Ola from Cozumel ~ June 24-June 29, 2023 by Patsy Wells

Patsy Wells and Debra Tweed have just returned from a family excursion to Cozumel, Mexico. June 23, 2023 nine family members travelled together:
Dale and Michele McCurdy, Shelby Mc- Curdy and Brock Parker, Coleby McCurdy and Kimberly Fox, Mandy Duling, and Deb and I. Dale organized and set up all the fun. We left Jere’ and Tweed taking care of the homefront, Ryan in the hay field, Airman Thomas Mc- Curdy in flight training in Enid, Guardsman Blake McCurdy in Czech Republic, Laurel in Dallas, and Kimberly’s parents babysitting Luna and the ten medium golden doodle puppies.

The McCurdy’s are all certified scuba divers and did dives each day we were in Cozumel. Brock and Kimberly trained the first two days in the IBERSTAR swimming pool and joined the Mc- Curdy’s on the daily dive trips after they were certified. They tell me scuba diving in the gorgeous waters of Cozumel is the best place to scuba dive. While they dived Deb, Mandy, and I went on excursions around the Cozumel area. The first day we were there all the family moved into their IBERSTAR homes and chilled after the day in the air travelling. Deb, Mandy, and I went to the excursion table and picked options for our schedule and the Mc- Curdys took their gear to the Dive Shop and made sure their diving agenda was set. They were set to dive at Palancar Caves, Pasode Cedral, Colombia Cordillera, Ponta Dalila, Colombia Reef, and Palancar Gardens Reef.
The IBERSTAR is a beautiful all contained resort area outside of Cozumel city. We met in the restaurant daily for meals and great conversation. It was something I looked forward to each day. Deb, Mandy, and I’s first excursion was an ATV off road adventure behind a guide beginning in Royal Village in Cozumel. We drove our ATV’s on a jungle adventure along a bumpy, pot holed road to El Cedral. I had a little difficulty halfway to our destination. My ATV wheel hit a large boulder and the ATV turned on its side and I flipped off. I got a little bunged up, scared the guide, but I was able to get back up and continue on. The helmet was a wonderful safety feature since I ended up on hard packed ground. After assessment that I was ok, we continued our ride to Jade Cenote. A cenote is a natural pit or sink hole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes ground water. At the Jade Cenote thousands of bats were perched in the cavern. Deb, Mandy, and I weren’t brave enough or dumb enough to jump from the top of the cliff down twenty or more feet into eighty feet water, but we enjoyed the thrill of watching around ten people jump and swim in the cenote formations. We then travelled to El Cedral, one of the oldest Mayan Ruins on the Cozumel Island dating back to 800 A.D. The Mayan village was once the capital of Cozumel and the Mayan ruin is a fertility temple. We enjoyed the feel of cooler air flowing around us as we drove the ATV’s and the excursion was memorable. Deb gets first prize for being the most accomplished ATV driver and Mandy got the prize for the best guardian of her two older family members. She and the guide helped me get back on the ATV after I crashed.
The next day we scheduled a snorkeling trip in a glass bottom boat to Cielo Reef, Palancar Reet: Columbia Reef, and El Cielo Cozumel Sandbar. All of this snorkeling is in a National Marine Park and the water is crystal clear. We shared this trip with a man and his son from Norway. Because we were a small group we got to choose where we went. The guide asked us where we wanted to snorkel and the young boy said, “I want to see lots of fishes.” We all agreed and our Albertos excursion began at the places I listed above. While we were snorkeling, our guide took multiple pictures of us and of the wildlife we saw. We later purchased the pictures. El Cielo Cozumel Sand was the last place we stopped on our snorkeling tour. It is a shallow area in the Caribbean located about two and a half miles from the Cozumel shore. The water is swimming pool blue so you can easily see the bottom and the white sand is so soft between your toes it feels like an exquisite massage. The area entertains you with sting rays gliding around your feet while you relax with a drink of your choosing, fresh pineapple, and Mexican chips and salsa. Our guides offered to cook us fresh fish, but we settled for snacks. The assorted treats were served in a tray floating on a life buoy as we enjoyed the cool water and unwound from the hours of snorkeling. It was so relaxing I could have remained there for the rest of the day. On this day of snorkeling, we saw two large sea turtles, several starfish, a small blue shark, a sand dollar, multiple sting rays, and we did “see lots of fishes.”
The following day Deb, Mandy, and I went out with the scuba divers. Cozumel is mostly drift diving and the current is strong so we weren’t able to go out with the divers every day. Also because of the strong current, conditions can change quickly, and each group of divers must be escorted by a certified park guide. All scuba diving has to be accessed by boat. Because of distance and the dangerous current, reefs cannot be accessed by swimming from the shore. This particular day the scuba divers went to Colombia Reef and Palancar Gardens Reef. Palancar actually consist of five different sites: Pinnacles, Culvones, Caves, Horseshoe Garden, and Colombia Shallow. At Colombia Deep the middle reef ends where there is a break in the reef with beautiful white sand. This separation is the end of Colombia and the beginning of the Palancar Reef. There was a current here, but it was negotiable for snorkelers. I actually enjoyed the current because it glided you along without the extra effort of using your fins. I could just enjoy the beauty of the ocean. It is quite fun to be snorkeling on top of the ocean water and see the scuba divers below you pursuing the beauty of God’s creation in the deep waters of the ocean. Snorkelers can see and feel the large bubbles the divers send to the surface as they travel underneath you 40 feet or more.
At Palancar Gardens Reef we saw towering rock spires covered with gargonians and sponges.
Gargonians are soft corals commonly know as sea fans and sea whips.
Individual colonies are flattened, branching, and look like a fan. They are whip like, may be brightly colored, often purple, red, or yellow. Most of the ones I saw on this trip were purple. The tall coral formations and creatures attached to them were fun to see. Though it was an area of fewer fish, I did see a baracuda and an eagle ray.
No vacation is complete without a little shopping. After the Palacar Reef Gardens dive we showered, got a taxi, and went into town for Cozumel shopping. We got a few souvenirs and headed for IBERSTAR for a late evening meal. Soon afterwards everyone was tired and headed for a night of peaceful sleep before packing to go home the following day. Our last day at IBERSTAR we said goodbye to the wonderful resort and their spectacular staff. With a little melancholy, we left the tantalizing ocean surrounding Cozumel. It was a week full of memories where family dreams come true. Until our next vacation together our precious memories made with family will carry us through to another year. To the ocean I go to lose my mind and find my soul!

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