In early December of 2014 Warren and I had the opportunity to join our good friends and their family in Playa del Carmen Mexico for a 2 week trip. We absolutely adore Mexico and were thrilled to be able to go spend some time with Nate, Leta, and their two little boys. It didn’t hurt that we also had the opportunity to do some diving! I really needed a chance to get back underwater before our big Fiji trip for Ocean Sports in March and Warren was super excited that his best friend Nate was planning on becoming a certified diver.
Leta’s parents have a timeshare in the Royal Haciendas resort near Playa Del Carmen in the Mexican Riviera. Both Leta’s sisters also joined along with many family friends. So basically, we crashed the Fuhrman family holiday. We were so pleased at being invited and really enjoyed our time with them. Sharing an adjoining room with two kids under 5 was certainly eye-opening (and noisy!) but also a TON of fun! We don’t get to see those boys as often as we’d like, and boy do they grow up fast! Spending 2 weeks together was super fun and has also brought us all closer, I think. I sure enjoyed all the girl talk in the patio hot tub after the little ones were asleep, and the rowdy nights playing cards! I hope I’m lucky enough someday to have kids that will sleep through just about anything (*fingers crossed*).
Unlike nearly all my other trips to date, this one was primarily land-based with just a touch of diving tossed into the mix. We strolled the ultra-touristy cinco avenida in town, had some fabulous authentic meals at local taqueria joints, explored the ruins at the ancient Mayan city of Ek Balam, learned how tequila is made at a distillery, swam in an underground Cenote, walked the old streets in the colonial city of Valladolid, and spent hours relaxing at the swim-up bar or splashing around in the pool with the kids. While we certainly missed being underwater, and struggled a bit to adapt to such a wildly different type of vacation than we are used to, it was also really nice just to focus on relaxing and not worry about getting up early to catch the morning dive boat, or making sure not have too many drinks in the evening because hangovers and diving don’t mix. While I adore diving, it certainly does keep you on a fairly strict schedule. How else could you fit in 3 to 5 dives a day, every day, for several weeks at a time?
During this trip we did only 6 dives. 4 of them were for Nate’s PADI Open Water course, and 2 of them once he was certified. Warren and Nate worked on the knowledge component while the kids had their afternoon naps and then we arranged for him to complete the pool dives and open water dives with Cenote Xperience. Warren and I had the opportunity to dive with Nico Casella during our time in Playa Del Carmen several years ago when we did cenote diving (read about that experience in this post). We had an awesome experience with him and were very impressed with his dedication to safety. Nico was all booked up this time but we did get the chance to meet and dive with his brother Martin, who is also a cave instructor.
Nate’s first 2 dives were in a beautiful open cenote called Casa Cenote (previously known as a Cenote Manatee), surrounded by mangroves. It was stunning and completely unlike any previous cenote diving Warren and I had done. The site was perfectly suited for training dives and also interesting enough for Warren and I to enjoy easy dives amongst the mangrove roots and rock formations while Nate and Martin worked on his skills. On the second dive I spent a good chunk of time floating along slowly at the surface just marveling at the scenery. It was so beautiful and a very unique experience compared to the ocean diving we’re used to.
Our next dive day was Nate’s first experience in the open ocean, and his last 2 training dives before being officially certified. Martin arranged a private boat for us; what a treat! Warren and I had planned on doing our own dive so as not to distract Nate during his training. It ended up being much shorter than we anticipated though…shortly after reaching the reef Warren discovered that the first stage of his regulator was leaking, enough that it wasn’t safe to continue the dive. He signaled to me that he had a problem and would need to ascend to the surface. I swam over and stayed within arms reach with my alternate air source ready for him should he need it as we ascended together. He laughed at me for this later, as he wasn’t losing air fast enough to need my alternate. What can I say…I’ve been well trained! We were able to fix his regulator during our surface interval with a quick trip back to the beach for tools and headed out again for our second dive. While the reefs near Playa Del Carmen are fairly bare and unimpressive, there was a great variety of fish around and we were excited that Nate even got to see an octopus, a few eels, and a field of splendid garden eels!
It truly was a pleasure for me to watch a friend discover for himself the wonder and magic of the underwater world. It felt like sharing something secret, something only a handful of the world’s population knows about, and watching the excitement in his eyes as he took it all in for the first time was a real treat. Diving is such a huge part of our lives and its one of those things that only other divers can related to. Non divers “just don’t get it” and sometimes its hard not to be able to share that with my closest family and friends. So, it was super exciting for us to share our love of the sea and passion for diving with such a good friend, and especially so when he loved it too! We are very much looking forward to our next opportunity to take Nate diving, whenever that might be. I’m not giving up all hope just yet that his wife Leta might give it a go eventually too!
On one of our last days together in Mexico we were lucky enough to have Leta’s parents babysit the boys so the four of us could take the ferry across to our beloved Cozumel and expose Nate to some really beautiful sites. Again, we had a boat to ourselves for the afternoon and did 2 dives in one of our all-time favorite places. Lucky new diver Nate got to see a splendid toad fish, endemic only to Cozumel, a turtle, green moray eel out swimming around (for most of the dive at that!), tons of species of beautiful reef fish, enormous lobsters, and a couple of sting rays. Awesome! Leta even thinks she might have seen a nurse shark while snorkeling above us! It definitely felt a bit strange to be visiting Cozumel without staying at the Blue Angel and very annoying to have to carry all our gear around town all day but it was still worth it. We had lunch at Casa Denis and dinner at Sorrisi (a do-not-miss Italian restaurant) before taking the last ferry back.
All in all it was a wonderfully relaxing holiday full of fun memories with some of our favorite people. We hope to be able to do it again in the future!