The day could not have been more perfect.  We were sitting under a cabana ceanside at Hotel Cozumel on the magnificent Mexican island of the same name.  The breeze gently fanned the palm fronds above us, enough to blow away the mosquitoes but not enough to scatter sand or ruffle the pages of our books.

The staff await YOUR adventure.

When my best friend turned to me and asked if I wanted to Snuba I thought she’d had too much to drink! “Don’t you mean scuba?” I asked.  “Nope, Snuba” she replied.  Being game for (almost) any adventure my friend might suggest, I decided to risk it.  It didn’t hurt that I had been eyeing the attractive shirtless Canadian guy with the curls and island tan who just happened to be managing the concession.

Snuba is a way for snorkelers as young as eight years old to safely experience the beauty of the sea floor using compressed air, while not having to go through scuba training.   Our venture was an offshoot of Snuba, called Sea Trek.  A Sea Trek helmet looks like a cross between an early diving helmet and an astronauts’ helmet. With the helmet in place all I needed to look like a Smurf was a blue suit!  Air is pumped into the helmet through attached hoses that snake to the surface and attach to an inner tube, a very sophisticated, high tech inner tube.  Multiple divers can attach and experience the wonder of the ocean together.  Snuba, on the other hand uses a similar air source, but instead of a helmet the divers wear a mask and regulator just as they do in scuba.

Our dive master’s name was the aforementioned Canadian, Elvin Echino.  “I need your signature,” said Elvin as he slid some papers across the counter.  Now, as a general rule, I read everything, even the ultra-fine print.  But hey, this is Mexico and I already know that it’s “live at your own risk.” As I reached for the release form the words “firstborn, life insurance, trust fund” flashed before my eyes.  “Trust me,” said Elvin.  So I signed. 

Sea Trekking in Isla Cozumel.

After the necessary paperwork was completed, we sat down for an orientation and safety lecture.  Simple commands for communication “down under” followed a thorough explanation of how to equalize ear pressure.  Each diver in our group then walked to the ladder and submerged to shoulder level. Elvin was already on the ladder rigged with his Sea Trek helmet and he grasped the first diver firmly by the upper arm.  Another diver in scuba gear held the other arm.  Then the 70-pound helmet was lowered over the divers head and a slow descent began.  Every two rungs a stop was made to equalize air pressure and check that the diver was all right.  When the bottom was reached the diver stepped a few paces away from the ladder and the process was repeated until all the divers were on the bottom.

Group enthusiasm.

The Sea Trek helmet keeps your face dry, your hair dry, and even your glasses dry.  It enables one to walk around on the ocean floor approximately 25—30 feet down and see corals and creatures much closer and in more detail than that allowed by snorkeling alone.  It accommodates children, allowing them to enjoy the sea at a much earlier age than they could with scuba.

As Elvin choreographed a graceful underwater dance, the diver in scuba gear kept watch over our safety.  Fish, lured by bits of bread hidden in Elvin’s pocket, joined our dance. Vibrant yellow striped fish cruised past us; tiny brilliant blue tang hugged the edges of the coral and played peek-a-boo with my camera. Enormous black sea urchins spotted the crevices making us very careful where we put our feet.  Curious fish were everywhere, watching us even as we watched them.  Myriad schools of pale blueish-gray fish swept past seeking a stray nibble. Black and yellow juvenile angelfish looked as if someone had painted them with bright crayons.

Original Sea Trekkers!

A funny looking whitish flat fish with an eye painted on its tail darted to the ocean floor and disappeared into the sand. A few huge parrotfish drifted past.  They had strange stubby purple mouths and large turquoise bodies. Everywhere we looked we saw fantastic shapes and colors.

We joined hands and moved together as a group taking tiny shuffle jumps forward or sideways. We moved closer to the seashore the coral edge rising over our heads as sea life floated in and out of holes in the coral.  My eyes couldn’t get enough and I swiveled this way and that, eager to see everything.  The sea, usually so quiet, hissed and bubbled as we breathed   Color saturated everything as we danced in Caribbean blue and watched the palette of the rainbow float past us.  The blacks and dark browns of the reef coral made a backdrop for the lacy purple fan corals, tiny iridescent blue fish, yellow striped goatfish, and turquoise parrot fish, all bathed in a wash of blue.  It looked rather like an Impressionist painting.  It was incredible.  I wanted to stay forever in this tranquil theater.

The helmet and the weightlessness made me think about astronauts deep in space trusting a tiny tether to bring them back to their ship after their space walk.

Elvin signaled our return and reluctantly we reversed our descent and climbed the ladder into the sunshine where one of the guys was waiting to remove our helmet.  I really didn’t want to leave the sea bottom and all her treasures.   “Oh well,” I mused.  “In the sea or out, every day in Cozumel is Paradise!”

Snuba and Sea Trek are run as franchises around the world.  The Cozumel coordinator is Marc Heffern who has been involved with this exciting adventure for about 10 years. You may reach Marc at He is also involved with locations in Cancun, Roatan, Panama, and Central America.   You can find many other locations around the world by going to the respective web sites. takes you to the Snuba home page where you can search for sites.  You can find the helmet diving information at

Find underwater artifacts!

The ability to experience the ocean's beauty without a large outlay of time and money is a trend that is growing.  No longer do you need to be a great swimmer or a certified diver to get a taste of what is in the sea.  Young and old alike can enjoy an underwater adventure.  It is a delightful way to learn in a very safe environment and is virtually guaranteed to whet ones appetite for more.  The vast ocean awaits your viewing pleasure.  Don’t miss it!

By Bobbi Buchanan, Arkansas Correspondent.

Frommer's® Cancun, Cozumel & the Yucatan 2005

Frommer's® Cancun, Cozumel & the Yucatan 2005

Completely updated every year (unlike most of the competition), Frommer's Canczn, Cozumel & the Yucatan features gorgeous color photos of the stunning beaches, the colorful underwater world, and the mysterious Maya ruins that await you. This authoritative guide captures all the glitter of Canczn, as well as the more rustic and authentic charms of Cozumel, which boasts world-class diving and snorkeling in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. The authors have lived in and written about Mexico for years, so they're able to provide candid reviews of all the beach resorts, the best local dining, and the latest, hottest nightlife.