SNORKELING EXCURSION: PALANCAR, COLUMBIA & EL CIELO SANDBAR
After a lot of research, I remembered a place that came up on the boards years ago: El Cielo sandbar with the starfish. I guess the only way to reach it, which is located at the end of the island, it by boat and is a marine park. I started researching several vendors that went there and came across one that was a family owned business, for 20 years, and their description of the tour and their customer service just sounded fantastic. They claimed they would never pack in customer on a boat and took around 12 customers per boat. They do mention they pick up customers from ANYWHERE...including all the ports and they have their ground transportation license (which vendors can no longer get now) and I knew this was who I wanted to go with.
I thought the price of their tour was pretty reasonable as well. Only $50 per adult and $40 for kids. (I don't know what the ages of the "kids" are supposed to be and would find out before we got on the boat and had to pay that Sakari, at age 11, was considered an adult 🙄).
This price included all transportation, beer/liquor, soda/bottled water, freshly made guacamole, open bar, chips and dip, freshly cut fruits, and all equipment needed.
The snorkel destinations would include Palancar Reef and Colombia Reef and El Cielo Sandbar.
The time of the tour was for 4-4 1/2 hours and after the tour, they took you to a resort which you could use their amenities such as showers and so on.
It sounded perfect and we booked.
We were given instructions where to meet outside of the pier and that we needed to be there by 8:30 at the latest.
The hubby immediately went in for coffee (Starbucks, not Hooters 😉) and we sat down outside. It was hot and muggy and started to look like it might rain. Thank goodness we were doing a water activity if so.
A lady that was sitting at one of the tables outside came up and ask our names and confirmed that we were with her and we were going to wait for others to arrive. It was 8:15am.
We waited and waited and no one was showing up. I decided to walk over to the store in the area to get some pop. Then BOOM....downpour! Well, I guess I wasn't going anywhere for the time being. Once the rain let up somewhat, I played hopscotch across the walkways, trying to avoid all the puddles and staying under some of the umbrellas they had in the area and then I may a run for it. Pop was purchased and all was good.
So 8:30am was our "meet by" time...and look at what time it was already....
By now, there was only one other family of 3 there. We waited even longer...then finally everyone showed up. I thought it was strange that we HAD to be there at 8:30 but it was over an hour past that and they still waited. I know they want their money and don't want to walk away but why punish those that show up when they are supposed to by making us wait almost 1 1/2 hours??? If it would have been my family late, with the luck we have, they would have left without us.
Finally everyone had showed up...so I thought and the lady told us to follow her.
😝 to all you latecomers that can't follow directions that made us wait out in the heat and rain!
Then down the street we went.
We kept walking down the street and I kept wondering where our van/taxi was only to see that it never came...We went straight to the boat! Woo hoo
As soon as we all piled in, we were told we were waiting on another person. Seriously?
Then it started to rain again. Everyone started stripping off their clothes and sat in their bathing suits. This rain wasn't about to spoil our day.
The "other person" never showed up and we started pulling out.
This was a great opportunity to get pics of the ship as we passed by.
Now we are going to go up the coastline and it became a game with me to find each beach club we have visited in the past as we went by. It's a lot different to see them from an "ocean view" than while on land.
The first picture I took was of the Hotel Barracuda because we had planned on going around that area to hang out after this excursion (because the location of the resort they said they would be taking us to was next to the International pier and we planned on going back to our port and just walking over somewhere to find a place).
Also, a pic of our crew leader who passed out drinks...their "soda". I decided on the pineapple and it was yummy. Now when you book, they tell you that they have pop and drinks along the way and ask if you have any request. I did put my request in for diet pop...but there was none to be seen. So, I guess putting in a request doesn't matter. 😕
First up on the tour, from the ocean view, is The Money Bar. We went here last time we were in Cozumel.
Next would be Chankanaab. I found this place to be a little different than the last time we were here. It looks like they've added on to it out in the water with a few large huts I don't remember. It's been several years since we have been here and so many things have changed (like adding the zip line, alligator pit and so on). It used to be my favorite place. We've been here twice. I'll have to return again some day and see if it still is.
Next up would be Paradise Beach Club. You could definitely tell from all the water toys. We had a great day there last time we were in Cozumel and highly recommend this place.
