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Dive Review of Bucaneros del Caribe (Majahual), XTC (Xcalak)/Casa Maria (Majahual) in
Cozumel and the Mexican Yucatan/Mahahual & Xcalak & Tulum

Bucaneros del Caribe (Majahual), XTC (Xcalak)/Casa Maria (Majahual), Aug, 2010,

by Mae L. Ding, CA, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 7 reports with 5 Helpful votes). Report 5665.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 101-250 dives
Where else diving Fiji, Cabo Pulmo, Hawaii, Little Cayman, Grand Cayman, Maui, La Paz, Cozumel, Akumal/Tulum Ceynotes, Belize - Ambergris Cay and Turneffe Island Lodge and Half Moon Cay
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy, cloudy Seas calm, surge, no currents
Water Temp 84 to 87 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 40 to 60 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Bucaneros - all group comes up when first person runs out of air on Chinchoros dives, but local allowed highly experienced divers to dive profile.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 2 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 4 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 2 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 2 stars Shore Facilities 4 stars
UW Photo Comments Small bucket of water provided on request. Assisted with handing cameras in and out of water. Pangas offer no special storage place for cameras.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 3 stars Environmental Sensitivity 3 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments Flew into Cancun, rented a large new 8 passenger van for the 6 of us at America Car Rental near Cancun Airport. Drove about 1 hr to Playa del Carmen for groceries, then another 1 hr to Akumal for 2 days of cenote diving before going on to Majahual and Xcalak.

AKUMAL AND MAYA DIVING AT CEYNOTES
We stayed at the very nice La Jolla ocean front condos on Half Moon Bay. Did ceynote cavern diving with Maya Diving at the Dreams Hotel near Tulum at Grand Ceynote (5 stars for cavern beauty and facilities) and Calavera (2 stars - mediocre for facilities (no toilet, no platform, 10 ft jump into the water, ladder climb out but equipment is carried up ladder by divemaster and his assistant) and not much to see while diving). Dives at both locations were about 50 minutes, but you could see pretty much everything at Calavera in 30-40 minutes. Water in high 70's. Recommend 3mm suit.

Maya Diving in Tulum is a very well run operation that I would highly recommend for ceynote diving. Dive master Miguel spoke good english and all equipment was carried from parking area and set up for us at water entry point by his assistant making entry and exit easy. After dive all dive equipment was carried from water back to parking area for us. No towels, water or food provided. Good orientation prior to dive to ensure saftey of divers and preservation of caverns. No cavern or cave diving experience necessary. We had 2 snorkelers with us who enjoyed snorkeling the Grand Ceynote, but found Calavera boring with nothing for Snorkelers to see. On a previous trip we did Dos Ojos (5 stars) and Chaak Mool (4 stars) also with Maya Diving. Snorkelers were allowed to go along for the price of admission to the ceynotes - about $10/location. I would recommend Dos Ojos for snorkelers too, but recommend a guided snorkel tour at that location due to size and multiple entry points.

MAHAHUAL & CASA MARIA
From Akumal we then drove another 3.5 hr to Majahual. We booked new luxurious 3 bedroom, 3 bath home (4000 sq ft) on VRBO.com, called Casa Maria. Excellent caretaker, Carlos, speaks good English and lives in separate building on premises. Beautiful ocean views from every room. Loved the home except that air conditioning only available in bedrooms and limited to evening only due to dependence on solar power and generators. Oppressively hot and humid in August (91 degrees, 78% humidity) made afternoons and evenings inside uncomfortable - even with overhead fans in every room. Nice breeze and comfortable in the shade outside, but nasty bitting flies and mosquitos outside were pesky and we forgot to bring bug spray so five or more bites per day were normal for all of us. Would love to go back in the cooler season next time. Casa Maria is located about 20 minute drive north from pueblo of Mahahual in a relatively unpopulated area where widely spaced new gringo homes have been built. Due to distance from town, best option for eating was Maya Garden Hotel located just a 5 minute drive away where we had delicious 3 course dinner for $15 US including dessert and purified water, with reasonably priced beer and drinks. Dining room is not air conditioned, but has large screened windows that let in cool ocean breezes making it comfortable. We cooked in 2 nights in the well equiped kitchen at Casa Maria. No microwave, broiler in oven did not work, and dishwasher was still being installed. But refrigerator/freezer has ice maker and water dispense supplied with purified water. Groceries must be purchased at San Francisco Market in Tulum or at Soriana or Chedraui in Playa Del Carmen since local markets only carry a drinks, beer, milk, bread, tortillas, a few veggies, bannanas, and other limited staples. They have charcoal BarBQ, but you need to remember to buy charcoal prior to your arrival in Tulum or PDC.

