Introducing our new General Manager: Laura Alcala Ortega

Dive Paradise is excited to announce that, effective November 1, 2018, Laura Alcala Ortega has been appointed as our new General Manager of Dive Operations.  In this position, Laura is responsible for overseeing all Cozumel-based aspects of our legendary scuba diving business, encompassing our four locations and serviced by the largest fleet of dedicated dive boats on the island.  “Laura is a true professional who knows this business and this island better than anyone,” says Dive Paradise CEO Michael Penwarden.  “We are thrilled to have her join our team as we continue to build on Dive Paradise’s 35-year legacy.”

Most recently, Laura served as a board member and volunteer for the Humane Society Cozumel and the Red Cross Delegation Cozumel. Prior to that, she launched and operated Scuba Du and Ocean Tours with her husband for more than 25 years, and also operated a fishing business, a parasailing business, and her own inn. She has also worked as a Divemaster and Instructor for seven years at various dive operations in Cozumel, including Dive Paradise along with former Dive Paradise owner Rene “Apple” Applegate and under founder Tom Hartdegen’s management.  In addition, Laura is a founding member of the Scuba Fest Committee, a former member of the board and volunteer at Cruz Roja Delegación Cozumel, and a founding member of Anoaat.

Born and raised in Mexico City, Laura has lived in Cozumel for over 30 years. She attended the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education in Mexico and has a Master’s Diploma in Senior Business Administration. Passionate about scuba diving, she became a PADI Master Scuba Instructor in 1986.  She spends her time off diving all over the world as much as possible.

Laura has two adult daughters, 26 and 28 yrs. old, volunteers in animal rescue among at the Cozumel Humane Society, and strongly believes in social work.

Welcome aboard Laura!

Dive Paradise Sponsors Panthera Mexico’s “Jaguar Month”

Program Sponsorship Contributes to Jaguar Conservation Initiatives

This month Dive Paradise is sponsoring Panthera Mexico’s “Mes Del Jaguar” by donating a percentage of all dive bookings made during November to the program.  Through this sponsorship, we hope to augment Panthera Mexico’s established conservation initiatives to ensure long-term survival of the jaguar, which is a central figure in Mexican culture. 

“We take conservation seriously at Dive Paradise. Whether it’s protecting threatened jaguar populations in Mexico or safeguarding our marine environment, we believe it is critical for us to support organizations that are making a difference,” states Michael Penwarden, CEO of Dive Paradise, Inc. “Environmental stewardship is a shared responsibility and we are proud to commit a portion of our resources to Panthera Mexico. Further, it allows us to provide our customers with meaningful vacation experiences beyond diving by introducing them to another aspect of Mexico’s rich culture and natural habitat.”

Dive bookings can be made in advance or at all four Dive Paradise locations on island throughout November in support of Panthera Mexico’s “Mes del Jaguar.” For those who wish to make a donation directly online, the DONATE button on Dive Paradise’s website will be linked to Panthera Mexico’s donor’s page for easy transactions.

“We are grateful to Dive Paradise for their support, as a leader in both the dive industry and in regional environmental stewardship. We believe that together we can raise awareness and make Jaguar Month a powerful tradition nationwide.” said Diana Friedeberg, Mexico County Director for Panthera Mexico.

Panthera Mexico created the “Mes del Jaguar” as part of their work to protect the country’s threatened jaguar population. For the first time ever, the month of November will be dedicated to celebrating, educating and promoting Jaguar Culture in all its forms through a series of events taking place November 3-30, 2018; people can register for events also taking place in Mexico City and Cancun. All contributions to Panthera Mexico will directly support in-country jaguar conservation initiatives.

About Panthera Mexico

Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards and tigers and their vast landscapes. In 50 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats—securing their future, and ours. Panthera Mexico is an established Panthera jaguar conservation program in Mexico and serves as the fundraising arm to support in-country jaguar conservation initiatives. For more information visit:

www.mesdeljaguar.com.

