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Dive Review of Aldora Divers/airbnb in
Cozumel and the Mexican Yucatan

Aldora Divers/airbnb: "What's up with Aldora?", Apr, 2018,

by mark magers, Jalisco, Mexico (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 20 reports with 25 Helpful votes). Report 10233 has 5 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations N/A Food N/A
Service and Attitude N/A Environmental Sensitivity 2 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments We have used Aldora 3 times now over the years, twice in the past 2 years. We found them through Undercurrent in 2001 and were impressed back then with their focus on a quality dive experience – more experienced divers, 120 steel tanks for more bottom time, and early starts to be first to more interesting dive sites. In 2001, that is what we experienced, and as well in 2016. Our recent experience was less than we hoped for, for several reasons. We can’t tell if we hit them on an off week, so who knows? But if they read these reviews (and they must, a cover article from Undercurrent was taped up in their window) we hope someone will look into the issues we had this trip and address them. Our fear is that they have grown to a point where they are less selective with their customers, and the overall experience suffers. I have seen this in many business I consult to, a strategic core focus that gets fuzzy when they decide they need to grow.

Perhaps this in an indication of the aforementioned concern. We showed up with a friend who had very few dives overall and had not been in the water in 14 years. We were surprised (and selfishly pleased) that they agreed to take him on. They set him up with a refresher course for a half day, 1:1 instruction, and the next day he went on the boat with us – accompanied by his refresher instructor, who dove separately with him. While his dive skills did not return easily, they did accommodate him, and we were happy about that. And as far as we could tell the other divers’ experience was not compromised. He paid for 1:1 attention.

As in our past experience, the dives with Aldora were long, the tanks full (and large, though we noticed they took some liberties with tank size, like giving the women smaller tanks than the men, without asking and without experience with the diver's air consumption?) and that part of the experience was as expected this time as well. The lovely, warm dive parkas post-dive were as always very welcome. Service in the shop was excellent, and they were generous in not charging one of us for a missed dive (due to illness, but a miss is a miss).

Without giving a complete blow by blow, here are some things we were disappointed with.

The pairing of divers on various boats felt a bit haphazard – one day we were matched with divers of similar experience to ours, another day with people with much poorer dive skills. On one specific day, we had to wait almost 1 ½ hours for 2 new divers to arrive – on a ferry from Tulum (offered as a “reason” they were late, as if that mattered?) – which significantly delayed us plus 4 other divers. We dove with the 2 tardy divers, and they were terrible – poor buoyancy control, dangling hoses and gear, banging into coral while swimming upside down to “blow bubbles” and doing flips (!), actually grabbing coral and sponges to deal with the current. Caddy Day at the pool.

The divemaster never said a word to them. We aren’t sure he noticed, since he rarely looked around to see what was happening, and seemed to forget important things, like how much air we had left after he had asked us 5 minutes before.

Same DM gave us a profile for a second dive, then did not follow it at all, taking us to 100 feet and pushing our computers very close to deco. It was not clear the DM was paying attention, especially when he asked me near the end of the dive “700 psi, right?’, when I had told him 600 psi 5 minutes earlier.

We found a lionfish, the DM speared him, then snipped his fins for future feeding to a reef fish. As it turned out, he used it to feed a nurse shark, free swimming in the middle of the day, and approaching each diver looking for more. Think Stingray City with a nurse shark. Yikes. If we want Stuart Cove we will go there. Since when does Aldora feed sharks?

We dove with 3 different DMs, the briefings were very varied, generally not very thorough, some excluded basic things like communicating air and deco, and what profile to expect. In fact I would call them poor briefings all around. We decided with the 3rd DM (in 5 days) to ask everything we needed to know to feel comfortable with someone we had never been with before. Seems like that is not our job overall?
Not sure what is going on with Aldora, but this experience made us decide to look at other operations next time. We hope this experience was an aberration.

The Diving

We enjoyed long dives as always with Aldora. Nothing less than 65 minutes, some up to 80-90 minutes. Some sites, like Punta Sur, looked great (though fish seemed sparse). Other sites, like the part of El Cedral we dove, had a lot of algae and looked grim. Many places we saw rope sponges no doubt kicked off by divers. We saw some DMs from other boats doing swim-throughs that were too tight for the DM, let alone his charges, we watched as he grabbed the walls and pulled himself through. Do people tip better for swim-throughs? Then at San Juan, there were seemingly endless fields of finger coral – beautiful.

Yes, we saw some (5-6) sharks, both black tip and nurse. We saw a spotted eagle ray (1). We saw a number of turtles, including a very large loggerhead. Plenty of parrotfish, an occasional large school of horse-eye jacks, a long almost endless stream of ocean triggerfish out in the blue on one dive. A very occasional medium-sized grouper. All fine but it felt sparse.

Cozumel in General

The daily presence of multiple cruise ships has of course fundamentally altered the face of Cozumel. Easy to be greedy and want things not to change for us while they may have gotten better for the people who live in Cozumel. So it’s hard to be objective about that.
That said, a couple of things are glaring. Smaller issue is that the prices are extremely high for Mexico. We live in Jalisco state and even in gringo-dominated communities, a beer at a bar (as a benchmark) costs maybe 30-35 pesos. In Cozumel, that price can be found at the Oxxo store, but in most restaurants, it is 50-100% more. Food was similarly expensive, even after the cruise ships left. Maybe picking beer as the benchmark is a bad choice.
More disturbing, we saw, each morning, as we walked along the malecon to meet the dive boat, a number of fishermen leaving the shore in pangas with spears and pole hooks and scuba tanks – right in the heart of the marine park that we pay $2-3 per day per diver to ”protect”. We never once saw a boat or officer enforcing anything, nor check for the wristbands we paid for. We asked on the boat, and both people in the dive industry, as well as long time, frequent visitors to Cozumel said it (environmental protection) had gotten worse, especially in the past few years, and that the economic driver of grouper and lobster on local menus (also eaten by divers, not just cruisers), has made it really bad for the reef’s denizens. We noticed this on our dives – few lobster or grouper, fewer fish in general. Even something as simple as plastic straws – they are everywhere on Cozumel - and ubiquitous Styrofoam containers for all takeaway food, suggest a lack of commitment to what the Cozumel Museum (worth the trip, BTW) refers to as the “Corazon de Cozumel” – the reef. We were recently in Roatan, and they face similar pressures of local fishermen versus reef protection – but they have a decent program in place, supported we think by CORAL, to eliminate plastic and Styrofoam. Paper straws!

Mexico has many problems with corruption. We read last week that Pemex, the national oil company, loses $30 billion pesos per year to gasoline pipeline thieves. That’s $1.5 billion dollars annually, one would think with the will, that is enough money to address the problem, will being the operative word. With the current guy running the EPA in the US, this feels like the pot calling the kettle black. Anyway, we chose to live in Mexico and love the country, and it hurts to see what seem to be solvable problems go unaddressed. Soap box back under the table.
Websites Aldora Divers   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving GBR, Saba, Montserrat, Dominica, Barbados, Cuba, USVI, Belize, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Ecuador, HI, WA, CA, RI
Closest Airport CZM Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, currents
Water Temp 80-81°F / 27-27°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 30-100 Ft/ 9-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions [Unspecified]
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]
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Report currently has 5 Helpful votes

Subscriber's Comments

By Tari Hanneman in MD, US at May 18, 2018 19:12 EST  
We just dove with Aldora and had a very different experience. Sounds like they were definitely having an off week. Sorry that your experience was so mixed. Will be posting our review soon.
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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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