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Dive Review of Nekton Pilot in

December, 2005, an Instant Reader Report by Patrick Wikstrom, NC, USA
Contributor   (14 reports)
Report Number 2498
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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

sunny, rainy, cloudy  
choppy, surge  
Water Temp
79   to 82    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
35   to 80    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
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.   
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  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  
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):
3 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars   
3 stars    
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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