This Cozumel tips for divers article is an interview with Master Scuba Instructor and veteran Cozumel Dive Master.
Interviewer: I understand that all diving in Cozumel is done in a style known as “drift diving”. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Dive Master: I’ve dived all over the world – Red Sea, Indian Ocean, South Pacific, Alaska and, of course, the Caribbean. And from what I’ve seen I’d have to say that Cozumel is the only place in the world where you can enjoy this very relaxing style.
We call it here drift diving. I sometimes call it “flying with the drift” because that’s kind of what it feels like when you’re diving in Cozumel. As soon as you slip into the water, you’ll probably feel the current begin to move you along past a lush underwater canvas of brilliant coral formations and sea life. Meanwhile the dive boat captain follows at the surface watching the bubbles of the group. When you surface, he’ll be right there waiting for you with the boat – ready to take you to your next underwater exploration.
Interviewer: You really make drift diving sound like a lot of fun. But are there special kinds of skills you need for this type of diving?
Dive Master: Drift Diving isn’t a difficult thing to learn and your Dive Master will brief you a little bit on what you need to know on the way out to the dive site. There’s also a drift diving specialty course you may want to consider investing in to get the maximum enjoyment out of your Cozumel diving. The big thing to remember about drift diving is don’t fight the current or swim against it. Instead, relax, relax, relax. Maintain your neutral buoyancy in top condition and “fly with the drift”.
Interviewer: We hear all this talk about fast boats vs. big boats. What are the advantages of each and how do you know which type is right for you?
Dive Master: Well,with the big boats for, say, 20 divers the pros are that you’ll have a platform that makes it easy to get in and out of the water. And a bathroom on board and sometimes room for sunbathing on the way out to the site and back.
On the downside, with a larger group of divers, you’re much more likely to have a mix of experience levels. That means that if, say, 1 diver runs low on air before everyone else, usually the DM will make everybody come up -whether they’re low on air or not. This will generally be the scenario.
The small boats –carrying 6 to 8 divers max — don’t have the bathrooms – although you should be sure to choose one that has a sun shade and a ladder. And they don’t have a platform. But you get a whole lot more personalized service — which is why I always recommend this option as the first choice if you don’t have special needs that require the big boats. In addition to getting a lot more special attention, the small boats allow for considerably more multi-level diving than is possible with a large group. And the small boats are faster so they can usually get you out to the reefs ahead of any crowds.
Interviewer: Once I’ve made the decision on whether to go with a big boat or a fast “6-packer”, what other questions should I be asking to make an informed decision when choosing my op?
Dive Master: As to finding the best op, the first thing I would investigate is safety issues. This is always my primary concern. Ask if the operation has a radio on board, oxygen, first-aide kit. Affiliation with the Hyperbaric Chamber is a good sign, too.
Organization and equipment upkeep is something else to take a close look at. Check how they have their gear stored, for example. Is it well-rinsed,neatly hung, in good condition? Ask to try on the equipment you’d be using and look at it closely for fit and function.
Another really important thing to ask about is whether the op is planning to take out a boat with divers of mixed experience. The temptation is great to want to do this because it’s easier to fill the boat that way. But if you find out that the op has in mind sending you out with a mixed experienced group-for example, beginners mixed with guys who have logged more than 50 dive –then ask nicely if they’ll send an extra DM along – one to take care of those who are more experienced and another to watch out for newer divers. This is the safe thing to do.
I also think it’s extremely important from a safety point of view to only dive with licensed dive masters that live and work on the island year round.
Full-timers have dived in every kind of current, weather and water condition and at every time of the year here.For this reason I suggest that you always ask an op you’re considering to tell you about the DM you’ll be going out with. And be sure to find out how long he’s been working on Cozumel. It should be at least a full year and preferably a lot longer than that!