It had actually been a few years since I'd dived in Cozumel. And about two years since hurricane Wilma had settled over the reefs of this storied diver's paradise. I'd naturally heard loads of stories about the diving prior to my trip, but the only way to truly know is to see with your own eyes, as they say.
So as I back-rolled off the side of the dive boat and into the waters above Palancar Caves, one of my all-time favorite dives, I was ready to discover the undersea world of Cozumel anew. Our little group of six descended and adjusted to the lovely and constant current that would sweep us on a guided tour of the reef. Now, I'm one of those "distracted by shiny things" kind of divers. A movement, a group of snapper under a ledge, the arc of a nurse shark resting on the seafloor, pretty corals and colors truly, you name it, I want to stop and experience or explore. So when I came upon the nurse shark pictured, under a coral-laden ledge, within the first minute of the dive, I immediately realized that while Mother Nature may sometimes pound changes on the skin of the Earth, life will find a way to endure and prosper. In my excitement, I startled the nurse shark, and as I followed in its wake down the reef, I saw a wall of color. All along the cuts and spurs and grooves, the canyons, gullies and overhangs, that make this part of the Cozumel reef system so alluring, I encountered thick aggregations of sponges and corals, just as I had remembered in the haze of many yesterdays lodged in the back of my brain. It was a scene repeated day after day, dive after dive.
My boat mates and I talked about it incessantly. While some of the shallower areas looked a little barren, the dives all along Palancar, Columbia and Yucab reefs were in good shape, with lots of growth and marine life that kept us in the water until our computers forced us to surface.
So now I've seen for myself. And I'm going back in January, 'cause I simply did not get enough.