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Dive Review of Mistral in
Galapagos Islands/Ecuador

Mistral, Sep, 2006,

by Mark Tarczynski, CA, United States . Report 3080.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving All over Caribbean, Florida, California and Hawaii
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas choppy, currents
Water Temp 68 to 72 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 60 to 80 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Our Dive-Nazi Divemaster "DEMANDED" we all follow him so we don't get lost at sea. This guy was so intolerant that we were about to mutiny midway through the trip!!
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Mistral's accommodations for UWP's was miserable. Nothing more than a picnic bench on the aft deck covered with a white table cloth. Had Delta Airlines not lost my underwater camera gear, the camera table would've been too overcrowded.

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

Accommodations 1 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 1 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 1 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments We arrive San Cristobal Island and are ferried to the Mistral without incident. We're assigned our bunks and set about unpacking and setting up our gear. We get underway to our first dive site, which is typically a quasi-checkout dive to get everybody acclimated to the water and to adjust for proper weights. This dive is pretty miserable since you'd have to shovel your way any deeper than 20 feet. Hardly a dive to get you properly weighted.

Next day, we're up early. Eat a banana or two and get wet. The diving is pretty good. Visibility is great. We see Hammerheads, huge Galapagos Sharks (about 14 to 16 feet long). Water temps are a comfy 71 degrees. We get in another dive with similar results. The third dive is canceled 'cuz the air compressor motor had to be replaced and the crew couldn't fill our tanks fast enough. Next dive is a night dive at Wolf Island where we photograph the very weird Red Lipped Bat Fish.

A word about crew behavior and guest service. On these trips, the Divemaster is the "Ruler" of the boat. Some would think the Captain is the "King" of the boat, but not on these trips. The Captain rarely speaks English and is there only to pilot the ship - that's all. It's the Divemaster's responsibility to insure guest safety as well as a pleasant dive trip. The Divemaster directs the Captain to do what he decides is best for the guests.

Unfortunately, our Divemaster was a Dive-Nazi moron!

Normally, after everyone is unpacked and their gear is set up, the Divemaster gathers the guests and briefs them on the "do's" and "don'ts" of the boat. This usually takes an hour and is very valuable to guests since every boat is different.

Unfortunately, this briefing NEVER HAPPENED.

For example, we were 36 hours into our trip when someone discovered that we weren't supposed to flush toilet paper down the head. HELLLOOOOOO! That would've been useful information before getting underway! It turns out that this particular Divemaster had only been working for the Company for three months and it was only his second time on The Mistral.

Being an inexperienced Divemaster, this guy forgets to distribute dive flags and dive-alert horns to his guests. This is standard operating procedure since Galapagos currents are rippin' fast and divers are often times "lost." An extended dive flag and a dive-alert horn insure the Panga (little rubber boat with a motor) will find you and pick you up.

Without a dive flag and/or horn, the likelihood of you being lost at sea increases exponentially. We did four dives without these pieces of emergency gear until one of our group had enough presence of mind to ask if this emergency gear was available on the boat. The Divemaster says "Oh yeah . . . I forgot." and points out where the gear was. No wonder why our Dive-Nazi Divemaster is freaking out on every dive 'cuz we won't stay in a little group and follow him!! It's all because he forgot to give us the emergency location gear so he's afraid we'll get lost.

Unfortunately, one diver in our group stupidly got Bent (Decompression Sickness) just before we arrived Darwin Island. We had to steam back to Baltra to get him to a Hyperbaric Chamber. Because the boat's top speed was half that of normal boats (7 knots), it took us 29 hours to arrive Baltra. We lost a day and a half of diving and never got to see Darwin Island.

The rest of the trip consisted of limited diving around the southern Galapagos Archipelago. We got to play with sea lions and saw Penguins. We did some land tours and saw Marine Iguanas and the Blue Footed Booby Bird and the Galapagos Tortoise.

The Mistral is a boat I will never, ever go on again. In addition to all the other retarded stuff about the boat, it's top speed was a lightning fast 7 knots. Most boats have top speeds more like 14 knots. A 7 knot boat means you're taking an extra day to arrive at Darwin Island. That "lost" day of diving is worth an extra $500 alone. Oh yeah . . . one other thing . . . no Nitrox! If they had Nitrox, the potential for DCS is diminished (to be fair . . . the DCS accident is no fault of the Mistral's).

The boat normally carries 16 divers and two Divemasters. The swim step is soooo crowded that gearing-up and loading into the panga is an exercise in frustration and resembles controlled pandemonium. Half the number of divers would make this boat more pleasant, but it looks like this company is not about customer service, but all about raping the diving consumer.




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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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