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Dive Review of Pepe Scuba/Coral Princess in
Cozumel and the Mexican Yucatan

Pepe Scuba/Coral Princess, Jul, 2003,

by Steven & Beth Schwartz, NY, USA . Report 547.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Dominica, Saba, Grenadines, BVIs, Belize, St. Lucia, FL Keys, Hawaii, Fiji, Micronesia, Indonesia
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy Seas currents
Water Temp 80 to 81 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 50 to 75 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions safety stops
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 3 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 1 stars Shore Facilities 1 stars
UW Photo Comments No boat or shore facilities for UWPs--overall not a camera- friendly operation.

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments This was our second trip to Cozumel after 15 years and boy, has it changed! Lots more hotels, people, cruise ships, dive operations and divers. Much more activity than we usually like, but we made sacrifices for the diving which was suposed to be spectacular. (Prior Chapbook reports indicated 100'+ vis.) Well, just our luck, after a 45-day dry spell, a 3-day tropical depression blew through, ending the day before we arrived and mucked things up. We were lucky if we had 50-75' vis at best.

We dove with Pepe Scuba who was situated at our hotel, the Coral Princess, so the dive boat conveniently picked us up at the dock behind the hotel. What was not convenient though, was that Pepe's had no storage lockers. This meant schlepping our gear down from our hotel room onto the boat, then off the boat after diving, over to the rinse tank, onto the dry racks (which were too small to accomodate gear for 8 divers) then back up to our hotel room every day.

Pepe's boats were fairly fast 6-packs and made it to the dive sites in 30-45 minutes. Space was limited for 6-8 divers, so be sure to keep your personal items to a minimum. For those of you who are camera carriers--beware there were no camera buckets on the boats.

The boat picked us up at 8:30 AM and we were in the water by 9:15 AM. The first dive was usually max 80' for 40 minutes. Surface intervals were spent at a nearby beach, marina or simply cruising around. (Snacks consisted of bottled water, so bring your own.) Second dives were shallower and could last anywhere from 45-60 minutes. (All dives were drift dives and ran from 1-3 knots while we were there.) Safety stops were strongly encouraged after every dive. We were usually back at the hotel and rinsing our gear by 12:30-1 PM--just in time for lunch.

Dive sites included Palancar Gardens, Horseshoe and Bridges, Santa Rosa Wall, Punta Tunich and Paradise. What we noticed here and haven't seen for a long time in our diving advertures was the abundance of BIG fish (BIG angels, snappers, groupers) and a very healthy reef system. But again, the vis was not what we were expecting based on previous Chapbook reports. On the night dive at Paradise, we saw at least 2 octopus, one of which was content to pose to have his picture taken over and over again. Unfortunately, we didn't have our camera which was being held hostage by Mexico City Customs who wanted over $600 (half of what the camera originally cost) in customs fees to release it to our hotel!

Pepe's was very accomodating--they set up and broke down our gear on the boat and tried to take us to different dive sites every day. We were very lucky to have a boat full of experienced divers which made things run very pleasantly and smoothly. By the time the week was over, we were "buddies" and promised to keep in touch.

The Coral Princess Hotel was about a 5 minute cab ride north of town. (Cabs to town generally cost from $3-$5.) We were concerned about the hotel as we read some negative reviews in the Chapbook prior to our arrival (ie, surly front desk staff and bad food.) We're pleased to say that nothing could be further from the truth--the front desk staff was wonderful, especially Marta. Pedro, the conciege, was fantastic as he helped us tremendously with customs in Mexico City re: our "lost" camera.

Be aware that the hotel will grab you for a time share tour, but they'll give you a free lunch and a $40 credit toward dinner at the hotel or a jeep rental, so it's not a bad deal. Try to get a room facing the ocean and a refridgerator when you check in. They're usually accomodating if there's availability. We were told a new chef was hired at the hotel recently, so we had no complaints about the food. Speaking of food, eating in town was fairly inexpensive and good. Places we would recommend include: Casa Mission, La Veranda, Casa Denis and Elcapi Naviganti.

If you take a day off from diving, rent a car and drive around to the east side of the island and stop at Playa Bonita for lunch and a swim. If you're a shopper, walk past the shops on the main drag --you'll find better bargains behind the main square. By the way, dress is casual--shorts and T-shirts are de rigueur.
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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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