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

December, 2009, an Instant Reader Report by Sandra Holloway, CA, US
Reviewer   (3 reports)
Report Number 5549
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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

Water Temp
80   to 82    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
25   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Only 3 divers on the boat - when the first one ran out of air we all had to
come up  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  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  
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):
2 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars    
4 stars   
3 stars    
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.  or

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