Dive Paradise Takes Giant Stride with Cozumel Ocean Research

Sponsorship Initiative to Support Scientific Data Driven Projects    

Dive Paradise is excited to announce our new collaboration with the local nonprofit Cozumel Ocean Research (COR), focused on enhancing the organization’s efforts to gather valuable scientific data on Cozumel’s legendary marine environment.  Dive Paradise is dedicating the month of October to Cozumel Ocean Research, and knowledge gained via their programs will be used to design effective conservation and educational campaigns for Cozumel.

“Dive Paradise has long been a staunch supporter of efforts to better understand and safeguard the marine environment,” says Michael Penwarden, CEO of Dive Paradise, Inc.  “We are proud to dedicate resources to support COR’s admirable work.  Furthermore, we are excited that this opportunity provides our customers with a unique way to participate as volunteer citizen scientists, giving them a memorable chance to connect even more deeply with Cozumel’s underwater ecosystem.”

Throughout all four of Dive Paradise’s locations, a percentage of all diving bookings made during the month will be donated to COR; for those who wish to make a donation directly online, a donate button on our website (right column) is linked to COR’s donor’s page for seamless transactions.  In addition, COR branded merchandise such as t-shirts will be available for purchase in Dive Paradise’s retail shop for the remainder of the year.

“On behalf of Ernesto Hevia del Puerto and myself, thank you to Dive Paradise for your generosity, it means a lot to us to have this support and what we can accomplish with it is immense.” said Liang Chen, COR Co-Founder.

To further advance the synergy between Dive Paradise and Cozumel Ocean Research beyond October, boat dives will be complimentary on a space available basis for local COR volunteers, also known as “citizen scientists”, and for COR personnel who are diving to monitor turtles and eagle rays.  With a focus on enhancing their dive experience, Dive Paradise will also encourage customers to become COR volunteers and to embrace “citizen science” whereby they will learn how to monitor and submit reports about their own dives. In addition, Dive Paradise staff will have the opportunity to participate in training workshops conducted by COR regarding “best practices” for environmentally responsible diving and snorkeling.

“We are so grateful and excited! This is a big move on behalf of Dive Paradise to take action for change. This generous support will help us move towards our goal of strengthening various strategic goals: protection for spotted eagle rays, spotted eagle ray monitoring, promotion of good practices on the reef and the impact of tourism on the coral reef projects which we run in collaboration with National Government Institutions and International Marine Laboratories.” said Liang Chen, COR Co-Founder.

About Cozumel Ocean Research (COR)

Cozumel Ocean Research is a not for profit, non-governmental organization formed by local and international -volunteer- nature lovers whose place of residence is the island of Cozumel. We believe the most effective way to protect and conserve our environment is to promote knowledge and recognition of the value that it has in our lives. From this point of view, we run various scientific research projects, some of which are centered around emblematic species that inhabit or migrate to the island, others focus on pollution concerns and industry pressure to this same environment. With data collected and solid evidence, we use research results in our efforts to design effective conservation and educational campaigns for the protection of these species and their habitats, teaching awareness and by consequence, see short and long term social benefits to the present and future generations of Cozumeleños.

For more information about Cozumel Ocean Research visit www.cozumeloceanresearch.org.

Dive Paradise Cozumel Kicks Off RV Tour Across America

Family of Scuba Diving Icon Renee “Apple” Applegate to Capture her Legacy on US Tour

What would you do if you unexpectedly inherited a legendary tropical dive operation from an industry icon? For the family of Renee “Apple” Applegate, who operated Dive Paradise in the diving mecca of Cozumel, Mexico for over two decades until her passing late last year, the answer is to keep the company alive as a living tribute. In order to do so, the family is setting off on a tour of the US in order to meet the many customers, friends and partners throughout the country who knew and loved Apple. While on the road, they’ll be capturing stories about Cozumel, diving, and the company she made famous.

