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Rope Snorkeling to deal with strong currents


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#1 TexasGuyLivingInNYC

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 07:26 PM

I was in Cozumel in Jan 2011 while staying Playa for only a day but am returning in May for 4 full days. when I was there, my girlfriend is very weak swimmer so she was not able to enjoy the snorkeling where we went due to the strong current. She had an inflatable vest on so would not sink but we were still worried about being dragged out to sea too far. I am a decent swimmer but not confident I would have been able to save her and myself and did not want it to turn into a big rescue type thing. We are staying at the Coral Princess which i hear has great snorkeling but a strong current. The other hotels further North with milder currents seem to all be "all inclusive" and too far from town for our liking. We prefer eating at local spots, not hotels. In this other area we tried to snorkel at I noticed a huge piece of concrete with a an iron U sticking out under water that, if we had a nice long rope, we could have tied one end to it and the other to us and we could have snorkeled without fear of being pushed out too far to sea without a way to get back. I thought this was a great idea! but it does not seem that anyone else has done this. Any thoughts on whether this would be a bad idea. and why? or anyone try it? I was planning to buy a good length rope from walmart or a hardware store, a type of harness and carabiner and take it and use it there and then leave it behind with someone for someone else to enjoy? or does anyone know of a place that would rent this type of contraption. We really want to take advantage of being able to snorkel on our own terms without having to meet up with an organized group. OR if anyone is around May 21st - 25th 2011, look me up. I will be at the Coral Princess Hotel 52-987-872 3200, room will be under name Lopez, Anthony and I will be at In Fashion in Playa 52-984-879-4740 from the 18th - 21st. I will be looking for the gear needed in Playa for a few days.
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#2 Charles

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 11:55 PM

I have never personally experienced being pulled out to sea, but there is a good current running along. Me, I just think of it like a river flowing, I go along with the current, swim ashore and walk back on the beach, repeat. A lot of people like the area along the "wall" of the shoreline in the northern hotel zone. Not much corals, but lots of sea creatures from the iron shore rock. I know some people will walk first, going upstream on land and then float back to where they started. Others will go along with the current and get out where convenient and walk back. I haven't seen comments of people having to fight to stay close to shore. A lot of people do get in or get out at different locations and regard the current as a positive. You don't want to try to fight the current for sure. Using a rope strikes me as being unnecessary as you should not try to stay in the same place, work with the current. I'd worry about the rope becoming entangled in something and being a burden. Perhaps someone with more experience would have some suggestions. Personally I float like a cork and those life vests really bother me. I feel I have less control while wearing them in the current. The only time I have experienced fear in the water was on one of those cattle boat snorkeling trips. The required use of the life vest scared me as I had no hopes of going underneath to get out of a tangle of people. Maybe she would feel more comfortable with a little board or float device to hold on to with your hands.

Punte Sur is one place to snorkel with the reef a good distance off shore. They have kayaks that for tips will move weak, lazy or tired swimmers the extra distance to and from the reef area. Even macho swimmers will take advantage of kayak service as it is a good distance to swim.
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#3 CZMDM

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 06:51 AM

" if we had a nice long rope, we could have tied one end to it and the other to us and we could have snorkeled without fear of being pushed out too far to sea without a way to get back. I thought this was a great idea! but it does not seem that anyone else has done this. Any thoughts on whether this would be a bad idea. and why?;

Texas guy, I believe what you are saying, but in my experience the water right in front of the Coral Princess has never been even to close to as strong as you report. The current at the Coral Princess should be no stronger than the other hotels in that area. However I am talking about snorkeling.next to the sea wall. You should NEVER swim off-shore without a support boat. The rope idea is bad for two reasons: 1) If the current is really strong and the snorkeler was tied off to it, such as you describe, the current will force the snorkeler underwater and since they are tied to the line they might not be able to return to the surface without some kind of quick-release and that person would have to respond very quickly. 2) To leave the rope there would be a navigational hazard. Boats props could become fouled or worse yet another snorkeler could be fouled in it and pulled down. Besides it is illegal to leave anything like that in the water without permission from the Capt. of the Port.

The sea wall as Charles pointed out is fun to drift along as the current is weak and there are many animals, but no corals. The snorkeling at the marina Caleta is very good. Just pull into the marina, take a right and follow the road until you see the beach. Once again....stay close to shore. There is some snorkeling along the West coast, but frankly the corals have not recovered much from the hurricanes of '05 and there is really not much to see any longer. Hardly any corals, but still a lot of fishes swimming around the iron stone.

I always end up repeating this, but for the best island snorkeling option, IMHO, go to the Palancar Beach club and take the boat to the Columbia Shallows. The trips leave frequently, need no reservations, cost around $30-35USD PP and the Captain Felipe is one of the best on the island.
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#4 Coz2wonder

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 08:29 AM

you can rent a snorkel guide at the CP, or any of the other beach clubs that offer snorkel tours.

As has been suggested, wear your vest, and purchase a short board (available at the super markets here) for added confidence.

We have stayed many years at the CP. The key is to stay close to shore (lots to see) snorkel against the current first, then drift back to the steps to get out.
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#5 CZMDM

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 10:47 AM

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#6 TexasGuyLivingInNYC

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 02:46 AM

thanks for the guidance everybody. I am abandoning the rope snorkeling idea. I am going to either buy an inflatable raft there we could deflate and take home or board or something that she can hold onto.
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#7 mslf500

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Posted 12 March 2011 - 07:40 AM

Rent an inflatable snorkel vest from one of the dive shops on Melgar (Aqua Safari, Dive Paradise) That's all you need. (You can also buy them on line at most dive shops.) All the fishies and things to see are with in 50' of the reef wall. I stay north of CP so I snorkel and dive against the current and then let the current bring me back to the condo. I've gone beyond CP which for me is about 1/3 of a mile.

