Plongée sur le récif de Cozumel, avec Sergio Sandoval. Quintana Roo, Mexique, juillet 2014.

Colourful Immersions on The Reefs of Cozumel


  Mexico: Yucatán - July 2014

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:

The Caribbean Sea, it changes Asia! In Mexico, I could not ignore the island of Cozumel, renowned diving spot.

A Mexican summer

July 2014: new exoticism, new seabed. This summer, I chose to discover the Caribbean coast of Mexico, that of the state of Quintana Roo. The region attracts me for his fabulous cenotes - these engulfed chasms venerated by the Mayans that can now be explored while diving - and  its spectacular gathering of whale sharks, off Cancún, which I dream to see for years ...

Between cenotes and whale sharks, I could not ignore the island of Cozumel, explored by Cousteau in the early 1960s. It is THE dive spot of the Yucatán peninsula, the most famous of the area! Because of Cozumel and thanks to diving, I met a sacred character ...

Plongée sur le récif de Cozumel. Quintana Roo, Mexique, juillet 2014.
Diving on the reef of Cozumel. Quintana Roo, Mexico, July 2014.

Sergio Sandoval, pioneer of diving in Cozumel

His full name : Sergio Sandoval Vizcaíno. A pioneer of diving in Cozumel, where he has lived since 1979, he celebrated his 74th birthday at the beginning of 2015 and continues to make bubbles under water!

UPDATE - OCTOBER 10, 2018. I just learned, via Facebook, the death of Sergiofour years after our meeting in July 2014 ... He was 77 years old. I have not been to Mexico since. Never again will I have the opportunity to dive again with Sergio, who made me discover the magnificent reef of Cozumel. I let you re-read or discover below what I wrote at the time.

Sergio Sandoval. Cozumel, juillet 2014.
Sergio Sandoval. Cozumel, July 2014.

The man is an inexhaustible storyteller, picturesque as possible. Concerned with his form, he avoids alcohol and drinks seawater regularly, convinced that "it's good for health" - he often shows it on his boat, to impress the customers he brings. to dive ... But in fact, he does not drink it pure! It just dilutes a little seawater in a bottle of fresh water.

Sergio may be a bottle diver, he never separates from his snorkel, clinging to his mask, because it saved his life a long time ago. Lost in the sea after a dive, he drifted several days in the middle of the waves before being rescued. His snorkel allowed him to breathe on the surface without drinking the cup and not perish drowned.

Sergio Sandoval, avec son tuba et son caisson home-made. Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexique. Juillet 2014.
Sergio under the water, with his snorkel and his home-made box.

A former automotive engineer, Sergio is also an underwater photo enthusiast and a patient handyman: he makes himself the waterproof boxes for his devices, in his workshop, at home! Finally, this septuagenarian is obviously not "digital native", but since he discovered the GoPro and social networks, he publishes many small underwater films on Facebook.

Most importantly, Sergio is particularly familiar with Cozumel's dive sites and the formidable currents in the strait between Playa del Carmen and the island. Day after day, at every trip, he monitors the health of corals and fish, takes pictures underwater and, back on earth, praises the beauty of the region's underwater world to tourists.

He is a passionate and passionate man, warm, multilingual, extraordinarily friendly. I am delighted to have discovered Cozumel Reef with him.

Sur le bateau de plongée de Sergio Sandoval. Cozumel, juillet 2014.
Sergio gives tips for better filming with a GoPro to young Belgian divers.

A very aquatic mexican family

Sergio's house, in San Miguel, the big city of the island, is known by all taxi drivers under two names: Aquarama, which is now the children's swimming school run by his daughter and granddaughter, whose classes take place in the garden pool (Aquarama is also the name of one of his boats); and Aquatic Sports, which refers to the small dive structure he leads with the help of his wife Lolita.

C'est l'heure du cours de natation pour les petites, à l'Aquarama. Cozumel, juillet 2014.
It's time for a small swimming class at Aquarama. Cozumel, July 2014.

Sergio Senior (also known as Sergio Junior, his son, who bears the same name and organizes dive trips and big game fishing) has been involved in the preservation of the seabed for a long time. from the oldest dive operators in Cozumel. He is also a pillar of the Scuba Fest annual, in December.