“When Apple passed away, it became clear to our family that the best way to honor her was to continue operating Dive Paradise as a living monument to the community of customers and employees she built over more than two decades,” said Apple’s nephew and tech entrepreneur Michael Penwarden, who serves as Dive Paradise’s new CEO. “It also became clear that we have a lot to learn about – and a lot of people to meet in – the dive industry. Hitting the road and visiting as many divers, dive shops and travel brokers as possible is a great way for our entire family to introduce ourselves and to turn this unexpected and sad situation into a positive celebration of Apple’s amazing legacy.”

The tour, which kicks off in Michael’s hometown of Truckee, CA on June 21st, will then make its way to the Scuba Show in Long Beach, California on June 22-24. The tour will feature a 32-foot RV covered by original undersea paintings by Mexican muralist Aneliz Alvarez, who also painted a mural honoring Apple at Dive Paradise’s soon-to-be-opened beach club. Accompanying Michael will be his family: his sister Caroline, his wife Jill and their daughters Sasha, age 12, Anya, age 8 and their dog Ajax. Following the Scuba Show, the tour will stop in San Diego before departing California and heading east to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and beyond.

While on tour, Apple’s family will personally meet, thank and interview her many admirers and business partners while reinforcing the message that her beliefs and values will continue as the foundation of her business, as her Cozumel scuba diving operations continue and expand upon her life’s passion to make scuba diving accessible to greater numbers of people.

At each stop, scuba divers, non-divers, underwater aficionados and media are invited to celebrate Apple’s legacy and join the family for an afternoon of fun, festivities and a barbeque. Signature sparkling Apple cider will be served, limited edition 2018 Tour t-shirts and jewelry featuring new interpretations of Dive Paradise’s famous “Apple” dive flag will available. A flat panel monitor in front of the RV will showcase video footage of the stunning undersea world of Cozumel. Guests are also encouraged to share their experience at the Dive Paradise Cozumel RV Express, by taking selfies in front of the mural and uploading them to their social media channels with the hashtag #DiveParadiseRVExpress. Anyone who posts on social media using the hashtag will be entered to win a prize at each tour stop with one lucky winner selected at the end of the tour receiving a Grand Prize trip to Cozumel.

 

Renee “Apple” Applegate ran Dive Paradise from 1994-2017. She was a PADI master scuba instructor with over 30 years of diving and training experience, and was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame in 2003. Apple began her diving in the challenging waters off the coast of California. With a background in nursing, she spent many years teaching SCUBA in the Red Sea while serving as head nurse in a Saudi Arabian hospital. She was a true pioneer – both in the male dominated sport of the 1960s and as the first female dive operation manager in Cozumel.

Take advantage of 2018 Early Bird Specials at Dive Paradise and Hotel Cozumel!

Want to book trips at a Cozumel luxury resort and the finest diving location on the island at lower prices? It’s easy: Reserve our hotel/dive packages with Hotel Cozumel – just request our Early Bird Specials by the deadlines specified and save up to 20% off of regular prices!  European and All-Inclusive packages are available to both individuals and groups all year around. View these package offerings here.

Jacques Cousteau declared Cozumel to be one of the most spectacular diving sites in the world in 1961, and people from every corner of the globe now come to experience this underwater Caribbean environment. We love to offer our guests the opportunity to discover and enjoy the wonders of this unique biosphere! The island is also the perfect setting for a relaxing tropic vacation with clean and peaceful beaches, clear waters, exotic flora and fauna, and numerous archeological vestiges of the Mayan culture.

Dive Paradise and Hotel Cozumel work closely together to provide safe, fun-filled and relaxing diving vacations with luxury amenities. A full-service Dive Paradise shop and training facility is located onsite at Hotel Cozumel with beachfront showers, rinse tanks and lockers available for gear storage. Free Dive Paradise “Introduction to SCUBA” classes are facilitated in one of the largest pools on the island, and diving trips depart directly from the hotel pier. With decades of experience, we are specialists in the art of providing your dream diving vacation and are always fine-tuning our services to create a great experience for YOU!

