Short Version: Cancun is a good destination for a diver that is vacationing
with a non-diver spouse.
Nicer reefs than I expected after reading all the "go to Cozumel instead"
recommendations. Less impressive c***formations, but much more fish life than
Cozumel. Typical reef is 50-60' deep, 5 to 15' reef profile, and teeming with
fish. Reefs are exposed to SE winds and swells. Port was closed for 3 of my 8
dive days. C-55 Minesweeper is a nice artificial wreck nicely prepared for
Solo Buceo (Only Diving) had a tank with white paste (Aluminum Oxide?) that
clogged up my reg; and also did a dive where one DM swam upcurrent all dive, the
other DM missed the reef entirely. Scuba Cancun had better equipment and boat
maintenance. There was a wide range of diver skill levels on the same boat,
resulting in close supervision by DMs. Typical dive profiles were 60' for 35-40
minutes, 30 to 40 minute SI, then 50', 40 minute 2nd dive. Dives were in groups
of 4 or 5, led by a DM.
More Details ----
Arrived at Royal Sands Resort Saturday night about 7:30PM after starting out in
San Jose, California at 9AM, with a transfer in Houston. Continental Airlines.
Day 1, Sunday 2 March. Reservations for 10:30AM Sunday boat were easily made
upon deciding around 9AM that I wanted to go diving. The Solo Buceo shop at the
resort made the reservations and arranged for 10AM pickup at the hotel. Solo
Buceo goes out from a pier on the oceanside of Cancun Point, so it has the
shortest boat ride of any operators.
10 passengers, 3 DM, 2 crew on the "Silver Fox". No shade, no head, no ladder.
Degear in the water and use fins to swim up onto the nice low dive platform --
sounds awkward, but was easy since the swells were breaking over the platform.
I was buddied up with 2 experienced Dutch couples, along with the DM Felipe. 1
couple stayed outside, while the other couple, Felipe, and I did a pass through
the interior of the C-55 minesweeper's first deck, then back through the
superstructure. There was a lot of e***ment as we were exiting, the cause
being a couple of eagle rays hovering just above us. Everyone grabbed hold
(1/2 to 3/4 knot current) and settled in to watch. A second pair joined them
and the 4 eagle rays soared above, below and past us for about 5 minutes. 75',
44 min. 77F, with the upper 10 feet being around 82F. 10-15 knot winds, 2-4'
swells. Vis around 80-100'. The boat moored for only this one dive, all
others were live drops and pickups. All but a group of 3 came up the upline.
The missing 3 were easily spotted downcurrent and picked up.
After 40 minute SI, 2nd dive was Grampin reef. Long skinny reef, 50' max,
mostly 40' deep. About 10' high reef edge. Not much current if you stayed
below the reef. Large, _very_ dense schools of yellow snapper above and
bluestriped grunts below, with a 3' hogfish cruising back and forth through the
school. Several angelfish, including a couple pairs of Blue Angelfish. 50', 57
minutes, with the last 10 or so being a slow, drifting ascent.
Day 2. Monday, 3 March. Again went out with Solo Buceo. Current was about
1/2 knot, going SW rather than the more common NE. We got dropped in
downcurrent from San Toribio reef. DM Martin and his group of 4 spent the dive
finning upcurrent. 6" diameter green moray (unknown length, but _huge_),
Southern Stingray that stayed around for us to get up close, tons of misc. fish,
including a lot of 6-12" bar jacks. 60', 42 minutes. Upon returning to the
boat, we found out the DM Alejandra didn't realize we had been dropped
downcurrent, and her group of 4 or 5 had a short dive above sand before they
After a 43 minute surface interval, during which Alejandra's group was put
back on the reef, we dove San Toribio again, but this time going _with_ the
current. Both were nice dives.
While cleaning my gear that evening, I opened the dust cap to my reg and found a
white pasty gunk covering most of the filter of my 1st stage. My guess is that
it is aluminum oxide/sea water mixture that got dumped onto my reg during my 2nd
dive --- I had flipped upside down quite a few times. Considering the
somewhat worn condition of the boat, and having seen a few of their tanks having
a fine mist of bubbles coming out of the tank valve to tank neck o-ring, I
shouldn't have been surprised. The filter did its job, nothing seems to have
gotten inside the 1st stage. Removing and cleaning the filter restored normal
operation (SPG no longer dipped when purging the 2nd stage). I informed Solo
Buceo and they said they would check their tanks more closely. I decided to try
another operator for the rest of my dives.
Day 3, Tuesday 4 March. Went out on Scuba V boat of Scuba Cancun.
