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Dive Review of XTC Dive Center in
Cozumel and the Mexican Yucatan/Xcalak and the Chinchorro Bank

XTC Dive Center, Mar, 2011,

by Jason Marks, CA, US (Reviewer Reviewer 5 reports). Report 5999.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Cozumel, Caymans, Indonesia, Thailand, Micronesia.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy Seas choppy, surge
Water Temp 78 to 80 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50 to 80 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Ascend with buddy when either reaches 750 psi.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 2 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 1 stars

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

Subject Matter 3 stars Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities 3 stars
UW Photo Comments Rinse tank set aside at shop for cameras. On local diving, no rinse bucket on boats, but rides are short.

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 3 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments In late March, we dove two days (4 dives) on the local reefs of Xcalak and one day (2 dives) on the Chinchorro Banks. All the diving was with XTC Dive Center, located on the lagoon just outside the puebla of Xcalak.
We liked the local diving quite a bit. Hob Na, at the north end of the Xcalak fringing reef, is a beautiful set of deep canyons and ridges, lushly covered with gorgonians and hardcorals. While there were only a few snapper of any size, and I did not happen to see any grouper, smaller fish angels, parrots, wrasses, cowfish, butterflyfish abounded. La Poza, a relatively deep wall with side canyons harboring schools of tarpon (including a couple of monsters), jack and snapper, was spectacular, and the entry, from inside the lagoon and over the wall with breakers rolling overhead, was very neat. Poza Rica and Dona Nica were tamer sites but still fun, a highlight at Poza Rica being the crustaceans, including a huge king crab hanging out under a ledge.
Our trip to Chinchorro Banks, on the other hand, was disappointing. The trip out, through swells of around five feet and against a strong wind, was extremely rough and took more than 2.5 hours. (Coming back was a little quicker and easier at almost 2 hours.) Everyone got soaked as soon as we hit the reef cut, and despite some sun it was impossible to get warm in the wind and spray. It would all have been worthwhile if the dive sites had been anything special, but the two we visited Punta Isabel and Punta Irelanda were not. Relatively shallow reefs (40-60 feet), they had apparently been scoured clean of most coral cover by a storm, probably Hurricane Dean, which hit the area directly a few years ago. Only widely scattered sponges and gorgonians survive with very sparse hardcorals on the mostly sand-covered reefs (especially at Isabel). That said, there were more moderate-size fish (schools of snapper, several grouper, a couple of triggerfish) than at the local Xcalak sites, probably reflecting fishing restrictions on this part of the Biosphere Reserve, as well as numerous conchs and garden eels in the sand flats. I am sure there are good sites available to recreational diving at Chinchorro, but we did not get to them.
XTC Dive Center generally lived up to its reputation as a well run operation with good staff, the exception for us being the divemaster on the Chinchorro trip, who was disengaged almost to the point of uselessness. Perhaps this only reflected burnout at the end of the high season, though our divemaster for the local diving was energetic and helpful. We liked staying in their apartments next door (aka the Flying Cloud Hotel), which were comfortable, affordable and so convenient.
My advice to those considering diving from Xcalak, whether with XTC or another operator, is to concentrate on the local diving unless the weather is very calm, in which case a trip to Chinchorro might make sense. You might also want to inquire about the sites they plan to dive at Chinchorro before signing on for the trip out there.
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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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