FridayThis was my first time flying after the September 11th attack and was a little worried about the security checks. I decided to leave my video camera at home as I always have problems getting that one through the security. Another reason to leave it at home is that most of the diving in Cozumel is drift diving, something that doesn't go well with the kind of video I like to take. If you just want to shoot people and big animals, it's not a problem, but with smaller fish you have a problem staying still long enough to get a good shot. And by then the rest of the group will be long gone too... Instead of the video camera, I bought a cheap ($40) semi-disposable 35mm camera. It looks like disposable UW camera, but is rated to 60ft and actually is regular (very cheap) 35mm fixed focus camera with a built-in flash contained in a clear plastic housing. I had it down to 100ft without any problems, but I didn't try to take any pictures then. See below for some pictures I took with the camera. It wasn't a total waste of money, but you have to know the limitations of the camera. I got too close for a lot of the shots and they were way out of focus! Stay about 4 feet away and it's ok, especially with the flash. Something to remember though, is that a flash close to the lens you need really clear water to avoid backscatter. Fortunally, in Cozumel the water is clear enough :-)
Well, back to the security - the check in did take a lot longer and two in the group did have some problems with their ticket being magically cancelled (straightened out, fortunately!). Danny and I got lucky at the security X-rays - the line was super-long but we when we were headed to the end of the line, we were stopped by security and asked for our boarding passes. We must have looked like VIPs, because we were let through in front of the long line and it only took a few minutes when Danny had his carry-on searched. Getting into Cozumel was the same as before, i.e. long lines and you had to press the button for a green/red light to determine if your luggage were going to be searched or not. Both Danny and I had bad luck, but it only took a few minutes.
At La Ceiba, now owned by the El Cid hotel chain, we got a nice room in the tower - the older lower building is being renovated and turned into timeshares. The rooms in the tower were nicer than in the older building, so I had no complaints. And with a 6th floor room, we could put our dive gear out on the patio to dry (well, the gear got less wet...). Another change I noticed, is that the complimentary breakfast selection is not as varied as before, and you have to pay extra for omelettes, pancakes etc. Otherwise the hotel looks the same. Del Mar Aquatics hasn't changed and is as conveniently placed as before right by the dock, not even 40 ft from the hammocks...
Friday afternoon we checked in at the dive shop getting our weights and booking the additional dives we wanted, and then we just relaxed in the lounge chairs and hammocks on the beach until the 5.45pm night dive. Mexico doesn't have daylight savings time so it gets dark real early.
Dive #1: Paradise Reef (Night dive)
Dive #2: Punta Sur/Devil's Throat
Dive #3: Colombia Shallows
Dive #4: Palancar Caves
Dive #5: Chankanaab Reef
Dive #6: Palancar Garden with "The Briggs"
Dive #7: Paseo Del Cedral
After the diving we went to Ernesto's to eat and then we got a Jeep to tour the island. We stopped at Bob's Marley Bar as usual and had a few beers and relaxed and watched the sunset. Then we
drove north and at a scenic point we got chased away by the mosquitoes - they were vicious! We intended to stop at Coconut's also but met a group of people in the parking lot that were chased away by
the mosquitoes there too, so we scrapped those plans :-( Instead we just drove back to town for some relaxation before heading out to dinner/partying.
MondayWell, the trip ended way to early - we just had time to pack and have breakfast before heading out to the airport. Well, now we found out where they have beefed up the security - getting out of Cozumel (and more importantly, flying to the US). The line to the check in moved at a snails pace, and everybody's luggage was searched. Well, they didn't search my dive bag. I probably wouldn't want to search several hundred dive bags with wet wetsuits in them either... After check in, you had to stand in another, even longer, line to go through the security gate. There, they searched you luggage yet another time. And then at the gate (to which we got about 10 minutes before scheduled departure), they searched your luggage for a third time! After that is was smooth flying back to Dallas, and there were no additional luggage searches or extra hassle to go through immigration or customs. The end of another great dive trip! Can't wait to go again!
Click on thumbnails to see the full size pictures