50 tank, 18 customer boat. Large boat, with shade and ladders, but no head.
Scuba Cancun is located around km 5, in the lagoon, but just a minute or 2 from
the cut to the oceanside. The boat ride was around 30 minutes to the furthest
reefs. Clearly Scuba Cancun is a more professional outfit than Solo Buceo.
It appears that they do a lot of instruction, and have a small pool onsite.
They are used to dealing with a wide range of diver skill levels. Entry
procedures were somewhat unusual in that they deploy a float ball with 150' of
trail line, then put attach a small danforth anchor and a downline about 50 feet
in back of the boat. One DM swims down to the down anchor, the other stays on
the surface at the junction of the trail line and the downline. Divers enter
the water one by one, follow the trail line to the 1st DM, who then deflates the
diver's BC for them. The diver then uses the downline to descend while the DM on
the bottom monitors them. The next diver then enters the water to repeat the
process. As you can imagine, it takes a while to get 9 divers into the water.
This was on a day with 4' swells and perhaps 1/2 knot current. Exit procedure
was normal, except that one DM stayed in the water at the ladder, signaled to
each diver when to approach the ladder, and then went under and removed the fins
from most divers so that they could then climb back onboard.
Dives were done in two groups of 4 + DM. 1st dive was Aristo. Several small
swimthroughs, lots of fishlife. 52', 47 minutes. 43 minute SI. 2nd dive was
Grampin. Once again it was full of life. 51', 43 minutes, returning to the
boat with 1400psi and lots of NDL remaining.
Day 4. Wednesday. Day trip to Cozumel. Continued high winds and swells on the
E side of Cancun, as well as at Playa de Carmen. Cozumel's reefs, being in the
lee, had almost flat conditions with just a foot or so of chop. Took my
sister-in-law snorkeling while my wife watched from the from the glass bottom
boat. Paradise, Dzul Ha (sp?), and Villa Blanca. Small eagle ray, a couple of
3-4' parrotfish -- bigger than I have seen on 4 trips/80 scuba dives in
Cozumel. Then we checked out hotels. My favorites of Scuba Club Cozumel and
Plaza Las Glorias were rejected as not having a nice beach, while the Presidente
Intercontinental passed muster with my non-diver wife. It looks like she will
finally join me on my 5th trip to Cozumel.
Day 5,6. It turns out that while we were snorkeling in Cozumel, the port in
Cancun was closed. It was also closed on Thursday and re-opened only around
noon on Friday, too late for most dive boats to organize a trip.
Day 7. Saturday, March 8th. 10AM 2 tank dive with Scuba Cancun. We used the
smaller Scuba VI boat. No ladder, but nice low swim platform for easy return to
the boat. About 30 tank capacity. Could easily handle 2 groups of 6 + DMs.
We just had 9 passengers, 2 DM, and videographer. San Toribio Reef. 4-5'
swells, 1/2 kt N-going current. 57', 48 minutes. 32 minute SI. Banderas Reef.
32', 49 minutes. The swells cause 3 or 4' of surge on the shallow Banderas
reef, but current is only 1/3 knot. Viz on both dives is around 60'.
Scorpionfish on both dives. DM Ysidro (sp?) is skilled at getting them to move
while not getting hit by the spines. Large schools of yellow snapper and
grunts, this time with groupers cruising back and forth through them. All 5
in Ysidro's group were comfortable in the water, so we just did normal giant
strides and backrolls into the water for the second dive.
Day 8. Sunday 9 March. Scuba Cancun, 10AM-2:30PM 2 tank dives. Scuba VI boat.
DM Ysidro is the boat captain today. One group of 5 + DM, another of 4 + DM.
Same laborious entry method as on Day 4. Aristo and Horshoe. 51', 44 minutes,
47 minute SI, 50', 44 minutes. Lots of life on both reefs. For some reason,
Horshoe was teeming with Blue Chromis, many more than on the other reefs. Viz
about 60', 2-3' gentle swells, less wind. As usual, water temp is around 78F to
80F. Topside conditions all days were mid 80's with lots of sun to warm up
between dives. I found a 3/2 full wetsuit plus a beanie was about right. One
UK diver tried bathing suit and t-shirt, but was chilled on second dive. Most
people were happy with 3mm shorties.
Day 9. Depart 5PM. Continental flights via Houston the following day were
uneventful, returning to San Jose just before 11PM. As with my Cozumel trips,
there was no problem making a 1 hour connection in Houston, including
immigration, customs, and a walk to the far end of the terminal.