I headed to Cozumel with the initial plan to volunteer in a hostel and the try and stay put just for a little while! I had a workaway volunteering position in a nice hostel and I was going to attempt to do some extra work on the side as well to top up the funds.
On arrival in Cozumel I wasn’t very impressed as it was much more touristy that I expected and super Americanised with Senor Frogs, Starbucks and Hooters lining the main strip! It certainly didn’t seem my sort of place. As I knew I would be volunteering for the first few days I didn’t do very much at all apart from relax and enjoy the atmosphere of the hostel.
The best way to get out of the touristy sites of Cozumel is to hire a car and road trip around the island, which is how I found myself hanging out amongst a group of newly qualified dive instructors; one of them from my hostel. Cozumel is considerably bigger than I initially expected and the realisation only surfaced as I was comfortably squeezed in the back of the roofless “barbie car” speeding along for around an hour one side of the island to the other! It is absolutely worth it however as the Eastern coast of Cozumel is extremely pretty and less the hundreds of cruise ship tourists that the other side has every single day!
While road-tripping around we visited the island’s famous Mayan fertility temple; San Ignacio. It is a small complex, nowhere near as large as the Chichen Itza or Tikal parks I have visited previously. However it had a charm about it for this very reason as it felt a lot more intimate and manageable. The “temples” themselves were small as well, with more of a “house-like” appearance than the pyramid style most Mayan temples are associated with.
Along the coastal road there are countless picturesque spots to stop for a swim, drink, something to eat or all of the above! One particular bar called Coco’s is nestled on a cliff-side with an incredible view out onto the ocean; certainly worth stopping for at least a beer here [driver excluded of course ;)]! There are many more worthy pit-stops as you make your way down and around the island including the obligatory hammock rest stop!
I’ll be honest after I had done the one day road trip around the island I felt as though I had satisfied the exploration of Cozumel. Perhaps fueled by the acquaintance of some great people I decided to forgo all previous plans of staying in Cozumel and leave to travel the remainder of Quintana Roo with them. I guess that is just one of the advantages of travelling solo and not having a set travel plan; free as a bird to change plans whenever I like! Now I may not be too great at settling down in one place (bar Casa Guatemala of course)! However I think on this occasion I was a little too laid-back with changing my plans; after Mexico it seems I’ll be embarking on a road-trip from Miami to San Diego! It seems I’m destined to get further and further north rather than heading south to South America as was the original plan!
Before leaving Cozumel however it would have been rude not to continue on my dive journey at one of the best reef environments in the world. Having not dived since completing my OWC at Lake Atitlan I was both nervous and eager to get back into the water, however I was in good hands joined by Glen and Brie (check out her fab new blog as she tastes her way through the world) two of the newly qualified instructors I met here! It seems as well that my venture back into the underwater world would be a leap not a step as we planned to do 3 consecutive dives including my very first night dive! Not bad to say that they would also be my very first dives in the ocean!
Although I don’t have experience in ocean/reef diving whatsoever I seemed to get back into the swing of it pretty easily; which was good news of course already having paid for 3 dives! The first site at Palancar Gardens was absolutely incredible. The reef formations were enormous and the marine life abundant! I saw so many varieties of reef fish and around 6 different turtles as well which was incredible! The 2nd dive of the day was another first for me in my diving “career”; a drift dive! It was initially a little disconcerting being pulled so strongly across the reef but with less effort for swimming came more time to relax and enjoy the surroundings! It is the closest I have ever felt to actually flying!
For the night dive I will admit I was a little bit terrified. I’m scared of the dark and technically by amount of dives not an experienced diver. That being said once I was below the water all of the emotions swept out of me and I was in a completely relaxed and tranquil state of mind. Being underwater in general seems to do that to me which is an incredible feeling. Now I am completely obsessed with doing another night dive as it was the most surreal and awe-inspiring experience. When scuba-diving in general we are exploring another “world” but at night time it takes on a completely new dimension. When the darkness is surrounding you with only a small hand-torch to light up a desired spot; it feels intimate, secret and the colours are even more vivid and mesmerising than during the day!