Veracruz, Mexico – August 2000
It seems that July is the warmest month here in Veracruz. This is the first year in many that I have not taken a vacation outside of Mexico during July (now I know why I usually do).
The mango harvest and season is pretty much over. The Santa Ana Fiesta wrapped up last weekend in the streets of Boca Del Rio (named for the Saint and not the Mexican general). The record for the largest stuffed fish barbecue was broken again for the 9th consecutive year (yawn…where is the competition, c’mon you Aussies!). The barbecue was 175 meters long and 5,500 people helped devour the stuffed fish. You can’t find a bottle of Pepto Bismol anywhere now (just kidding). This record breaking by cooking deal is still quite popular here and the city of Veracruz has the record for the largest fish soup (they stirred it with something resembling a large boat oar). Onto the more interesting stuff…
I received a question from a fellow Canuck (a Maritimer, but we won’t hold that against him) regarding sport diving in Veracruz and when I investigated the dive scene here in Veracruz (more in depth…pun intended) I was surprised at how it has grown in the last few years. Both the Tridente Dive Shop and Dorado Divers offer reasonable prices on ½ day dive trips and have trips everyday from the port of Veracruz and from nearby Anton Lizardo. Anton Lizardo is a small fishing town located south of Boca Del Rio/Veracruz and is home to one of the cadet training schools of the Mexican Navy. You can arrange tours of the installation which is interesting from a historic perspective. You can also tour the beach front bars which are more interesting from a thirst perspective.
There are 22 coral reefs and small islands within reach of both locations. You can see a wide variety of fish and other creatures (including those which go bump in the night during the night dives). The area is recognized as a marine refuge and is protected by order of the President of Mexico as a National Marine Park. Wreck diving is somewhat limited, but that shouldn’t put you off a visit. Sport dive depths are to around 34 meters.
You might want to visit the Acquario (Veracruz’s aquarium installation in the shopping mall “Plaza Acquario”), about a ½ kilometer south from the dive shops and hotels. The Acquario is worth a visit and you can get on a first name basis with what you will be seeing in the open ocean during your dive. The pictures which accompany this article were taken at the Acquario by Joachin Obieta.
The waters off the coast of Veracruz are much cleaner and “alive” than the waters which make up the beaches in Veracruz/Boca Del Rio. If you find the beaches of Veracruz/Boca Del Rio not to your liking, try an excursion outside the reefs to the dive sites and you’ll be surprised with the difference.
Sport Diving can offer another alternative if you are here on vacation and you are tired of the archeology and museums or even those beach front bars. In fact, you can also do some white water rafting in the Xalapa (Jalapa) area, so the adventure sports thing is available here. I’ll be forwarding some river rafting information in a future article and there has been some activity in ultra light aircraft sports.
During last year’s Veracruz Carnival and during the Easter vacation (Semana Santa), a local individual was demonstrating ultra light aircraft. When I spoke with him he mentioned his intentions of starting a full service ultra light aircraft school, sales, service installation a few minutes (as the ultra light flies and not the crow) south of Boca Del Rio. I’ll be checking with him soon, as he has been flying most weekends with an ultra light plane equipped with floats for the ocean. Interesting stuff, barnstorming Veracruz style!
There are about 14 dive spots: with half within range of the port (by dive boat) and the other half within range of Anton Lizardo (by dive boat). The staff in both shops are very friendly, courteous, and attentive. Trust me on the rating of the staff as I am quite “picky” (more like retentive) about that sort of thing. Remember that you must be a certified diver in possession of an up-to-date certification card from a recognized diving organization (like PADI for example). Both shops cater to the individual or group diver and prices are very reasonable. Departures from Anton Lizardo are about 30% more expensive, but I’ve been told it’s worth it as the dive sites are relatively “virgin” and offer good photo possibilities.
For non-certified divers, snorkeling is available and it also offers some fun and you can always pick up one of the disposable underwater cameras at most of the photo shops here in Veracruz. I have seen some of the guys I surf with here using them and the case is secure to a depth of around 10 feet or so and the results are good.
Both shops also cater to non-certified divers with “discovery” courses. These courses offer a safe peek into the sport of scuba diving with one day classroom and controlled environment dives (not a bad idea for friends or family members who have yet to try it).