Le petit bateau de Sergio, avec lequel j'ai plongé en juillet 2014 sur le récif de Cozumel.
In the port of la Caleta, theAquarama, Sergio's little boat, with which I dipped on Cozumel's reef.

At Sergio's, a Virgin Mary watches the pool from her alcove and newspaper clippings, framed and hung on the walls, greet the aquatic exploits of her daughter and granddaughter, both named Beatriz.

The first, in 1985, at the age of 14, swam the 30 miles between Cozumel and the coast in 10 hours and 55 minutes. A generation later, in 2009, the second, nicknamed "Betty", then 13, tried to beat her mother's record, but the currents have unfortunately deported her too far from the island, preventing her to achieve one's goal. The little girl still swam nearly 13 hours in a row ... At the Sandoval, we really like water, it's family! ! !

The fabulous reef of Cozumel

For the underwater photographer I am, who enjoys "à la carte" dives and preferably in small groups, Sergio's family structure is ideal. As he is also a photographer, I often end the dives with him, while Cristobal, his young dive-master, supervises the rest of the team.

Between two dives, it's picnic "salsa-guacamole-ham-cheese-fruit" on the boat Aquarama. The atmosphere is relaxed and international.

During this week spent in Cozumel, I dive, according to the days, with a young couple of Belgians, an American, a German and a couple of Japanese, with whom I discover myself common knowledge in Indonesia - they dive often in Asia , like me. They are great friends of Sergio and Lolita, they come regularly on holiday in Cozumel.

Sur le bateau de plongée de Sergio Sandoval. Cozumel, juillet 2014.
At lunch time, Sergio always has a good story to tell.
Photo-souvenir avec Cristobal et Sergio (à gauche).
Souvenir Photo with Cristobal and Sergio (left).

Underwater I discover an environment different from what I'm used to in Asia. The species of rays, for example, are not at all the same. There are also plenty of big angelfish (from the family of Pomacanthus, tells me a reader of the blog) that remind me of the Asian batches.

And then, in these waters, the lionfish flying (the "lion-fish") are invadersThese Asian fish have been introduced into the Mexican waters of the Caribbean Sea, where they have no predators. They are voracious and proliferate at the expense of other species, unbalancing the ecosystem. Diving professionals are allowed to kill them when they see them.

Update - May 3, 2015: AFP has just published an infographic on the subject, which sums up the situation well. I insert their picture below.

L'infographie de l'AFP sur la prolifération des rascasses.
AFP infographics on the proliferation of scorpionfish.
Rascasse volante, harponnée non pas lors de mon séjour à Cozumel, mais à Isla Mujeres, à quelques kilomètres de là. Mexique, juillet 2014.
Red Lionfish, harpooned not during my stay in Cozumel, but in Isla Mujeres, not far from there.
Raie. Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexique, juillet 2014.
It changes Asian blue polka dots!
Un cousin mexicain du platax. Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexique, juillet 2014.
A Mexican angelfish, which makes me think of Asian batfish.

The reef of Cozumel is much more beautiful than the sites opposite, on the coast, around Playa del Carmen. I had a great time exploring it, even though I found it to be less exuberant and teeming with life than the Indonesian or Malaysian spots I love so much.

The "usual" tropical fauna is present, but the density and the diversity seem to me less ... Which does not prevent to make beautiful meetings, the proof!

Requin et murène. Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexique. Juillet 2014.
Un barracuda solitaire, cerné par les photographes. Cozumel, Quintan Roo, Mexique. Juillet 2014.
Plongée sur le récif de Cozumel. Quintana Roo, Mexique, juillet 2014.

My favorite sites on Cozumel Reef are in the area called Palancar, where there are huge and spectacular coral formations. Their yellow and pink growths are the most beautiful effect under the light of the flash.

For divers, this is a fantastic playground: there are cavities to explore, arches and passages where you can sneak and a lot of life to watch.

Plongée sur le récif de Cozumel, avec Sergio Sandoval. Quintana Roo, Mexique, juillet 2014.

Plongée sur le récif de Cozumel. Quintana Roo, Mexique, juillet 2014.

Plongée sur le récif de Cozumel. Quintana Roo, Mexique, juillet 2014.

To learn more about diving with Sergio Senior in Cozumel, I refer you to these links:
The Aquatic Sports Center website
→  His Facebook page

  Mexico: Yucatán - July 2014