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Dive Review of Amigos Del Mar/Nacional Beach Club in
Cozumel and the Mexican Yucatan/Yucatan

Amigos Del Mar/Nacional Beach Club: "Stormy weather", Oct, 2017,

by Mr Jeffrey Zankel, CA, US (Reviewer Reviewer 5 reports with 5 Helpful votes). Report 10016 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments “You should’ve been here last week”. These are words that make every diver cringe, but how many times have you just missed the whale shark, the bull shark or the elephant seal. In my case, we just missed the fair weather and that made all the difference in diving Chinchorro Bank
A friend told me about his dives in the remote Chinchorro Bank of Mexico but mentioned that accessibility via small boat from Xcalak was an issue. However, last year I heard about a new dive shop in Mahahual , Amigos Del Mar, whose owner, Heiko Goetze, had built a fast new boat. I decided to check it out.
I flew into Chetumal from Mexico City and took the two hour ride to Mahahual. The cab ride cost $80 but a group can hire a van. Or it’s 4 1/2 hours from Cancun.
Mahahual is typical Quintana Roo beach town built on tourism. Think Playa Del Camen circa 1989. The good news is, after the town was wiped out by Wilma in 05 they rebuilt it with some infrastructure and a bit of planning rare in these pop up tourist towns. So instead of cruise ships dragging their anchors across the reef there is a cruise ship pier and instead of a beach cluttered with hotels there is a big promenade, the Malecon, in back of the beach with hotels, restaurants and shops safely cluttered on the land side.
My room at the Nacional Beach Club, a mid range eco tourist style hotel, was on the promenade with a view of the passers by, the beach and our dive boat, La Chula, a powerful 33’ ponga. Like most of the rooms at NBC mine was a stand alone stone structure simply furnished but very comfortable and clean. Best of all it had a front porch for drying wetsuits and watching the passing promenade. I could look out to see when the dive boat was loaded and get my wetsuit on.
After Huevos Rancheros at NBC, whose water view restaurant boasts a good cook and excellent service, we were off to Chinchorro Bank.
The Chinchorro Bank Biosphere Reserve is a 37 Km. long reef system located about 35 Km offshore from Mahahual. Although ”La Chula” can make over 30 knots with her twin 140’s flat out, rough seas during our stay stretched the trip out to Banks to over an hour. Local Captain Rene knows that water intimately and managed to flatten out some of the pounding. Once out there on the leeward side of the reef, the side you dive on, the sea is protected and calm. Tanks and BC’s, which are stored in the bow for transit and had been washed and stored by Amigo’s, are brought back to the divers by the Divemasters, who were very helpful in donning gear. I descended to Gran Muro site in a mild current and at 55’, was surprised by a wide variety of healthy coral including Brain coral, Elliptical, Star coral , Mountainous star coral and more. Mature Yellow tails were in abundance, as well as many juveniles, Barrel sponges were everywhere and Conchs littered the sea bed. A nurse shark was so friendly she tried to kiss me. After some discussion I opted to risk it and head for the choppier windward side of the Bank, which turned out well worth it. Rene expertly maneuvered La Chula over the shallows to the wreck of the SS Ginger Scout. This very colorful 1895 steamboat wreck had been flattened by time and now consists mostly of hundreds of coral encrusted copper tubes. There are schools of yellow tail, Black grunts and Blue Tangs especially in the bow and boilers. Fish and coral love this wreck! So did I.
Then the almighty Harbormaster closed the Port for a day and a half due to stormy weather. “ You should’ve seen the flat seas last week” was all we heard as the rain poured down. Nothing to do but visit the NBC bar and watch the seas from their veranda. Good Mescal.
The Harbormaster finally opened the port late the next morning for near shore sites only, so it was off to the hum drum Escalones, where needy divers gave us a slow start and early ascent. No great loss but the requirement for Biosphere certified DM’s is that divers descend and ascend in a group. In a mixed group you need multiple DM’s to make this work or more experienced divers come up short.
