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Dive Review of Aqua Safari/Safari Inn in
Cozumel and the Mexican Yucatan/Mexico

January, 2010, an Instant Reader Report by Jeanne Reeder, MO, USA
Contributor   (14 reports, with 9 Helpful votes)
Report Number 5353
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
Turkey,Indonesia, Palau,Japan, St.Vincents,Belize, Roatan,Bonaire, Curacao,
Saba,Statia,St.Kitts,Turks & Caicos. Cayman Brac
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

windy, rainy, cloudy  
choppy, no currents  
Water Temp
79   to 79    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
100   to 150    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Advised to follow profile established by dive masters  stay with buddy,
monitor dive computers and   respect all sea life.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
Boat Facilities
Overall rating for UWP's  
Shore Facilities  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
5 stars
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars    
2 stars   
5 stars    
High quality drift diving, top-notch finely tuned dive operation, delicious
inexpensive food, and competitive pricing bring me to Cozumel at least
twice a year.

Diving in Cozumel was excellent.  My dive buddy and I hung back with the
safety diver, diving our own dives while exploring nooks & crannies,
and taking every swim-through/tunnel available.    The usuals were there in
abundance, a healthy variety of fish -- angel, parrot, hog, trunk, and
schools of grunts and jacks.  Barracuda seemed bigger at 3-4 as did one 8
green moray trying to hide its full length under a ledge.  Splendid
toadfish were found on most dives.   Scrawled filefish provided nice color
contrast to the orange spotted and white spotted, orange phase.  My
favorite of that family were the 2 slender  and fringed filefish, vertical
along branches of similar colored gorgonians at Balones of Chankanaab.   

The corals were healthy and growing back beautifully from Hurricane Wilma 5
years ago, except there is a problem with overgrowing mat tunicate coverage
which can kill the coral.   It is unusual to see such growth proliferating
this time of year with the cooler waters.   On the positive side, the red
algae which was so prevalent on many dives one year ago this month, has
nearly all gone.    My dive buddy and I focused on tunicate identification
this trip.  We were fascinated with the vivid varieties of colors and sizes
as well as with the design of their intricate incurrent siphons.

The water was a steady 79 degrees, no matter the depth.  The currents were
very slow, all less than  1/2 knot, except for one dive where it picked up
to 2k.  Easy diving for Cozumel.    BUT, the surface was another story,
with high waves and white caps, which made getting back into the boat a
challenge at times.  The dive masters and boat helper were masterful at
giving assistance as needed.

On most dives, dive masters captured or killed lion fish which are
infesting the Caribbean; there is concern of unbalancing the eco system. 
The first one was discovered in the Cozumel waters one year ago, and since
then their population has exploded.  Joyce Mustin, co-owner of Blue Magic
Scuba, is promoting eradication by supplying information, nets, as well as
sponsoring a Lionfish Tournament.    My best guess on species we saw is the
Common Lionfish, Pterois volitans, juvenile, although, according to Joyce,
the Pterois miles is also in these waters.    Most of the dive masters at
Aqua Safari used nets but the plastic extra large milk container with trap
door cut out seemed to be the most effective.  Dave at Aldora has used a
small spear attached to a Hawaiian Sling with some success.

This was my twelfth dive trip with Aqua Safari.  With 12 dives under my
belt and not a clue about drift diving, I first selected Aqua Safari
because of its conservative, no-nonsense, and safe diving reputation.  Bill
Horn, the owner, made sure the boat dive masters knew to keep their eye on
me.  They not only did that, but at my request critiqued my diving after
every dive.   Since then I have taken most of my advanced training through
Master Diver with their excellent lead instructor, Gabriel Medina.  

Aqua Safari is the oldest dive operation in Cozumel, dating from 1966 with
the same owner.  Their 35 Ocean I was the first dive boat built on the
island.  Ocean II and III are 40 Deltas.  They are well maintained with
easy platform or side entries and clean heads.  Between dives fresh fruit
or filled pastries are available, along with choice of soda.  To get to
Palancar it takes an hour from their dock in town.  For a faster ride and a
few more dollars their fast boat Belinda clips off time at 18 knots.   

There are always two dive masters in the water, lead and safety, whether
there are six divers or twice that.   The safety diver is attentive to
equipment problems or straying divers.  This also allows for safer earlier
exits for those who need it.    Their boat crew and support staff are loyal
long term employees. Some of their staff have been with them thirty years,
boat captains from 18 years, and one  dive master Porfiro for 25.   Two
dive masters are father-son.   

The harbor was closed my first day of diving  (also the two days prior) 
with the temperatures in the low 50s, beating a Cozumel 100 year record.  I
went horseback riding in the jungle instead with Gregorio, a Mayan friend
who owns Hacienda Azcorra.  His ancestors were early Mayan Cozumel
settlers.  As we slowly picked our way along the sometimes rough jungle
paths, he spoke of Mayan  culture and pointed out some of the plants used
for medicinal purposes, such as boiling wild cucumbers -- making a tea for
urinary track ailments.   The butterflies were brilliant colors and unique
configurations.  Gregorio took us to a couple of cenotes, and I wondered
how anyone ever found them in the first place.  They were off the trail
about 15'  -- one would have to slither on ones belly to get to the descent
hole and hopefully not get caught on roots and low branches.  But, 'tis

Aqua Safari has two large front facing rooms  above their dive shop, 7
others facing their alley.   You cannot beat the convenience when diving
with them -- rinse gear and hang in the back of their shop downstairs. No
tiny bins for them!   The front facing rooms have large windows, a firm
king size bed, and super clean.  There is no fridge (but an ice chest), tv,
radio, nor clock:  bare bones,  $56 per night for the room.  10% off
packages if pay cash.  

Breakfast for 300 pesos at Costa Bravo is delicious and filling, with 3 egg
omlet, refried beans, lettuce, tomato, deep fried plantain, and 3 ounce
fresh orange juice. It is difficult to find a better quick lunch than their
Sopa de Lima after diving.  Other favorites I visit every trip are Flamitas
on Wednesdays for their Queso Relleno;  San Carlos Pescaderia  and Conchita
del Caribe for their whole fried hogfish; El Farito for Cheladas, conch
cerviche and small snacks.  If I want to splurge and feel flush, Ill have
a meal at Guidos and include their tasty garlic bread, or El Capi
Navigantes for an elegant well prepared seafood.  Breakfast at the Museum
is a great ocean front setting and very tasty -- best on an no-diving day,
as you will want to linger.

Cozumel has experienced a significant decline in divers over the past two
years, due to Swine Flu scare and economy down-turn.  This has been
difficult for many dive operations, and has involved some closures as well
as down-sizing.   Another contributor to local dive operation decrease is
Aquaworld, started in Cancun thirty years ago by two Mexican the Orozco
brothers.  In addition to their operating the blue/yellow ferries bringing
divers from Cancun/Riviera Maya, and downloading divers from ships, they
have contracts for diving with at least two chain resorts with
establishments on  Cozumel Palace and Park Royal Hotels.  These recent
contracts have taken business away from local dive operations.   Be careful
who you select as a dive operation.  I go with  the most established with a
long safety record.
Cozumel remains the best deal for diving  all around winner for good
price, excellent diving, and inexpensive delicious off-main street
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