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XTC Dive Center owner Javier Salas over the prop of the Ginger Scout

XTC Dive Center owner Javier Salas over the prop of the Ginger Scout

Up until 2010 diving any of the 100+ wrecks located in the Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve, 26 miles offshore from the town of Xcalak, the southernmost town on the Mexican caribbean coast, was not allowed, even for the handful of authorized operators, us being one of them (the only PADI Dive Center with access to the Atoll).

It was in 2010 when the Mexican federal government´s National Institute of Anthropology and History´s Underwater Archaeology division held the first wreck guide course in Chinchorro and opened 5 of the wrecks for us and our customer´s to dive. Even then, diving the wrecks in Chinchorro remains a rare treat due to the fact that most of the wrecks are located on the windward side of the Atoll, meaning that the conditions have to be even better than normal for us to be able to dive them.

Banco Chinchorro has long been drawing experienced divers and all those looking for the last truly unspoiled frontier in the Caribbean. We had always known about the wrecks and some of us had been lucky enough to dive them on special ocasions, however they have not, until now, been squarely in the mind of the Wreck Diving community as a destination.

That might start changing now that the Wrecks of Chinchorro have been featured in Wreck Diving Magazine. This article came to be because we met Joe Porter, editor of the magazine, at the Beneath the Sea show in New Jersey last March, where we mentioned the existence of the multiple wrecks in Chinchorro and after he got in tough with us to arrange an expedition, which we carried out in August of 2013.

Wave breaking over one of the boilers of the Ginger Scout Wreck.

Wave breaking over one of the boilers of the Ginger Scout Wreck.

You can check out the article in the print or electronic version of the magazine. Go to http://www.wreckdivingmag.com/Home.html to subscribe. If you want more information about Chinchorro visit our website at http://www.xtcdivecenter.com/CHINCHORRO.html and if you want more information about diving the wrecks of Chinchorro e-mail us at reserve@xtcdivecenter.com. We can organize a day or multi-day excursion to Chinchorro to explore the multiple wrecks around the atoll.

As we start to visit these wrecks more often we are also compiling as much bibliographical information as possible on each of the wrecks and on all of them as a whole.

Best,

The XTC Dive Center Team

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Reblogged from TecRec Blog:

PADI’s TecRec revolution is continuing and yet another PADI TecRec course has been released – the PADI Tec Basics Distinctive Specialty. The PADI Tec Basics course is a bridge from recreational to technical diving, providing divers with an opportunity to gain exposure to tec diving and learn and practice entry level tec diving skills. It introduces recreational divers to tec diving without them initially having to make the larger commitment (in terms of equipment, time and cost) necessary for the core PADI Tec courses.

Read more… 221 more words

This is a great new training option for those who want to take an exploratory look at Technical diving without necessarily commiting to a Tec 40 course.

In Febuary we were contacted by Jero Prieto https://www.facebook.com/jero.prieto?fref=ts from www.pelagiclife.com saying they were interested in going to Banco Chinchorro to try to film/photograph the Atoll´s resident Moreletii crocodile population in the crystal-clear shallows near Cayo Centro; around the fishermen´s houses on stilts, or palafitos. He wanted to know if we could put together an expedition for that purpose.

Despite the fact that such a request fell outside our usual comercial offerings, we felt we would be able to pull it off. We decided to head out to the atoll on a relatively windy Maundy (or holy) thursday, spend the night at a fisherman´s house on stilts and look for crocs first thing the next morning. We were lucky to be in Chinchorro during a beautiful clear night with a full moon.

