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Dive Review of M/V Nautilus Explorer in
Canada/Port Hardy, BC area

April, 2004, an Instant Reader Report by Ken Robertson, Alberta, Canada
Reviewer   (5 reports)
Report Number 1024
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
Over 1000 dives
Where else diving
All over the Caribbean, Mexico (both coasts), Galapagos, Greece, Tahiti,
Cook Islands, Fiji, Panama, Canada's West Coast
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

cloudy, dry  
choppy, currents  
Water Temp
47   to 49    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
15   to 50    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Dive times are enforced and for good reason - tidal currents can be very

(You need to add a category for Dry Suits)  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
Boat Facilities
Overall rating for UWP's  
Shore Facilities  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
2 stars   
5 stars    
It had been over two years since I had last been aboard the Nautilus
Explorer (Nov. 2001). The boat was neat and tidy and ready for the guests
when we arrived. There have been a number of subtle changes that I noticed,
such as more colorful linens and the addition of pictures to the bedrooms,
a full set of towels for each guest (previously you had to bring your own),
and additional storage shelves under the beds and hooks for jackets, etc.
They have also added kayaks for use in between dives and have opened up the
very top deck for sitting and relaxation. A large plasma screen TV has been
added in the lounge. The lounge area was as comfortable as ever and one
would often see more than one diver having dozed off in the afternoon 
with reading material still in hand. After dinner (or a dive) guests are
invited to show the photos they have taken on the TV or do a slide show
presentation. This was a great opportunity for new photographers to get
tips from the more experienced, and for everyone to practice their marine

The meals were served buffet style and were well prepared, hearty, and on
time. In the past, co-owner Mary Ann Lever would head-up the kitchen, but
the Nautilus has now added a chef, who did a terrific job, much to the
delight of the guests (and who appears to be carrying on the reputation for
great meals that Mary Ann had established). 

Mike Lever has added more crew for this seasons trips including an extra
divemaster and a naturalist. The extra divemaster is to be available to
provide guide services, be a fill-in buddy, or work with guests who are new
to cold water diving. There was no naturalist on board for this trip to
make room for other staff in training, but Mike gave a pretty good talk on
the local sea life one night that was well received by the divers. The crew
was helpful and attentive, and mixed well with the experienced group of
Canadian and American guests on board. This was a great group of people to
dive with. 

The diving is awesome.  More than a few dive publications call the Port
Hardy, BC area the best cold water diving in the world and for good reason.
The plant and animal sea life is just incredible. Every diver saw at least
one octopus and a couple of wolf eels  always a highlight. The largest of
the octopuses I saw was probably about 7 feet from tentacle tip to tentacle
tip, but larger ones were seen by others. There were also lots of different
types of crabs to be seen including some very large Puget Sound King crabs
 one in particular, which we found on one of the two scheduled night
dives, looked big enough to tow a Hummer across a parking lot. 

The diversity of anemones, sponges and soft corals is really something to
see. The Browning Wall and Hunt Rock dive sites are simply spectacular 
even better than I ever remembered from earlier trips to the area. There is
a diverse mix of fish to see but my main sea life target on this trip was
nudibranchs, and my dive buddy and I were able to find numerous species on
virtually every dive.  

Mike Lever is very serious about safety and having guests attend the dive
briefings and adhering to the target dive times. He gives divers a lot of
leeway with their profiles within the timeframes, but I have no doubt he
would "bench" anyone who didnt play by the announced rules.
Tidal currents in the area can be quite severe and can't be taken lightly.
We had a reasonably experienced group of serious divers on the trip, so
people were respectful of the time and pick-up requests which were
announced at each dive. The Nautilus has also implemented the DAN roll call
tag system, in addition to head counts.  While our dive location schedule
had to be changed from time to time because of weather, the area allows for
a number of good alternate locations to use. 

The fact that this was my third trip on the Nautilus Explorer in four
years, and my fourth on a Mike and Mary Ann Lever boat, pretty much speaks
for how much I like their operation. I would recommend this live-aboard
without hesitation. Ideally divers should have some cold water, dry suit,
and current diving experience to really enjoy the Port Hardy trip locations
the vessel visits.

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