We arrived in Cozumel the way most tourists do – on a cruise ship – as the Caribbean island, located off the eastern shore of Mexico, is a popular stopover for cruise ships.
Once the liner had docked we eagerly disembark and stretch out our sea legs. Since it’s lunch time we head straight to a local restaurant for you guessed it …a traditional Mexican meal (when in Mexico hey). After a sumptuous feast, and the obligatory tequila, it’s back to the docs where we board a catamaran for a chilled afternoon at sea.
The captain and his crew are welcoming and look like bronze statues with their year round tans. We set sail, relaxing to music while sipping cocktails on the deck. A short while later, somewhere in the Caribbean, the captain anchors the catamaran and calls us to attention. Suddenly this friendly man turns into a sergeant major and starts laying down the rules… Rules! On a laid back cruise… But no one dares argue for fear that he makes us swim back to shore several miles away…
The captain’s opening statement is, “The sea is our home and our livelihood so please respect it. If you have suntan lotion on you may not swim or enter the sea for forty five minutes. And lastly, please do not throw your cigarette butts overboard – fish mistake these for food and choke to death. ” Well, my respect for this man and his love of the ocean grew immediately…
With that those of us who had not lathered themselves with sunblock were free to jump into the aqua-blue water where we could swim or snorkel under the watchful eyes of the crew. They kept a respectful distance but were close enough in case anyone encountered a problem.
Diving a few meters below the surface, not knowing this would be one of my most memorable dives, I found that the water was crystal clear. The coral was bright and colorful and the fish swam happily past us, unperturbed by the humans sharing their space. Alone I swam off over the white sand but could not shake the feeling that I was being watched. Maybe I was imagining it but still the feeling persisted… I happened to glance down and noticed two black orbs in the pale sand. It was a sand shark – camouflaged and dead still. We shared a special moment before he swam off to do whatever sand sharks do.
One of the boat’s crew members could freedive for 5 minutes straight (diving underwater without the aid of any breathing apparatus). She was impressively natural in the water and could have easily been mistaken for a mermaid.
Sadly, all too soon, we had to head back to shore. When back on land we headed off for some retail therapy. While most of the tourist shops on the island offer good quality beach, sports and island-wear options, I’d also recommend venturing a few blocks away from the beach, where the prices reduce considerably and tend to be more authentically Mexican.
Cozumel remains one of my treasured experiences and if most people were half as passionate in protecting the environment as our Captain Sergeant Major was, the world would be a healthier and happier place. I do hope you will put Cozumel on your bucket list. I guarantee it will not disappoint.