Newly certified diver seeking advice for cenote diving
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Newly certified diver seeking advice for cenote diving
I am planning a holiday to Maya Riviera later this month, and wonder if you could kindly give me some advice on cenotes / dive shops, and also if I should try to do a couple of ocean dives before my first cenote dives as "warm up"?
I just became a certified OW advanced diver in May and have done all of my 9 dives with the same training group / buddy (that I became familiar with). So I am not sure if it would be a good ideas to do a couple of ocean dives with unfamiliar people first as "warm up"? I didn't feel I needed to do this, until I read about the recent cenote accident and became aware cenote diving may potentially be dangerous...am I worrying too much (I probably am...), and should just go straight to cenote diving?
Secondly given my (limited) experience, which cenotes / dive shop would you recommend as the best / most suitable one in Playa del Carmen, Akumal and Tulum? I will be splitting my time between these towns.
How long are you going to be there? Cenote diving in the area has a very good safety record aside from one accident, but I would not suggest it to a newly certified diver. If you have several days to dive, then see how you do in the ocean, how good you are with buoyancy control, how comfortable you are on night dives, etc. - then consider it.
I loved doing the guided cenote dives as an OW diver, to the point that I got cave training and have been going back a couple of times a year to dive in them. That being said, I would not have wanted to do them as a brand new diver, too many things to break or scar if you bang into them.
In my opinion get some more dives before you go cave diving. If everything is fine then it is amazing. However, If you have an issue the last place a new diver will want to be is in an overhead environment. Things like dealing with free flows, bouyancy control, air consumption are all things that take some time to sort out.
The other thing is it won't even necessarily be you. It could be some other tourist that causes issues. If you do go be cautious but in my opinion I would wait a bit.
If you decide you are going to dive the Cenotes, be up front with the Operator and let them (possibly) take you on a Ocean checkout dive first and sort out gear and weighting issues and such and IF they agree you are ready proceed with the guided Cenote dives. I strongly suggest Dive Mike/Dive Explorers in Playa del Carmen. They were awesome. We had an assortment of Divers from our Dive Club (Seasoned Instructors/Dive Masters and a few recently minted Open Water Divers). We all had fun and equally important felt they were a very safety oriented operator!
I am a huge fan of the caves, and I think the cenote tours are wonderful. That said, I do NOT think they are appropriate for someone as new to diving as you are. For one thing, anyone doing the tours really ought to have excellent buoyancy control and trim, and some type of non-silting kick. Damage done to the caves is not reparable. For another, I don't think anyone should dive under an overhead until they have some idea of how they react when something goes wrong, because the cenote tours are very safe (as most diving is) unless you panic.
There are several cenotes where you can snorkel and get a pretty good idea of what the caverns look like -- Grand Cenote perhaps the best, although NoHoch is excellent, too. I'd suggest a snorkel tour instead of diving, and next time, when you have more experience, you can do the cavern tours.
TSand M's comments should be taken seriously. I was on a cenote dive about 10 years ago on which there were 2 new divers in the group. One bounced off the ceiling dislodging her tank, nearly panicked and had to be calmed and escorted out of the cenote, and the dive was aborted for all after only a couple of minutes. It was a buoyancy issue. You don't need a cave certification to go on a guided cenote dive, but you should do some "real diving" first. You have an advanced open water diver certification, but with 9 dives, all training dives, you have a ways to go before you are in fact advanced in you skills, range of experience and comfort level in a new environment. That additional experience may take a few dives or a few dozen. When you are ready, Akumal Dive Shop in Akumal MX does some of the "easier" but still very cool cenotes- like dos ojos. The cenotes will wait for you. Develop your skills a bit and then you will enjoy them all the more.
Actually out of my 9 dives, 2 were with my buddy on our own and I felt comfortable doing guided night dive. The only things I wasn't sure about were to dive with new and unfamiliar people (trust issue) and different gear. I will take some of your advices, and try ocean dives first with an operator (and let them judge my confidence / ability) before deciding on cenote diving
I did my first (and so far only) cenote dives this past Feb. while in PdC; I had been out of the water for 8 months due to surgery, so I did a refresher and several ocean dives before I went to the cenotes.
Cenote diving can be a little nerve wracking if you aren't used to close environements; we did one swim through (in Chac Mol, I think) where it was a little tight getting through, but other than that we could see daylight either in front or behind us the entire time.
Yes it gets very very dark; if you plan on taking pictures you need a very good flash/strobe. Also make sure you have your own dive light.
I went with Fantasea Diving (Diving Playa Del Carmen, Dive Centers Playa del Carmen, Small Groups); Jason is a great guy, super easy to work with, and he made absolutely sure that Pedro, the DM, was aware of my limitations and concerns - you can't ask for anything better than that.
Will I go again? I probably will since I have 2 daughters that dive and I'm sure at least one will want to try it. And yes, now it's checked off on my diving bucket list so I don't HAVE to do it again!
If Jason is unavailable, I'd suggest checking with Christa at Geofish (Geofish Dive - Scuba Diving, Snorkeling & PADI Instruction in Playa del Carmen & Cozumel, Mexico); she is a sweetheart and has a very nice shop!