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Sunday, 7 December 2014

Cozumel diving part 4-Night diving

Monument on Cozumel Island.
On our final day of diving, we wanted to experience a night dive. We were diving with another couple Rocky and Tina and we got to dive looking for seahorses and a general twilight dive, before heading off for our night dive.

Remember from my first post how I am frightened of open water? Well the main fear factor for me is not seeing the bottom of the water and how small your field of vision is... so imagine how frightened I was on a night dive!

Hernan playing with some moving coral. It was reacting to his touch.

It was very dark when we reached the reef that we were diving on. At this point we had been on 7 dives over 4 days already, so I was much more confident in the water. This was lucky as I was pretty petrified as it was. It was pretty cold too as there was a strong breeze and no sun to warm you up after your twilight dive. I was also wearing a cut off diving suit, so my arms and legs were exposed.

What you can see underwater.
We filmed our last dive and took photos with our GoPRO, as we had done on all the dives before it. Unfortunately, many of the photos did not come out well due to the poor lighting. Adam and I had very dull lights compared to the others sadly.
Adam and I posing together on my first ever night dive.

We did manage to capture Adam being thrown into the water by a small Mexican guy though. That was kind of the highlight of the diving expedition for me. You can hear Adam yelling "wait!" before being thrown into the water lol.

When we were down in the water, we saw two octopuses. They were small (about the size of a small dog), but it was one of the highlights for me as I really love octopuses! We also saw a HUGE crab and many sleepy fish. Adam liked poking them awake. He is mean. lol.
One of two octopuses that we saw on our night dive.
It is hard to see in the photo, but above is a very large crab.

We also saw a sea snake. Apparently they are quite placid and do not bite often.

At one point the dive instructor got us to turn off our torches and wave our arms around in the darkness. The plankton in the water glows a fluorescent green and reminded me of looking at a night sky filled with tiny little twinkling stars. It was quite beautiful and calming to see.

There were also lots of tiny weeny little fish that kept swimming around our torches. There were also weird little worm like creatures. The torches were absolutely inundated with them.
All the little fish and worms swimming about our torches. 

I was swimming around when I also suddenly saw a sea cucumber. I know they are not the most exciting sea creatures, but this was the first one that I had ever seen and I think they are pretty cool and was happy to see one! We didn't get any photos of the sea cucumber, but it is featured on our youtube video :)

When we were climbing back onto the boat, the waves were quite large and at one point the boat came down hitting me on the chest and throwing me back into the water. No damage was done, but it was pretty scary being buffeted around like that in the blackness of the water.

Every day/night after we had been diving, we were so very sleepy. I believe that it was due to the nitrogen. We were like a couple of grandparents. We went to bed every night at around 8pm. It was pretty tragic, but we caught up on a lot of missing sleep.

After we finished our diving, we had one more day left in Mexico before a 0630 trip back to North Carolina. We decided to go and try and watch some of the Golf tournament that was playing in Playa Del Carmen. Unfortunately, we missed the last bus out to the golf course. In the end we decided to head to Cancun and take a ferry across to Isla Mujeres.

Beach on Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is a very small island off the coast of Mexico. It is very close to Cancun and it takes about 15 minutes to get there on a ferry. The island is just like Playa Del Carmen in that it is absolutely full of street vendors who constantly try and get your attention in order to make a buck.
Isla Mujeres

We took a walk around the island. There were lots of bikes and quads for rent, but they were too expensive to rent, so Adam and I decided to walk around the island. I did see a barbie quad bike which I told Adam that we could rent.... unfortunately, he didn't want to for some weird reason.

I got a lovely wide brimmed hat from one of the street vendors in the end. This was the only thing that we bought the whole time that we were in Mexico, as everything was three times more expensive than the USA anyway.

We enjoyed a nice drink together on the beach. I had a Margarita cocktail which was infused with Corona. It was surprisingly nice... and you all know that I am a pretty girly drinker.

Enjoying ourselves on the beach on Isla Mujeres.

We travelled back to Cancun and went to a restaurant there. It was actually not as touristy in Cancun as it was in either Playa Del Carmen, Isla Mujeres or Cozumel.

By the time we left my Spanish was much better. In the beginning I was too nervous to really speak at all. With Adams encouragement, by the end I was able to communicate enough to get around.

On our final night in Mexico, we stayed the night in Cancun. We had avoided it before our final night as we did not want to stay anywhere too touristy. Surprisingly, this was probably the least touristy place that we visited. This is not to say that it was not still touristy... because it was. But next to Cozumel, Playa Del Carmen and Isla Mujeres, it was actually a lot better.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Cozumel part 3

On our second day of diving, Hernan and the crew took us to the Santa Rosa Wall reef. It was pretty awesome. It was like a cliff on one side and you easily noticed yourself going down too deep without meaning to.
As you can see, it is very much like a wall. The reef falls away into darkness. It feels a little bit surreal looking down and seeing this big blue expanse of darkness below you and next to you are brightly coloured exotic fish. Even though many people have been here before, it feels like you are discovering something that man has never seen before. I couldn't help but feel like the ocean is the final frontier and I got to be a part of that discovery.