The next morning at first light we went looking for crocs inside the lagoons within Cayo Centro, the largest of the three islands within Banco Chinchorro (Banco Chinchorro has an area of aproximately 800 km2, of which less than 1% is above water), with little luck. We decided to go on a dive to the wreck of the Ginger Sku, on the windward side of Chinchorro while we waited for the sun to be on top of us, hoping for more croc action at midday. She was a cargo ship carrying iron ore amongst other cargo that sank in the mid 20th century. The Ginger is remarkably well preserved and is usually teeming with marine life, as it was that day. Here is photo of our friend Julien Borde https://www.facebook.com/julien.borde.18?fref=ts by the propeller

Propela 1 copy

After a great dive at the Ginger we headed back to Cayo Centro, where, after speaking to some park rangers, we headed back to the houses on stilts to try to draw the crocs out with some fish entrails, which we had procured from fishermen that were arriving back from a day out at sea. It turns out that the daily routine of fishermen cleaning their catch by their houses on stilts made the crocodiles associate the splashing sound of fish insides hitting the water with mealtime. Sure enough, a few minutes later a 1.8 meter croc swam out to us and hung around almost an hour, during which we were able to film and photograph it at will, as you can see from this video, shot and edited by the guys from Pelagic Life:

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/63275848 w=500&h=281]

After our successful encounter we packed up and headed towards one last dive on the wayward side of the Atoll, at a dive site called Punta Irlanda. It is a shallow drift dive on a very colorful reef, with a long, sloping sand bar teeming with garden eels, classic Chinchorro. After the dive we headed back to Xcalak for a few more days diving in Xcalak.

This experience was definitely new and exciting and has opened the door for an entirely new activity in Chinchorro, stay tuned for croc-encounter opportunities at Banco Chinchorro from XTC Dive Center,

Best,

The team @ XTC Dive Center

Scourge of the Lionfish, Part 3: The Newest Fish in the Kitchen

From The New York Times:

MARK BITTMAN BLOG: Scourge of the Lionfish, Part 3: The Newest Fish in the Kitchen

About 20 years ago, the beautiful and otherworldly red lionfish started showing up in south Florida and the Caribbean. Now they’re a plague.

Yesterday, June 4, 2010 I attended a meeting at Mahahual´s Tequila Beach Club where the main topic was to be the Lionfish Invasion. The first thing I noticed was that there was a large mix of characters in the crowd; from local divemasters to high-ranking enviromental bureaucrats with voluntourists, NGO representatives, the entire staff from the Playa del Carmen recompression chamber and Lionfish hunting gun entrepreneurs thrown in the mix. The second thing I noticed was that there really wasn´t anyone in charge of the meeting, it wasn´t anybody´s meeting. It was a gathering of concerned individuals wanting to make a difference one way or another, nobody taking center stage and everybody eager to participate in actions leading to control the ever-growing lionfish invasion.
I chose this topic and this particular setting as the first post for the XTC Dive Center Blog to add a positive spin on what has been a markedly discouraging year in several fronts you are all well aware of. In terms of enviromental changes in our area, last year we faced the first few sightings of the Lionfish in Cozumel, then everywhere else, unusually high water temperatures that led to coral bleaching in several areas and now the largest ecological disaster in recent history just across the gulf with the currents about to change and the very real possibility of some oil reaching our coasts.
Add to this the H1N1 flu pandemic, the over-exposure of drug violence in the US and European media and the biggest depresion in over 50 years (that brought with it a long overdue bust of a local real-estate buble) and what you get is the perfect storm for the independent travel industry in the caribbean.
The effect on the “real” economy, on hotels and tours operators that strive with independent-minded travelers who chose to rent a car and go on their own adventures, to explore little-known treasures has been devastating. Businesses are down 40-50% at best with long-running businesses folding weekly.
The truth is that we have reached an inflexion point in the area, with the risk of big interest groups, both domestic and international taking over the entirety of the tourism trade in the region. As large resort operations become more vertically integrated, operating their own transportation, excursions and entertainment the entire supply chain that grew around them when they originally settled in the area and the prosper midlle class that came with it is fast disapearing.
There are issues at stake that can make a difference in the enviromental viability of the area in the long run, I will only name the few that we have the most involvement/interest in.
One is the violation of restrictions on building and activities in several Natural Protected areas, part of a constant power struggle between enviromental protection groups and investors. Oddly enough, there are govement agencies involved in both sides of the equation, with the Natural Protected Areas Comisssion, The Enviromental Protection Enforcement Agency and others on one side and State and local goverments, The National Tourism Development Fund and Tourism secretaries on three levels of government on the other.
This makes what Gregory Carr, billionaire former Prodigy Internet CEO and entrepereur, and main backer of Mozamique´s Gorongosa National Park (their entire eco-tourism industry, really) says “Conservation IS politics. It´s convincing large numbers of people with very different interests -landowners, recreationists, tourists, local politicians-, that they should want a National Park” This is particuallry true in this part of Mexico.
The second is a high-level conspiracy to expropriate the Ejido Jacinto Pat (and others), home to the largest underwater cave system in the world and to the best cavern/cave diving in the world (this is not my opinion, it´s a fact) for development. Now owned through a complex comunity-ownership sheme by hundreds of mayan families that operate it as a model comunity project. For more information visit
Finally, the reef. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, that runs from Cancún´s Punta Nizuc to Hounduras´ Bay Islands is the second largest of it´s kind in the world. It is a major tourist attraction in all countries that border it (Mexico, Belize and Honduras) and the only livelihood of many along the coast (fishermen and tour operators). It is now faces many threats, both natural and created by man.
In our area, home to some of the last stretches of virgin reef in the MBS the main theats to the reef are the Lionfish invasion, coral bleaching due to rising water temperatures and illegal poaching.
We will attempt to make this blog an outlet for news and events regarding diving, underwater photography, sustainable tourism, technical diving, cave diving, professional training, independent travel and other topics, conservation and comunity events and projects, and most importantly, proving that small, self contained, conservation-minded operations are a viable alternative to develop remote areas with fragile, breathtakingly beautiful eco-systems in a sustainable manner that will assure they´re still there for future generations.
Thank your for taking the time to hear what we have to say and please, on your next vacation travel independently, visiting destinations most guidebooks wouldn´t take you to for a most rewarding experience that is definately worth the extra effort.

