I am a traffic engineer from a far away country, Norway. While I was a student at Sunderland Polytechnic in the early seventies, I was a member of the Scuba club (BSAC) for three years.I got very well accustomed to diver's equipment in those days, but as a student, I had lots of other things I could spend my money on and could therefore not get a wet-suit. In those days, there were no BCD's and certainly no dive computers. My instructor was talking about a new thing he had got, but could not tell whether it would catch on, but he thought it was nice to have a buoyancy device to be on the "safe side" in case something happened while diving.
Norway is a small country in Northern Europe with a population of around 4.5 million inhabitants. If you jump in the water in the Caribbean, and just drift along, the Gulf Stream will eventually bring you to Norway.
Living as far from Cozumel as Norway is, I have several times been asked how ever did I find the small island of Cozumel? The fact is that it was more or less by coincidence.
After returning from a spring vacation in Thailand in 1995, I wanted to do some diving in the cold waters of Norway. Not because I enjoy diving in the cold water, but because that is where I live. Then destiny changed all that, I was too busy all summer with my work and could not find time to dive. My wife therefore suggested to me in August that I should go somewhere in the autumn for a week's diving in warm waters.
I contacted my travel agent and asked them if they had any suggestions. After a couple of days, my agent came back with the answer: She had heard a lot of favorable comments about Cozumel being a Divers Paradise.
My first comment was: where is Cozumel? The only thing I knew was that I had heard the name earlier as it was a port of call for my future (third) cruise with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. I then thought that Cozumel was on the mainland of Mexico, but after looking at the map, I realized that it is an island in the Mexican Caribbean.
Cozumel is a small island 12 miles off the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. It is approximately 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. There is an airport just North of town, a decompression chamber in town, and an uncountable number of dive shops scattered all over the place. Most of the great dive sites are off the island's protected south-western coast. The north-western region is known for exceedingly fast currents, and advanced dive sites . The waters on the eastern side tend to be powerful waves with limited visibility (30-80 ft.) and is not generally dived but is great for beach combing.
The decision was made: I will try Cozumel!
This happened shortly after having got an Internet connection and I started to search around. I got a few hits, but nothing exciting. I stumbled on a site where I could post a message asking for advice on diving around the world. I posted a brief message and a few days later, I got a reply that helped me to chose a dive operator with whom I felt comfortable.
I decided to go with them and take a PADI Advanced Open Water course. I only had one worry: I was used to metric systems when diving, what do I do when using imperial units? I was told not to worry, they would have metric gauges and computers. In fact, it turns out that many dive shops in Cozumel have metric tables for teaching but very few have tanks with DIN valves, so be sure to bring an adapter.
My first trip .... Getting there|
Time was quickly approaching my departure date in November and I was really excited when boarding the British Airways plane in Oslo on November the 16th. 1995. It had started to get cold in Norway and I was looking forward to warmer climate.
After a quick change at London Gatwick, I was finally on my way to Miami. I then had to change to AA for Cancun and arrived there about 19 hours after leaving Oslo. It was about a one and a half hour wait for the connecting plane and what a plane! It was a tiny plane capable of taking about 10 passengers in a small cabin with hardly any room for hand luggage, but still they served drinks before taking off. Actually we had problems, the battery was flat and the pilot needed assistance. I thought: where have I come now? Of course, things have improved since then!
Finally we were on our way and after a short while, we could see the lights of San Miguel and the airport. It was dark now and raining, so I got wet and it was a little hot, remember I was still dressed for colder weather.
We were quickly on our way to our different hotels and after arriving at El Presidente, I quickly unpacked and phoned my dive operator to make sure everything was ready for the next morning.
I had breakfast at 7 (I woke up early despite the long flight and time difference). I had agreed with the Divemaster to be picked up at 9 so I could sleep longer, this giving me some time to look around at the hotel to get a little acquainted with the surrounding.
At 9 I met my dive master for the first time. He looked like a nice guy and took really good care of me telling me about all the routines to be followed and all the nice things I could expect to see later in the day. The quick boat brought us to the dive site, Palancar Caves, in a few minutes. I told him that I would not go too deep on my first dive.
I really enjoyed this first dive in what has later become my paradise for diving. I wonder what I looked like to the crew and the other diver on the boat on this my first dive in a diver's paradise ? It was a lot of firsts for me, first time in really warm waters, first time deeper than 20 meters, first time diving in currents (not too strong), first time in extremely clear water with good visibility and the first time using a computer and of course all the things to look at.
When surfacing after 41 minutes, I was surprised to find the boat almost on my head. Of course I have learned since how they find us so quickly, by following our bubbles. There were a lot of things floating around in my head after this first dive in Cozumel. I felt on top of the world although I was only on top of the water!
After a 2 hour surface interval at the beach discussing the first dive, we went to Tormentos. Again it was a nice dive with lots of things to look at during a long dive with time in water of 1 hour and 14 minutes. Even during the safety stop, time flies as there are usually lots of things to look for when you just hang around.
