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Dive Review of MV Nautica in
Burma/Similan Islands and the Surin

 
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MV Nautica, Dec, 2009,

by Sandra Holloway, CA, US (Reviewer Reviewer 3 reports). Report 5549.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Thailand, PNG, Maldives, Indonesia, Caymans, Turks, Mexico, Caribbean, Hawaii, Micronesia, Fiji,
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 80 to 82 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 1
Water Visibility 25 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Only 3 divers on the boat - when the first one ran out of air we all had to come up
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 2 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 2 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments No special facilities for UWP. No rinse tank, no camera table. Easy to work under those circumstances though dues to large outdoor dining tables, a lot of light and gentle crew.

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

Accommodations 2 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments December 2009. Eight day live aboard on the M.V. Nautica to Similan Islands and the Surin Islands in Thailand and Andaman Islands in Myanmar.

The M.V. Nautica holds 7 crew, including 2 dive masters and up to 13 passengers. On this trip we had only 3 passengers, including me.

A highly respected, west coast dive travel agency (whom many of us use) told me that no live aboards had itineraries longer than 2-4 days in this region and that no boats went north into Myanmar for multi-day trips (at least not anymore). I found the M.V. Nautica on the internet and told my dive travel agency about them. The agency did some research and booked the trip for me at $3400 USD. I later found out that the two other passengers (one German and one Swed) each booked their trips for about $1800 USD through a local Thai dive shop, over the internet, from their respective countries. Live and learn! (Looking back I still think the trip was a decent value for the money even at full rack rates).

I typically go solo on these trips, leaving my husband (a golfer) at home. Live boards work out well for me. They are much more comfortable than going solo to a land based resort. Ive been diving for 20 years although only take 1 or 2 of these trips per year. Ive been diving in Bali, Komodo, Maldives, Fiji, PNG, Hawaii, Caribbean, Palau, and Thailand/Myanmar a few years ago.
Logistics: I left out of Phuket, from a hotel close to the airport, on the north end of the Island (JW Marriott). The drive north to the boat, from my hotel was about an hour. Incidentally, Phuket is about 1 hour flight from Bangkok, a bit more from Singapore and made recently accessible non stop from Hong Kong.

Nautica Cabin Accommodations: I am a 5-star live aboard kind of gal. I definitely wouldnt have wanted to have a full passenger load on this boat or for that matter, even a room mate, as the cabin living space is very small. Each room has a private head/shower and air-conditioning. There is plenty of fresh water for showers and flushing and bottled water for drinking. Storage space is minimal. Most of the rooms, called deluxe rooms, have two small single beds that can be pushed together to make a larger bed. There is one upscale room for a couple hundred dollars more. Its definitely an upgrade but I think youd have to keep the curtains closed all the times because it is on the floor next to the wheel house. There are also 2 budget rooms that have bunks (upper and lower) and may not have individual heads. On a scale of 1:10, with 10 being high, I would rate cabin accommodations a 5:10, although with a small number of people on the boat the accommodations were absolutely good enough.

Nautica Boat (not including the cabins): The Nautica is a steel motor yacht, 80 foot by 17 foot, built in 2004. It has fully redundant systems (2 engines, air conditioners, water systems, navigation systems, and so forth). The boat is in very good shape and looks well maintained inside and out. The boat carries a wide range of rental equipment, including a digital camera or two. Nitrox, and a host of advanced PADI classes, are available. The boat has a spacious dive deck, so even with a full passenger load; there is plenty of room to gear up. Only one rinse tank cameras only, although there are 2 warm outdoor showers and an indoor head and shower on the dive deck. There are nice sun areas, covered outdoor dining / gathering area with a TV, DVD, stereo and small charging station (220V). No separate camera table exists but with three guests it was not a problem. Diving is almost always from the mother ship with only an occasional dingy dive entry. On a scale of 1:10, with 10 being high, I would rate the boat (not including cabins) a 7:10.

Nautica Service: No chocolate on the pillow or warm towel after each dive but none of that is a necessity. The service was excellent. The crew of 5 (not including 2 dive masters) included a cook, a hostess (waitress/room cleaner), 2 ship / dive crew and a captain. All five spoke Thai and little to no English. The same group has been together for many years and seemed to work together well. All worked long, hard hours, were very competent at their jobs, helpful and accommodating. Service on a scale of 1:10, with ten being high gets a high 9.