With Dive Paradise, safety is born of skill, local knowledge, and constant training. Our “native” divemasters, captains and crew are among the finest on the island, and your safety is our number one concern. We take your fun seriously, so you can relax and enjoy your vacation.

We are pleased to provide our 2018 discounted rates with Hotel Cozumel for both our loyal fans and new friends. Come explore the beauty of Cozumel’s reefs via underwater adventures with Dive Paradise!

Diveheart adaptive diving returns to Dive Paradise!

We’re excited to welcome Diveheart adaptive diving back to Cozumel next week!  Renee “Apple” Applegate, who ran Dive Paradise from 1994-2017, loved working with this organization, and we’re honored to continue supporting their inspiring mission to improve confidence and independence in children, adults, and veterans with disabilities through the scuba experience.

Did you know that diving offers the perfect buoyancy and balance to people who might struggle on land?  The effect of being neutrally buoyant can be so therapeutic that people often feel significant relief from chronic pain and limitations underwater.  In fact, according to founder Jim Elliot, studies at Hopkins University have shown that the body releases an extra output of serotonin below 66 feet, and they’ve seen spinal patients who report being free from pain after spending time at these depths!

Diving has been shown to help people with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, chronic pain, PTSD, autism, and numerous other disabilities.  Those with limited mobility enjoy a liberating experience of moving more easily through beautiful underwater spaces.  The potential impact of sharing scuba diving with individuals with disabilities is enormous!

The warmth of Cozumel’s waters is particularly therapeutic.  If Diveheart’s mission and work inspires you, you are invited to participate in upcoming opportunities to dive with Diveheart at Dive Paradise, and/or to join this elite group of adaptive diving instructors and buddies via Diveheart Instructor/Buddy Training Courses.  Join us for some fun and meaningful adventures with these awesome human beings!  You can learn more by clicking here.

Please help spread the word –  Diving can be life-transforming, even life-saving in
many cases, through introducing people to a new sense of purpose and ability around a fun activity immersed in the beauty of nature.  Diveheart’s instructors and buddies have undergone rigorous adaptive diving instruction in order to be able to dive with and assist individuals with disabilities.  They can work with virtually any type of disability.  Their participants include individuals who have paraplegia, quadriplegia, amputation(s), vision and/or hearing impairment, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and many other types of physical and cognitive disabilities.  Diveheart focuses on abilities, not disabilities, to provide safe and inclusive activities for adaptive divers to enjoy the wonders of the aquatic world.

American Whitespotted Filefish in Cozumel Reefs

The American Whitespotted Filefish (Cantherhines Macrocerus) is one of several varieties of this species you will see on Cozumel’s reefs. You may also find them in Florida and throughout the northwest Caribbean.

They are noticeable for their prominent snouts and bright orange color, which can darken almost instantaneously to near black or lighten and be mottled by white spots depending on their surroundings, emotional state (being threatened), or to make themselves more attractive to a potential mate. Not all girls love flashy men . And they move seemingly effortlessly through the water – usually in pairs – in large part by undulations of their dorsal and pectoral fins.

Adult Whitespotted Filefish grow up to 18-inches long and are usually found in relatively shallow areas around reefs and sponges down to about 80-feet deep. They have scales, although very small, and feel like sandpaper – not dissimilar to a shark’s skin. This roughness is how the Filefish got its name. Reportedly their dried skin was once used to finish wooden boats. It isn’t known how long these fish live in the wild.

Every Filefish has a sharp spine on its head just above its eyes. It erects the spine when threatened as a defensive move. Its primary defense is to erect its dorsal and pectoral fins plus the spine to make it difficult for a predator to eat or to extract from its hiding place if back in a little cave. Juveniles are at risk of being eaten by tuna and dolphinfish. Adults may fall prey to larger fish, lizardfish, and seabirds. Plus they are popular as food or snacks for native Koreans and Chinese.

