We've been cave diving since the 1970s, heading for the springs in northern Florida once or twice a year. We began hearing about the cave , or cenote, diving in Akumal, Mexico, in the late 80s. Now that we've finally been there, all we can say is WOW!
Akumal is about an hour south of Cancun, Mexico, on the Yucatan Peninsula, and across and a little bit south of the island of Cozumel. We booked flights through Apple tours and flew on a UPS flight--yes, UPS. Run very efficiently, the price is right, and no, we didn't go as cargo, but in very comfortable seats, roomier than what you find on most other airlines. The food was good, at least on the way down.
We stayed at Villa DeRosa, where Steve Gerrard's dive operation, Aquatech, is located, and we were taken very good care of in every way. A very reasonable cost covers airport transfers, condo, food, unlimited soft drinks and bottled water, double tanks, air, and a van and driver for the week. The best price is obtained with at least five people, and summer rates are lower than winter rates. Our group of eight shared a common living room, dining room, and kitchen, with a balcony overlooking the beach and ocean; we had our own bedrooms and baths. Breakfast fixings are provided, such as eggs, cereal, pancake mix, juice, and bread, which are replenished upon request. Lunch is prepared in the resort's kitchen and brought up to the condo unit when the morning diving is done, or a box lunch is provided for extended dive excursions. Dinner is served a little after 7:00 P.M. and consists of a variety of soups, salads, entrees, and desserts, a couple of which were to die for! There is also a rooftop bar with a great ocean view.
We did two cave dives a day, and they all were stupendous. Three of us had a private guide, Chris, for an additional fee, and went places we never would have gone on our own. Besides the beautiful passages, the great thing about Akumal is that you can do two-hour dives, averaging 20 feet, and not even have to do a safety stop, since most of the dive was a safety stop! The caves have beautiful formations--stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and different types of rocks--and I often imagined that I was gliding silently through ancient Roman ruins. It boggles the mind how some of these absolutely fantastic formations can look like carousels, spiral staircases, caramel popcorn balls, or Roman statues. And for those veteran cave divers used to struggling against the currents in Little River, there is negligible current in these caves.
Akumal is not just for fully certified cave divers, however. The cavern diving is also terrific; the cavern and Intro to cave divers in our group were able to do one hour cavern and cave dives--up to four a day. Even snorkelers are able to do 30-40 minute tours of the large caverns. We're talking BIG!
Access to the caves couldn't be easier--load up the van with your gear from the storage room and get chauffeured a maximum of thirty minutes to the dive site. Many sites have tables for gear preparation and most entries are a short walk from the parking area. Even NoHooch, where your dive gear is transferred to the cenote via horses and lowered to the water using ropes, is a piece of cake; all we had to do was walk!
Out of the caves, there's plenty to do. Reef diving is available, the Mayan ruins of Tulum and Copa are only twenty minutes away, Chichen Itza is a day trip, and of course there's shopping, sunning by the pool, or walking on the beach.
We were very satisfied with everything at Villa DeRosa and Aquatech. The tipping at the end of the week got a bit out of hand, but we were well taken care of. Akumal is easier to get to from Pittsburgh than the Florida springs, and the diving is totally awesome. We'll be back as regulars!
Downey Diving 213 Summerfield Drive Baden, PA 15005 (724) 869-1989