dives. This one is smaller than a dime! If he hadn't moved, I would never have seen him.
The classic great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) at a cleaning station. There were lots of big barracuda on nearly every dive.
Rock beauty (Holacanthus tricolor).
The indigenous splendid toadfish (Sanopus spendidus).
A splendid toadfish out of his hole showing off his wonderful yellow margins.
This was the year of the seahorse! There were three of them at La Palmas, one on Chankanab and we found three others in the sea grass on shore dives in front of Scuba Club Cozumel.
Angels, angels, angels. Below, in order: French angelfish (Pomacanthus paru), juvenile French angefishl (the yellow on the tail is rounded), juvenile gray angelfish (the tail is square-cut with a white to transparent margin), and the beautiful queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris):
Here are the dives we did: 1. Scuba Club Cozumel shore dive, 22 feet, 37 minutes. 2. Dalila, 62 feet, 33 minutes. 3. Paradise, 45 feet, 75 minutes. 4. SCC shore dive, 22 feet, 120 minutes. 5. Colombia "bricks", 85 feet, 43 minutes. 6. Tormentos, 56 feet, 63 minutes. 7. SCC shore dive (night), 20 feet, 78 minutes. 8. Santa Rosa, 80 feet, 56 minutes. 9. Las Palmas, 71 feet, 63 minutes. 10. SCC shore dive, 23 feet, 116 minutes. 11. Punta Sur, 111 feet, 40 minutes. 12. Chankanab, 50 feet, 85 minutes. 13. C-53 wreck dive, 79 feet, 56 minutes. 14. Palancar Gardens, 79 feet, 70 minutes. 15. Yocab, 55 feet, 74 minutes. 16. SCC shore dive, 24 feet, 71 minutes. 17. Colombia "deep", 93 feet, 59 minutes. 18. Colombia Shallows, 32 feet, 96 minutes. 19. SCC shore dive, 23 feet, 79 minutes. 20. Palancar Caves, 93 feet, 60 minutes. 21. Villa Blanca, 58 feet, 76 minutes. 22. SCC shore dive, 24 feet, 120 minutes. 23. La Fancesa, 63 feet, 70 minutes. 24. Paradise "grass", 39 feet, 84 minutes. 25. SCC shore dive (night), 19 feet, 97 minutes. 26. Colombia, 96 feet, 58 minutes. 27. Tormentos, 61 feet, 65 minutes. 28. SCC shore dive, 23 feet, 124 minutes. 29. Santa Rosa, 97 feet, 61 minutes. 30. Yocab, 55 feet, 71 minutes. 31. Colombia, 101 feet, 58 minutes. 32. Las Palmas, 70 feet, 67 minutes. 33. C-53 wreck, 80 feet, 60 minutes. 34. SCC shore dive (night), 21 feet, 97 minutes. 35. Punta Tunich, 64 feet, 78 minutes. 36. Chankanab, 74 feet, 71 minutes. 37. SCC shore dive, 23 feet, 104 minutes. 38. SCC shore dive (night), 19 feet, 48 minutes. 39. Chankanab Bolones, 67 feet, 67 minutes. 40. Paradise "grass", 40 feet, 105 minutes.
Each year, we are seeing more and more turtles on the reefs. The protection of the turtle nesting sites and eggs on the east coast of the island seems to be working.
Christmas tree worm (Spirobranchus giganteus) showing the two spiraled radioles:
Flamingo tongue (Cyphoma gibbosum) (Has anyone ever seen a flamingo's tongue and does it look anything like this mollusk?):
Not to be confused with the flamingo tongue, is the fingerprint cyphoma (Cyphoma signatum). I've heard that there are 10,000 flamingo tongues to every specimen of fingerprint cyphoma. This one was on Tormentos reef:
One of the attractions of SCC is the unlimited shore diving in front of the hotel. You can grab a tank at anytime and do a shore dive. They even have a pool that you enter via stairs and then swim out into the open water. There is always lots of fish and neat creatures to see. We start our dives into the current and then drift back to the hotel. Out in the grassy patches, if you look carefully, you can often find these little slender filefish (Monacanthus setifer):
There are lots of spotted scorpionfish (Scorpaena plumieri) willing to sit and let you take as many pictures as you want. I guess they think that you can't see them because they are so well camouflaged:
Under the rocks, are really neat invertebrates like this banded coral shrimp (Stenopus hispidus):
or this squat anemone shrimp (Thor amboinensis) in a giant anemone (Epicystis crucifer):
This little guy was hiding in an old conch shell out in the grass:
I spent forever trying to catch this juvenile highhat (Equetus lanceolatus) in the right place so that he was in focus and timed with the shutter lag on my digital camera. No such luck. This was the best I could do:
RogerC has moved up to the c5050/PT-015 from an older Tetra-housed Olympus camera. I call him "sensei" and he calls me "grasshopper". One of these days my pictures will come close to looking like his!
Here's an exchange that took place between RogerC and his beautiful wife, JudyC:
Judy: Do you love me? Roger: Very, very, very much. Judy: Do you love me more than your camera? Roger: Yes. Judy: Do you love me more than your camera in the housing? Roger: Yes. Judy: Do you love me more than your camera in the housing with your strobe? Roger: Yes. Judy: Do you love me more than your camera in the housing with your strobe in the water? Roger: (hesitates) Cold water or warm water?
Here's RogerC, a fellow Cozumelholic on the reef with his camera:
The strobe sensor that is used with the PT-015 housing will fire the strobe if you take a picture of someone who hasn't turned their strobe off, creating an interesting effect:
The water was warm with temperatures of 84 degrees Fahrenheit on most dives. We had great weather, sunny or partly cloudy skies. It rained a couple of nights and we had a few thunderstorms skirt the island while we were there. It was not too hot, but humid as always.
