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Dive Review of Monterey Express in
The Continental USA/Monterey, CA

March, 2007, an Instant Reader Report by Mort Rolleston, DC, US
Sr. Reviewer   (11 reports)
Report Number 3649
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
101-250 dives
Where else diving
Nassau, Bonaire, Great Barrier Reef, wrecks off North Carolina and in St
Lawrence River Canada, Key Largo FL, Ko Samui Thailand, Catalina Island CA,
Puerto Rico
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, dry  
calm, surge  
Water Temp
49   to 50    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
40   to 50    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  2 stars
Tropical Fish
2 stars  
Small Critters
  2 stars
Large Fish
1 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):
4 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
2 stars   
3 stars    
While on a work-related trip, I decided to take advantage of the
opportunity and try diving off Monterey.   While the water (always cool
here) was at its chilliest of the year (50 degrees), the visibility is
normally best then.  Indeed, per the many locals on my boat, the conditions
while I visited were as good as theyve ever seen it (calm and relatively
good viz  meaning 40-50 feet or so).   A skin, 7 mm Henderson gold core
wetsuit, and a vest on top (along with hood and gloves of course) kept me
quite comfortable (though many donned dry suits).  While much of the diving
there is off the beach, I read that the best sites are off shore just south
of Monterey Peninsula off of Carmel.   So, thats where I went via boat. 
We dove Locals Ledge and Fire Rocks off Pescadero Point  both pinnacles. 

My dive buddy, a local amateur underwater photographer, and I were content
to spend most of the first dive right under the boat in and around a
crevice filled with a huge school of blue rockfish, starfish, and some
short kelp.  We also saw the occasional kelp fish, treefish, and halfmoon
common to the area.  The pinnacle was covered in very (surprisingly) red
and pink hydrocoral and anemonies with a few sunflower stars and decorator
crabs roaming around.  Apparently, this site is rarely dived as it is
normally has a stiff current  so the locals were very excited to be diving
there at all.   According to those on the boat, a migrating gray whale came
close by, but we didnt see or hear it (we did see several on the boat ride
back to Monterey, however).  Most of the dive was around 60 feet in depth. 
Unfortunately, my tank only showed about 2400 psi at the start, which
limited my bottom line.  Fire Rocks had similar aquatic life to the first
dive.  The site is more of a ridge with tall kelp strands and felt more
like a coral reef in setup.  We explored small areas of mostly sheltered
large holes in the rock/ledge.

The boat operator (Monterey Express) was solid and experienced.  Unlike
most places Ive been, they are not affiliated with a dive shop, so any
rentals, etc. would have had to be through a separate business on shore
(not an issue for me fortunately).  They allowed divers, who were clearly
advanced on my trip, to dive their own profiles.   They did not put a guide
in the water (which was fine with me, but might be an issue to some).  My
only complaint was the relative lack of weights (and all in five pound
increments!).   I suppose with most of the divers local and probably
showing up with their own weights, that is usually not an issue.  They
also, oddly, really pressed me to put a ton of weight on saying Id need
much more here than other places.  I can dive with all the neoprene I
listed above with only 12 pounds of weight in the local fresh water quarry
and they insisted I put 25 pounds on  big mistake.  I dropped to about 20
pounds on second dive, but it was still too much.  I would have been fine
with 15-16 pounds or so.

Overall, the diving was interesting and worth it while I happened to be in
the area, but I was disappointed in the lack of larger fish and seals
(which I really wanted to see!).   Based on my experience, I think Catalina
Island off Los Angeles is better for diving on the Pacific Coast as the
water is clearer, warmer, and contains more critters (including larger fish
like bat rays, huge jewfish-size black sea bass, large sheep crabs, and
small sharks).   Should I go back, Ill have to try the shore diving near
downtown, which I hear usually has more seals, though less viz.  I think I
would also like to try to dive the shore near Point Lobos State Reserve
just south of Carmel, which looked wonderful from the hiking trails above
it.  However, I do strongly recommend visiting Monterey, if for no other
reason, to experience it and the area on land.  It is truly one of the most
beautiful areas Ive seen in the U.S. 
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