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    by Rick Frehsee, Nov. 1997

    If it looks like a fish, swims like a fish and smells like a fish; sometimes it is a fish. Before I lose you completely, let me tell you how this relates to a recent conversation I had with some friends; a group of very well traveled divers. We were all sitting around at the end of the day, toasting our favorite dive spot in the world. Expecting the consensus to be some far-flung spot at the end of the rainbow, we were all somewhat surprised when it turned out to be Cozumel. Imagine that; Cozumel, the most popular single island dive destination in the world. Yes, sometimes a fish is a fish!

    And, just what was it about Cozumel that made it, at least for our little group, the king of the diving world? The visibility. Of all the things that turn divers on, visibility is at the top of the list and Cozumel may well have some of the clearest ocean water in the world. We all agreed we had regularly experienced 200 feet of horizontal visibility in Cozumel. With most dive destinations, you go there hoping the water will be clear. In Cozumel, unless you are incredibly unlucky (the island does experience a hurricane about once every 10 to 20 years), you know the water will be clear.

    Cozumel's fantastic visibility is not a matter of luck, it is simply a fact of nature. The island itself is a riverless, limestone sponge. Twelve miles away is the huge Yucatan Peninsula, also a riverless sponge. A steady current separates Cozumel from the mainland; a pure stream of water that is generated from the open Caribbean. This is as clear as a coastal ocean can be.

    There are many other factors in Cozumel's favor. Some are purely biological or geological. There is this continuous mountainous wall decorated with hot colored, twisted sponges. The free flowing current propels you along without having to kick but not so fast that you can't see the sights. And, by anybody's book, there is excellent marine life, including reef fish, pelagics and invertebrates.

    Even the negatives seem to cancel themselves out in a curious way. Yes, there are usually thousands of divers on the island but since everyone is drift diving, there are no crowded dive sites. And besides, the emphasis on diving has created a tremendous selection of dive services. We also agreed that the little town of San Miguel could get crowded, especially when the cruise ships were in. But this was exactly why we had the best shopping and the best selection of restaurants and night spots of any dive destination in the Caribbean.

    The capper on our salute to Cozumel though was its closeness to the continental U.S. and the bargain air/land packages.

    One of the very best Cozumel dive packages is a Fiesta Inn/Dive Paradise combo available from Tropical Adventures Travel. This modern, comfortable leisure class hotel is at the top of the popular southern hotel district, a short walk or an even shorter taxi ride from town. The Fiesta Inn is a low rise, luxury beach resort. The architecture is a handsome blend of traditionally inspired red tiled roofs and Spanish arches with a modern construction. It is a beautiful horizontal panorama that blends surrounding guestrooms with a handsome centerpiece that includes the largest (some would say the most beautiful), pool in Cozumel.

    There are 128 double guestrooms, 50 king sized guestrooms and two suites; all spacious and handsomely furnished in tropical decor. Each guestroom is air-conditioned and has a private balcony. There is also satellite television and a direct dial telephone in every room. Outdoors, in addition to the oversized pool, there is a tennis court, beach and beach club with a private dock. Off the huge lobby and social area is a gift shop, boutique and entrance to a choice of lounges and restaurants. Auto rentals and tour services are also available in the lobby.

    Cafe la Fiesta serves an excellent lunch and dinner. The waterfront cafe serves Mexican fare, seafood and snacks; the Karaoke Bar and lobby bar serve a complete selection of tropical drinks. The Fiesta Inn breakfast buffet is one of the very best and most complete on the island.

    Dive Paradise is the preferred and established dive operator for the southern hotel district. They pick up and drop off Fiesta Inn guests directly at the resort dock several times daily. For shore diving, cement platforms and ladders have been installed along the shore. The dive itinerary includes a liberal selection of Cozumel hotspots such as Palancar Reef, Santa Rosa Reef, Tormentos Reef and Yucab Reef.

    For more information and details on an obviously special Fiesta Inn/Dive Paradise package, contact Tropical Adventures Travel at (800) 247-3483, (206) 441-3483; fax (206) 441-5431 or e-mail 103520.2014

    DEMA Show Welcomes Assistant Instructors and Divemasters: The DEMA Show is the place to be for dive professionals of all levels and affiliations. And, in 1998, assistant instructors and divemasters will be able to participate in the show's many educational activities and events. Previously, these dive professionals had to be sponsored by a dive store and attend the show with guest badges.

    DEMA '98 runs from January 28 to 31 in Anaheim, California. For registration information, contact Epic Enterprises/PGi at (619) 294-2999.