Getting underwater is a passion of mine, so whenever I’m close to the ocean, I’ll eagerly strap on fins, snorkel, and mask and plunge in. That’s how on my recent visit to Iberostar’s five-resort Playa Paraíso complex south of Cancun I quickly found myself at the dive shop at one end of the long beach. Dressel Divers sends hundreds of guests per week out on its excursions to the offshore reef – the world’s second-longest after the Great Barrier Reef, stretching all the way down to Honduras’ Bay of Islands. It’s an operation exceptionally well run by a friendly group of guys and gals, headed up by Armando, 24, who hails from Spain’s Alicante province, in Andalusia.
After a morning of glorious snorkeling out on the reef (when the moment I hit the water I was surrounded by fearless schools of brilliantly colored fish), I got Armando to sit down for a chat right alongside a room where one of Dressel’s staffers was briefing a group of divers about to head out for the morning.
So, Armando, how long have you been working here?
Just a little over one year. I came from Switzerland – great diving there! (laughs) No, I was doing different work there.
What can you see when you go out on the reef here on an average day?
Well, apart from the many corals – elkhorn, fan coral, brain coral, and so forth – there are quite a few beautiful, colorful fish like blue tangs, damselfish, trumpetfish, yellowtail snapper, and parrotfish. There are also giant marine turtles, manta and eagle rays, barracuda, and green moray eels – pretty big ones, as much as 10 feet long. That’s diving, but you can also see a lot of these same animals snorkeling when the water is clear – with a visibility of, say, 30 to 50 feet. It always depends on the day – there are days when you might spot three turtles, and if you’re very lucky, dolphins. Usually you see a good variety, our guests are satisfied.
What’s the most common creature you see around here?
I’d have to say the blue tang. There are a few common species but that’s the most common of all.
And the rarest?
The flying gurnard, a species which walks on the sea floor and also has large wings (right). It’s rare, and very odd-looking. In winter we also sometimes get sharks like the bull shark – also cat sharks and whale sharks. It’s awesome.
And which do your clients especially like?
They really love the giant turtles – and the sharks, of course, when we can see them.
What do you recall as your most surprising moment here so far?
It would have to be the first time I saw a bull shark. It wasn’t yet the season, but suddenly not one but six bull sharks appeared – it was a beautiful surprise.
Finally, what do you like most about your job?
Well, living here in Playa del Carmen with the sun and the sea and being able to dive every single day is an absolute dream come true for me. Add to that the different people I get to meet every day, and it all makes this job very interesting and a real pleasure.