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Dive Review of Nekton Pilot in
Belize/Atolls

Nekton Pilot, Dec, 2005,

by Patrick Wikstrom, NC, USA (Contributor Contributor 14 reports). Report 2498.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Bahamas; Belize; Bonaire; California Channel Islands; Cayman; Cocos; Costa Rica; Cozumel; Florida- springs, west coast, & keys; Indonesia; North Carolina; Massachusetts; Palau; Puerto Rico; Roatan; Socorro; South Africa; Thailand; Truk; Turks & Caicos; TVA lakes; Yap; Yucatan Caves;
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy, cloudy Seas choppy, surge
Water Temp 79 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 35 to 80 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions no deeper than 130ft, no decompression, sign in and out on the board, no drinking & diving, and they encourage, but dont rigidly enforce, the buddy system.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 3 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Camera table behind the lounge with air gun, large camera bucket on the dive deck, photo pro shot digital movie, sold DVD's

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments One of the few trouble spots was the airport pick up and transfer to the boat. Unlike many liveaboards the Nekton vessels dont allow an afternoon embarkation or serve dinner the first night. We were picked up at the airport early in the afternoon and taken to the Princess Hotel & Casino. We cooled our heels at this location until 8:00pm when we were finally picked up and driven to a grocery/convenience store to buy our booze for the trip.

My group of six requested cabins on the upper deck. Lower cabins often have problems of cold air from the A/C on the metal plate ceilings causing condensation droplets to dribble down onto divers berths. 17 cabins can hold 34 divers. All the normal utilities functioned as expected. The boat was clean and in reasonably good repair although some paint was rusting on the rails and some carpeting needed replacement. Food was plentiful although not particularly inspired.

Basically a comfortable vessel the Pilot is really quite roomy despite its relatively short length. With a wide beam, and most of the engineering components located in the submarine pontoons, theyve got a lot of passenger space. Their unique elevating dive deck hangs off the stern, gear stays in place for the voyage. Their standard tank is the steel 95. 32% nitrox was pumped all week for those certified who paid the $250 premium. Most dives are done from the back of the mother ship, which is great if you like the ease and convenience, but limits you to those sites equipped with the giant mooring pins necessary to hold this high profile hunk of steel.

The often mentioned smooth ride in rough seas is indeed a fact. Ive been on four Nekton trips and you hardly feel the motion of the ocean. I enjoy the rocking of a small ship but those prone to seasickness appreciate the stability of the SWATH design. Capt. Ephey and his 10 man crew were personable, professional, fairly well organized, and seemed genuinely interested in our having a safe and enjoyable trip. Lots of crew help on the dive deck and theyre practically falling all over themselves to have an excuse to get in the water with you. Divers were allowed to go their own way and long bottom times were the norm.

With night dives and dawn dives many guests logged five or six dives a day. I did 21 dives with an average time of 58 minutes. Many dives ended with wonderfully shallow reef tops or sandy sections of eel grass that allowed 90 minute bottom times. We started and ended our trip off Turneffe Island; none of those dives were stand outs. Luckily we spent the bulk of our voyage cruising back and forth between Half Moon and Long Caye in the Lighthouse Reef Atoll. Silver Caves is an exceptionally beautiful wall reminiscent of Bloody Bay in Little Cayman. With a reef top of 25 to 30ft one can go deep, stay awhile, and plan to off gas for a half hour or so in safety stop land. Very healthy coral, very fishy site. Cathedral is another beautiful site with high profile coral swimthroughs where late one afternoon I watched the mating dance of Yellowheaded Jawfish and a canoodling couple of Indigo Hamlets.

On a dawn dive at Dolphin Pass we searched the sides of the wall as the night fish went to bed and the day fish woke up. Larry, a long time buddy, pissed off a pair of possibly amorous Black Grouper and got slammed in the chest for his coitus interruptous. Hell think twice before he spotlights big black grouper in the future. One of the most memorable aspects of the trip were the tremendous schools of fish that accumulate beneath the boat at almost every site. Huge groups of Horse Eyed Jacks, Bermuda Chub, Grouper, Wrasse, Tangs, and other reef fish circle and swirl in the shadow of the ship. The vessel tends to swing back and forth in a long arc off its mooring line and divers either hold onto, or sit on top of, the rigid deco bar which hangs at 15 ft. Riding back and forth for a few of these circuits gives one the chance to see the topography go whisking by, all the while starring in awe at the raw tonnage of fish flesh thats lined up in neat choreographed synchronization.

One of the reasons I picked this trip over other liveaboards in Belize is the fact that they try to make it down to Glovers Reef. Unfortunately on my visit the French owners of a resort on Glovers had destroyed the Nekton moorings in an ill conceived sense of reef ownership. Undaunted, we were offered a drift dive following a dive master with a float ball. Everyone surfaces together and boards via a quick swim in small groups towards the stern once the Capt cut the engines and the huge screws quit turning. The crew looked worried during these maneuvers and the wall was a just a sandy slope which really wasnt worth the effort.

Aquarium, off Long Caye, got my vote for the hottest site of the trip. Healthy hard and soft corals and more fish per gallon than anywhere else. St. Majors, Chub, Horse Eye Jacks, Barracuda, big Black Grouper, the list went on and on. In over thirty trips to various locations throughout the Caribbean Ive rarely seen a location with as many of the Caribbean regulars, along with such a profusion of healthy reef structures.

My last trip to Belize was years ago and with so much degradation to Caribbean reefs I was greatly heartened at how well everything has held up. Considering that a week on the Nekton was $300-$450 cheaper than the Dancer and $500-$600 less than the Aggressor I would recommend this vessel unless you absolutely need that extra level of pampering.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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