Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cozumel: Living the Dream

Hello from Texas! That’s right, I am back in the land of cellular data usage and safe-to-drink tap water. Praise Jesus that neither Cheyney nor I accidentally ran our toothbrushes under the running faucet. On the first night we were there, out of pure habit, I almost did, but snatched my hand away immediately. After that, I didn’t even turn the faucet on when I was in possession of my toothbrush. Just to be on the safe side, you know? Anyway, I totally meant to post while I was still in Cozumel. That way, my post wouldn’t be an absolute novel, and it would ensure that I wouldn’t forget the little things that I wanted to include in my post. That, of course, did not happen, so I’ll do my best to condense it, and let the pictures do most of the talking.

A few takeaways to start us off –
  • Takeaway #1: Don’t bring fruit with you to Mexico. It will be confiscated as you go through customs.
  • Takeaway #2: I love scuba diving about one hundred times more than I ever thought I would. Shout out to Cheyney for instigating the conquering of a longtime fear.
  • Takeaway #3: That being said, always dive within your limits.
  • Takeaway #4: Rain in a beach town doesn’t mean the vacation is ruined. And ponchos are our friend.
  • Takeaway #5: Texans continue to be the nicest people of all.
Our vacation started out bright and early Thursday morning. We arrived at the airport long about 6:45am. We made it through security quickly, grabbed a bite of breakfast, and boarded our less than two hour flight to Cozumel. We descended down the stairs, went through customs – which is where my cuties were confiscated, ugh – and hopped on a very crowded van to our hotel. Casa del Mar, about which I have nothing but good things to say. Except maybe the fact that they surprised us with a sneaky water bottle fee upon checking out, but other than that, no complaints.

We checked into our room, grabbed a quick bite to eat, changed into our bathing suits, and headed just across the street to the beach where we met up with Alex over at Cozumel Marine World, who immediately began taking selfies with my GoPro. From that moment on, I knew we were in good hands. We filled out some of the necessary paperwork, chatted with Alex, and then we met our fearless leader – Jeremiah. Guys, I can’t say enough good things about this man. He was the most patient, caring, and encouraging instructor I ever could have hoped for, and never once did I feel unsafe when I was with him. This was important, because though I had opened up to the excitement of the sport, I was admittedly still a little hesitant.

We rigged and derigged and rigged and derigged and rigged our gear, shimmied into our wetsuits, borrowed those godforsaken snorkels, and made our giant stride off the dock and into the open water for open water dive number one of the trip. We spit out some salt water, made our descent, and within minutes of our dive, saw both a sting ray and a seahorse. I think a seahorse was my most anticipated underwater creature of the trip, so I was absolutely thrilled when a fellow diver offered to take our picture with it. We’re hovering just above the ocean floor so as not to disturb any of the wildlife. I have a whole new appreciation for the underwater world, because I’ve truly never seen anything quite like it before, and it is absolutely beautiful. I would say breathtaking, but if that’s one thing I don’t want to lose, it’s my breath.

We swam around, practiced some skills – the dreaded filling of the mask, by far my least favorite skill – before eventually ascending, derigging our gear, and rigging up a new tank for our second open water dive of the day. Another giant stride into the water, and down we went. We worked more on buoyancy, we saw a sting ray and a puffer fish, and I was falling more and more in love with the sport. The nerves had most definitely returned, but I remembered that I can trust my equipment, and we didn’t go much deeper than 30 feet. And as I said earlier, not for one moment did I feel unsafe, because Jeremiah was the crème of the crop. It is so obvious that he loves what he does, and he wanted nothing more than for us to enjoy it, too. Jeremiah, your passion is contagious, because I am officially hooked.

Once we had day number one officially in the books, and Cheyney and I dragged our tired bodies back to our hotel for a shower. We ventured out of our hotel, walking down the main road in search of a promising dinner spot. My main requirement was that we got to see the sunset, and see the sunset we did. We ended up at La Hach, which I absolutely loved. I had a hard time deciding between multiple items on the menu, but I was not disappointed with my mango salsa-topped fish. Five stars for the food, and five stars for an unforgettable Mexico sunset.

After that, it was back to the hotel to read and take advantage of the wi-fi. We were asleep before 10:30pm, which meant we were up at 6:30am. Our boat wasn’t scheduled to take off until 10am, so we got up, went for a walk, ate a most delicious breakfast, and read by the water until it was ready to board our boat. I will admit that this is where my nerves started to return. We were going out for some real dives. But I was quickly calmed down again when I remembered that Jeremiah would be with us with every flip of the fin. But before I go any further, let me talk about the weather. One of the reasons why I was so excited to visit Cozumel was because I thought I was going to get myself a nice little tan. Well, a storm was a-brewin’, and we dealt with gray skies and lots of wind for a majority of the trip. The wind made for a couple of very rocky boat rides, but I made myself stare out at the horizon so that I wouldn’t start feeling seasick. Normally I'm not one to let motion sickness bother me, but when is the last time I was on a boat?

We finally made it out to our destination, and if I was better at remembering names I could tell you where we dove, but one giant stride later and we were in the water. This time we were armed with dive computers - which are worn on the right side, lefty perks - so that we would know our depth, our time spent underwater, the temperature of the water around us, and most importantly, it would time our safety stop. There would be no decompression chamber visits for us! And yes, that was an actual cause of concern for me. I told a teacher friend that I was going scuba diving and he told me, "Oh, don't get the bends!" And ever since that moment, the bends was in the back of my mind. [Don't worry, he then told me many positive scuba diving stories.] So I was extra grateful to have a timer. We practiced a few more skills, but mainly, we just explored the dive site. We saw some absolutely beautiful coral, a green moray eel that was a little perturbed that we were staring into its hiding place, and fish that are a far cry from the goldfish that I managed to keep alive for all of two days. We went down to a depth of 60 feet for the first time, and though we didn't stay down there for long, I loved the thrill of it. I equalized, equalized, equalized, because the pressure is real down there, and I got much better at maintaining neutral buoyancy. But open water dive number four was my absolute favorite. I think we had one skill to master, but the rest of the time was spent swimming around and enjoying the view. We saw our first sea turtle, and I could see the excitement in Cheyney's eyes. The sea turtle to Cheyney is what the seahorse is to me, and I had to admit that it was an absolutely beautiful sight. Fin, noggin', duuuuude.

