Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Scuba diving in Cozumel...

Cozumel is ranked as one of the premier dive spots in the world, and for good reason.
We've dove in many excellent locations around the globe (me-Hawaii, Turks and Caicos, and for Hal-New Zealand, Cali), and this was hand's down one of our favorites.
There was no trash to be found in the water, the locals were very professional and true stewards of the ocean, the water clarity was amazing and the temperature was warm enough to be able to do two dives and not be freezing.

We dove with Aquatic Sports, recommended to us by our hotel.
Turns out that our dive master, Sergio Sandoval, showed Jacques Cousteau around Cozumel, and dove with him when he first visited the island! Wow! And Sergio's PADI dive certification number is four, as in, he was the fourth person to get certified when PADI came out! Don't think you could be in better hands while diving than that.
Waiting at the dock to leave
Sergio, the legend, and myself, trying not to get seasick...
Hal enjoying the long boat ride out to the dive sites

On our first day we were diving with five other people, two of whom had dove more than 100 times, and one of whom had dove 2,500 times! Yes, you read that right - 2,500 dives! I don't think I've ever done anything that many times, except maybe go to the bathroom...!
Everyone was friendly and didn't seem to mind our clear lack of diving experience. It was different to be the couple that didn't know as much about the sport as everyone else, kind of refreshing.

Our first two dives were at Palancar Bricks, known for its amazing coral formations, and Paso Del Cedral. It had been a year since we had dove (last time was in Belize), and it was nice to be with so many helpful, experienced divers.


Possible Clark family holiday postcard photo...

Nurse shark

I love diving!
The second day we dove with only two other people, which was also nice because then we could go to the sunken Mexican minesweeper ship. It seemed as if most people we talked to told us to not bother with the shipwreck, because the coral and marine life is much more worthwhile, but we had a great time in the sunken ship. I'm already starting to look for more wreck dives - anyone have any suggestions??
We dove at the Santa Rosa Wall first, then headed over the the ship. 

Cool shot that Hal took looking up at the surface from the depths of the wall

Little jellyfish on the way down to the ship

Going in! 
Yay shipwrecks!

I'm a-okay!

Cool sponges growing on the ship

Didn't even seem like we were underwater!

Hal outside the ship, fighting the strong current

The other potential candidate for the annual Clark family holiday postcard!
The diving was amazing, Sergio and his crew were top-notch, and we can't wait to go back for more dives! The current was very strong, so it's drift diving, thank god because you can't make any headway against that south-north current!

On our last day we went snorkeling about five miles south of downtown, in front of the Money Bar, at a place called Dzul-Ha. There were definitely a lot of snorkelers here, and you have to be careful and watch out for boat traffic, but we found a great array of marine life once we swam out a bit.
The Money Bar had nice covered tables out on the beach where you could store your clothes while you swam, and there was a good restaurant there where we ate when we were done in the water.

Biking down to snorkel

Yay Specialized bikes!

Neat formations

Underwater coral life

Close up!

Practicing my 'shark' moves...!

Hi Fishey!

There's a spotted moral eel in there!

Adios, we can't wait to come back!
So even if you aren't a scuba diver, there is still plenty to see snorkeling. At Dzul-Ha, we even saw a huge spotted eagle ray!

Obviously my video taking and editing skills need work!

Thanks for following along on our underwater adventure. If you have any questions or need some help/advice planning your next trip to Cozumel, please let us know!
And if anyone has any other amazing dive locations or wreck dives, tell us about them and we'll try to go check them out!

Cozumel, our new favorite island!

Our recent five night trip to Cozumel was one of our best trips!
We absolutely fell in love with the island, the people, and the water-even to the point that we talked about what we would need to do to move there...
I think the better plan is to stay here in Colorado and just plan to spend a month in Cozumel each year, if possible.

It was an easy flight from Denver, just 1 stop in Texas, and then we walked the 1.5 miles from the Cozumel airport to downtown, where our hotel was. You can rent a taxi for $5-$10 USD, or just walk and enjoy the hot sticky air!
We stayed at the Hotel Flamingo, one block from the beach, and enjoyed their wonderful service, spacious rooms, functioning hot water and A/C, and delicious breakfasts. If you book over the phone (their office is in Florida), you can get a full breakfast each morning, as opposed to the continental breakfast if you book online. We would definitely stay here again!

Obviously Cozumel is known for its diving and underwater life, but we also enjoyed exploring the island via scooter and bike.
First time in Cozumel, having walked from the airport!

Fun towel animals at the Hotel Flamingo!

Guido's, our favorite restaurant!

Ocean views...

Sculptures downtown on the main drag

Loving this fun art that many of the towns in Mexico have!