Nautica Dive Masters: Dive masters were extremely competent, but quite moody. One of them quit smoking on the trip so maybe that explains part of the moodiness. The head dive master Duke, was particularly knowledgeable, quite safety conscious. He earned our respect because of his knowledge. Dive master rating, on a scale of 1:10 is higher for safety and competence but lower for personality points averaging about 6.

Nautica Food: Lots of it! There were always 4-5 selections, buffet style. Usually many vegetables and a dish of fish, pork and chicken. Great fresh fruits and a lot of wonderful soups. The cook made great Thai dishes. Spice level was perfect for me. She did better on Thai dishes that western dishes. I would have preferred less fried food but I could avoid it and eat other dishes most of the time. Food rating, on a scale of 1:10 gets a 7.

Thailand and Myanmar Diving: Water temperature 80-82 degrees the whole trip. Glorious weather. Thailand: Visibility in the Similan Islands was the best on the trip at about 75 feet. The Similian Islands is a National Marine Park in Thailand. Entrance to the park for 4 days cost about $200 USD on top of boat coast). The Similin Islands are quite popular with short-trippers out of Phuket and consequently quite crowded with other divers. We counted 11 dive boats at the famous Richeleau Rock site. Great site but way too many divers. We dove it 3 times on the trip. Each time it was packed, people every where, some trashing the coral. We even saw a family (mom, dad and an 8-10 year old kid at 40 feet) tromping across the corals. Currents were mild, scenery great, water warm; sort of like diving in a bath tub.

Myanmar: Visibility in Myanmar was not so good. The best visibility was at Western Rocky where we had visibility upwards of 100 feet. The dive master said visibility was best at Western Rocky because it was the deepest site. Myanmar diving was great for macro pictures but wide angle photographers, or those looking for big fish, sharks, or an adrenaline rush, would be disappointed. Great color and lots of small strange creatures. Brilliant soft corals and many caves and swim-throughs. No big fish at all, no sharks. Two times we heard (or saw the results of) dynamite fishing. I was here 5 years ago in Myanmar, just at the start of the rainy season. It seemed like a lot more dynamite fishing at that time; a good thing. Currents were mild to medium, surge mild. All in all a very pretty place to dive.

Diving, overall, on a scale of 1:10, rates a 7.

Miscellaneous: We were able to get off the boat in Myanmar three times. Twice on glorious powder sand beaches, including one time at an exclusive resort, called Nabucc Adaman Resort, in the middle of absolute nowhere, on a deserted beach. Both times we were eaten alive by sand flees (which ate right through my bug repellent). The third was at the town of Kawthaung, the southern tip on the Thailand boarder, where you go to get through Myanmar immigration. In this little city I bought a lot of pearls and rosewater boxes and a bunch of other stuff I didnt need using both USD and Thai money. Is there such a thing as a 4th world country?

When we checked into Myanmar (approximately day 3) an immigration official and a facilitator came aboard the boat. They reviewed (and kept) our passports, a couple cases of beer and some tips (all handled by the captain). Then an agent was placed on our boat for the entire duration of the journey in Myanmar territory. I was never quite sure what the agent was supposed to be doing, while on the boat for 4 days. Maybe just to keep a watchful eye on us whilst in Myanmar. Luckily our Myanmar government agent spoke some English and was very helpful on the dive deck (probably to keep from going stir crazy). Our agent used to sit on the bow of the boat and listen to Voice of America, in Burmese, and keep us up to date on world news (which seemed quite ironic to me).

We did see a couple other dive boats during our few days in Myanmar although not many. Deep into Myanmar we saw a live aboard called the Mermaid that looked quite nice as did the Sea Bees. We heard good things about a boat called the Sea King. A cattle boat to avoid, (75 divers) is South Siam Divers out of Koh Bon.

All in all, I was a bit apprehensive about this boat, knowing in advance it was not a 5-star live aboard and that it did not even show up on my US dive travel agents radar. I was pleasantly surprised at how much this boat offered and how little I really needed in order to be comfortable.

www.myanmarmobydicktravel.com or info@mobydick-myanmar.com.mm

Sunrise divers phuket - contact Jamie
This is the local Thai dive shop that the boys used to get the deal
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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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