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

Rafael de la Parra/Casa de Los Suenos: "Whale Sharks Isla Mujeres ,Mexico", Jul, 2017,

by Howard Kaiser, MO, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 11 reports with 10 Helpful votes). Report 9812 has 3 Helpful votes.

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 3 stars
Dive Operation N/A Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 5 stars
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments This was our second trip to see the whale sharks congregating each summer off the coast of isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox. The islands lie about 20 miles off the coast of Cancun. Isla Mujeres is a very laid back beach town that sees a huge influx of tourists each summer. The crowds tend to be low key and center around Playa Norte ( North Beach). My wife and I really enjoy cruising around Isla Mujeres on our reliable golf cart. Words of warning- watch out for the speed bumps! They are literally everywhere and keep the pace of traffic slow enough so as not to endanger walkers on the extremely narrow streets chock full of hawkers and vendors.
We wanted to improve on our anniversary trip from two years ago when I wrote a review for this publication. We decided to book three days straight mid-week to go out whale sharking with Rafael de le Parra, a gentleman recommended by another Undercurrent reader. We simply can't say enough good things about Rafael and his son, who gave us three straight days of interaction with at least 70 -80 whale sharks, often with four or five within 20 feet of us! Rafael is an educator and a protector of the animals and his knowledge made this particular trip exceptionally rewarding. Rafael at one point was collecting seawater samples used to determine the number of "balleneos" in the area, their sexes and approximate ages! He also has a data base of over 130 individual whale sharks identified by three spots at the intersection of the left fin and body and asked us to take photos of the animals we see for that purpose. Rafael was a master at not only finding the whale sharks, but steering away from the 30-40 boats out of Holbox,Mujeres and Cancun that came out each day loaded to their maximum- often with eight to ten people in one boat. Rafael was able to subtly move a few miles away and we'd have the quiet water that made for great photo opportunities. We specifically asked Rafael before booking about the number of snorkelers he'd carry and we also offered to pay slightly more to limit the passenger load to four snorkelers maximum. It was money well worth spent. We had bonus interactions with dolphin and several small 8-10 ft manta rays that joined the action the second day out! The whale sharks were majestic and patient with us , especially if we interacted with them while we were away from other boats.
We could tell other captains were watching Rafael; he was well known to the other boats tied up at the Gas Pier. Too late, Rafael cautioned us not to point, immediately after I'd done just that and watched several captains turn their Bimini topped pandas our direction in response.
Rafael de la Parre and his son are people that deserve the diving public's support. He was a pleasure to work with, speaks English fluently, and was promptly at the dock at 7:45 each morning to head out. Water and soda aboard with large cooler for sandwiches we had pre-ordered to be ready for us by Casa de los Suenos, our hotel situated south of the crowds and the North Beach shops and restaurants. They have an excellent on site bar and restaurant and we love the serene beauty of the hotel. Our room had gorgeous views across to the Cancun skyline and there was snorkeling off-shore; in fact, the hotel overlooks several of the local dive sites. Great guacamole, infinity pool, and gorgeous bamboo water feature in the lobby which you enter through hand carved wooden doors. They set up all the requests we made for ferry tickets, cab rides, and the golf cart flawlessly. We even remembered our cab driver from our previous visit. It was nice seeing a familiar face that you knew to be the hotel's representative waiting for you dockside.
This particular trip became valuable because we made the decision to hire Rafael de la Parra and to work with the extremely efficient staff at Casa de los Suenos in Isla Mejeres. The stress levels of traveling were completely absent the entire trip. We cruised around each evening in our golf carts looking for restaurants away from North Beach, finding great spots for chicken mole and carnitas as well as our favorite- Javi's- which featured one evening two elderly gentlemen playing wonderful ballads while we ate. The restaurants on Isla Mujeres all serve grouper- and Javi's signature dish was a parmesan encrusted grouper. We ate several meals there at Javi's while I tried to record the music with the musicians' permission and I never ordered the grouper and even tried to explain that grouper was endangered. Finally , I broke down and tried a bite- it was great, of course. I don't know- maybe I'm making too much of the grouper topic, but I was puzzled that there were no options like snapper available either.
We definitely plan on going back to snorkel with Rafael again. The season starts mid-June and goes through mid-August. It is HOT out there. Wear a skin, sunglasses and hat a must. Rafael's boat has full cover for his passengers which is much better than the Bimini tops his competitors have. Rafael does not get involved with the rum cocktail after snorkeling MOD on the island. It's a 30 mile ride out to and back from the whale sharks each day, so use motion sickness medicine if you're so-inclined ( we both are...) which is why I could never understand the drinking and boating thing either. The other operators like to come back in and party. After six or seven hours on the boat and pretty much constant swimming with the whale sharks, we were ready to go home. Since we were the only two customers for the first and third days (and shared with only two other researchers for the middle day), we didn't have to take turns ; boats are prohibited from dropping more than two people plus an in-water guide at a time. That meant a lot of swimming with the whale sharks at times coming from three or four separate directions. They were extremely docile and would speed up or dive if they felt harassed. Their were several mother -and-calves pods with the smallest being around 12 ft long and the largest being in excess of 35 ft, using the 28 ft boat as a guide stick.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Baja, Cozumel, Honduras, Belize, Bahamas, Hawaii , Grand Caymans, North Carolina
Closest Airport Cancun Quntana Roo MX Getting There very easy. Fly into Cancun, hotel will arrange van pickup to modern ferry that goes to Isla Mujeres. Taxi will be waiting for you at dockside. Rent golf carts and explore.

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, no currents
Water Temp 82-83°F / 28-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 1
Water Visibility 40-50 Ft/ 12-15 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions 2 snorkelers plus one guide in the water per boat at a time. Other operators require life jackets to be worn- most will accept a slightly buoyant 1 mil skin. Make sure to ask since the vests really restrict photography and it's impossible to dive below for camera shots.
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 N/A
Large Pelagics 4 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]Bucket available on request with fresh water for cameras. No table or surface available on boat. Rafael was a master at putting us in the water directly in their path. The animals are going much faster than it looks! Watch out for the tale. They are docile but will bump you without bad intent if you are in the way.
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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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