After my extended absence, yes, I am finally back home and online. And, as those of you on my Facebook page already know, I was recently laid off, and so I now have plenty of time to edit photos and write a few blog entries about our honeymoon/scuba trip.

T has been on annual scuba trips to Cozumel many times in the past, but for one reason or another, he hasn’t been able to go since we met 4 years ago.  So when we booked our trip, we basically went back to all his favorite haunts — and they are now my favorites too!

First off, even before we left, I decided to get my Open Water scuba certification.  If I had waited and gotten just a quick resort certification there, I would have been restricted to dives of only 30 ft or less.  There are a surprising number of scuba shops to choose from in the SLC area, but we went with Scuba Utah in Salt Lake.  The folks there are friendly and accommodating, they have discounts on gear for students, but most importantly they’re PADI 5-star rated.  I chose a weekend class, which meant giving up 2 whole weekends for the class.  The first weekend we spent all day Saturday and Sunday covering book learning and then using the pool on-site to practice our skills.  Believe it or not, you have to read about 400 pages and take 5 quizzes plus a final exam, but it’s all designed to ensure you are a safe and informed scuba diver.

The second weekend was supposed to be spent at the Crater at the Homestead Resort in Midway, UT.  But I had a head cold, so I had to wait a month before I could actually do my certification dives.  One of the big issues you have while scuba diving is the difference in pressure above and below the water.  If you’ve ever swum to the bottom of a swimming pool and had your ears hurt, you have experienced what they call a squeeze, when there is more pressure outside your ears than inside.  With a head cold, everything is congested and you can’t equalize the internal pressure and external pressure like you should, so it’s best to simply stay out of the water.  But I managed to go with the next class that was certifying.

The Crater is a fairly surreal place to dive.  It’s really a hot spring, not a crater. When you drive up, you see a door in the side of a small, roughly 3-story-high hill located in the middle of a mountain resort, surrounded by upscale residential developments.  When you get inside, there’s a long, narrow corridor drilled into the side of this rock mound, with a small, steamy pool at the end.  The walls of the crater continue a few stories above your head, with a grate-covered opening at the top.  The whole thing is about 65 feet across and 60 ft deep, with nothing in it except two square PVC frames hung in the center at 15 ft and 30 ft below the water surface for scuba testing purposes, a cast iron wheel with a mermaid Barbie and some other odd toys strapped to it, and a little shelf that can hold 4-5 scuba students on it.  Oh, and T said there were a few large plastic animal figures on the bottom, but I wasn’t allowed to dive that deep during certification.  Take a look at Homestead’s slide show for a sense of the space.  To make things even more surreal, we were diving in a hot spring that was about 90 degrees, and it was snowing on us through the top of the crater.  It was nice getting a real sense of how diving feels, but I was definitely ready to see what the reefs in Cozumel held in store for us.

We flew in on a Saturday afternoon, picked up a rental Jeep and drove T’s favorite hotel on Cozumel.  And once we got there, I completely understood why it was his favorite!  The Villablanca Garden Beach Hotel no longer has the beach in its name, since Hurricane Wilma scoured the island in 2005, but the gardens are absolutely lovely.

the walkway outside our room

the grounds

There is a hot tub on the front lawn under some palms that’s delightful at night, a pool surrounded by lounge chairs for sunning during the day, a cafe/bar with a cage full of budgies and the best margaritas I’ve ever tasted, as well as a restaurant that we never made a point of trying.  The rooms are spacious and elegant, with limestone tile floors and bathrooms, which means you don’t have to worry about dragging wet scuba gear across the carpet (but you do have to worry about how slippery they are when they’re wet.)

lounge chairs next to the pool

the hot tub

the pool

room decoration

The food at the hotel cafe was decent, and decently priced, but we tended to go eat next door at the Hog Town Cafe, a restaurant affiliated with the Papa Hogs scuba diving service.  Their food was just a tad cheaper, and a smidge better, than the food at our hotel.  Not to mention, there’s a view out over the water, and right under Papa Hogs is another scuba dive company, Scuba Mau.  The owner has a beautiful white shepherd/wolf mix, and we would watch her interact with the owner and his customers every morning, since we were missing our dogs.  It didn’t hurt that there was a dog owned by the folks at Papa Hogs, too, even if she wasn’t all that interested in getting petted.

Our first full day in Cozumel, T simply introduced me to the island.  We took a drive around the island in the rented Jeep, checked out the plaza at the city center and all the souvenir shops, and walked through the Cozumel Museum, a surprisingly interesting and thorough look at the history and habitat of the island, complete with a Mayan hut in the courtyard with a sweet little old woman who knows the names of all the products and artifacts in English, but that’s about it. I had no idea that Cortez actually landed on Cozumel when he came to the new world. There was also local art displayed downstairs, and a retrospective with photos of Carnivale groups from the past 25 years as well.

We had a nice, relaxing first day, but I knew T was itching to go diving.  But I’ll cover that, with lots of pictures, next time.  *smile*