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Close Encounters of the Shark Kind on a Cozumel Dive

6:15. The cry of the alarm came early, and we roused ourselves out of well-earned sleep. Typically when we dive, we’re at the mercy of a cruise ship schedule, so the day begins when the captain docks. Mercifully, closer to 8:00 most of the time. But this time we were on dry land in Cozumel, Mexico, and even our desire for a few more snoozes couldn’t keep us in bed. It was Monday, and Monday was Dive with Martin day.

A brain coral formation in Cozumel
Brain coral formation

The beauty in getting up with the sun means you’re the first in the water. So by the time we left for the dive shop, our excitement to get going was already high. Over 10 years ago, I did one of my first dives in Cozumel, but diving here would be a new experience for Laura, and we were eager to get to it.

Fan coral in Cozumel
We need to get a red filter for the camera, but this was pretty deep

On arriving at the International Pier, we found our way down to the water and the Dive with Martin dive shop. “Dive Shop” is a bit of an overstatement – it’s a small hut packed with gear and a couple of dive boats tethered to the pier. Dive with Martin’s operation is small but mighty.

Dive with Martin in Cozumel, Mexico

We were warmly welcomed by the shop staff and introduced to our dive master, David. We got all of our stuff together—dive computers, BCDs, masks, wetsuits, etc.—and boarded the boat. Before we knew it, we were off to go scuba diving in Cozumel!

The Dive with Martin dive boats in Cozumel

As we motored to the southern end of the island past Chankanaab beach, we stopped twice to pick up other visitors who were diving in Cozumel for several weeks. We were the only ones there just for the day. Despite being the newbies in the group, David made sure we knew the dive plan and the hand signals so our Cozumel scuba diving adventure would be a success.

Blue tang fish on the Playacar Reef in Cozumel

Within just a few minutes, we were in the water. There were no other boats around anywhere. The benefit of Dive with Martin over other Cozumel dive shops was clear — first in the water means dive sites without other divers.

Scuba divers going between coral columns in Mexico
Our group diving some of the coral columns

Our first dive included the last section of Playacar Horseshoe, the start of Playacar Gardens, and the sandy Playacar Shallows. There were lots of impressive coral towers and tons of lobster, including the rare Spanish Lobster (sometimes called a Slipper Lobster). That’s a strange, strange looking creature!

Giant lobster on sea floor
Lobster! (sadly we could only look and not taste)
A coral formation on Playacar Reef in Mexico

We also found several lionfish, which are interesting looking fish that are unfortunately quite invasive in Mexico and the Caribbean. Since they endanger the local ecosystems, many countries encourage divers to dispatch of them. The first one we found was claimed by a grouper, but David brought the second one to the surface to filet it on the rear of the boat. As we understand it, lionfish is quite the local delicacy.

Divemaster filleting a lionfish on a boat

Between dives, we lounged in the sun and enjoyed water, apples, and snacks on the boat while talking about everything we’d seen below. Throwing our apple cores into the water created a feeding frenzy among the fish.

Seeing green sea turtles while scuba diving in Cozumel
Playacar Reef in Cozumel

The second dive took us to the Paso Del Cedral reef. Immediately we saw a giant eel swim out from the coral and along the reef. There were also a lot of green sea turtles out swimming and eating. But the the highlight was the sharks.

A ray on the sea floor

OK, let’s talk about sharks. We’ve seen them diving before. In the Bahamas, we were about 15 feet from some pretty big bull sharks. In Grand Cayman, we got to see a huge, majestic hammerhead. But on this dive in Cozumel, we had first — a close encounter. A young nurse shark took a serious interest in our group, but especially in me. It head butted me twice, kept swimming through my legs, and brushing against me. While it initially scared the crap out of me, I began to appreciate the playful temperament and beauty of these creatures.

A nurse shark visits us while scuba diving with Dive with Martin in Cozumel

After our numerous encounters, it was time to head back to shore. Our day in Cozumel with Dive with Martin was a series of firsts that we look forward to repeating.

Lance and Laura on the Dive with Martin boat
Having a great time diving in Cozumel!

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