Scootering is a verb, yes, and the best way to get around!

View from the rooftop deck of the Hotel Flamingo
On our first day, we rented scooters and went all the way around the island, roughly 40 miles, and stopped at the southernmost point, Punta Sur. This is definitely worth the entrance fee, because you have complete access to the lighthouse, beaches, and snorkeling. The only thing is that you MUST wear a life jacket when you swim, and they will chase you down in a kayak if you don't listen to them...! If you put up a small fuss, they will tell you where to get free life jackets, further down the beach, otherwise they want you to pay $7 USD each, which would be fine but you've already paid an entrance fee to get in....

Great views from the top of the lighthouse 
Unobstructed view of the coast

Don't feed the wildlife! Unless it's the adorable pygmy raccoon that lives under the beach bar/restaurant...!

Lame lifejackets that actually make it harder to swim and snorkel...

This view doesn't suck

Nice coral formations right off the beach

My favorite angel fish!

I'm going to do a separate blog post about the diving, because there are just too many great photos to put in this blog. 
So, for one more land excursion, we rented bikes and rode the 10 long, hot miles inland to San Gervasio, an ancient Mayan ruins site. This is also worth the trek because you have a chance to see some of the jungle and the ruins are neat too. We saw bats, butterflies, and the local pizote, which you probably wouldn't see if you just stayed near the beach.

We made it! 
We're sweating profusely here, you just can't tell in this picture...

I think this is a Malay Banyan Tree...


Coati, or 'pizote' to the locals...

More ruins

Crazy yellow flowers in the middle of the jungle!
It really felt like we were there so much longer than five nights, but in a good way. This trip was easier than some of our previous excursions, and I think it helped that we stayed put on the island and didn't try to go over to the mainland, and that we had our hotel booked in advance.

We would highly recommend Cozumel to anyone who loves islands, delicious Mexican food, clear ocean water, and of course, diving. 
Next post will be coming soon about the diving and a great snorkeling spot!
Thanks for reading, adios!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The rest of our epic Baja driving trip...

This was such an amazing trip, with so many things to write, that I almost can't even start this blog because I don't know where to begin...

So, to avoid blog-writer-paralysis, I'll keep this relatively short and simple.

There wasn't gas available in Baja at the time of our last blog post, and we spent a day in San Felipe with Hal's family, hanging out and waiting to see if gas would arrive.
Thankfully the trucks started moving and we were able to get gas before we headed further south.

We had a wonderful visit in San Felipe with Pops and Robin-they were wonderful hosts and Robin even homemade a pumpkin pie for Hal's bday, his favorite!

We left San Felipe and took two days to drive south, through Loreto, to our destination, the uber fancy and awesome Villa del Palmar, Loreto.
On our first night, we stopped a little south of Guerrero Negro at the Ojo de Liebre lagoon. $10 got you a sweet spot right on the beach, with a little palapa. No facilities, so it was a spit bath that night, but boy were the views worth it!

The next day we cruised through the great little towns of San Ignacio and Santa Rosalia. We stopped in both to explore, definitely good places to check out.

We made it to the resort in the evening, definitely wouldn't recommend driving at night in Baja, just because the roads are so narrow and pitted.
We spent the next five days relaxing and exploring with our wonderful friends, Cheryl and Rhonda.
Hal and I had never been to a resort that nice, and it was such a treat! There were even five miles of maintained hiking trails right outside our room, which was an unexpected and welcome surprise.
We got to go on a snorkeling trip, which turned into a dolphin watching trip, so neat!

After that much pampering and fancy hot tubs and room service, it was a bit hard for me to get back in the van and continue driving north, back toward home, but these views helped...
We stopped in Mulege on the return journey, a cool little oasis town where the Rio Mulege joins the Sea of Cortez. We even managed to get the van stuck in the soft sand!

It was on a side street in Mulege where Zoey "found" us. We were walking back to the van and this tiny puppy popped out of the bushes and started following us. We looked her over, no collar, covered in thousands of fleas and ticks, and decided we should rescue her. 
So Hal ran around and managed to find flea and tick dog shampoo and we loaded Zoey into the van and gave her a flea bath with our camelbak on the side of the road.
And now we have two dogs, oh goodness!

We visited a great vet in San Felipe and got Zoey a dewormer and more flea and tick control.
Then the dogs sat on our laps as we drove back across the border into the US, no problems.
75 total hours spent driving, covering over 3,600 miles.
We would highly recommend this trip to anyone, especially if you can take two weeks to do it.
I wish we could have had one or two more days to break up the driving, but regardless it was a wonderful vacation/adventure.

We have tons more info on the towns, road conditions, where to stay, etc, so please comment or email us and we will happily share with you!
Thanks for reading and adios!