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Dive Review of Living Underwater/Casa Del Mar in
Cozumel and the Mexican Yucatan/Cozumel

Living Underwater/Casa Del Mar, Jul, 2006,

by Pat Wikstrom, NC, USA (Contributor Contributor 14 reports). Report 2614.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Bahamas; Belize; Bonaire; California Channel Islands; Cayman; Cocos; Costa Rica; Cozumel; Florida- springs, west coast, & keys; Indonesia; North Carolina; Massachusetts; Palau; Puerto Rico; Roatan; Socorro; South Africa; Thailand; Truk; Turks & Caicos; TVA lakes; Yap; Yucatan Caves;
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy, dry Seas calm, choppy, currents
Water Temp 82 to 84 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 0
Water Visibility 50 to 90 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions perform safety stop, board boat with 300psi
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 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 2 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]

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments I first stayed at the old Casa del Mar in 1995 and it looks about the same as it did. The biggest change is the sand thats been sucked off the beaches along this stretch of shoreline leaving the underlying limestone base exposed and barren. Most resorts are slowly building/ rebuilding their bulkheads and trucking in sand to create a new tourist beach. The hotel had been completely renovated with fresh paint, new A/C units, and wireless internet in the lobby. Each room has a small balcony with gear drying pegs. All utilities functioned as expected. I had booked an all-inclusive package ($107. per nt sngl occ.) and the food and booze was of surprisingly good quality. Breakfast started at 7:00 and featured a large buffet including breads, fresh fruit, cold cereal, eggs and omelets cooked to order, sausage, bacon or ham, and several carbohydrate choices. Lunch and Dinner was ordered off the same comprehensive menu of Mexican and American entrées. I particularly enjoyed the stuffed and rolled fillet of grouper in a cream sauce, the spicy garlic squid, and their steak dinner with enchiladas and quesadillas. My package didnt allow lobster or shrimp without additional charge but the friendly wait staff often suggested meal choices I might not have otherwise tried which were consistently delicious. During my early July visit a large contingent of Canadian students provided much youthful exuberance and some wonderful topless presentations around the poolside bar. Copious allotments of Bacardi Anejo was poured without additional charge.

Around 8:00am the Nautilus submarine dock across the street got pretty busy with hordes of divers waiting for their boats to arrive. I booked two days of two tank morning dives with Jeremy Anschels Living Underwater. Jeremy was under the weather and couldnt participate. I shuffled between two of his Bimini topped fast boats alternately booked by experienced Canadian divers and a family from Minnesota. Jeremy prides himself on providing Cadillac service including cold drinks, fresh fruit, cookies and crackers between dives as well as long dive times with LP steel 95s and 120s. My dive log attests to that fact with 106ft for 76min on Palancar Gardens followed by 77ft for 73min on Paso del Cedral, 163ft for 63min on Maracaibo, and a lengthy 90 min dive on La Francesca. But the dive spots just werent what they used to be.

Reefs above 50ft were basically scoured clean of living coral. Whips, sea fans, and other gorgonian that used to sway in the current were no longer evident; fields of finger coral lay blasted on the bottom, and much of the shallow reefs were covered by a fine layer of sand that seemed to choke the substrate. Many famous second dives, like Deliah and Paradise, were no longer highlights on the menu. First day on dive boat Alfa, the family requested dive sites that were shallow so the kids wouldnt have to go below 60 ft. I suggested Palancar Gardens where I could pop over the wall into the triple digits and they could stay close to the reef top. I promised Eric, the divemaster, that Id keep the group in sight and would come up along with everyone else. I wasnt long before they were all cruising on down to the better sponge and coral growth which started getting good between 60 and 80 ft. We saw several Hawksbill Turtles along the way and three large Black Grouper in some sort of mating or territorial interaction. Although I racked up 6 or 7 min of deco by the half way point the big 120 cu ft tank gave me plenty of time to clear my obligation during the shallow half hour and I surfaced well into the safe zone on my computer.

Like many of the dive ops on Coz. Living Underwater brings their boats to one of the public beaches during the surface interval. There is a minimum purchase necessary to use the facilities. We lounged around Playa Palancar eating nachos and quesadillas priced at about $5.50 each. Second dives at Paso del Cedral and La Francesca were very different than I remembered them. The beautifully delicate coral, fans, and sponges that used to adorn these sites had pretty much been wiped out. Caves, overhangs, and leeward facing grottos were the only spots where isolated remnants still existed. There were, however still a large number of fish. We saw schools of Tangs and Black Durgeons, Stingrays, Filefish, all three Angels, Porkfish, Grunts, Soldier and Squirrelfish, along with many other Caribbean regulars. There did appear to be fewer predators. Only a few Bar Jacks were spotted and noticeably lacking were the old Green Morays and Barracuda.

On my second day I was assigned to Jesus on the dive boat Gaviotta and a more experienced group of divers that wanted to do Maracaibo. Unfortunately Jesus missed the site, gave us the backroll signal anyway, so we spent 25 minutes swimming over sand flats below 145 and then doing 30 minutes of prescribed deco performed rigidly with 30 for 10, 20 for 10, & 10 for 10. None of us had more that 11 or 12 min of obligation when we started lifting off the bottom and the needlessly long deco stops were a little boring.

But overall Living Underwater gets a hearty thumbs up. Jeremy was honest with me in our e-mail communications, stating hed have to fit me in with groups of varying experience. Great customer service and attitude was demonstrated by all his employees. They changed tanks between dives, rinsed and stored your gear at the end of the day, and had it ready on board tomorrow. The boats were well equipped, drinks and snacks were first class, long dive times with big capacity tanks was the rule, and an mind-set of letting experienced divers do their own thing completely outweighed the $85 price per two tank trip. I would use them again.
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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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