Once again I visited Cozumel for six wonderful days of scuba diving. The island sits in the blue Caribbean Sea off the coast of Mexico, surrounded by lovely coral reefs. This trip I used Deep Blue and Blue XT Sea. Deep blue is a very good dive operator who charges competitive prices of around $70 for a two tank trip. Blue XT Sea is premium priced about $20 higher and is worth the extra fee because you can leave your gear on the boat at night and the return in the morning with it washed and set up. I was lucky enough to visit Maracaibo (128′ depth) and Punta Sur along with a bunch of the usual sites like Palancar and Santa Rosa.
Lodging was at the Barracuda Hotel where every room is sea view and pool view. They have a dock where both of the dive companies I used pick up. There is also a wash tank for your gear when returning from a scuba adventure. This is the noisiest hotel in Cozumel because it is home to the No Name Bar. This bar ( and they run the pool) caters to cruise ship crew to provide them with a little R&R on their day off in port. The new owner has now opened a large air conditioned bar. They will probably attract more tourists and cruise ship passengers now.
Armando is an expert underwater photographer and was instructing one of his students on the boat. This resulted in my getting a few private dives with the Blue XT Sea dive master.
San Miguel is the main town on the island of Cozumel. Cozumel is know as the busiest cruise ship port in the Caribbean and possibly the world. The island is also a major destination for scuba divers and vacationers who stay outside of town at all inclusive resorts. I go scuba diving there in the morning and after lunch there is time for street photography. On Sunday nights there is a dance in the center square of San Miguel. The cruise ships are gone by then and most of the tourists are back at their hotels stuffing themselves at the chow line. The night shots were taken at that dance. This set was shot in July of 2012.
All of these were shot with a D700 and Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 zoom. Cute Lobster Hunter and the 4 seascapes were taken on a boat that was rocking like crazy. Lonely Road 1 & 2 were taken on Norman Cay, an island with a population of about 25. There is a bar on Norman Cay that is said to be one of Jimmy Buffett’s favorites. It is located across the airstrip at the end of Lonely Road.
Cozumel is a busy cruise ship port. There is good diving, but many of the shallow reefs were ruined a few years ago by a hurricane. Behind the Barracuda is a bar owned by a Turkish family that caters to cruise ship crew. Very loud music gets played all afternoon whether you want it or not. That makes staying at the Barracuda a bit of a challenge unless, like me, you can sleep through anything.
Cruise ship crew members tend to fall into certain occupations that do not have to work while in port. They will mainly be from the casino, duty-free shop, and those involved in the shows. That latter category includes some slender dancers. Only a small portion of the crew is from the US. Most are from the UK or Eastern Europe. These jobs have long hours and no benefits. Crew members who deal with the passengers get abused constantly. By the time they get to the bar they are ready to let loose, and they do.
There is a nice pool or one can go down the steps and swim in the sea. There is no sandy beach to speak of. Food at the bar is very good and priced about equal to other tourist restaurants in the area. Bar prices are high for Cozumel, but reasonable by US standards. Staying at the Barracuda is not such a great idea, unless you want to be part of this crazy scene which picks up around 11 AM and ends abruptly by 5 PM when the crew has to go back to work. However, the scene is what brings me there with cute girls running around in bikinis, in full party mode, happy to pose or oblivious to candid shots.
This was a scuba diving trip, but my gear arrived a day late and the weather rarely cooperated. I managed to go diving on 5 out of 10 days. Perhaps having a camera there kept me from getting bored. All were shot with a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and a Nikon D300.
The third photograph, a lovely lady in a bikini with the image of Marilyn Monroe tattooed on her side, has been very popular.
Walking the streets of San Miguel on the island of Cozumel exposes one to hordes of cruise ship passengers, and the Mexicans who are there to help thin the foreigners’ wallets. Many of the foreigners are drunk. A bucket of 6 Corona’s is only $5, if one gets only a block back from the sea. There would often be domestic disputes in front of Senor Frog’s when one half of the couple did not want to return to the ship. After a few days the Mexicans who hang out on the street knew that I did not want to buy any Cuban cigars and they took to asking me about my camera. Girls roam the streets wearing skimpy cover ups over their bikinis or no cover ups. Definitely a great place for candid and street photography.
This particular trip in June of 2009 was on a crowded 65 foot sailboat. It started in Nassau and wound its way through the isolated Exuma Cays. The price was low, but accommodations were minimal. Each passenger gets a bunk. Dive gear goes above deck. The rest of your stuff goes in your bunk. In order to travel light, all I brought along photographically was my D300 and 16-85 zoom. Kind of sounds like one of those one camera, one lens stories.
Just to be honest, it is very unusual to get a couple of good looking girls on this sort of trip. There is almost no privacy which keeps the girls away. Dee was a new diver from Canada traveling with her fiancee. He was preoccupied with taking pictures underwater. In exchange for looking out for Dee while she was diving, I got a beautiful six foot tall model. Brooke came with a group from Wyoming. She said that the bubbles tattoo on her ribs was because she was afraid she would pop. Both of these girls looked great in their bikinis and they lounged around all day in them allowing occasional candid shots. Everyone appearing in these photographs was asked first if they wanted to participate.
One of the highlights of the trip was that I completed scuba dive number 1000.
If you search Google Images for the swimming pigs, you will notice that many people have appropriated it without giving me credit or compensation. I actually took the picture. You will mostly find the color version, but I like it better in black and white.
The Thunderball Cafe is now closed. It took its name from the James Bond movie. It was located on Staniel Cay in the Exuma chain of the Bahamas. About a mile away across the harbor is the Thunderball grotto where scenes from the movie were filmed. The grotto is a lovely place to swim with warm crystal clear blue green water. Just duck under the opening to the cave and you are in paradise.
San Pedro is a little beach town on Ambergris Cay in Belize. Accommodations in town are reasonably priced, but above typical backpacker levels. Away from town there are expensive resorts. Food is good, cheap and always accompanied by Marie Sharp’s habanero pepper sauce. The scuba diving is noted for large numbers of nurse sharks, spotted eagle rays, black grouper and Jewfish. The reef there is one of my favorite diving areas and is where I learned the basics of technical diving. You can kick back, have a beer and listen to Dennis Wolfe and the Usual Suspects at BC’s beach bar where the first 3 photos were taken. This is also the island where the famous John Mcafee lived for a while. Don’t worry, there are lots of strange and mysterious people left.
All of these were shot with a D300 in April of 2009. Except for the last two done with a Nikon 16-85 zoom, I used a Sigma 30mm f/1.4. I can’t say that I am all that wild about the Sigma 30mm. It is not sharp when shot wide open. The Nikon 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX is a much better choice that costs half as much. The Aerial shot was while landing. It isn’t possible to get this on a commercial jet anymore since the flight crews caught on to the idea that cameras have computer chips inside. Except for the aerial, all of these were shot at or within a two minute walk from Sundowner’s Beach Bar. These scenes are typical, girls running around in bikinis off the beach without cover ups, and not paying attention to anything. None the less it is the same at it’s core as candid street photography in a big city. I have mixed feelings about this place. Prices are low and the diving is very good. However, a bunch of foreigners who are there illegally stealing jobs from the native Hondurans rule the roost. You don’t want to get to know them because they are a surly bunch.
These photos are from my December 2008 visit to Cozumel. They were taken with a D700 and a Nikon 16-85 zoom, except for the Hostess where a 50 mm f/1.8 D was employed. On these trips I dive in the morning and shoot in the afternoon.