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

March, 2011, an Instant Reader Report by Jason Marks, CA, US
Reviewer   (5 reports)
Report Number 5999
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Cozumel, Caymans, Indonesia, Thailand, Micronesia.
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, windy  
choppy, surge  
Water Temp
78   to 80    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 80    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Ascend with buddy when either reaches 750 psi.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  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  
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):
4 stars
Service and Attitude
3 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars    
4 stars   
3 stars    
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
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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