Yesterday, June 4, 2010 I attended a meeting at Mahahual´s Tequila Beach Club where the main topic was to be the Lionfish Invasion. The first thing I noticed was that there was a large mix of characters in the crowd; from local divemasters to high-ranking enviromental bureaucrats with voluntourists, NGO representatives, the entire staff from the Playa del Carmen recompression chamber and Lionfish hunting gun entrepreneurs thrown in the mix. The second thing I noticed was that there really wasn´t anyone in charge of the meeting, it wasn´t anybody´s meeting. It was a gathering of concerned individuals wanting to make a difference one way or another, nobody taking center stage and everybody eager to participate in actions leading to control the ever-growing lionfish invasion.
I chose this topic and this particular setting as the first post for the XTC Dive Center Blog to add a positive spin on what has been a markedly discouraging year in several fronts you are all well aware of. In terms of enviromental changes in our area, last year we faced the first few sightings of the Lionfish in Cozumel, then everywhere else, unusually high water temperatures that led to coral bleaching in several areas and now the largest ecological disaster in recent history just across the gulf with the currents about to change and the very real possibility of some oil reaching our coasts.
Add to this the H1N1 flu pandemic, the over-exposure of drug violence in the US and European media and the biggest depresion in over 50 years (that brought with it a long overdue bust of a local real-estate buble) and what you get is the perfect storm for the independent travel industry in the caribbean.
The effect on the “real” economy, on hotels and tours operators that strive with independent-minded travelers who chose to rent a car and go on their own adventures, to explore little-known treasures has been devastating. Businesses are down 40-50% at best with long-running businesses folding weekly.
The truth is that we have reached an inflexion point in the area, with the risk of big interest groups, both domestic and international taking over the entirety of the tourism trade in the region. As large resort operations become more vertically integrated, operating their own transportation, excursions and entertainment the entire supply chain that grew around them when they originally settled in the area and the prosper midlle class that came with it is fast disapearing.
There are issues at stake that can make a difference in the enviromental viability of the area in the long run, I will only name the few that we have the most involvement/interest in.
One is the violation of restrictions on building and activities in several Natural Protected areas, part of a constant power struggle between enviromental protection groups and investors. Oddly enough, there are govement agencies involved in both sides of the equation, with the Natural Protected Areas Comisssion, The Enviromental Protection Enforcement Agency and others on one side and State and local goverments, The National Tourism Development Fund and Tourism secretaries on three levels of government on the other.
This makes what Gregory Carr, billionaire former Prodigy Internet CEO and entrepereur, and main backer of Mozamique´s Gorongosa National Park (their entire eco-tourism industry, really) says “Conservation IS politics. It´s convincing large numbers of people with very different interests -landowners, recreationists, tourists, local politicians-, that they should want a National Park” This is particuallry true in this part of Mexico.
The second is a high-level conspiracy to expropriate the Ejido Jacinto Pat (and others), home to the largest underwater cave system in the world and to the best cavern/cave diving in the world (this is not my opinion, it´s a fact) for development. Now owned through a complex comunity-ownership sheme by hundreds of mayan families that operate it as a model comunity project. For more information visit
Finally, the reef. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, that runs from Cancún´s Punta Nizuc to Hounduras´ Bay Islands is the second largest of it´s kind in the world. It is a major tourist attraction in all countries that border it (Mexico, Belize and Honduras) and the only livelihood of many along the coast (fishermen and tour operators). It is now faces many threats, both natural and created by man.
In our area, home to some of the last stretches of virgin reef in the MBS the main theats to the reef are the Lionfish invasion, coral bleaching due to rising water temperatures and illegal poaching.
We will attempt to make this blog an outlet for news and events regarding diving, underwater photography, sustainable tourism, technical diving, cave diving, professional training, independent travel and other topics, conservation and comunity events and projects, and most importantly, proving that small, self contained, conservation-minded operations are a viable alternative to develop remote areas with fragile, breathtakingly beautiful eco-systems in a sustainable manner that will assure they´re still there for future generations.
Thank your for taking the time to hear what we have to say and please, on your next vacation travel independently, visiting destinations most guidebooks wouldn´t take you to for a most rewarding experience that is definately worth the extra effort.

