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Dive Review of Aqua Safari/Safari Inn in
Cozumel and the Mexican Yucatan/Mexico

Aqua Safari/Safari Inn, Jan, 2010,

by Jeanne Reeder, MO, USA (Contributor Contributor 16 reports with 19 Helpful votes). Report 5353.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments High quality drift diving, top-notch finely tuned dive operation, delicious inexpensive food, and competitive pricing bring me to Cozumel at least twice a year.

Diving in Cozumel was excellent. My dive buddy and I hung back with the safety diver, diving our own dives while exploring nooks & crannies, and taking every swim-through/tunnel available. The usuals were there in abundance, a healthy variety of fish -- angel, parrot, hog, trunk, and schools of grunts and jacks. Barracuda seemed bigger at 3-4’ as did one 8’ green moray trying to hide its full length under a ledge. Splendid toadfish were found on most dives. Scrawled filefish provided nice color contrast to the orange spotted and white spotted, orange phase. My favorite of that family were the 2” slender and fringed filefish, vertical along branches of similar colored gorgonians at Balones of Chankanaab.

The corals were healthy and growing back beautifully from Hurricane Wilma 5 years ago, except there is a problem with overgrowing mat tunicate coverage which can kill the coral. It is unusual to see such growth proliferating this time of year with the cooler waters. On the positive side, the red algae which was so prevalent on many dives one year ago this month, has nearly all gone. My dive buddy and I focused on tunicate identification this trip. We were fascinated with the vivid varieties of colors and sizes as well as with the design of their intricate incurrent siphons.

The water was a steady 79 degrees, no matter the depth. The currents were very slow, all less than 1/2 knot, except for one dive where it picked up to 2k. Easy diving for Cozumel. BUT, the surface was another story, with high waves and white caps, which made getting back into the boat a challenge at times. The dive masters and boat helper were masterful at giving assistance as needed.

On most dives, dive masters captured or killed lion fish which are infesting the Caribbean; there is concern of unbalancing the eco system. The first one was discovered in the Cozumel waters one year ago, and since then their population has exploded. Joyce Mustin, co-owner of Blue Magic Scuba, is promoting eradication by supplying information, nets, as well as sponsoring a Lionfish Tournament. My best guess on species we saw is the Common Lionfish, Pterois volitans, juvenile, although, according to Joyce, the Pterois miles is also in these waters. Most of the dive masters at Aqua Safari used nets but the plastic extra large milk container with trap door cut out seemed to be the most effective. Dave at Aldora has used a small spear attached to a ‘Hawaiian Sling’ with some success.

This was my twelfth dive trip with Aqua Safari. With 12 dives under my belt and not a clue about drift diving, I first selected Aqua Safari because of its conservative, no-nonsense, and safe diving reputation. Bill Horn, the owner, made sure the boat dive masters knew to keep their eye on me. They not only did that, but at my request critiqued my diving after every dive. Since then I have taken most of my advanced training through Master Diver with their excellent lead instructor, Gabriel Medina.

Aqua Safari is the oldest dive operation in Cozumel, dating from 1966 with the same owner. Their 35’ Ocean I was the first dive boat built on the island. Ocean II and III are 40’ Deltas. They are well maintained with easy platform or side entries and clean heads. Between dives fresh fruit or filled pastries are available, along with choice of soda. To get to Palancar it takes an hour from their dock in town. For a faster ride and a few more dollars their fast boat Belinda clips off time at 18 knots.

There are always two dive masters in the water, lead and safety, whether there are six divers or twice that. The safety diver is attentive to equipment problems or straying divers. This also allows for safer earlier exits for those who need it. Their boat crew and support staff are loyal long term employees. Some of their staff have been with them thirty years, boat captains from 18 years, and one dive master Porfiro for 25. Two dive masters are father-son.

The harbor was closed my first day of diving (also the two days prior) with the temperatures in the low 50s, beating a Cozumel 100 year record. I went horseback riding in the jungle instead with Gregorio, a Mayan friend who owns Hacienda Azcorra. His ancestors were early Mayan Cozumel settlers. As we slowly picked our way along the sometimes rough jungle paths, he spoke of Mayan culture and pointed out some of the plants used for medicinal purposes, such as boiling wild cucumbers -- making a tea for urinary track ailments. The butterflies were brilliant colors and unique configurations. Gregorio took us to a couple of cenotes, and I wondered how anyone ever found them in the first place. They were off the trail about 15' -- one would have to slither on ones belly to get to the descent hole and hopefully not get caught on roots and low branches. But, 'tis used!

Aqua Safari has two large front facing rooms above their dive shop, 7 others facing their alley. You cannot beat the convenience when diving with them -- rinse gear and hang in the back of their shop downstairs. No tiny bins for them! The front facing rooms have large windows, a firm king size bed, and super clean. There is no fridge (but an ice chest), tv, radio, nor clock: bare bones, $56 per night for the room. 10% off packages if pay cash.

Breakfast for 300 pesos at Costa Bravo is delicious and filling, with 3 egg omlet, refried beans, lettuce, tomato, deep fried plantain, and 3 ounce fresh orange juice. It is difficult to find a better quick lunch than their Sopa de Lima after diving. Other favorites I visit every trip are Flamitas on Wednesdays for their Queso Relleno; San Carlos Pescaderia and Conchita del Caribe for their whole fried hogfish; El Farito for Cheladas, conch cerviche and small snacks. If I want to splurge and feel flush, I’ll have a meal at Guido’s and include their tasty garlic bread, or El Capi Navigante’s for an elegant well prepared seafood. Breakfast at the Museum is a great ocean front setting and very tasty -- best on an no-diving day, as you will want to linger.

Cozumel has experienced a significant decline in divers over the past two years, due to Swine Flu scare and economy down-turn. This has been difficult for many dive operations, and has involved some closures as well as down-sizing. Another contributor to local dive operation decrease is Aquaworld, started in Cancun thirty years ago by two Mexican the Orozco brothers. In addition to their operating the blue/yellow ferries bringing divers from Cancun/Riviera Maya, and downloading divers from ships, they have contracts for diving with at least two chain resorts with establishments on Cozumel Palace and Park Royal Hotels. These recent contracts have taken business away from local dive operations. Be careful who you select as a dive operation. I go with the most established with a long safety record.

Cozumel remains the best deal for diving – all around winner for good price, excellent diving, and inexpensive delicious off-main street eateries.
Websites Aqua Safari   Safari Inn

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Turkey, Indonesia, Palau, Japan, St.Vincents, Belize, Roatan, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, Statia, St.Kitts, Turks & Caicos. Cayman Brac
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather windy, rainy, cloudy Seas choppy, no currents
Water Temp 79-79°F / 26-26°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 100-150 Ft/ 30-46 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Advised to follow profile established by dive masters stay with buddy, monitor dive computers and respect all sea life.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

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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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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