Both dive shops are fully equipped to handle all equipment needs and offer sales, service, and rentals. Both Tridente and Dorado Divers offer Technical Dives, Nitrox tanks and Rebreather gear (a little more expensive). I believe Tridente was the first dive shop (commercial and recreational) here in Veracruz and I can remember visiting the store in March of 1978 after reading a small article about the shop in Skin Diver magazine.
The shops are located on the same stretch of road, Blvd. Avila Camacho, one of the main streets of Veracruz/Boca Del Rio, with Tridente in front of the Yacht Club in the harbour, and Dorado Diver’s about 300 meters to the south and a couple of good hotels in between. Dive boats depart from the harbour directly in front of each shop and trips to Anton Lizardo (about 20mins. south) are by truck and then onto the dive boat on the beach at Anton Lizardo. Diving seems to really be taking off here and Dorado Divers has a two week wait (as of July 2000) for reservations (which are a good idea) and both can accommodate most reasonable “special” requests when made in advance.
There are two new hotels (about a year old each) within 100 meters of either shop. Both hotels offer rooms with a view of the port (yes, book these ones well in advance) with reasonable rates and all the creature comforts like AC, cable, etc… I have checked out both hotels, the NovoMar and the Candilejas. The Candilejas is smaller and appears more traditional. Choice is up to you. The NovoMar has bars and a coffee shop too. Reservations are a must for both!
If you have been diving in Veracruz, please email me with some details on how your dive was (good or bad) and send along any pictures if you can (please and thank you). Here are the details on the shops and hotels:
Blvd. Avila Camacho #165-A C.P. 91700
Veracruz, Ver. Mexico
Tel. & Fax (01-29) 31-79-24
Blvd. Avila Camacho 865
Veracruz, Ver. Mexico
Tel/Fax (2) 931-4305, 932-3994
Juan Barragan #35 Esq. Blvd. Avila Camacho
Veracruz, Ver. Mexico
Tel. (01-2) 932-5882 932-5885 Fax. (01-2) 932-5872
The Mexican port city of Veracruz lies at 19’12″N and 96’08″W (latitude and longitude for those retentive types who really want to know where in the world they are). It is smack dab in the heart of the Gulf of Mexico, and tropical in climate and attitude.
Life here is a real mixture….old and new, humble and “in your face”, laid back and “full on party time”. Take what you want and don’t pass judgement on the unknown or untried.
Veracruz operates on Central Time (a bit of an oxymoron as only the buses and planes really operate on time).
What am I talking about? Well, for starters, the siesta is still held in high regard here (and you may bow at its altar in a fetal position everyday after lunch).
Most small businesses and municipal offices will be closed between 2 and 5pm (or so) and sometimes a bank will run out of money and ask for depositors to come forward so you can make a withdrawal (don’t roll your eyes, it happens especially around the 15th and 30th of the month as this is the traditional pay day).
The prices will change in some stores when the owner hears your “Gringo Spanish” (this can actually lead to the honorable practice of haggling over the price and don’t knock it till you’ve tried it and don’t be afraid to give it a go).
The taxi driver will try to overcharge you when he sees your Birkenstocks. The local transit police will try to shake you down for the “mordida” the infamous bribe that fixes things.
DO NOT EVER CONFUSE THE LOCAL TRANSIT POLICE OR AUXILLIARY POLICE WITH THE MEXICAN HIGHWAY PATROL “FEDERALES” AS THIS IS A SERIOUS BREACH OF COOL AND CAN HAVE CONSEQUENCES YOU WILL TELL YOUR GRANDCHILDREN ABOUT.
By the way, I am an ex â€“ patriot Canadian (northern Ontario, Toronto, Ottawa) who is married to a local lady named Alma (who is a mighty fine dentist and orthodontist thanks for asking).
I’ve been living and working here full-time for more than 5 years now. I first “experienced” Veracruz in 1978. (Time flies when you’re chasing lizards).
I am not an expert on Mexico or travel in general but I am an avid practitioner of common sense, and hope I can help you enjoy Veracruz from my humble and extremely subjective point of view (that should take care of the critics and if not I have a Black Belt in the art of “Siesta”).