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Just got back from Coz. Here’s my comments in no particular order:
We chose Aldora for our diving. This is a great operation. I’ve dove with 6 different operators over the years and finally found one I think I can settle on. They are a tad bit pricier than others by about $5 per dive, but with the first class service and with the efforts of the DMs UW, they are well worth the price. They were very observant and put us on a boat with divers of our own expertise and all of us dove Nitrox sans one.
Our dives – Palancar Gardens, Tormentos, Columbia Deep 90-130 ft, Cedar Pass, Las Palmas night dive, Columbia Deep 60-90 ft & Yucab. I also dove the Airplane Wreck solo. As you’ve heard out here on SB, the deeper dives are better in terms of hurricane damage to the coral. They really looked great. For our dives at Cedar Pass, Yucab & the shallower dive on Columbia Deep, the reefs were noticeably covered in sand. In many places you could see sponges, etc, but they were hurting. At Yucab, there were literally dunes at some parts that were as high as the coral that they were next to (like 5 ft tall).
Those shallower dives were disappointing in terms of soft coral & sponges, but the fish life was still good. I will say it wasn’t on par with pre-Wilma, but still good. Filefish were out in force. We saw a turtle almost every dive and at Yucab we saw the big three – eagle ray, nurse shark and turtle. One thing that was missing was the big groupers. There were 2-4 each at Tormentos & Yucab, but there used to be a multitude more. From a UW photography standpoint, I really couldn’t tell a lot of difference in my last visit in July 04 and this one. Heck, there was a lot of sand to balance out on the shallower dives even before Wilma.
The Airplane Wreck has been one of my favorite dives over the years. Aldora comped me a free steel 80 to take there. El Cid’s old pier was wiped out, but there are stairs toward the outdoor restaurant that make for a fairly easy shore entry. The coral heads near the old plane site still exist. There is a large rope entangled in the biggest one – a project for several divers. The plane has been further reduced in that area to the bottom half of the wing, but the sergeant majors are still guarding their purple eggs there. I took some great macros there of a Peterson cleaning shrimp. In the biggest coral formation, there was a big crab and adult drum hanging out together.
Last thing – in terms of the extra things that Aldora did UW, on the night dive we spent five minutes UW watching a starfish upright itself. On another dive, the DM gently pulled up a conch in the sand to let us see how it feeds, and then gently placed it back in the sand. Those kinds of dives are the things you remember over a lifetime. Especially where a rogue lobster came out of nowhere to attempt to attack the starfish, bumped me (yes I do pee in my wetsuit) and then decided that wasn’t a good idea with 7 divers circled around the little guy.
We stayed at Casa del Mar. The accommodations weren’t fancy, but they were nice. Really nice firm beds. Accommodating staff. Our housekeeper made a little elephant out of bath towels and a fresh flower every day and put it on our bed. We were happy with the place.
The only negative I’m aware of was with our friend who traveled with us – he always had lukewarm water in his room, never hot water.
This has nothing to do with Casa del Mar, but in general any place you stay in Coz with opening in your room to the outdoors, like those slats you may have in your shower area. On our last day, right before we headed back to the airport, our friend took a shower in his room, wrapped himself in a towel, and was stung by a scorpion that had crawled into the towel as it lay on the floor. He’s OK, but be careful, you are in a jungle area.
You can’t buy booze in a normal shop after 3PM on Sundays. Restaurants/bars are open game.
Coz has some great artisans that would love to sell you their wares - cheap. We bought an original picture by Lucio Frias at Galeria Azul and also bought a beautiful clay seahorse from a shop about ½ way between Mezcalitos and town.
There was one cruise ship docked and another one undocked at the International Pier. I don’t know if any were in the downtown area during the day. Honey, they’re back…
Food & Drink
For breakfast, we had comps courtesy of Casa del Mar. Man, you cannot beat their fresh fruit, yogurt & granola breakfast schooner. Their other breakfast dishes & appetizers were good too.
For dinner, we ate at Casa Denis, Sonora Grill & a little tacqueria next door to Johnny Bravos tacqueria. Casa Denis was as dependable & inexpensive as ever, Sonora Grill was just OK and the little tacqueria (we always see lots of locals eating there) was awesome. I had my first glass of horchita there. The three of us got out of there for $21.
In terms of booze, we hung out some at our hotel bar, but waited until our diving was over to really kick back & have a few. We hung out at Rastas, Mezcalitos and then Kelly’s and at the latter, Gene put on a video of the hurricane that showed some great footage of before, after & now. San Miguel has really bounced back. The non-palm trees look pretty bare, but do show signs of new growth.
One funny comment and I’ll close. As we were leaving Rastas, we noticed all this commotion on the beach to the north. There were two huge pigs down on the water, wallowing around in the sand and sticking their snouts in the sand hunting for dinner. They appeared very domesticated and would let you pet them. I don’t know the story behind those pigs, but if anyone knows some scoop, I would love to know.
In terms of pod people, we usually didn't make it into town until 8PM or after. There were no signs of them then and the 2 boats at Int'l Pier I would guess left before 6PM. The town was pretty buzzing with folks during the days, except for Sunday when I don't believe the ships are in.
I talked to a guy named Fernando at El Cid who told me that he was going to be managing the dive shop there and it was set to reopen this week. Its reopeneing under a different name - something I've never heard of. There still seemed to be quite a lot of construction going on, but I didn't go check it out close up. The shop was boarded up and there was a temporary wood facade in front of the construction. I did not see a pier where the old one was unless they did a great job hiding it If you haven't been to El Cid in a while, go check it out - the tower & buildings have all new facades, the main building has sliding glass doors - it is really nice.
I'll try to get a few pics up in a couple of days.