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Dive Review of Mistral in
Galapagos Islands/Ecuador

September, 2006, an Instant Reader Report by Mark Tarczynski, CA, United States
Report Number 3080
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
Over 1000 dives
Where else diving
All over Caribbean, Florida, California and Hawaii
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, dry  
choppy, currents  
Water Temp
68   to 72    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
60   to 80    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
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!!   
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  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  
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):
1 stars
5 stars
Service and Attitude
1 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
1 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
1 stars   
5 stars    
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

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

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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