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Dive Review of Rafael de la Parra/Casa de Los Suenos in
Cozumel and the Mexican Yucatan/Ilsa Mujeres

Rafael de la Parra/Casa de Los Suenos: "Whale Sharks with The Pros", Jul, 2017,

by Howard Kaiser, MO, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 11 reports with 10 Helpful votes). Report 9667 has 2 Helpful votes.

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 N/A Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 5 stars
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments This was our second trip to snorkel with the whale sharks 30 miles off the coast of isla Mujeres and Holbox, Quintana Roo , Mexico. We stayed again at Casa de los Suenos, a small , beautifully equipped boutique hotel on isla Mujeres. As on our previous trip, we rented golf carts which were waiting for us at the hotel. The island is very safe and except for the speed bumps, the golf cart was a perfect way to keep mobile. We always sample the local restaurants rather than eat at the hotel. Several very good places were Los Lomitas for chicken mole and snapper; Mango Cafe for breakfasts; but our favorite was Javi's for their onion rings (amazing) and grouper- which we finally broke down and ordered the grouper-parmesan crusted. Trip Advisor was correct- it was very tasty.
But the start of the trip was our whale shark captain and our guide, Rafael de la Parra and his son, Emilio. Rafael is involved with developing data bases fr these animals, showing us where on the pectoral fins the marking characteristics were located. Rafael also took water samples to collect DNA that would allow researchers to determine the number of animals in the feeding area, their sexes and ages etc. Both Rafael and Emilio are fluent in English and that was critical to our education during this trip. The whale sharks and manta rays congregate here because the bonita tuna are spawning during June- August in this area where the Gulf waters mix with the Caribbean.
Rafael leaves from the Gas Pier downtown around 7:45, earlier than most of the other boats. He is also an expert at locating the animals away from the crowds. Yes, there are crowds of boats - even 30 miles offshore. Rafael expertly moved around the edges of the mosh pit; each day there were 30-35 boats in the area. each boat unloads two snorkelers and a guide at a time and the animals were EVERYWHERE!. The first day, I'd estimate there were 50 to 60 whale sharks in an area roughly 1/2 mile square...the second day there were 20 to 30 but Rafael was able to locate several manta rays- each around 8-9 feet across. Jean and I had both still came and Go Pro shots that were simply amazing.
A few more points about Rafael's operation: the three days we were with him, we had the boat to ourselves excepting two researchers the second day and Emilio's girlfriend the third day. This allowed us plenty of time to interact with the animals and Rafael's skills kept us away from the crowded areas. His boat carries all required safety gear , fresh fruit , water, soft drinks and - critically, plenty of shade! Trips are about 90 minutes each way so the setup of the boat is a critical part of the experience. Rafael charges slightly more than other operators, but he is well worth the extra money.
Jean and I plan to return and next time want to dive the cenotes with Emilio and Rafael as well as some deep sites around Isla Mujeres. Our last trip ended ups disaster because the isla Mujeres operator insisted on taking us to the easiest sites just outside the harbor. If you go there to dive, avoid the MUSA underwater museum site. It is incredibly boring and devoid of life.
Jean and I love this island; we never felt unsafe, the golf carts allowed us to cool off while zipping around the island and Casa De Los Suenos was a gorgeous and relaxing place after a hard day swimming next to 30 foot whale sharks. If you are serious about supporting people like Rafael who truly revere these creatures and if you want to learn something rather than get into a crowded boat of snorkelers, please contact Rafael at grampusr@hotmail .com. Let him know you heard about it from Undercurrent. Fellow divers- this man deserves the support of the diving community. I am extremely impressed with Rafael and Emilio. Jean and I will most definitely return.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Baja, Cozumel, Honduras, Belize, Bahamas, Hawaii , Grand Caymans, North Carolina
Closest Airport Cancun Getting There Fly into Cancun; taxi to Ultramar Ferry; 30 minute ferry ride to Isla Mujeres/taxi to hotel

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 81-82°F / 27-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 1
Water Visibility 40-50 Ft/ 12-15 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions wear wet suit to help buoyancy and for exposure reasons.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Small bucket available to rinse cameras; no table for changeovers etc; Rafael very helpful in placing snorkelers in front of the whale sharks to optimize camera shots
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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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