Learning from that experience we followed the multiple DM route at 40 Canyones. I drifted across the many deep canyons that fingered out along this large reef and saw a healthy collection of good sized corals including Brain and Staghorn as well as large barrel sponges. Although the adult fish were not as plentiful or large as on the Bank there were plenty of juveniles of all sorts from Tangs and Damsels and even a Spotted Drum. I got images of Eagle rays, Giant Angels, Permit and Black Durgon. How about that huge Green turtle? This is the best dive I did close to Mahahual.
Heiko was determined to get out to the Bank come hell or high water and, sure enough, 40 minutes out the high water came on big time and we were in a full blown storm. Thank goodness La Chula has rain slickers. We turned back but “you should’ve seen it last week-FLAT CALM”. We returned to dive Puerto Angel about 20Km south of Mahahual. It’s a very healthy reef with abundant coral, sponges and fans. There were Medium size Snapper Grunt and some Barracuda, but mainly juveniles. I wish I could say that I’d had a great night dive after that but Amigos claimed the sharks had gotten too aggressive on their recent night dives so that was a non starter.
What a Surprise! The Harbormaster closed trips to the Bank, unlike “last week”, so La Chula headed 35Km south and put 13 divers in the water. However, by the time all ‘needy’ divers got into the water and I finally descended, Heiko aborted the dive. He blamed us for descending to the sand but actually we had drifted so far on the surface that we missed the reef. It should be noted that our dive briefings were just that –very brief.
Instead I dove Chinchoritto a long series of patch reefs in good shape with adult Chub, Snapper and lots of sand between for Eagle ray sightings. Divers just drift in the current, basically parallel to the Malecon, until you can see the cruise ships right in front of you.
It was time to pack up my gear and head home.. But I knew that the Harbormaster and Chaak, the Mayan weather god, would assume I was gone and proceed to open the port and flatten the seas. So I requested one more Chinchorro Bank trip and behold “you should’ve seen it that day”. The weather broke clear and calm and I was on the Bank in an hour. First dive was at Gran Muro and since there were only a few of us we did a long tour of the complete dive site , drifting and finning in a mild current on a vibrant Coral rich reef. Schools of hunting Horse eye Jacks, Chub and Nassau Grouper, as well as Barracuda and Parrotfish all enjoyed a water column thick with baitfish. Fabulous diving.
We motored over to snorkel a shallow reef interrupted only by the Navy looking for poachers, which is why these protected reefs are so rich. On our way to Baliza reef we were stopped by the Park Patrol; another reason why this Bank is such good diving. Baliza was almost as good as Gran Muro with the addition of Green and Hawksbill Turtles, Tiger, Black and Nassau Grouper and many bait fish but not as dense.
We stopped for lunch at the fisherman’s pole houses stuck in the water just off the impressive Mangrove swamp. These fishermen are permitted to catch Lobster and their own food but nothing else. This part of the Bank is one of the three spots that are just above sea level and this one is filled with Crocodiles; 500 so they say. They were everywhere around the fishing huts splashing happily in the shallows. We hurried back before our 18 hour dive to fly clock kicked in, Two hours by cab got us back to Chetumal and its small airport with a mid day flight to Mexico city. I should mention that I paid Heiko by cash or Paypal as he was not taking credit cards yet.
Chinchorro Bank is definitely the best Mexico reef diving I have done. I think you will find this reef surprisingly healthy compared to most others in the Caribbean. The Nacional Beach Club is a lovely little mid range beachside hotel and Amigos Del Mar has a good Boat and DM’s that try hard to please. I hope you enjoy it, I know I’ll be back.
Websites Amigos Del Mar   Nacional Beach Club

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Truk, Soccoro, Cocos, Hawaii, Bonaire, key Largo, Baja, Ibiza, Bahamas, Channel Islands, Monterey, Chile, Panama
Closest Airport Chetumal Getting There Mexico City to Chetumal or from Cancun

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, rainy Seas choppy
Water Temp 82-82°F / 28-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 40-80 Ft/ 12-24 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Dive as a group only. Amigos says this is a park requirement
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments The dive boat, a large ponga, has no provision for Cameras.
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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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