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Scuba Trust in Cozumel

Scuba Trust in Cozumel

Scuba Trust in Cozumel

ISSUE 21 ARCHIVE - UNDERSTANDING COZUMEL

Suzanne Harper (The Tea Lady)

It was at 8 in the morning, Thursday June 5th, Gatwick South terminal, as ten adrenaline-fuelled (well, caffeine-fuelled at least) intrepid Scuba Trust travellers assembled, that the truth finally dawned upon me; I was the only female. A cheery voice chortled, "Oh well, at least there will be someone to make all the tea!" It could have been any one of them - Howard, Ian, Eric, Frank (Belgique), Peter, Simon, Ron, Mac or my very own Lindsay – The Cozumel Crew.

It was the beginning of a long day for us all. A three- hour delay before take-off meant we arrived in Cancun later than planned. Of course, we knew it would be hot, but the humidity still takes your breath away initially. We piled into a couple of minibuses and headed for the ferry which would take us over to Cozumel, arriving just 45 minutes before the last ferry at 10 p.m, Chihuahua time. Hot, tired and a little confused, we sat trying to puzzle out how this whole ferry malarkey was going to work with all the wheelchairs and luggage. Maybe it was the tiredness but the young, perky Spanish-speaking Cozumel dive centre manager, Marianna, who appeared and started to help us, appeared to be quite angelic. She had no reason to help us apart from fellow

human kindness and the bond that binds all divers together. As we struggled to stay awake on the half-hour crossing, she talked of the beauty of the Caribbean waters off Cozumel island, how we were going to have the most amazing time, and we knew it was all worthwhile.

Arriving at the Iberostar hotel on Cozumel, we sleepily plodded through the arrival formalities, downed a couple of pina coladas and headed to our rooms for a well-deserved sleep.

The Iberostar Cozumel is like a village of thatched huts in a variety of cheerful colours, with little porches and hammocks, spread over quite a large area. Iguanas, peacocks and humming birds scurried, strutted and flitted around as we made our way to mealtimes. Flamingos and turtles sat in the little pond under the bridge we crossed every day to the main lobby, surrounded by lush, sub-tropical greenery. Eventually we all made our way down to Dressel Divers in their bright blue sheds right next to the pier and met Jake, Fernando, Irene and Bernice, who managed the dive shop most days. The reefs are all within such a short distance from hotel pier and so the boats would return after every dive, and we were diving every other day, with opportunities to add in extra diving, night dives and special excursions. Marina would be our guide with Kyle, a trainee instructor, her deputy.

And so the much anticipated first day of diving arrived! Just watching the boat crew and support staff was exhausting as they ran up and down the wooden pier to the boats pulling heavily-laden trolleys full of air tanks. We didn't have to meet till 10 a.m. most days, which is a very civilized hour, but meant it was getting quite hot as we started sorting out our dive gear and setting our tanks up. We were grateful for the breeze as we motored out to Jurassic Park (yes, really). Bungee cords, we discovered, were vital for keeping the tanks in place and no one was too wise, too old or too experienced to escape being "bungeed' - which means getting all your gear and fins on, ready to go, and finding you're still firmly fixed to the side of the boat. It never failed to amuse. As it did when that mighty dive guru, Howard Sobey, jumped in and forgot his fins. It's the simple things in life that give the most pleasure sometimes.

And so we descended upon the reef they called Jurassic Park. All dives were to be drift dives, and currents could be strong, we were advised. But the Caribbean was kind to us on our first dive. The water was clear, warm and fabulously blue. Turtles, groupers and lobsters amongst a landscape of coral mounts and pinnacles. Our second dive in the afternoon was on San Francisco, and the current picked up but was manageable, and we realised that Marianna, our angelic helper on the night we arrived at the Cozumel ferry, had not been exaggerating. We were going to be treated to some beautiful underwater scenery, flora and fauna during our holiday.

During the non-diving days, there was plenty to do at the hotel. Most of the guests were from Texas, it seemed, and for those who wanted to be by the pool side, there were lots of entertainment, food and drink. It was easy to relax if that was what you were looking for. It seemed that Howard, Ron and Mac were always caught up in some sort of mischief, usually involving water-filled noodles, tequila or cigars. And Lindsay won the archery competition, having never twanged a bow since his days at Stoke Mandeville back in the 1970's. The Scuba Trust was making its presence known.

Mosquitoes aren't always a problem in Cozumel, but it had rained the week prior to our arrival and the little beasties had been breeding. Then our pink British/ Belgian blood arrived and it was fiesta time for them. Afterbite and mosquito repellent became the fragrances that followed us wherever we went. Howard's and Ron's legs seemed to be particularly attractive, which isn't a phrase you will often see written in the English language. As we returned to diving Cozumel's reef again, it seemed that the whale shark encounter was just the beginning. This time, Paso del Cedral offered us a lovely two metre-long nurse shark, henceforth known as Sebastian.

A thirst for adventure was now coursing through the veins of some of our crew, and next they decided to head off to experience the wonder of the Cenotes. A cenote, Wikipedia tells me, is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Especially associated with the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, cenotes were sometimes used by the ancient Maya or sacrificial offerings.

So our fearless explorers offered themselves up and were not disappointed at what they found. There are videos on the Facebook page, but listening to the tales told by those who went, I think you had to be there to understand how breathtakingly beautiful it was.

Our last day's diving demanded an early start and we headed out to Palancar Horseshoe and Palancar Gardens. What a beautiful place to end our diving adventures! Some of the best photos I have ever taken were here at 8 metres. It was as if Marina and Kyle had summoned the moray and grouper to perform for us and pose for my shots!

I think everyone would agree that we enjoyed wonderful dive experiences. I noticed with interest that wherever I happened to be on a dive, Frank (Belgique) was always deeper, and if there was a cave or a swim-through, he was in it. Peter became our role model for five-metre safety stops, showing excellent buoyancy control which put many of us to shame, and was duly awarded for his skills at our final meal. Simon Licence gained the accolade for most- improved diver, which he richly deserved. His progress and confidence from his first to last dive were a joy to behold and we're all so proud of him, as he should be of himself. A huge thank you is due to Howard,

Ian and Eric who did so much to support us all with their considerable expertise and muscle power and to all of you who had to stay at home but worked so hard behind the scenes to make everything happen for us.

Most of all, thank you to the Cozumel Crew, the best dive buddies a girl could wish for. A pleasure diving with you, gentlemen!

Scuba Trust are a charity dedicated to helping those with disabilities to be able to dive. The main focus of the charity is to be able to take the team on trips away to exotic locations like Cozumel so that everyone can experience the true joy and relief of weightlessness and calm in beautiful tropical waters. The money that Scuba Trust raise throughout the year only covers the cost of members training in the UK, every person who attends one of the Scuba Trust’s trips, including the instructors, pays for themselves. To find out how you can support Scuba Trust visit Scuba Trust.

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