After the dive, we went back to the hotel, but no time to relax, I had to get through my lessons in the PADI book and look at videos. At 8 in the evening, I just dozed off after my first day in my paradise to come. I was probably exhausted by the long flight the day before and the time difference. Of course, I had had a lovely day in Cozumel and lot of excitement while diving.
This was how I passed my first day in Cozumel and there were more memorable days (and evenings) to come. As a matter of fact, the next exciting thing that happened, was the night dive a couple of days later. This was again a first as I had never done a night dive before, and again I was a little excited. But not to worry, the Divemaster relaxed me and told me what I could expect when getting in the water.
The night dive was excellent with a lot of lobsters, some spotted morays, octopus and a snake. It was really true that the reefs looks a lot different at night. What also helped this to be a very memorable dive, was that I had very good buoyancy as a consequence of my new training and of course, the good divers I was with. After coming back to the El Presidente, it was nice to sit down in the restaurant by the sea, have a relaxing drink and a nice meal. One gets a little bad feeling though, sitting in the restaurant having a grouper for dinner ! Could I have met him earlier in the week?
There are a lot of good dive sites on the west side of the island and it is difficult to name a favourite place, there are always so much to enjoy whether it is the deep dive down devil's throat, San Francisco or whatever. As long as you go with good buddies, it is always enjoyable diving in Cozumel's clear and warm waters. I never wear a wet suit, only bathing trunks and a sweatshirt to protect me from the sun so as not to get too sun burnt.
My Divemaster was talking a lot about nitrogen narcosis at depth, something I never felt when diving, but I wonder if that was what I felt when sitting having breakfast by the sea at my hotel and thinking about my adventures "down under" (not Australia). I felt tops and had no worries at all. This was life.
The only bad weather I had on this first trip to Cozumel, came the day after: The port was closed. This gave me a chance to have a look at the town of San Miguel and do some shopping.
There are lots of small shops in town where you can walk around, have a look and decide at your own pace. However, there are also some shops that in my opinion are too eager to try to sell you something, but I guess that is part of the charm in such a place and something you have to get used to.
Prices can vary drastically on identical items, so it pays to shop around a little. A lot of places sell very cheap T-shirts, but the really nice ones all seemed to cost $11 just about everywhere I went. It seemed as if you get a better deal if you pay in pesos instead of US dollars as you get a slightly better exchange rate in banks and other places where you can change money.
There are a lot of places to have your dinner in San Miguel, it really depends on how much you are prepared to pay and what kind of food you like. I must admit that I prefer regular meat, fish and other seafood, I am not too fond of what you would call Mexican food (can be too spicy to my liking). But do not worry, it is still no problem finding something to eat (on the contrary), and the food is good! My problem is that I eat too much when in Cozumel, but that is part of the trip.
Rather than recommend anyone in particular in this article, the best advice is to ask around when you are there and find the kind of food you like, you are bound to get a good reasonably priced meal.
Out on the town in the evening
I am not the kind of guy that likes to spend time in night clubs and other noisy places (but there are plenty of places like that for those who want it). I prefer to sit somewhere around the town square with a beer and look at the life around the square. I also have a favorite fast food dealer on one of the corners selling Churros. I must admit that I cannot pass him without buying. They have been a favorite of mine as a snack ever since I first tasted it in Disney World. The ones I buy in Cozumel have a great advantage, they cost a lot less and are just as good!
After a while, everything has to come to an end. The Saturday arrived and I had to go back home. The night before, I had dinner with my new friends. I must admit it was not easy saying goodbye when he gave me my AOWD certificate, it was like departing from someone who I would never meet again.
When the plane left Cozumel for Cancun and I looked down at the crystal clear water down there, I could not help starting to cry a little inside myself. Would I ever come back to this place that had become my paradise for diving ?
On arriving back home in Norway, I had a lot of work to catch up with before Christmas. This is one of the busiest times a at work, it seems like all our customers need to spend the last of their budgets before the end of the year.
I had actually planned on doing some diving in the cold waters of Norway, but I had not taken into account the Gods of the weather. They certainly had other plans: It turned out to be the coldest and longest winter for years in Norway! When you are in the water wearing a dry suit, you usually do not feel much difference between a cold winter and a mild winter, but when you get out, it certainly is cold. I was also told that it was getting very cold in the water even at depth, temperatures below freezing was reported. I therefore decided: no diving for me in Norway this winter.
Fortunately destiny helped me out: In late February, I was told that I would have to go to Florida in April. What pressure they had to put on me to go there, I resisted for several seconds !
The start of the second trip
I had decided on going straight to Cozumel and then to do some diving in Florida Keys, but again someone else up there decided differently. At Gatwick, the jetty damaged the plane before boarding so we had to get another Jumbo. This made the BA flight three and a half hours late in departing and although they caught up one hour, it landed just as they started boarding the AA flight to Cancun. I therefore decided to dive Florida Keys before going to Cozumel.
I rented a car and set off towards Key Largo where I checked in at Sheraton around 8 in the evening local time and felt rather tired after a long and strenuous journey.