Welcome to the XTC Dive Center Blog, here you will find information about what is happening at the shop, in Xcalak and Chinchorro giving you first hand access from the trenches to a pioneering sustainable-tourism enterprise at the end of the road and the people that make it happen.
XTC Dive Center is the longest-running dive operation south of Sian Ka´an. It has been open in one way or another for over twenty years. It has been part of several major changes in the area, including the implementation of a National Park in Xcalak and a Biosphere Reserve in Chinchorro despite strong oposition from local, regional and international interest groups.
In keeping with that legacy and facing new and ever changing challenges the team at XTC works with other stakeholders day in and day out to preserve this last unspoiled frontier for people the world over who want to enjoy a pristine, vibrant coastal reef eco-system and want their children to do the same while at the same time running a viable sustainable tourism operation encompassing diving, fishing, snorkeling, kayaking, bird-watching, lodging and food service, always at the forefront in international best-practices to positively impact our enviroment and comunity with our involvement.

Welcome to the XTC Dive Center Blog, here you will find information about what is happening at the shop, in Xcalak and Chinchorro giving you first hand access from the trenches to a pioneering sustainable-tourism enterprise at the end of the road and the people that make it happen.
XTC Dive Center is the longest-running dive operation south of Sian Ka´an. It has been open in one way or another for over twenty years. It has been part of several major changes in the area, including the implementation of a National Park in Xcalak and a Biosphere Reserve in Chinchorro despite strong oposition from local, regional and international interest groups.
In keeping with that legacy and facing new and ever changing challenges the team at XTC works with other stakeholders day in and day out to preserve this last unspoiled frontier for people the world over who want to enjoy a pristine, vibrant coastal reef eco-system and want their children to do the same while at the same time running a viable sustainable tourism operation encompassing diving, fishing, snorkeling, kayaking, bird-watching, lodging and food service, always at the forefront in international best-practices to positively impact our enviroment and comunity with our involvement.

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