We surfaced, braved the rocky current, and climbed the ladder up to the boat where Cheyney and I enjoyed chatting with Jeremiah on our way back to shore. Parasailing was next on the agenda, but one, we got back to shore a little bit later than anticipated, and two, it was a little bit too windy for our liking. So we ix-nayed the parasailing and I went for a run instead. We settled on dinner at the hotel that night - and every night thereafter - and called it another early night. I could get used to that. And I forgot to mention - after our fourth open water dive, Cheyney and I were officially PADI Open Water Certified scuba divers. A couple of months ago, I never would have guessed that I would be saying (typing) those words. Talk about conquering a major fear, and it feels great. Especially because I was absolutely raving about our fourth open water dive. All of my fears had dissipated, and I loved exploring a world that had never before seemed open to me.

Saturday morning we woke up to high wind and heavy rain. We elected not to go out that day, as we knew we might end up diving outside our limits. We're still scuba babies, after all. But instead of lazing around all day, we tried to make the most of the not-so-ideal weather. We purchased these really cute orange ponchos, walked around downtown in search of souvenirs for our siblings, treated ourselves to a fish pedicure, and ended the day with what was easily one of the coolest experiences of my life - swimming with dolphins.

The early stages - I was still getting warmed up
We pet them, we gave them kisses, we high-fived them, we rode them, they pushed us on a boogie board, and I was just so impressed with how gentle and beautiful these dolphins were. You could tell that the trainers at Dolphin Discovery really love these animals, and I was absolutely giddy about this experience I was having. A little rain never hurt anyone, right?

Sunday featured some windy weather, but there was no rain, and it seemed to have calmed down a bit from the day prior. We changed into our bathing suits, boarded the boat, and quickly realized that the weather wasn't done with us yet. We were being pounded with rain, the boat was rocking like crazy, and the current was making it difficult for us to stake out our spot. We eventually made it into the water, and I felt much better once we actually descended. I quickly realized that the strong current was going to affect us underwater too, and I never quite felt in control during that 45-minute dive. That being said, I absolutely loved the dive. We got down to about 75 feet, where we saw more eels, a possible baby shark, and plenty of fish. Cheyney even got a selfie with a sea turtle, but the sea turtle liked it so much that he wanted to Instagram it. In other words, her GoPro is currently at the bottom of the ocean. Remember that strong current? Yeah. She kept an extremely positive attitude about it, though, saying that she'd rather have her life - we were running low on air at this point - than have a couple of photos. While it's a huge bummer, at least we have the memories. And our bad luck didn't end there. We had safely surfaced, but the rain had returned, and the water had only gotten choppier. Our boat took a while to pick us up, and the waiting in the choppy water is my version of hell. It gives me extreme anxiety - which is so unexpected considering how comfortable I usually am in the water - and Cheyney and I elected to sit the next dive out. We didn't want to leave with a sour taste in our mouth for the sport, and even the experienced divers in our boat said they had never been out in conditions like this. What consoled us is the fact that if we could successfully dive in these conditions, we could dive in anything. And when all is said and done, if you don't feel comfortable, or if you feel a little uneasy, DON'T DIVE. Don't let anyone peer pressure you, as YOU are the one responsible for your dive. And hey, we officially had our first certified dive under our belts. What could be better than that?

We napped on the boat, and we napped at the hotel - scuba diving takes more out of you than you might think - and after one last run, and one last delicious dinner, we hit the hay so that we would be ready for one last Cozumel adventure: Ziplining! We took a taxi over to the Fly High Adventures Zip Line Park and Resort, buckled up, and zipped from one tower to the next. The guides were enthusiastic, and safety is obviously the top priority. And though the price veered toward the higher end, how often do you get to zipline? A fun ending to a most wonderful trip.

Overall, I have nothing but incredible things to say about our trip to Cozumel. The weather was a little bit of a bummer, but we certainly didn't let it rain on our parade. We met some of the absolute kindest people - surprise, surprise, many of our favorites were from the great state of Texas - and we were immediately welcomed into the diving community. I would absolutely recommend Cozumel as a dive destination, as the visibility is excellent, the wildlife is plentiful, and Cozumel Marine World is top of the line. If you ever find yourself in Cozumel on a dive vacation, please please please check out Cozumel Marine World. They know the best places to go, safety is their top priority, and their passion and excitement can't help but wear off on you. The weariest of divers (me) walked away with an unparalleled excitement about learning and conquering a new sport. A beginner I still very much am, but I cannot wait to plan my next dive trip. Two of my best friends are actually getting certified on a ten week trip to Asia this summer, and I'm hoping I can convince the two of them to take some time off from work at some point so that we can take a scuba vacay. But until then, I'll relax, coach some volleyball, and plan my trip to New York City!


  1. Good photos, Cozumel is great place for vacationing, it has a lot of locations with culture value, there are also some really good scuba diving and snorkeling tours, that let you see the amazing underwater world.

  2. This is a great place to dive. I'm not surprise if this will make the roster of the best dive destinations in the world.