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ISSUE 19 ARCHIVE - MEXICO DOS AND DON'TS

Traveller

DO

Think closely about your buoyancy after a full Mexican breakfast. If you go for the traditional Huevos Rancheros, and get extras you may find you need more weight for your morning's dives. The combination of refried beans and tortilla first thing will come back to haunt you at 40 metres a few hours later. Yes the most gas inducing brekker is served up here. On my last dive after double frijoles, I suddenly felt like I was about to erupt out of the water like a North Korean missile test. So unless spending seven hours in a Mexican chamber is on your holiday ‘to do' list, try adding an extra kilo to your weight belt for every 200 grams of FMB consumed before a dive. And no naked flame when removing your dry suit.

DO

Choose your flight out here wisely. Yes you can fly direct to Cancun but these are all charters and filled with lairy stag parties and the ensuing madness. Most flights to the dive spots have to hub through the USA. You can choose LA for Baja; Dallas or Fort Worth for East Coast, but my favourite is still Houston. It has the only revolving restaurant still left from the 70's. There was a time when no self-respecting city didn't have one of these. But thanks to Health and Safety, as well as dizziness, they are now endangered. So... divers hub over-night in the Oil City and you can still experience going to the loo then “Find your Table” as everyone slowly chugs by you at 10 RPM.

DO

Go to Baja at seal pup time. Like a Mexican Farne Island, these wet puppies are playful but the water is warm. So no worries about sharpened teeth cutting your dry suit. They just cut your skin instead, which is a lot cheaper to repair.

DO

Learn to be polite to the Americans. There's a hell of a lot of them here. Learn enthusiasm, a lack of irony and a loud laugh. If not you will be seen as a curmudgeon and a cynic. And unless you are Stephen Fry who can pull it off, you will be ostracised by your fellow divers with comments like “If it weren't for us you'd be speaking German”. This is what we say to the French. What goes around comes around my friend.

DO

Get your BSAC dive cert translated into Spanish. They have no idea what a BSAC is and if it has anything to do with diving. You might as well show them a Tesco Club Card. If there is ever any confusion, 50 bucks gets you out of it with the words “PADI Inglese”.

DO

Know your alcohol. It's cheap and very plentiful. If you want a reg full of FMB then down a bucket of Dos Equis the night before. If you like a sore head and a prayer that the boat would stop bumping, then a yard of Marguerita is for you. But for fish in Technicolor and narcosis at 5 metres then a bottle of Mescal with the worm afters should be your choice. Ay Caramba!

DON’T

Expect to change your British pounds out here. They have no idea who Her Maj is and Mervyn King was, and see a twenty quid note in the same light as a Guatemalan Quetzale or a Vietnamese Xu. It's our own fault really. We have never invaded Mexico in our Empire's history. Blame Disraeli not Blair for this. Take Dollars - or drugs... it's becoming their new national currency.

DON’T

Ever chase a Manta here. They tend to circle round their turf in a laconic way, making sure there are no intruders and take a while to do it. Last one I saw, my buddy buggered off in a flash and ran out of air exhausted in the rotary chase. I just sat in the middle and watched it go by every few minutes like a cycle coach at the velodrome. Much easier and all that spare air helped the buddy do a safety stop.

DON’T

Stop at any old cenote for a dive. On the Yucatan every local farmer or peasant with a hole in the ground tends to paint a wooden sign saying “Cenote Dive- Here-Now”. Some may be the entry for a clear water, safe incredible dive. Some may be their local sewage pit. You will be the sucker for not finding out first. I prefer to take my own ROV and send it down first to check what's down there. That or hire a genuine cave diver fallen upon hard times to do the recce. If all looks good go ahead, check the gear on hire too. One local offered a balloon and a piece of hosing as all I would need for a 50 metre penetration. He

had plenty of tacos for the weight belt though. More edible than lead when you pop your head up in that cavey air space.

DON’T

Ever flinch at gunfire. It makes you look like a tourist. You are now in the kidnapping and murdering capital of the world, though the Honduras is coming up quick, so act cool.

DON’T

Stay in Cancun. This country has given us the Spanish Cortez invasion, Aztecs, Mayans, two World Cup finals, sweet corn and did the Americans at Alamo. Then they go build Cancun. Blackpool meets Fuerteventura. For God's sake, what's the point of creating a resort for Florida fatties and rampant teenagers to go to in the most historic part of the country? 40 miles away lies one of the most significant areas of Mesoamerican culture. No-one from Cancun ever goes there. They're too pissed up on fish bowl cocktails to make the bus in the morning.

DON’T

Eat warm ceviche. Take a fresh old fishy. Or conch. Cut it like they do garlic in the prison in Goodfellas. Chuck in some lime and onion to marinade. Refrigerate. Eat. Do not lay it in bowl at the front of your restaurant on display for a few days at local temperatures. The result is similar to gastric Ebola. Ouch. And you will have to burn your wetsuit after each dive.

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