The Adult Whitespotted Filefish dines primarily on sponges, gorgonians, and algae but will also chow down on hydroids and stinging corals. It is difficult to differentiate between males and females. The male fish are said to have slightly larger appendages extending from their bodies at the base of their tails.

Filefish spawn on the sandy bottom at sites prepared and guarded by males. They breed in groups with one male mating with up to 5 females. Think “Sister Wives fish style. Females deposit their eggs in recessions where they are fertilized by the male. Both parents will guard their nests until the eggs hatch at which time the female takes over caring for her family. And when hatched, the juveniles are pelagic, meaning that they swim freely in open water.

The Great Barracuda swim with divers in Cozumel

If you’ve been diving in Cozumel, chances are good you’ve come across the Great Barracuda (sphraena barracuda). They are large fish – up to to 6-feet long and weighing up to 100 pounds, although it is more common for them to max out at half that weight. You can find them in tropical waters around the world (except in the eastern Pacific) at normal depths of 0 to 60-feet. The sphraena barracuda is one of about 20 barracuda species overall.

Although seen here in a small group, the Great Barracuda is normally a solitary animal except during mating season. Males mature sexually at the age of 3, and females are able to reproduce when they reach 4 years old. They are thought to breed April to September in warm, shallow waters. Sphraena barraducas are pelagic spawners, gathering in an area to release eggs and sperm, which are carried away by currents. Each female produces 5,000 to 30,000 eggs. The older the female, the more eggs she produces.

Upon hatching, juveniles traditionally live in sea grasses and mangroves where they are able to hide from predators until the age of two when they migrate to live among coral reefs. They are recognizable as barracudas at about 1/2-inch long and leave their safe haven when they grow to about 2-inches long. Their lifespan is approximately 14 years.

The Great Barracuda has a large mouth with a lot (to use a scientific term) of long, sharp teeth. Their underbite exposes the teeth on their lower jaw and gives them a perpetual evil smile. They are opportunistic predators who will hunt when hungry but won’t ignore an easy meal if suitable prey wanders into their territory. Sphraenas have excellent vision, lying in wait and striking quickly with short bursts of speed up to 27 mph. Any fish makes suitable dining. And this fish is near the top of the food chain with few predators large or fast enough to feed on an adult.

Because they are sight-oriented hunters, Great Barracudas have been known to accidentally attack humans. It is thought bright, metallic objects like jewelry look to them a lot like shiny fish scales, so it’s NOT a good idea to flash items like these trying to get their attention. Know though that barracudas are generally very inquisitive, so it’s not unusual to have one or two following you as your dive.

Spotted Drums / Ribbonfish make great photo subjects for divers

Our divemasters love to find and show off these beautiful Spotted Drums (Equetus Punctatus), which may also correctly be called Spotted Ribbonfish, Highhats, and a few other less common names. They are lovely to watch and make great photo subjects if you’re patient, because they swim in repetitive patterns and therefore are predictable. Their name “drum” comes from the drumming or croaking sounds the males make by beating their abdominal muscles against their swim bladders.

Spotted Drums are most commonly found in protected reef areas under ledges and in the mouths of small caves at depths from about 10-feet to 100-feet. This species is widespread throughout the warmer, tropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean from south Florida to Brazil, in the Gulf of Mexico, around the Bahamas, in Bermuda, and of course in the Caribbean.

Spotted Drums are normally secretive, solitary creatures who leave their protective environments to feed nocturnally on crabs, shrimps, and marine worms. Juveniles are known for their extremely long, slender dorsal fins, which become shorter as the fish matures. As they age, their bodies also thicken and they develop spots on their second dorsal fins and tails. Spotted Drums grow up to 9-1/2 inches long and are believed to live up to 5 years. They are preyed upon by larger carnivorous fish and prized and captured by sellers of saltwater aquarium fish.

Little is known about the reproductive cycles of Spotted Drums. But based on other members of their Sciaenidae family, the males make their drumming noises to attract females and release their sperm when the females release their eggs.