Between CP and Fontan you will see hundreds of fish pretty much all of the time.

If your friend gets tired, just get out at any of the many condos to the south and walk through to the street. No one will bother you. There is a new pedestrian/bike path connecting all of these areas so you don't need to walk in the street.
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#8 CZMDM

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Posted 12 March 2011 - 10:39 AM

If you are going to snorkel off-shore near the reef wall you need a dive buoy with a flag. Near the seawall not a problem. Diving or snorkeling without a boat off-shore.....1) Technically you are required to have buoy/flag. Check your PADI Open Water manual. If you were in USA waters and were diving/snorkeling off-shore without one you would be ordered out of the water and probably cited for not having one. And even more technically....say you were diving in Florida from a boat: Even if the boat is at anchor or drift diving, the boat itself must have a dive flag or the diver must tow one above him/her 2)It is dangerous without one as a snorkeler presents a very low profile, even with a vest and can be very difficult to see. Also the boat captains are not looking for anyone to be that far off shore.
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#9 nauticab

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Posted 12 March 2011 - 11:55 AM

i would steer away from an inflatable raft. those are for pools. in mega and chedraui there are pool sausages (cost like $2-3usd) and small swim boards. while they are not life preservers and should not be used as such, the pool sausages helped my then 3 yr old kid swim with no issues. plus the ends stick up and they are bright colors so you can be seen by others. she can kick and relax her arms on the sausage and enjoy the view.

as mentioned before, use fins (they really help propel you and steer when in currents), go in and swim against the current. ask a local which way the current is going. float back, and come back to shore. don't make it more difficult than it needs to be.

enjoy!
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#10 TC

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Posted 01 April 2011 - 09:55 AM

Hi TexasGuy, We live at the Coral Princess for 4 weeks every February. I am not a strong swimmer, but snorkeling there is a breeze. I'm not sure where the idea started that the current is strong enough to "pull you out to sea" near the CP. It simply is not true. There can be a mild current along there on some days -- other days, its like a swimming pool with no current at all. If you snorkel near the ladder and steps, you will see lots of fish and go nowhere. The closer to the wall that you stay, the less current you will deal with. If you swim/float out toward sea a bit further, the current can carry you North (on rare occasions it will switch and go South). However, its just a gentle float along. Nothing nearly like tubing a river in the U.S. It really isn't that the current will "pull" you out to sea; it is that novice snorkelers stay in too long, don't realize how far they have drifted and then get too cold and tired to swim back to their starting point. However, the best tips for snorkeling in the CP current are:

1. You MUST have fins! Those who have trouble getting back to their starting place, swimming against the current, are those who do not have fins. Its nearly impossible to hold your own in any sea water without fins. Even to stay in one place. You can rent anything you need to snorkel from Frank at Pepe's Dive Shop right at the CP.

2. If you drift North on the current and get too tired to kick back with your fins, just get out at the next house or hotel, on their ladder, and walk across the beach back to the CP. Its not a big deal. DO NOT hang on to the coral wall or try climbing out over the wall! There are sea urchins and fire coral on that wall that will make the rest of your holiday a misery. Not to mention the damage done to the fragile coral and sponges that are trying to make a comeback after Hurricane Wilma.

3. A good flotation device for intrepid swimmers is a water skiers belt. It is much easier to use and to maneuver than the life vests, yet gives you plenty of security. I used one for years. I now use a wet suit. It not only keeps me warm, it is like full body flotation device. I love it.

Have fun and enjoy your holiday.
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#11 tyson

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 09:28 AM

I did the Palancar trip and it was well worth it. I wished I had done it on vacations before the hurricane because it was amazing now in 2011. I never saw sea turtles or rays until this trip and saw 3 turtles and a ray. Tip the boat crew, they deserve it!

Punta Sir was also good, but its a long swim out. Im a very strong swimmer but my fiance is not and she had to turn back after about 100 meters even with fins and vest (yellow flag current). I went alone and was thankful for the 2nd platform to rest for a moment. Once to the reef the current takes you north right along it. be careful as its very shallow in some spots and I had to only swim with my arms on occasion because using legs would have kicked coral. I enjoyed this quite a bit. Getting back took some effort but wasn't terrible, id swim to stay in place and let the bigger waves push me in. I wouldn't reccomend snorkeling here (at yellow flag) if you are out of shape or a weak swimmer. make sure to wear flotation because if you have problems that far out you wont be seen or heard from shore.
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#12 cozdude

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 08:48 AM

Could not agree more with this from CZMDM:

"I always end up repeating this, but for the best island snorkeling option, IMHO, go to the Palancar Beach club and take the boat to the Columbia Shallows. The trips leave frequently, need no reservations, cost around $30-35USD PP and the Captain Felipe is one of the best on the island."

I have been snorkeling and diving off Felipe's boat (El Nazareno) for about 7 years now. The snorkeling experience there is one of the best anywhere. The Columbia Shallows and Palancar Gardens provide all kinds of opportunities to see beautiful reefs and corals, sharks, sea turtles, and every carribean fish you can think of. And the guys on the beach who serve as guides are top notch. They change from time to time, but Pedro, Luis, Pablo and Cello have all been there for at least the last three years, and I suspect still are (I'll know for sure when I go back next month). Quality guys. Don't forget to tip them (and Felipe) if you have a good experience (which I guarantee you will).
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