Cozumel Sept. 15-22, 2012
There’s just something about the long trips, they are planned many months in advanced and sometimes as long as 1-2 years in advance and before you know it you’re in the plane writing about it like I currently am. looking back it was an excellent trip with friends and a fun trip making new friends and along with some excellent diving.
The year before my wife and I were with a group staying at Scuba Club Cozumel. While there we setup a visit with Memo (owner of Aldora Divers) to check out the Villa Aldora and Aldora Divers on the recommendation of a friend, needless to say we were so impressed as soon as we got home I booked a trip for September 2012. So here we are on the way home with our group of 10 ( 5 divers & 5 non-divers) and I have to say that everyone had a fantastic time. Sometimes you read reviews and are still not sure but all the reviews I have seen for both the Villa Aldora and Aldora Divers are very accurate-they are the best in every way possible!
To start, it was very easy to get information about the Villa Aldora from someone you could reach almost anytime. Kay & Greg had been the own site managers at the Villa for quite some time and they were a wealth of information and could answer any question you could throw at them. Anyways I guess you get my drift so to speak, I wouldn’t stay anywhere else in Cozumel now that we stayed at the Villa even if you have to take care of your own food and drink!
The Villa was at one time a large house and has since been remodeled/converted into a villa with 9 guest rooms that are all different. Five have full kitchens and 4 have microwaves and refrigerators’ along with some dishes and cooking supplies. The rooms are well equipped including free internet and free internet phones to use for calls to the USA & Canada. All the rooms are just a few steps from the water’s edge and the palapa, BBQ and saltwater pool. There is also some excellent snorkeling and diving just off the steps into the extra large pool-the ocean. The Villa may not be an all inclusive resort (I would just over eat) but the service you get is 1st class and the best I have ever seen. Like I said food was not included but we only spent $125.00-$150.00 per person for the whole week and that included eating out several times plus the food we bought in the airports. The Mega in town was like a super Wal-Mart and had great prices and choices.
The best part of the Villa was the help! The maids were excellent and would even clean and put away the dishes, coffee pot, etc. if you didn’t already take care of them. Steve the onsite manager was AWESOME. Steve went above and beyond anything I would have expected. He hauled us into town, to the store, to the dive shop and if needed he would get a taxi (or vans for the group) and have them at the Villa waiting for us. When he found out there was a birthday boy in our group he went and bought a cake and ice cream before I could even do it. He also worked very well with Aldora Divers to get our group to the ferry terminal or the public dock when needed. So, where is this Villa anyways? It is right before the Marina to the north of town just past the President of Mexico’s vacation home and the military airbase and only about a 20 minute walk into town.
A few times we went into town for food, supplies, shopping and dinner. There are many good restaurants with very good prices unless you wanted more than fish like lobster and than the price increased quite a bit. One place we ate at we had grouper, rice, bread, veggies, 2 beers and a large margarita all for $28.00. The best deal was the roasted chickens at the Mega for $6.00 and the 12 packs of Corona for under $9.00. The currency exchange was almost 13 pesos to $1.00 US dollar. The big tip is stay away from town when the cruise ships are in or walk along the back streets or put up with every shop owner trying to get you into their store. While we were in Cozumel it was Mexico’s Independence day (or week) because there was festivities all week long with music, carnivals, wrestling and a Ironman race the day after we left. It was a lot of fun to experience the culture and people in Cozumel with all the happenings. This was our 2nd trip and by far the best! On Tuesday night I put on a big BBQ with Carne Asada, chicken, beans, rice, chips, guacamole and more under the palatal and watching the sunset along with some margaritas, beers and more that everyone else supplied.