Playa Mia is just one of those places you will never mistake for another beach club. The high pointed circus tent looking huts just makes it undeniable that that's what this place is no matter what direction you are looking at it from.
Then was Mr Sanchos. They have quite a few water toys as well.
Nachi Cocum...of course no water toys and all the adults seem to love this place. It's very beautiful there.
Meanwhile our guide was washing all the snorkels and getting the mask ready for everyone. Of course we brought our own mask but....gasp....I forgot the snorkel!!! Darnit! That meant I was going to have to use one of their CHEAP snorkels without the dry snorkel feature. Oh my word! How could I be so stupid! You would think that being in business for 20 years and generating this much money, they would at least upgrade their snorkels for a better experience for everyone. These things SUCKED!
We knew we were getting close when he started passing out mask, fins, and snorkels and my little mermaid morphed at that time.
Now I tried really hard to find Playa Palancar (another place we had been in the past) but couldn't locate it from the ocean. I knew we were close because we were snorkeling at Palancar.
During our ride there, I struck up a conversation with a family of 4. They were going diving that day with the same tour company as us. Wait what? This company also offers diving? I should have done that. The pit in my stomach knew I had made the wrong decision now. We started talking about discover scuba diving and the mom said she was just going along for the ride and wasn't diving this time but her husband and children (girl and boy twins I believe) were going to dive with dad. I was envious at this point.
We stopped and was told to stay close to the guide because the water was constantly moving. I knew from talking to previous divers on this board that it's a place (Cozumel) for drift diving. The guide would have a safety ring and we did not need to worry about getting away from the boat. The boat captain would keep a close eye on us and when we were done would come over to pick us up so we didn't have to struggle to get back to the boat. Now THAT'S my kinda snorkeling!
Anyone on here that has read my reviews or been in my "what to do this time around" snorkeling post knows I normally don't care for boat snorkeling. Boat snorkeling usually involves you being in deep water and in deep water, it's hard to get good pictures. You have to be up close to get the outstanding photos I usually get in the water. The greater the distance of the subject from the camera, the more off color and blurry it seems to be. I would get deep dark blue pictures from snorkeling this way and it's just not appealing to me. I need to be up close to my subject but I was going to make the most of it.
So I AM WARNING YOU...THESE SNORKELING PICTURES SUCK!! BIG TIME! I'm so unhappy with them that my skin crawls. Just saying...so beware. I'm only sharing such icky pictures to try to attempt to show you this reef and just how much there is to see there. It's pretty amazing.
I jumped into the water first. I had asked if it was ok to "roll backwards" off the side and was told I should probably "sit" and plop in instead. Darnit. I really wanted to roll like you do when diving. It's so much fun.
As soon as I got in and looked down...
Now at first when I got home and seen these pics, I thought maybe I had my flash on and that was showing all the stuff in the water but I didn't. A lot of pictures had it in there and I know at some point I would have discovered the flash was on.
Sakari was already in the water and the hubby was preparing this plop grand entrance. Then in he went.
But, the first thing I spotted was this....and I squealed with excitement...my very first!
Do you see it? Yea I didn't think so because of all the crap floating in the water (and by crap I mean bubbles and microorganisms not actual crap) and being so high up from the "subject".
But soon the guide also seen it and started point it out to everyone.
I took a bunch of pictures...I was so excited. I even took a video of it swimming by...but Sakari and I watched the video about 30 times last night and I tried everything to figure out how to adjust the video so that you would easily see what we were seeing...but it just didn't work. So, I decided to chuck the video and not put you all through watching it 30 times like we did and probably still not finding it.
So, I opted to take one of my many pictures of it and zoom in really close...now do you see it?
I spotted my very first spotted eagle ray!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was amazing. Warmth came over me (and it wasn't from urinating...just saying). I was so excited and happy to have finally seen a spotted eagle ray! The grace and the beauty of it "floating" by was just amazing! Sakari had seen one and got pictures when we were in Bermuda last time and I was so upset that I hadn't got a chance to at least see one in person. I finally had my day!
My day was complete...even if I didn't see another fish the rest of the day!
Ok, on with the crappy pictures...
The reef was amazing as well and loaded with tons of fish, corals and sponges. It was just everywhere.
Then I spotted my mermaid zipping by...
I promise you there's probably tons of fish and neat things down there...you just can't tell from these UNamazing photos.