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Playa del Carmen

52 km south of Cancun this once old fishing village has been transformed since the mid nineties. Now a lively and vibrant town it is a good base for all diving activities as the ferry to Cozumel leaves from here. 5th Avenue, a block back from the beach, is littered with shops, bars and restaurants. There is something for all here, be it a dive club, couples or families. The centre is lively but quiet hotels can be found in Playacar and the north beaches.

Diving

The diving in ‘Playa’ is pretty relaxing as most sites are drift dives with the current going South to North. Even though it is opposite Cozumel the diving here is very different. It is an ideal place for the novice diver as the depths are shallower with a sandy bottom. Turtles are the big draw here with many species especially the hawksbill. Bull sharks also frequent the area, just ask Paul about his ‘Bull Shark’ story. It gets bigger every time!

Accommodation

  • 4* Las Palapas - 7 beachfront, 48 standard & 20 garden deluxe rooms all with thatched roofs. A boutique hotel and our favourite.
  • 4* Allegro Resort - 286 tropical themed rooms & suites in Polynesian style bungalows with balcony or terrace.

Cozumel

The name Cozumel comes from a Mayan word meaning ‘Swallow’ and was home to the Mayan goddess of love and fertility. It is the largest island in Mexico, measuring 53 km long by 14 km wide. It is also known for being part of the Great Mayan Reef, the second longest reef in the world, stretching 1000 km. The town itself , San Miguel, is bustling and still retains a ‘Mexican’ feel. Engulfed during the day by hordes of cruise passengers, it is left to the locals by night, which fits in well with us divers. The islands beaches are a fine white sand and in the east practically deserted.

Diving

The main reason for diving Cozumel is for its wall and drift dives which are pretty spectacular. Reefs here were affected by hurricane ‘Wilma’ in 2005 with the shallow reefs being covered by sand. Obviously it will take a few years for nature to return these reefs to their former glory. The deeper reefs south of Santa Rosa dive site were unaffected by ’Wilma’ and hence all our accommodation is based in the south of the island. The topography and marine life is varied and the visibility is nearly always clear.

Accommodation

Tulum

Tulum is the perfect destination for a relaxed diving holiday. Still relatively undeveloped this resort has small family run hotels looking onto a white sandy beach which is empty even in high season. Its location is ideal for those wishing to experience nature, the local history and culture. It is famous for its Mayan temple, which if not grand on the scale of Chichen Itza, has the rather aesthetic backdrop of the blue Caribbean Sea. Just south of the ‘hotel zone’ you enter the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and further along this spit of land is the Mayan fishing village of Punta Allen. If this wasn’t enough, inland you have the archaeological site of Coba soaring high above the rainforest.

Diving

Cave Diving - Tulum is the ‘Cenote’ capital of the Yucatan. From here many of the 127 cave systems covering 552km can be explored. The Cenotes offer a unique diving experience for the ‘normal’ recreational diver, with no technical qualifications needed at all to experience these underground rivers. In fact many of the ‘Cenotes’ can be snorkelled, giving non diving partners a chance to share your experience. Many of the caverns are filled with stalagmites and stalactites giving the dive a cathedral like ambience. The water is so clear you feel you are in space. Without doubt this is a diving experience not to be missed.

Ocean Diving - The ocean diving at Tulum consists of a fringing reef off the coast. The dive sites are no more than 10 – 15 minutes by boat and are quite shallow making it an ideal location for beginners. Some are so shallow that snorkellers can again enjoy the experience. The coral gardens are in good condition without being spectacular. Elkhorn, gorgonias and seafans are in good supply along with the normal resident reef dwelling species.

Accommodation

  • 3* Los Lirios - 9 beach front king size bed suites and 23 ocean front or garden view double room.
  • 4* Villa H2O - 8 spacious rooms with private balcony or terrace

Xcalac

The southern most town on the coast, Xcalak is located just north of the Belize border. The town itself is totally undeveloped and probably hasn’t changed much over the last fifty years. The main income is fishing but tourism is starting to rear its head. There are only a handful of accommodations to choose from which are run by expatriates, mainly American. The silence here is deafening and to say the atmosphere is laid back is an understatement. The mangroves and lagoons make the area perfect for taking a kayak and exploring where the birdlife is superb.

Diving

Chinchorro Banks - There aren’t many coral reefs in the world that you can describe as pristine, Chinchorro you can. It is the largest and oldest of Mexico’s coral reefs. It is the top of a 480 square mile platform that rises 3200 feet from the depths of the Caribbean Sea. The bank is a 28 mile long and 9 mile wide oval with an interior lagoon. We found the dive sites pristine and hopefully with it being classified as a Biosphere Reserve it will continue to be so. Being 35 miles off the coast it is not surprising that the ‘Banks’ have claimed of few wrecks, especially on the eastern side. However it is mainly the west which is dived as it is protected from the prevailing eastern and south eastern winds. Here you will find pristine dive sites, seemingly untouched by man, it is a magnificent site. Swathes of black coral fans and most impressive of all the Giant Barrel Sponges. If you want to play underwater hide and seek this is the place! N.B The crossing to Chinchorro is rough even with light winds. You need to be aware that diving here is very much weather dependant. It is an adventure but one worth taking once you are blowing bubbles.

Xcalak Diving - If Chinchorro is a bit windswept then the Xcalak National Marine Park is your saviour. The park offers wall dives, spur and groove and swim throughs. Its ‘jewel’ is a one kilometre trench known as La Poza, which is a prime feeding ground to large schools of tarpon, snapper and jacks.

Accommodation

  • Tierra Maya - 6 spacious and tastefully decorated oceanfront suites each with their own beachfront & balcony.

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