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Dive Review of Solmar V in
Mexico (Western)/Socorro

March, 2003, an Instant Reader Report by Barbara Petrecca, MD, USA
Report Number 657
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
101-250 dives
Where else diving
Bonaire, Turks & Caicos, St Thomas, Maui, Monterey (CA), Pensacola,
Hatteras, Southport, Cooper River (Charleston, SC), Bimini
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, dry  
surge, currents  
Water Temp
74   to 76    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
40   to 80    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
130 foot Depth Limit, No Deco Diving  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
3 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  3 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
3 stars  
Boat Facilities
3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
3 stars  
Shore Facilities  
Surge and current can take time to get used to.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
1 stars
Service and Attitude
2 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
2 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
2 stars   
4 stars    
I was very disappointed... I know the dive conditions and marine life can
not be controlled but the emails and website are a bit misleading.   We did
see whales off in a distance but we could not get close to them as bragged
about in their emails.  There were dolphins - but they were pretty much
like the whales...  unapproachable.   I am sorry but I can see these
animals while I am on the surface at home.  No whale sharks but this was
expected as I was told right before we left by Jay that I probably wouldn't
see one.  This was alittle disheartening as the whale sharks were part of
the reason we chose the Socorro and the Solmar V.  I believed what was
written on the WebPages.  Upon my return, I read that the Galapagos had 25
sightings of whale sharks in December along with schools of Hammerheads
showing that the El Nino was not having an effect on the life there.  So if
 "These islands have been compared to Galapagos or Coccos in the
quality of Big Animal encounters they provide and they have in fact been
called "Mexican Galapagos" (quoted from their website) - what
happened?   And speaking of Hammerheads, I believe we saw approximately 5
(2 at Split Rock and 3 at San Benedicto) - hardly what I would call huge
schools.  We saw a few Galapagos sharks here and there.  Split Rock did
have quite a few Silver Tips which was a plus.  And of course the Silkies
were always under the boat (more on that later.)  
The mantas were magnificent.  The most I saw were two in the water at the
same time while diving.  However, I was told other divers saw 5 at one
time.   We did not make it to the Boiler (maybe the rest of the mantas were
there).  We were told we would be going there on the last day - definitely
by Panga if the Solmar was unable to find shelter there.  Unfortunately we
did not, nor were we given any explanation why we did not  - we just
anchored and did 4 more dives at the Canyon.  
Dive Master/Dive Operations - I was alittle disappointed with some of the
actions by the dive masters on board.  Their procedure of getting time and
depth information from each returning diver was frequently leaving the back
of the boat unmanned.  This made it alittle difficult for other divers to
exit the water with camera equipment.  Of the three dive masters, two were
usually in the water while one remained on deck.   
Remember the silkies I mentioned above - there was a reason they were under
the boat.  They were being fed.  During one dive in particular, one of the
divemasters was throwing raw fish into the water by the ladders while
divers were on the hang line.  Although Silkies seem rather mild and remind
me of nurse sharks, this feeding did make one rather aggressive and caused
concern.   During the next dive the same dive master was in the water
feeding the silkies near the hang line.  I realize it might not seem like a
major issue but it only takes one mistake to get someone bit.  
Thought I am not aware of the number of dive sites available on this trip, 
I found that diving the same dive site 7 times alittle much. We only did 17
dives.  I was also very disappointed about not making it to the Boiler
especially when we were told that we would definitely go there.  
Cuisine - They need a new chef onboard. I found that the food was not up to
the standards I would expect - hardly "gourmet meals" mentioned
on the WebPages.  They were plain and prepared poorly.  The portion sizes,
although sufficient for myself, were small for others.  If more of the main
course was available, we were unaware we could ask for it.   Even my
request for more flour tortillas at one lunch was declined.  There were
also no snacks put out after dives (something I am used to and mentioned on
your website as well) until a guest requested it.   Even then, it was like
pulling teeth to actually get it.   And what kind of afternoon receptions
were you speaking of?   It felt like we were being "rationed" on
food.   I have taken two Blackbeard Cruises (which are similar to diving
camping trips) and received better meals, both in quality and quantity,
then on the Solmar.   

I did enjoy my night at the Solmar Suites until I discovered I had paid
much more for our room than other guests from the Solmar 5.   I had to
fight with Jay for the discount I did get for the one night reservation and
I still paid approximately 25% more.   And let's not discuss the discounted
Solmar 5 rates given to those late booking guests so you could fill the
boat ($900.00 - we did get a $300 discount).

I would not recommend this liveaboard. For the money and diving --there are
much better options available... Don't be fooled by their hype.  I wish I
had read my several Chapbook's before I made my reservations.  Solmar's
response to my concerns - "you would change your mind if you
experienced the real Socorro Islands" & "I also would like
you to come back and see that we took your comments seriously, as we do all
constructive criticism, as far as the boat operations". After all this
time in the business, Solmar should have had it right on my first trip...  
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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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