In the final photo, you can see Adam is starting to swim into a cavern made from the reef. There are many such caverns around the wall. As I said in part 2, the current was very strong. It was sometimes difficult to make your way through the caverns and not touch any coral. On our second dive at a separate site in the area called Tormento, I was heading through a very small opening and my leg very lightly brushed some black coral... Big mistake!
Here is the offending cavern:

As you can see, the cavern is pretty narrow and with the current, it was hard not to touch anything. I did not feel pain immediately, but in the photo below I was starting to turn to look at my leg, which was burning with pain:

I ended up with a red rash on my leg that quickly disappeared after a couple of days, only to reappear with a vengence about a week later. My leg looked terrible. It had large red welts all over the calf and near my knee. It was itchy, red and raised and it took several weeks to heal. I still have little red marks, but they are faint now.

Here are some more of the amazingly beautiful caverns that we went through:

Although there was plenty of marine life in Cozumel, the coral was not as brightly coloured as I thought it would be. We also did not buy a red filter for our camera, so the photos did not show the colours as well as we had hoped. The fish were beautiful and ranged in colour from a vivid blue to a bright yellow and everything in between. 
Here are some more photos of the wall:

Below is a photo of our guide Hernan guiding us through the reef.
This photo below illustrates the cliff like features of the wall very well.
Here are some photos of some of the marine life that we saw. It was hard to get a good photo of them. We didn't have a viewfinder either, so we didn't know what we were taking photos of really:

 We found this little guy eating a fish under a rock:

This guy was kinda just sleeping under a rock :)

 This photo is of an octopus hiding in a hole. You can make out his huge eye if you look. It is pretty scary when you imagine how big this guy must be to have a huge eye like that!

I really loved the sensation of diving underwater. It feels like you are in space. You have that true feeling of weightlessness. You see all sorts of interesting and new things too. Everything is so truly alien.

On our third dive we were lucky enough to get a photo of a shark. We saw about 3 on our trip all together, but it was hard to get a photo as the current is so strong and pulls you away quickly.

It is difficult to see it unless you really know what you are looking for. It was a grey nurse shark, which is actually a very placid animal and will not bite unless it is harassed.

Finally, here is a compilation video of our diving for you to watch if you feel so inclined :)

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Cozumel Part 2


Like I said in my previous post about Playa Del Carmen, it is really worth eating where the locals do. You save about 75% and the food is 100% better.

We went to the markets which were about 4 blocks into the island from the shoreline where the ferry drops you off. The best food we had was here. They made great enchiladas and quesadillas in particular. I was also a huge fan of the chicken tacos. Adam wanted a huge fried fish... so we bought this guy:
Adam enjoying himself at the Cozumel food market:
They also made the nicest fresh fruit drinks here. The melon flavor was the best. It comes out in a huge glass and appears to be made mainly from cantaloupe.

This was the shop in the markets that we ate at the most:

Thinking back on it, another thing that I didn't love about Mexico was the tipping scheme. You are already paying twice as much for everything and then when you add the tip on, it is like daylight robbery. Being Australian, I hate tipping anyway. It feels like you are putting a price on the individual and also, we pay so much in Australia for everything that tipping is simply unaffordable. It is the same in Playa Del Carmen and Cozumel. With the cost of food being so high, a tip seems unfair. With the amount that they charge, surely they can afford to pay their workers a reasonable wage. 

On Cozumel, we stayed at the Hotel Boutique Vista Del Mar. They came out with some pretty epic towel art each day. 

We kept the above whale overnight so he was still there in the morning when they made us a lobster. Then we had two! :)

The hotel was a bit dated and there was no light in the main room, but we had a fun time. The internet connection at the hotel was good and so we were able to keep in contact with family and friends while we were away and even posted some pictures.

On the first night in Cozumel, we went to a kind of juice bar called 'Crazy Boy Nachos'. The guy that owns the place is called Nacho and was a really nice guy. I cannot say that his drinks were awesome, but he was enthusiastic! lol. He put waaaay too much cinnamon into the smoothies. In the end it was like just drinking a very cinnamon-y milk drink. I ordered the melon flavour, so you can see how melon and cinnamon don't really mix. We pretended to love it though and we honestly meant to go back some time because he was so nice, but we never did in the end :(

So on our second day in Cozumel we ended up going on our first official diving trip.

This is the face of a combo of excitement and extreme nerves. The idea of jumping into water when I cannot see what is under me was frightening.

Adam was happy as always and was of course, a very good diver. It kind of goes without saying because Adam is truly good at everything! <3

Well here we are under the water at Palancar Gardens, which is a beautiful reef off the coast of Cozumel.

 We saw lots of marine life. In the above photo I am pointing to a little baby moray eel. He was pretty cute actually and thought our fingers were food and kept bobbing out to try and get them. I guess this was ill advised, but it was cute!

There were some awesome large reefs that you could swim through. It was often very much like cavern diving as there were so many underwater reef-caverns.

 Here is Adam being a show off underwater (as usual lol).

This is me also being a dork under the water. No surprises there either.

The interesting thing about diving on Cozumel was the current. It has a very strong current and you are constantly being ripped through caverns. Sometimes it is so fast that it is quite scary (for me anyway). On the first day, Adam mistakenly brushed up against some coral and had a cut on his hand and some welts :( I was so scared from then on that I was going to get stung too, that I kept about a 3 meter gap between me and any coral.

The scuba instructor would let out a kind of underwater kite when you were getting below 1000 psi and that would alert the boat as to our location underwater. The 'kite' has a kind of red balloon on the end and Hernan (our instructor) would hold onto the line underwater until the boat found us. I was always a bit scared that it was going to run over us. It of course never did, but I have some irrational fears :P