Another day of sleeping late after my nice early night. Today I was going to be diving along the coast of Playa del Carmen, where there is an interesting wreck as well as some reef dives. I had chosen another dive company – after a recommendation from a Scottish diving friend – Playa Diving Centre whom I had based my accommodation choice around. Originally when I made the booking the dive centre had recommended a hotel with apartments that was right next to the centre. However, this was considerably more expensive than the ones I could find on Booking.com, my chosen accommodation website. After a bit of bartering the recommended place reduced their prices by $500 (it just shows what you can get when you bargain) but the Booking.com option still worked out cheaper and so I went for that. The other reason that led me to chose Playa was that they were the only dive centre I spoke to who could guarantee that we would visit the sites that I wanted which was really important given my limited time available for diving. I ate my cup noodle breakfast and headed down to the centre, around a 10 minute walk from my apartment.
I met Emilio my diving guide for the day and another American couple and a solo guy from Spain who would be my diving buddies for the day. We got kitted up and Emilio promised to try and locate me a camera for the afternoon dives since my gopro had sadly died the day before (second one in 2 years, not a great sign really). It was a short 5 minute drive to the beach where we jumped into a boat with our gear and headed out to the ocean. Despite it being slightly cloudy the sea was lovely and flat (a pleasant change from Scotland) and after a short boat ride out we jumped in. Unfortunately the American couple were a lot less experienced and so last minute decided to not dive the wreck since one of them was only Open Water certified. Emilio was great about this and immediately made a plan for them to do 2 shallow dives while still accommodating our deep wreck dive. As we descended down to the wreck, which is an old shrimp boat that was intentionally sunk in 1995 for recreational purposes, I was mesmerised. Granted it was small but so perfectly formed and beautiful. Since the sinking it has developed into an artificial reef and as a result a lot of large schools of fish including an enormous school of barracuda can be seen around the area. We swam right around the circumference, the difference between the clear water and 25m vis here in comparison to the dark and deep wrecks in Scotland. There was a huge moray eel spread right out along the edge of the boat which was really cool as this was the first time I had ever seen one out of a hole and it was HUGE! After circumnavigating it was time to head inside. We swam in through the open bow of the ship and inside were met by a million little chromis fish swimming around. I didn’t know where to look first it was complete sensory overload! We swam through the entire length of the ship and then out of the door at the stern after a particularly tight turn right at the end. What an awesome experience.
As we ascended for our 5 meter safety stop though, I felt my ring fall of my finger and start to fall. I knew if I didn’t follow it I would never see it again and sowithout even thinking I dove down after it. This is pretty much the golden rule of diving, once you have ascended you never go back down straight away particularly fast. Fortunately, due to my speed I was able to spot exactly where it fell and so retrieved it, unfortunately it meant a very slow second ascent stopping at every metre for a minute meaning I had to share air with Emilio for the last 5 metres before we surfaced. Luckily, after the drama we got the chance to chill out in the boat (in the warm cloudy weather, at we weren’t getting burnt right?) while the American’s headed down for a shallow reef dive. We then joined them at Shangri La for our second dive which was lovely. Super easy with a slight current to carry you along but nothing to make life too challenging. We saw a lot of life too including huge parrotfish, butterfly fish, squirrel fish and French grunt. The reef was quite sparse in places but there was a lot of life to be seen including a lot of big schools of fish. It might not have the hype of Cozumel but I really enjoyed both of my dives in Playa del Carmen and would recommend everyone to give it a go. The dives are nice and chilled and perfect for those wanting to do courses or learn new skills and nice for more experienced divers to have some nice easy dives with a lot to see. We ascended and headed back to the dive centre to change people over before heading straight back out again, unfortunately with no lunch break since it wasn’t a package.
My final dive of the day was something I had been really excited about and what had initially attracted me to Playa del Carmen specifically in the first place. From December through to March is bull shark season and as a result the dive centres offer bull shark specific dives to spend some time with these truly majestic creatures. Unfortunately, I still didn’t have a camera but it just meant I got to spend the time totally immersed in the animals. We dived down the line and made our way to the sandy shore and waited less than a minute before the first enormous creature swam into view to satisfy its curiosity. The sharks are all pregnant females who come to the area every year first to breed and then to carry their babies to term before giving birth in the nearby mangrove forests. During the gestation the sharks don’t eat much and so they are very placid and not at all dangerous. I am of the view that no shark is dangerous and that shark/human conflict is caused mostly by us invading their habitat in ways that we should not be doing or simply by accident, a surfer in a black wetsuit looks a lot like a seal. Regardless the activity has a 100% safety record and is a great way to get up close to these apex predators and try and get to know them a little better. The time flew by and we had to end the dive because I was about to go into deco time. As we ascended we all agreed it was a magical experience and I was thrilled I had signed up for 2 dives!
We made our way the short distance back to shore and then to the dive centre where we unpacked our kit and washed it down from the sea water. I asked Emilio to recommend a spot for dinner and surprisingly he chose las hyas de la tostada a place on the touristy 5th Avenue. I decided to trust him and made my way there. It was still quiet since it was late afternoon so I took a seat at the bar and ordered a large margarita with 2 sets of tacos, a cooked tuna and avocado and a prawn ceviche. They were fabulous and sadly some of the only seafood I had in Mexico. I sat until the sun had went down chatting to a lovely American couple who were on vacation from Chicago who kindly shared some of their sweet prawn fritters with me. After saying goodbye I headed back along the street, picking up my tourist gifts from the trip. It was lovely to have some shopping time, something I rarely get on a trip and I even managed to pick-up a safari hat for my upcoming trip to Kenya later in the year. After I was all shopped out (and had spent way more than my initial intention) I headed back for another chilled evening of Netflix and blogging. What a life.