My third annual trip to the Yucatan peninsula was by far the most amazing. Once again, I went with the Austin Scuba Club, but this time there were only three of us. Having fewer people made it so much easier to be spontaneous and flexible with our plans. Originally we were just going to hang out in Playa del Carmen for a long weekend, diving and enjoying the beach lifestyle. Once we go there, we read in a dive magazine about a new hotel that had just been built near the Chinchorro reef complex just north of the Belize border. We figured that we may as well go check it out, and a few hours later we’d rented a jeep, and gotten vague instructions on how to find our way down. The drive was absolutely amazing! It took about four hours of driving, and the road took us thru several military checkpoints, a migration of millions of butterflies, and right thru the middle of the Sian Kaan Biosphere reserve.
The next morning we loaded up our gear onto the hotel’s dive boat and headed out to the reef. Our first dive was amazing, but I had a hard time equalizing when going down. On the ascent, I couldn’t clear my ears no matter how hard I tried, and despite the incredible pain I finally had to come up when I was running very low on air. When I got back on board the boat, my eardrum was killing me. I knew exactly what had happened…I’d had a reverse ear squeeze on my initial training dive. Originally it was the worst pain I’d ever felt, but at least this time I knew what to expect. I immediately swallowed a bunch of pain-reliever, and within about 45 minutes was feeling better. I sat out the second dive of the day, and attempted the third, but gave up when I couldn’t get below 10 feet without pain. As a consolation prize for not being able to dive the rest of that day we saw a couple of pods of dolphins on the way back to the hotel, so we all jumped in. Snorkeling with these guys in the wild was one of the highlights of the entire day! I’d never been in the water so close to these animals, and hearing their clicks and squeaks from just a few feet away was one of the most incredible things I’d ever done.
The next day the others went out diving again, and I hung back on the beach hoping that my ear would recover. The area was absolutely beautiful, with the rain forest all around, and the blue water for my frontyard. The guys came back that evening talking about the wreck that they’d seen, and some manta rays that had swam by. I was sorry to have missed them, but I knew that I did the right thing.
The next day we drove back to Playa, and stopped a few times for some sightseeing. We pulled in at Tulum, one of the most spectacular set of Mayan ruins. Tulum isn’t the largest or tallest, but it is right on a cliff overlooking the ocean. We ended up hanging out swimming and exploring for a couple of hours before we headed north on the road again.
The last thing that we had to do before getting back to Playa was to try to do a cenote dive. A cenote is an underground limestone cavern that has filled up with water. It’s similar to cave diving, but you can always see the light above you so it is much safer. We found a guide on the side of the road, and headed for a cavern. Getting there we had to hike about a mile thru the jungle, and then we had to lower all our gear down a rickety ladder about 30 feet before we finally got to the water level. The water wasn’t nearly as cold as I’d expected, and it was crystal clear. We swam around underwater for what seemed like forever. We never got deeper than about 30 feet, so our air went a lot longer than normal.
We finally ended up back in Playa late that night, and went out for one last big party. The next morning we flew back to Austin, and I knew that it wouldn’t be long before I came back.