BUCANEROS AND LOCAL DIVING
Used Bucaneros dive oeration located in Hotel Mahahual in center of town on the beach. Owner/Manager Jorge speaks good English and was accommodating. No nitrox available. Tank fills around 2800 lb. Parking lot in Hotel Mahahual is a blessing since street parking in town is difficult on narrow dirt street with buses and plenty of traffic. Dive shop is basically a small open air room with no seating or tables and a back room for dive equipment. They offered to rinse and store our equipment, but we did not feel comfortable with security and chose to take our dive equipment back to our house. Very nice, English speaking dive master, Kiera, took us out for 2 days of 2 tank local diving ($75/day) on small Panga that accomodates 6 divers comfortably, but they squeezed 7 on one day. They assisted with equipment setup on request. Surface interval was short, only about an hour, leading to shortened diving time. Local dives all located 15 minutes or less from the pier. Local dives were ok, but not great. Overall, not as good as Cozumel or La Paz, but much better than Belize Ambergris Cay. Soft and hard Coral ranging from very good to mediocre depending on the location. The area has been a fishing village for a long time so fish are in short supply. Small numbers of tropicals and small fish - particularly as compared to Cozumel and La Paz. Large fish pretty much nonexistent on local dives. Mediocre visibility - averaging about 40 ft. A few nurse sharks, turtles, lobsters and sting rays. Kiera was not very helpful in finding critters and concerned herself mainly with watching the beginner diver in the group - perhaps without the beginner diver, she would have had more time to help us with finding critters. Most of the fish were very tolerant of divers allowing a close approach. There were no other dive boats at any of the sites we visited. The most memorable and special thing about local diving was finding a 6-7 foot Sting Ray resting in the sand that allowed divers to swim up to within a few feet.

CHINCHORRO BANKS
Our main reason for traveling to Majahual and a few days later to Xchalak was to dive Chinchorro Banks. I recommend that if you want to dive Chinchorro that you do so from Majahual, not Xcalak. This is due primarily to the distance being only 20 km from Majahual, but 30 kmn from Xcalak. So it is a 1 to 1.5 hr boat ride one from from Majahual but about 50% longer from Xchalak. Chinchorro is a very big area, and deserves up to a week of diving, but it is very expensive at $165 for 2 tank day, and $195 for 3 tanks. We had planned diving Chinchorro 1 day from Majahual and 2 days from Xcalak mainly because I was unaware of the difference in boat time between the 2 pueblos and because I had read a lot of good things on the internet about the XTC dive operation in Xcalak, but nothing good about any of the dive operators in Majahual relative to diving Chinchorro. We ended up with only 1 day of diving at Chinchorro because XTC's large dive boat (required for long and often rough rides to Chinchorro) was being repaired. XTC did not alert us to this problem prior to our arrival even though we told them several weeks in advance that we wanted two days of diving at Chinchorro. To be fair, they had hoped to have the boat back by the time we arrived, and were hoping to have it back before our departure but that did not happen. Only specially licenced operations can dive at Chinchorro and XTC is the only operator in Xcalak with this license. There are several in Majahual including Bucaneros, Blue Ocean Safari, and Buceros. Maya Garden Hotel recommended Blue Ocean Safari, but we already had reservations at Bucaneros. Dreamtime said they go to Chinchorro on their web site, but they actually send you to Buceros.

Chinchorro has abundent and beautiful large hard and soft coral, sea whips and gorgonians - similar or better than the best of Cozumel, and more pristine than any other place I have been to in the Caribbean except Half Moon Cay in Belize. However, the visibility was only about 40-60 feet which we were told is far below normal conditions there. The undersea life was less than many of the sites in Cozumel, but much better than Ambergris Cay (Belize)and Hawaii, and similar to Turneffe Island Lodge. There were surprisingly few fish for a protected area due to the historical use as a fishing area. My guess is the Chinchorro needs another 10 years to recover from the fishing. What was special is that there is so little diving pressure at the Chinchorro reef that most of the fish, sharks, and turtles are highly approachable making photo opportunities pretty good. Another good surprise was that on our descent at the Acquarium site the bottom was littered with probably a hundred live conch.

We were fortunate to have a smooth boat ride out and virtually no current on our dives. 2 hour surface interval at Cayo Central, the main island in the center of Chinchorro were we saw many large approachable iguanas, a crocadile, and many fishing houses on stilts that are still being used by the fishermen. I think they still allow some commercial fishing by grandfathered operators with old licenses but no sport fishing and no new licenses are being issued. Our dive master for this dive did not speak english and required all divers to surface at the same time. Our dives only lasted 50 minutes due to the air consumption of the beginner diver in our group.

It is probably unfair to judge Chinchorro based on only 2 dives, but I have read reports from other divers who have said they were surprised by the low numbers of fish.

XCALAK & XTC
Xcalak local diving was largely similar to Majahual with slightly greater numbers of fish. The best reason to go to Xcalak to dive is to see the Tarpon at La Poza and the Secretary Blennies. This site featured hundreds of large tarpon who were very approachable, and a large school of jacks but little else of any interest. Several other dives in Xcalak had small schools of Tarpon and the occasional large grouper, midnight parrot fish, barracuda, and schools of yellow snapper, jacks, creole wrasse. Visibility on our two days of diving was around 40 ft which we were told was far below normal for them.

The boat was a large panga with no cover and 2 dive guides (guides were American, New Zealander, and Australian) and a mexican captain assigned to our group of 5 divers. There were no other divers in our 3 days there. Sites were about a 15 minute ride from the dock. XTC was located near the northern outskirt of Xcalak pueblo. No towels or food available, but they provided fresh bottled water. $75 for 2 tanks local diving day. Overall XTC is a very well run operation, in a well designed and maintained physical facility, and I would rate the service among the best in the Caribbean. XTC is only a 45 minute drive from Majahual, so I would recommend that you stay in Majahual and drive to XTC in Xcalak to dive La Poza. After extended research I was unable to find any lodging in Xcalak that offers air conditioning - we were miserable from the 91 degree heat and 78% humidity staying in an otherwise nice duplex home on the beach in Xcalak even with strong breezes and overhead fans.



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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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