I had heard so much about diving around Key Largo, so I just had to try it. I must say it was not that pleasant around Key Largo. The boat was quite big, but still with the surge, I did not feel top of the world when entering the water. There was no DM to guide the divers.
After diving Cozumel where I had gotten used to having the DM in the water with me, both for safety and to show the divers around, I was very disappointed to say the least. The diving was done around Mollasses reef, maybe I was unlucky, I do not know. I thus decided a couple of dives were sufficient and decided to go to Cozumel on the first possible flight, after only 2 days of diving Key Largo.
The second arrival to Cozumel
When arriving at the airport, I was greeted as part of the family by my friends from my last visit.
What a nice gesture by my Cozumel friends!
The diving was even more wonderful this time, probably because I had been to Cozumel before, the fact that I of course I had previous experience with diving Cozumel and that I had managed to come back to Cozumel again.
Again I met lot of nice divers when diving this time too, a very nice person from Montreal, people from different places in the States that were all nice and of course the staff of the dive shop I was using.
The weather was nice all the time, and of course all the dives. However, all good things must come to an end and the final day of diving with a terrific group of divers came. We were all leaving at almost the same time and were invited to a departure party before splitting up.
I did not feel so bad this time when I left Cozumel the next morning. I was now called a brother by my Cozumel friends and they asked me when I would come HOME again. I said, I did not know, time will tell, hopefully I will be back one day.
And I got back!
The summer of '96
During the summer, I started to take part in the news groups on the Internet. I had planned to establish my own home pages, and now I had a theme I could use: Diving Cozumel.
The summer passed, I had a few dives in Norway, kept establishing my home pages and so on, and then I got the opportunity to visit a friend who is working a year in Washington DC. And the flying from DC to Cozumel does not take that much time, so I had the opportunity to visit my paradise again.
My third arrival to Cozumel.
After a couple of days with my friend in DC and a couple of phone calls to someone (Ed from Washington) that I had met when answering e-mail about Cozumel and diving , I was bound for Cozumel. Without having planned it, we were both flying to Cozumel on the same day.
Again, I had booked at El Presidente and got a nice room with ocean view. I met Ed in the bar at El Presidente (this was arranged when I phoned him in DC, no coincidence this time).
We had a couple of drinks and were talking about the next day and what we could experience. Nice to meet someone live that you have only met on the Net. He turned out to be a nice guy indeed.
We had a nice dive on Palancar and Yucab. Unfortunately, the nice weather I had experienced in DC had changed and this led to worsening of the weather in Cozumel too. I had just got back to my room when the rain started pouring down. I had had a similar experience the year before, so I thought it would soon pass. But it did not.
The rain stopped the next morning, but there was a strong Northerly wind and the port was closed. What a sad day, NO DIVING. Well, I finally got the chance to visit the other side of the island as a group of us went out in a couple of cars and set off. We found a beach, had some drinks, swam in the warm sea and just relaxed. The day passed quickly and it was time to return to the hotels before it was dark.
The next day, the port was still closed, so I decided to stay at the hotel and catch up on some work I had to do anyway and then to down in the evening for the Fiesta! So although the sun does not always shine in Paradise, you can still enjoy life.
Unfortunately the weather stayed a little stormy, but the wind turned a little so that the port remained open for the rest of my stay and I got my diving in the waters of Cozumel, although no night diving because of the rain that tended to come in the late afternoon.
This is written at the end of January ’97. It is now winter in Norway. It was very cold for a couple of days before Christmas till mid January, but hardly any snow. We then got milder weather and most of the snow just disappeared.
It is now time to sit and look at pictures from my Diver's paradise, answer questions I get because of my WEB pages, my comments to the newsgroups and then think about my brothers and sisters in Cozumel.
The question now is not if I ever will return like I was thinking when I left Cozumel the first time. The question is now rather: when will I see my brothers and sisters and enjoy the diving and life in Cozumel ? When will I be able to sit around the square in the evening and watch the people passing by while I enjoy my beer or visit my friend selling Churros? Whether he recognize me when I meet him again is doubtful, he must have lots of customers every week and unfortunately I do not speak Spanish, only understand a little and therefore cannot talk to him, but will someone please let him know that I love his churros!
I will let you in on a secret: It looks like I'll be back again for about a week in the last part of April!
Yes, I did make it back to my paradise. It really felt like going home again to Cozumel. I had a wonderful time. I had the chance on this trip to be in town for the Sunday Fiesta. It is a special occasion in itself with all the people and music.
This time, I also met Anne and Chuck, the people behind what now has changed to Cozumel.Net. It was nice getting the chance to meet the two people who are so eagerly spreading the word about Cozumel. In a way I envy them having the chance to live in this paradise.
I am not considering moving, but as things are now, I feel like this could go on and on, or at least till I cannot dive anymore. But I will never lose the interest for the underwater world. May every diver do his or her best in preserving all the nice things down there so it may be shared by generations to come.
I will certainly be back to Cozumel again and again to enjoy the beautiful underwater world.
Arne D. Thronsen
Cozumel.Net wishes to thank Arne for his contribution to our articles section and readers wishing to contact him should write him directly at:
or visit his web site at: