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Dive Review of Solmar V in
Mexico (Western)/Revillagigedo Islands

December, 2006, an Instant Reader Report by Jeanne & Bill Downey, PA, USA (34 reports)
Report Number 3126

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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
Over 1000 dives
Where else diving
Bahamas, Caribbean, Galapagos, Cocos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Micronesia,
Bikini, Hawaii, Fiji, etc.
Closest Airport
Getting There

		

Dive Conditions

Weather
sunny  
Seas
choppy  
Water Temp
81   to 81    ° Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
3
Water Visibility
40   to 100    Feet  
 
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
yes  
 
Enforced diving restrictions  
130 feet, no decompression, 50 minute dives.  
Liveaboard?
yes 
Nitrox Available?
N/A 
What I saw
Sharks
Lots 
Mantas
Squadrons 
Dolphins
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
Turtles
1 or 2 
Whales
None 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Corals
  2 stars
Tropical Fish
3 stars  
Small Critters
  2 stars
Large Fish
4 stars  
Large Pelagics
  5 stars
 
 
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
N/A  
Comments
[None]
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Accommodations
4 stars
Food
4 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
N/A
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  
Snorkeling
N/A  
 
 

Overall Rating

Value for $$
N/A    
Beginners
3 stars   
Advanced
5 stars    
Comments  
The Archepielago de Revillagigedo consists of four islands—San Benedicto,
Socorro, Roca Partido, and Clarion. Since hardly anyone can pronounce, or
remember the real name, this area is usually referred to as “Socorro
Islands”. 

After just beating an ice storm out of Pittsburgh, we landed at the San
Jose del Cabo airport. A 45 minute taxi van drive put us at the Siesta
Suites, our home for two nights in Cabo San Lucas. Siesta Suites is a great
little in-town hotel, close to all the action, but quiet enough to sleep.
It has a homey, welcoming feel with basic, clean rooms, all with
refrigerators and some with kitchens. There is a restaurant/bar next door,
although not owned by Siesta Suites, which is a popular place to eat and
hang out. It was a bit pricey, but we had leftovers that lasted two days.
There are many other restaurants close by, and lots of establishments for
night time fun. It’s possible to see pretty much the whole town on foot;
some of the beaches would be a drive.

Although pick-up is usually at the plush Solmar Suites, our group of 8 was
picked up from Siesta Suites around 1:30pm and taken to the Solmar V, our
home for the next week. The Solmar V is an older boat with lots of wood,
even on the dive deck benches. The layout is efficient considering there
are 22 guests plus staff. It was a full boat with 22 divers, including our
celebrity photographers Bonnie Pelnar and Marty Snyderman. We were assigned
our tank positions and cabins and got busy unpacking and setting up our
dive gear. 

The Solmar V left the dock about 3:30pm and motored for the next 23 hours
in slightly choppy seas to San Benedicto The boat has three levels, the sun
deck, half of which is shaded by a large tarp, the main deck, with the
galley, dining area, and dive deck, and the cabins below. The aft cabins
are slightly (very slightly) larger and more stable in rough seas, but also
noisy, with a nasty vibration—several of us tried to drown out the noise
with ear plugs, but this is something that needs fixed, if possible. From
talking to the guests in the forward cabins, they were much less noisy,
with no vibration, but the two guests in the bow cabin complained about the
noisy anchor.

Each cabin had a tiny sink and a combination commode/shower. We got used to
showering while sort of straddling the commode, although tall people might
have a problem. A few people never took a shower in their cabin, preferring
to use one of the two showers on the dive deck—the water was warm, but not
hot enough for me. There is also a regular bathroom (no shower) just inside
from the dive deck. 

Walking in from the dive deck, the bathroom is on the right; on the left is
a small “library” where the charging station, a computer for email, and the
books, DVDs, and videos are kept. Continuing on into the dining area are
four booths that can hold four to five people and four small elevated
tables, each with 2 bar stools and a green library lamp. There is a huge
flat screen TV in this area. At the far end, just before the galley was a
small self-serve bar area, with ice and push button soda. Everyone pulled
out their laptops and worked on their digital photos between dives and each
night. Every outlet on the boat was being used by some type of electrical
gadget! Before each meal, everything on the tables had to be unplugged and
moved.

Meals were very good. Breakfast started out with a buffet of cold cereal,
juice, and coffee. Once we were seated, Pepe came around with a plate
showing us the available hot meal. Lunch was a hot sit-down meal beginning
with soup, and supper was salad, entrée, dessert, and a choice of
red or white wine. There were always cookies or left over desserts sitting
out. Soda, wine,  and beer were included in the price.

The dive deck is very spacious, with plenty of room for maneuvering. There
are 11 stations on each side of the boat, with the camera table in the
middle, which got pretty crowded with all the cameras and cases. Each diver
had a large plastic bin to keep personal dive gear organized under their
seat. Wet suits were hung on a bar somewhat toward the bow; the 3 people
that got assigned to that area always had wetsuits flapping in their faces,
or people trying to squeeze between them and the wetsuits to get to the
pangas. 

The pangas were kept out of the way on the upper deck during the crossing
and at night. They were lowered each morning and the crew loaded our tanks
and weights. Between dives the tanks were filled on the pangas and a crew
member would check the Nitrox mix while the divers watched. Right before
each dive the photographers handed their cameras to the boat driver. It’s
definitely a good idea to keep your camera lens cap on, as the cameras were
nestled between the sides of the panga, the ladder and the driver’s feet!
Each of the 2 pangas carried 11 divers plus two divemasters and the panga
driver. We rolled off simultaneously and then dashed back to the panga for
cameras before heading down. We followed one dive guide and the other took
up the rear position, making sure we didn’t either wander or float off.
When we did, usually following the hammerheads, our guide led us back to
where we were supposed to be. Thank you!

Our first “check-out” dive was shortly after arriving at San Benedicto
Island, at Fondeadero, where we saw one manta and a hole full of lobsters.
The next day we did four more dives at San Benedicto, one at the Boiler,
and three at El Canon. We did see two mantas at the Boiler, but the
visibility was unusually poor—this is where they usually see the mantas in
large numbers doing their feeding loops. The first dive at the Canyon, done
off the main boat, was also very poor visibility, but the next dive was a
little clearer and we saw several sharks and a giant manta that kept
circling over my head. Then he hovered over me while my bubbles tickled his
stomach. There were also some inquisitive silky sharks hanging out under
the boat. We were psyched for another dive there, but the boat’s anchor
dragged and we ended up going by panga and not seeing much of anything.

That night we made the crossing to the island of Socorro. The local
government officials came aboard to inspect the boat while we were eating
breakfast, so it didn’t hold us up too much. We did three dives at Socorro
that day and saw hammerheads, white-tips, dolphins, Galapagos shark, tuna,
silkies, moray eels, and numerous smaller fish. Then it was another
overnight crossing to Roca Partida, or Split Rock.

We spent three days diving Split Rock, which is exactly what the name
implies. Each group of divers started off at opposite ends of the rock, but
usually passed each other or merged at some point during the dive. Because
of the deeper depths, we did three dives each day, lasting 50 minutes each,
including the safety stop, except for a couple dives that went as long as
75 minutes because the mantas just wouldn’t leave us alone! Once we all
calmed down and stopped chasing them, one in particular would swim from
person to person, eyeballing each diver in turn. As we all ran out of air
and time and ascended, the mantas would go up with us, until we were doing
our safety stop with the mantas swimming around us. Awesome! The other
group saw a whale shark on one dive for a few minutes. 

So our last three days were spent going around Roca Partida one way, then
the other, and each dive the rock looked the same, but the critters
changed—silkies, Galapagos sharks, hammerheads, tuna, mantas, blue runners,
mobulas, and more mantas. Bill and I got in the middle of a bait-ball at
one point, and got some exciting photos when the silkies began joining us.
But when the third silky arrived and started bumping us, we decided it was
time to leave.

We did spend one dive doing nothing but swimming against the current for 35
minutes, not seeing much, which was exhausting. Afterwards, no one could
figure out what the point was. Finally our guide apologized and explained
he was trying to find a whale shark, but after that he kept us to a more
leisurely; there was plenty to see without hoping for the elusive Mr. Big.


We were given a choice to go back to San Benedicto to try our luck again at
the Boiler, or stay the third day at Roak Partida. Upon the crew’s advice
we stayed and were satisfied, since there was no way to know if the Boiler
would have mantas or still have poor visibility. This meant 30 hours
crossing back to port, but one less night doing a crossing. It also meant
our last dinner was on the boat instead of in Cabo San Lucas. The crossing
was actually quite smooth and we got into port in time for some bar-hopping
before hitting the sack and flying out the next morning.

As long as the mantas show up, the Archepielago de Revillagigedo is
definitely a cool place to dive, with a nice variety of sharks. The boat is
a bit cramped, except for the dive deck, and noisy, but the staff is hard
working, the food is good, and they work hard to give you the best diving.
Plus Cabo San Lucas is a fun place to hang. It’s definitely on our “return”
list.
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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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