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The soft speaking French-accented fellow in a red woolen sailing night-watch hat, which will soon become an international trademark for undersea adventure, arrives once again on his boat, The Calypso, a floating laboratory complete with underwater television gear.  His goal is to learn island survival and film a series of documentaries that bring the exciting world beneath the sea to viewers who may never have a chance to experience such wonders.

He is assisted by the first dive master on the Mexican-Caribbean isle of Cozumel.  Together they explore the sunken cargo ship wrecks caused by pirates who ambushed the Spanish galleons in the 17th and 18th centuries; the island was a favorite buccaneer hideout.

Sporting the aqualung, which was co-invented by this French oceanographer, the two men swim through majestic chambers of limestone formation and stalactite gardens. Unlike the impossibility of movement on land under the burdensome weight of their diving equipment, they are free as angels floating in the liquid world to marvel at the colorful corals that are home to hundreds of species in the underwater animal kingdom.  A friendship develops as Ramon and the island extends a permanent impression and memories on the visitor and the visitor offers high tech equipment to the dive master.

Ramon of RZ Explorers
customizes your Cozumel
diving adventure.

The oceanographer and conservationist is none other than Jacques Cousteau, and his assistant is Cozumel ’s pioneer and first dive shop owner, Ramon Zapata, Sr.  In the 1960s these scuba video raconteurs televise their discoveries, later seen on The Discovery Channel and National Geographic, drawing a worldwide following of divers who still flock to Cozumel for the 200-plus feet visibility, ranking the island as one of the top five diving spots on the planet.

Over fifty years later, Ramon Zapata, Jr. still carries on his father’s name and legendary lifework.  Quality, not quantity, is the focus of RZ Explorers, which is the title of the Zapata family's dive operation. While many dive shop operators depart the dock at the same time daily and go to the same open areas with as many as 25 divers per dive master, RZ limits its guests to a maximum of eight per dive master as his father did.

Currently, RZ operates two boats — one with an eight-person capacity and the other supports 15.  A third boat which holds up to 12 people, launches in the near future.  Guests decide where the boats go and how long they stay, providing for complete flexibility and customized water experiences.

RZ Explorers & Watersports
customizes dives to remote sites.

RZ Explorers takes you to off-the-beaten sites and gives the divers historical experience that most commercial operations don’t provide — that is because they were here first.  Of course, guests can decide what areas of the world’s second largest barrier reef they want to explore, but who can resist visiting locations such as “La Quebrada”, the cavern that Ramon’s father discovered, which is highlighted at Chakanaab National Park’ s museum where the RZ Explorers dive shop is also located?

Ramon and his dive masters can take you back to 1977 where a 40-passenger Convair airplane was blown up and sunken for the movie, “Survive 11”.  Another dive that you don’t want to miss is the wreck of the C-53 Felipe Xicotencatl, a mine-sweeper that sank in the year 2000.  The ship was donated to the Mexican government in 1962 and was used as a gun boat scouring the coast for illegal drugs and arms, a troop transport, and finally, as a training vessel for Naval academy cadets.  The ghostly 184-foot long, 33-foot at the beam ship retired after 55 years of duty and now rests at 80 feet below the surface.  RZ transforms these heaps of metal encrusted with marine life back to the life with historical tales, enhancing your diving experience.

Life abounds on
Cozumel's reefs.

No dive trip is complete without “flying” with the swift current along the sides of the Santa Rosa Wall.  This colorful, eye-popping reef system is so large that it requires multiple dives to see its entirety.  You’ll be accompanied by in-your-face groupers as you swim through the very lengthy tunnels and then suddenly find yourself looking down a bottomless abyss that drops 2000 feet.  Oh, and be ready for giant eight foot long green moray eels that are begging for you to give them snacks.

Back on dry land or in between dives, RZ refreshes divers with tropical treats, including mangoes, oranges, bananas, and fresh-baked pan dulce, which is also served at the Coffee Press, the family’s very own coffee shop.  Ramon’s wife and nephew run this business which is a favorite hangout for locals and tourists.  The fruit, pastries, and juices are treats that past islander residents devised during their rests on the boats; healthful treats that energize you and not zap your vim and vigor.  Informal entertainment and informing education are traditions provided by Ramon, culled from the wisdom of the isle's founding fathers.

Get RZ Certified!
USA phone: 816/228-8444
Mexico   phone:   987/101.1689
Country code: 52

Along with boat and shore dives and snorkel and fishing trips, RZ Explorers offers PADI certifications and continuing advance dive and technical dive education.  PADI is the most popular and complete dive program in the world.  An Open Water Certification teaches you about the pressure in your lungs and the pressure of the water; learn how to descend and ascend properly, read diving tables, and how to use your dive equipment.  Safety procedures, system of communication, and the Buddy System are just a few more things that you’ll be taught.  The best part is that you’ll get to go on some awesome shore and boat dives!  After passing your exam and completing the certification, you’ll discover new worlds that most people only dream about or watch on TV; but this is reality and we submerse into the liquid big screen.

Beneath the sea I float in fascination.  The sea creatures are as curious about me as I am about them.  I find a world where God threw away all the rules of nature and went wild with His imagination.  Normal colors of nature such as browns, greens, and tans are cast away like buckets of leftover paint and replaced by electric blue, glow-in-the-dark green, and candy apple, splashing a permanence on all the sea life.

My schedule and worries drift; silence surrounds my deep breathing replacing the sounds of the modern world.  A butterfly fish mermerizes for a couple of minutes, but in actuality is half an hour!  I follow it with amazement and deceivement — extra “eyes” on its tail, allow it to confuse predators, thus escaping the Fresh Catch Special of the Day.

“Plants” that are actually animals and “animals” that are actually plants keep me in awesome wonder.  A shark nestles below and I amaze my friends with a close-up shot of a creature so feared.  I reassure them that it’s just a nurse shark and all it may do is give a giant hickey but a close friend responds with, “I don’t care.  If I were that close to a shark, the water would suddenly turn brown and murky, if you know what I mean!”

Meet Spotted Morays.

A spotted eel tucked away in the coral pokes its head out at me as if to say, “Go ahead.  Take a picture of me.”  It is has a very grimacing look and I’m not believing what lies before my eyes but I do snap the shot — everything is so photogenic.  Creatures of the deep that only exist in mythical imaginations actually do exist here.  This liquid screen is better than any movie ever dreamed up in Hollywood.

t's time to shut off the television, close the travel guides, and shake off the wishful thinking.  This is my dream; everything else awaits.  Now it’s time to make your dreams come true!  When Jacques Cousteau explored Cozumel he dove with the Ramon Zapata family of RZ Explorers; now it’s YOUR turn!

By Lena Hunt Mabra, Cozumel Correspondent.

Beach Resorts at Beach

SeaLife Reefmaster® 35mm RC Dive Camera

SeaLife Reefmaster® 35mm RC Dive Camera

Comfortable handling and easy one-button operation make your dive peaceful and enjoyable. Every component has been tested thousands of times, so you can take impressive pictures with ease. The easy to use rugged, rubber armored RC fully automatic dive camera is perfect for any land or sea adventure. The compact inner camera, with color corrected flash, can be removed from its housing and used for excellent vacation pictures on land. Depth tested to 164 ft./ 50m. The RC is also expandable with all SeaLife accessories; macro kit (MS4343), external flash (MS4348) and wide angle lens (MS4349). The RC camera is 3.5 / 1/140th. and uses regular 35mm film / ASA200 recommended. Runs on 2 AA batteries. (Film and batteries not included.)

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