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Dive Review of Living Underwater/Intercontinental El Presidente in
Cozumel and the Mexican Yucatan

Living Underwater/Intercontinental El Presidente, Apr, 2013,

by David Vickery & Suzanne Leeson, NJ, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 11 reports with 2 Helpful votes). Report 6958.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 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 $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments As the current swept us along Barracuda reef the bottom became mountains, valleys, plateaus and we were flying over them. Jacks over the wall, the brilliant hues of queen angels, we couldn’t stop, impelled by the relentless force of the sea. Most won’t dive here. A few will take advanced divers here and charge extra for the privilege. Jeremy Anschel of Living Underwater will take small groups of qualified divers without extra fees, and with 95 or 120 cubic foot steel tanks in 60 minutes we saw a good piece of the reef. Enough of it so that when we surfaced we were out of sight of land in five foot seas, a conga line of eight, each holding the first stage of the diver in front of them. The crew of the Jew Fish threw a line. Everyone grabbed it; the churning ocean tangled it in fins, hoses and first stages. Estimated later at four knots, the current pulled us away as we dragged ourselves to the boat.

Then the rope snapped.

Proud to say, nobody panicked, although when I realized the reason the boat was getting smaller and smaller was not because we were attached to the world’s longest tag line, I suspect the lady from Utah to whom I was clinging had never heard New Jerseyish spoken so fluently through a mouthpiece. The crew re-tied the line and with the panga heaving in the waves, fished us out. In rescue diving they taught me to climb out with my arms through my fin straps; if I got dumped into the drink I’d be able to put them on and maneuver. That lesson came in handy. Current was with us the entire week, though never as strong as at Barracuda.

It had been 15 years since our last trip to Cozumel, and much had changed. Cruise ships now disgorge thousands of non-diving day trippers who clog the streets, restaurants and bars. As we sat in the mid-day traffic jam along the waterfront we wondered if we should have returned to Grand Cayman instead.

No. We had top-of-the-mark Caribbean diving with lots more fish than seen in recent trips to Grand Cayman. And the quality of our experience was greatly enhanced by the excellent service we received from Living Underwater. Jeremy picked up our gear the day we arrived and the first day out my rig was already set up on a 120 cube tank of 32% EANx that had been analyzed at the fill station (the one thing we weren’t thrilled about) but my SPG read zero. The high pressure port on my first stage was not putting any gas out. DM Mario removed all the down-stream devices and set them up on another first stage, so everything hooked into my backplate and harness where they needed to be, and we were off to Palancar Banks.

The cuts and swim throughs were spectacular and the sponge life prolific and varied. Turtles munched on barrel sponges unconcerned by the proximity of five humans. A nurse shark ambled along the wall. Large queen angels and scrawled filefish grazed on the coral. We ascended after 55 minutes and cruised to Palancar beach wrapped in the on-board warm up robes while the crew swapped our tanks. After snacking on fruit and pastries we headed to La Francesa for a 65 minute plunge in 79 degree water that had a max depth of only 61 feet, but that depth was fairly constant, a square profile.

Next day our small group was joined by the Bumpersons. This family of three from Utah bumped into us in the swim throughs, they bumped into us in the current and on the ladder. In one memorable breach of diver etiquette, I was lying on the sand watching a turtle snooze in a coral ledge and Mama Bumperson swam over with her camera and laid on top of me to get her shot. We would have liked Jeremy to offer a little discreet Diver Ed, but this was not to be. The Bumpersons were repeat guests and they bragged about how much Jeremy’s business had improved after Papa B had written a “sterling review” in Undercurrent. Turned out this was a reader report, not the cover article in April 2012 that sent us Mexico-way. But the diving was too good to dwell on minor irritations.

Jeremy was an outstanding critter finder, locating pipe fish, sea horses and the smallest brightest nudibranch we’d ever seen in the Caribbean. Other critters found us. At Cedral Pines we dropped into a crowd of nine big groupers of various species hanging around a cleaning station. Turtles were everywhere and the now yawn inducing nurse sharks were supplemented by a lone Caribbean reef shark. At Columbia Normal swimming to Palancar Jeremy shot two lion fish, de-spined them and swam on with the fish dangling from his fingers until he attracted the attention of small nurse shark they became the shark’s lunch. Overall there were not as many lionfish as we have seen elsewhere.

At the end of each day the crew rinsed and hung our gear. Next day it was on the boat and assembled when they picked us up, wet suits and weights laid out next to our rigs.

The Intercontinental El Presidente was pricey but worth it. We had reserved a room with a view of the Adult Pool, but my partner negotiated an upgrade to a beach front unit and then for a small upcharge an ocean view room. If you go, ask for one of the units in the 5101-5139 or second floor 5201-5239 wings. The windows frame a picture of a palm shrouded beach and blue water. Later you can enjoy the sunset from your balcony or patio. The mattresses were splendid, the bath water hot, (although not in the outdoor shower) and we had plenty of towels. It did take several phone calls to get our robes and slippers, but minor inconveniences did not detract from the overall experience.

The El Presidente is not all-inclusive, so the rowdyism that exists at other hotels is absent. There were a lot of families when we were there, but by dinner time the kiddie action at the main pool was done and quiet reigned. We ate at the hotel twice, and while the ocean side restaurant was okay it didn’t light our fire. The cuisine at the on-site Italian restaurant (“Alfredo – Emperor of Pasta” - Oy!) was excellent but my bride fished pieces of plastic wrap out of her wild mushroom soup. We were comped on the appetizers and got a free dessert and a glass of port.

The rest of the time we took the nine dollar cab ride into town and ate well. We highly recommend Kondesa with its mex-fusion grub (lion fish appetizers), bespoke cocktails and brilliant service. At Casa Denis just off the plaza we had excellent sea food and fajitas while being entertained by fire jugglers and other street acts. La Chosa offered several different mole’ sauces and fresh seafood dishes. But the place we ate at twice was not Mexican, but Italian (and we’re from Hoboken so we know from Italian), Guido’s, on the waterfront. We sat at the bar chatting with the staff and had absolutely the best thin crust brick oven pizza we’ve ever had anywhere. Go.

Our last dive was at Tuniche, a flat reef with a lot of algae, sponges, and shallow coral ledges. We drifted along in an easy current checking out the turtles and reef fish. Jeremy found a large black sea horse. Finally the reef seemed to make a right turn and run along a wall on our left. I was slightly ahead of the group and was about to ascend to my safety stop when I came to a gap in the wall. A pod of ten dolphins swept up over the edge and passed within a few feet of me, close enough for me to see their bright eyes checking me out and listening to their dolphin-click greetings.

The next day high winds shut the harbor down and our diving was done. By noon I sat in the controlled chaos of Coconuts on the windward side listening to Hendrix and nursing what was surely a gallon-size margarita and planning our next trip to Cozumel.
Websites Living Underwater   Intercontinental El Presidente

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving The larger Caribbean, Sea of Cortez, Hawaii, Fiji, PNG, Palau, Australia, Indonesia, Maldives, Bikini Atoll.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy Seas choppy, currents
Water Temp 77-79°F / 25-26°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 80-150 Ft/ 24-46 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Due to the current, the swim throughs and his ability at critter finding, we all pretty much stuck with the guide.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 3 stars

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Rinse bucket on boat. Never went to the dive shop so their facilities are unknown.
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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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