Catch the Cozumel Drift – It’s Contagious!
(DiverWire) It’s both a blessing and a curse for dive travelers visiting the Mexican island of Cozumel. The same currents that bring much needed nutrients and vitality to the island’s many coral reef formations can also on rare occasions give divers a little more than they bargained for.
Such was the case in late March when the current, normally tranquil and easy for most divers to manage, was a bit stronger than normal. According to Alex Vina, General Manager at Del Mar Aquatics, the unpredictable and strong currents do occur during some parts of the season, but usually not in the spring. The diving guests at Casa Del Mar resort, and others, still were able to log some dives, but with some additional briefings and precautions.
“It’s very important for divers to have good buoyancy all the time, but especially in drift diving situations,” Vina explains. “We coach our divers to stay close to the divemaster but NOT to try and fight the current. If a diver does encounter a current, we advise them to try and get behind a coral formation until it’s comfortable to safely return to the group.”
While most of Cozumel’s dozens of dive operators were able to maneuver around the currents during this unseasonable period, one operator drew the attention of the harbor master AND officials from several cruise shipped docked near Paradise Reef. Apparently, a group of divers “caught” one of the strong currents and were carried a bit too close to the ships – a big “no-no” in international diving circles. “It happens from time to time, but with good planning, the currents can be managed,” Vina points out.
The same “unpredictability” that carries divers too close to a Carnival Cruise vessel, is also one of the appeals of drift diving, something uniquely “Cozumel.” Talking with Vina, who has been with Del Mar Aquatics at Casa Del Mar (one of the leading resorts for scuba divers on the island) for 24 years, he talks about drift diving with a special spark in his eye. “I love it. You use less air, cover more area and are able to experience more variety of sights on a drift dive. I’m told that photographers like drift diving because the corals move with the current and this provides a sense of ‘motion’ which adds another element to underwater photos.”
Vina has been helping visiting divers enjoy the “Cozumel Drift” for a long time. Simple pre-dive planning can help eliminate a lot of apprehension. Vina says it’s not uncommon for divers to become separated from the main group during a drift dive. That’s why he recommends every diver bring a signal device (safety marker, whistle or both) so that it’s easy to be spotted by the dive boat.
Some of the more popular drift diving sites include:
● Santa Rosa Wall – With coral ridges, caves and plentiful marine life, this site has something for almost every diver. The Wall starts at 40 ft. and then slopes to deeper depths.
● Cardona Reef – Varied corals that are packed with many different species of marine life. Excellent for both diving and snorkeling with depths ranging from 18 to 30 ft.
● Tormentos – A diverse grouping of corals and sponges, this site is a perfect place to see groupers, moray eels, and other fishlife. Depths start at 30 ft. and slope to around 60 ft.
A special thanks to Brooke Jolley of Blue Horizon Scuba for providing photos from a recent trip to Cozumel