Now for the diving, we used Aldora Divers which I had mentioned works every closely with the Villa to provide the best possible service they can and in my opinion they far exceeded my expectations and I think everyone in our group felt the same way. Aldora Divers also works with several other hotels. With our small group of 5 we had our own boat everyday with the same captain and DM. Our day started at 7:30 with the boat coming to the Villa to pick us up and then we where off to the south end of the island just about every day. The boats are fast and with the use of the steel HP 100’s & 120’s we had some nice long dives and then are surface intervals where spent at Mr. Sanchos on the beach. Mr. Sanchos was a large area on the beach that was mainly a place for the tourists but at least we were there early so it was usually empty. They had good food but it could get expensive if you didn’t watch what you ordered. For the cruise people you could pay one price and it was all you could eat and drink with pools, swim up bars, beds and hammocks to lounge on and lots of play toys out in the water. Our 2nd dives where usually shallower and closer with one day doing the wreck of the C-53 and then back to the Villa around 1:30. You could setup more dives in the afternoon if you wished but all of us it gave us time to spend with our non-diving friends or a dive along the Villa wall (more on that later).
The boat diving was excellent with long drift dives, 80 degree water temperature and 50′-100′ of visibility. Our DM (Julio) was great taking us through more swim thru’s through the coral than I have ever been through and when we did the wreck of the C-53 he took us thorough just about the entire wreck, much more then my dives during the last trip. The dive sites we visited where Palancar Gardens, Cedar Pass, Maracaibo, Santa Rosa Wall (one of my favorites), Columbia Bricks, Palancar, Bricks and Paradise. One of my favorite dives was on the Aldora Wall just outside our room along a shallow wall (14′ deep) that lead up to the Marina. There was so much to see here during the day or night that it was easy to do a 80-90 minute dive and still having lots of air left using the steel HP 80’s that were supplied.
On Wednesday we all boarded Aldora’s big boat at the city dock in town for a trip out to dive and snorkel with our entire group. Memo wanted to do something special for us because we had the 5 non-divers and offered his big boat for just our group. THANK YOU Memo!!! We did a dive and then instead of going into Mr. Sanchos we snorkeled during our surface interval, everyone had a blast and one of the guys had never snorkeled before and thought why not, I am here. You should have seen his BIG smile afterwards, he was sooo excited. Memo didn’t even charge us for the non-divers or their Marine Park fee. How much better can it get!
For our last day of diving on Thursday we went over to Playa Del Carmen for some cenote diving with Scuba Playa. Everyone went over with the non-divers shopping and exploring with 2 getting adventurous by going to Tulum and Cabo to see the ruins, they had a very long day but said it was well worth it and looking at their pictures make me think I need to go do that some day. Four of us went to dive at Dos Ojos doing the Barbie Line and the Bat cave. Diving the cenote is an awesome experience and a must do. Diving that clear fresh water with unlimited visibility is like flying though the air and as a bonus you get to see all the cool formations. The water temperature in the cenotes is about 75 degree an sure feels good after setting up in the jungle. We also had a few iguanas they came to check us out. Again using Aldora divers was a plus as we didn’t have to fill out any waivers or show our c-cards because they confirmed all that to Scuba Playa and when we were boarding the ferry in Cozumel they had an employee bring all our gear right up to the ferry and they put 2 water bottles each in our gear bags.
After diving the cenotes our non-divers were waiting for us at the dive shop and then afterwards we headed down to a restaurant on the beach (recommended by dive shop) to have some beers and fish taco’s. It was very good especially knowing we were getting the happy hour beer & drink 2 for 1 special. It’s funny how people forget to make note of that on your bills so you always have to check and ask, of course it was the new girls fault. Then it was off to the ferry for the ride home back which was a perfect time for us to watch the sunset on the trip back to Cozumel. When we arrived the President of Cozumel was giving a speech for Mexico’s Independence day next to the ferry terminal.
Friday was the last day and most of us spent it relaxing, taking care of our dive bill and shopping along with getting things packed. It’s nice to have a day once in a while were nothing is planned. My wife and I spent several hours in town shopping and getting some exercise and trying to avoid getting sucked into a shop by the shop owners as the cruise ships were in town. It was funny to see how different things were with the cruise ships in town and when they weren’t.
On Saturday it was time to leave around 10:00 and what do you know? After all week with little rain and started to pour just when we had to move our luggage out of the rooms, I think we were trying to be persuaded to stay longer but it was time to leave. The weather was great all week with very little rain and lightning shows at night across the channel on the mainland side. After running through some potholes filled with water we were at the airport, checked in and through security all in less than 45 minutes. The ride home was uneventful (a very good thing) and now we have lots of awesome memories with plans to return in 2014.