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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

August, 2010, an Instant Reader Report by Mae L. Ding, CA, US
Sr. Reviewer   (7 reports, with 4 Helpful votes)
Report Number 5665
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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

sunny, rainy, cloudy  
calm, surge, no currents  
Water Temp
84   to 87    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
40   to 60    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
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
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  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  
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):
4 stars
Service and Attitude
3 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
3 stars
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars    
4 stars   
3 stars    
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.  

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

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.

From Akumal we then drove another 3.5 hr to Majahual. We booked new
luxurious 3 bedroom, 3 bath home (4000 sq ft) on, 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.

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. 

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
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 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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