My Cave Diving Trip to Cozumel and Akumal

March 1996

Here's a quick summary of my cave diving trip to Cozumel and Akumal...

Joel Markwell and I returned to the U.S. yesterday after 10 days of diving in Mexico. The first six days were spent in Cozumel, doing mostly cave diving with R.D. Milhollin, but we also got in two reef dives. The last three days were spent in the Akumal area, visiting the Nohoch Na Chich system.

It's hard to know where to start because there was so _much_ diving, and so many new things to see, and new things learned. As could be expected, logistics was the biggest problem. The diving in Cozumel was made easier thanks in large part to Tom and Julie Henninger, and cheaper, thanks in large part to David Dillehay of Aldora Divers who graciously loaned our expedition Genesis 120s and all the air we needed.

On Sunday, we dived with back-mounted dual independent 120s, and did a familiarization dive. On Monday we began in earnest by beginning a re-survey of an area which, although previously surveyed, was in need of additional work due to aJoel and R.D. survey the surroudings closure problem. On Tuesday, we continued the survey, and worked our way further into the system. On Wednesday, we did a single-stage dive and came very close to the end of the line. On Thursday, we did a double- stage, found new passage, laid line and did a tape survey of the new line. It was just shy of 4 hours underwater, my first double- stage, first time laying new line in virgin cave, and a truely awesome dive, and to say it was exciting would be a vast understatement. That wrapped up our little expedition and Dave Milhollin left for the States the next day.

Friday morning, Joel and I decided to do a little recreational diving, so we signed on to Aldora Divers fast boat and with Memo's excellent DM-ing, we enjoyed a long dive on (and through) Palancar and Paso de Cedral. We even got to hug and pet a rather large green moray and watch Memo do some "pet tricks" with a 150-lb grouper.

Friday night we arrived at the Villa DeRosa's on the Yucatan mainland after a cramped (but free) ride from an American couple we met on the ferry. The next day we arranged with Mike Madden's CEDAM Dive Center our room and dives for the rest of the the trip, and did our first cave dive at Sac-Actun (also known as the Gran Cenote and involved a rather perilous climb down a ladder with full cave kit), my first good look at the magic and mystery of the prettiest u/w caves in the world. On Sunday we dove Vaca-Ha (with an entrance only slightly bigger than a diver with doubles on). If you want to see an incredible, paper-thin halocline, the latter part of this cave has it, and it plays tricks with your eyes. Then we went on to Car Wash and the Room of Tears, a fragile but beautiful little room with hundreds of soda-straw formations.

And on Monday, we walked 2 kilometers into the jungle (about 40 minutes at a good walking pace, and although rocky, there was almost no uphill), horses carrying our tanks and gear, to dive one of the largest and prettiest cave systems in the world, Nohoch Nah Chich. We spent over two hours underwater, very slowly looking around, with double-80s... the average depth was only 14 feet!

Joel went on with a guide to do one more dive, again at Car Wash, while I decided to stick to the 24-hour rule and returned to the hotel.

Overall, it was an awesome 10 days, a lot of work, a lot of sweating, set ups, gear problems, language problems, transportation problems, lugging 170-lbs of gear around, etc., but worth every bit of it. Although I've been in different parts of Mexico before, I have to say that the kindness and friendliness of the Maya locals was incredible, the food was great, and the weather was terrific (although I doubt I'd want to be there in the middle of summer!).

If anyone would like more details, feel free to ask!

-- Robert

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