We dove the wreck of the C-53 (Felipe Xicontencatl) that was sunk several years ago off Chankanab. More and more life is being attracted to the wreck. There's a big green moray living under the hull with a bunch of big lobsters and crabs. A couple of large black groupers have set up housekeeping on the wreck. Inside are both glassy sweepers and a school of small sardines.
I love my Olympus wide angle lens! Here's a classic bow portrait of the wreck:
I think Deborah's saying, "they went that way".
Honeycomb cowfish (Lactophrys polygonia):
A mixed school of grunts stacked up in front of one of the pier pilings at SCC:
A mental image that is triggered by an odor or smell is called an olfactory memory. For me, it's hot humid air mixed with a hint of wood smoke. That's what the air smells like in Cozumel when you first get off the plane. I will always associate that perfume with the wonderful times we have had on the island.
Yellowline arrow crab (Stenorhynchus seticornis):
Social feather duster worms (Bispira brunnea):
This spotted goatfish (Pseudupeneus maculatus) was sitting on this rock at dusk and shows the coloration that they take on when at rest. It wasn't until later that I noticed the parasitic isopod attached to the side of the fish in the picture:
Senior Weeb, another convert to the "dark side" with a c5050/PT-015:
Giant hermit crab (Petrochirus diogenes):
Who knew that conch (Strombus gigas) have eyes? I may not ever be able to eat conch fritters ever again…well, maybe.
The only hawkfish in the Atlantic, redspotted hawkfish (Ambycirrhitus pinos). I love his freckles.
The octopi (or is that octopuses) (Octopus broareus) come out at night to feed in front of SCC. We always see several on our night dives. They are so used to divers that they don't flee and will allow you to stroke them. Really neat animals:
Flame helmet (Cassis flammea). These mollusks hide under the sand and come out at night to feed on red heart urchins.
I dive with a couple of friends who are really good at finding small stuff. JudyC is one of them. She pointed out this tiny spinyhead blenny (Acanthemblemaria spinosa) in his hole. Macro photography is instant gratification, at least with things that hold still long enough for me to take their picture.
I found this spotted moray (Gymnothorax moringa) out in the eel grass hunting.
On the inshore edges off many of the deeper reefs we were buzzed by small groups of permits (Trachinotus falcatus) feeding in the sand. Here are a couple:
Meanwhile, on the tops of the deeper reefs at the southern end of the island are small school of horse-eye jacks (Caranx latus):
Sleeping stoplight parrot fish (Sparisoma viride) on a shore night dive:
I have only seen a few nudibranch in Cozumel and they were tiny. On a night dive, my dive buddy Jayne found this harlequin glass-slug (Cyerce cristallina). There are aways new surprises to find in Cozumel.
Our dive master, Jesus Zetina, has been diving every day in Cozumel for over nine years. He had never seen a frogfish. Well, he has now! We dove the wreck of the C-53 on EAN 36% and did the outside of the wreck. At the beginning of the dive, we visited a small coral head and saw a turtle, big eels, and many lobsters. On a dive here the previous week, Jesus pointed out the smallest juvenile spotted drum that I have ever seen; he was only a little bigger than the period at the end of this sentence! This time, Jesus was looking for the little guy again and notice what looked like eyes on a sponge. It turns out that the "eyes" were actually spots on a frogfish. The eyes are smaller and harder to see. Needless to say, Jesus was really, really excited to have finally found a frogfish. They are either very rare in Cozumel or so camouflaged that no one ever sees them. This one is a longlure frogfish (Antennarius multicellatus). Deborah and I had seen one other in Cozumel, a small orange one, about ten years ago on a rock in front of SCC.
PS I want a bumper sticker that says, "Jesus is my dive master!"
You know the diving's over when RogerC cools off in the camera rinse tank:
Sunset in Cozumel:
I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of underwater Cozumel. I need to go back for another fix. Deborah, have you seen my credit card?
Are You A Cozumelholic? Take the following quiz to find out.
Ask yourself the following questions and answer them as honestly as you can. 1. Do you lose time from work due to going to Cozumel? 2. Is your constant talking about diving Cozumel making your home life unhappy? 3. Do you go to Cozumel because you are shy with other people? 4. Are trips to Cozumel affecting your reputation? 5. Have you ever felt remorse after returning from Cozumel? 6. Have you gotten into financial difficulties as a result of trips to Cozumel? 7. Do you turn to lower companions and an inferior environment when vacatoning in Cozumel? 8. Does your fixation on Cozumel make you careless of your family's welfare? 9. Has your ambition decreased since going to Cozumel? 10. Do you crave a dive in Cozumel at a definite time of day? 11. Do you want a dive in Cozumel the next morning? 12. Does thinking about your next trip to Cozumel cause you to have difficulty in sleeping? 13. Has your efficiency decreased since returning from Cozumel? 14. Are trips to Cozumel jeopardizing your job or business? 15. Do you go to Cozumel to escape from worries or trouble? 16. Do you dive Cozumel alone? 17. Have you ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of diving Cozumel? 18. Has your physician ever treated you for diving Cozumel? 19. Do you brag about your trips to Cozumel to build up your self-confidence? 20. Have you ever been to a hospital or institution on account of diving Cozumel? If you have answered YES to any one of the questions, there is a definite warning that you may be a Cozumelholic. If you have answered YES to any two, the chances are that you are a Cozumelholic. If you have answered YES to three or more, you are definitely a Cozumelholic. (Apologies to Robert V. Seliger, MD, Johns Hopkins University Hospital.)