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Dive Review of M/V Nautilus Explorer in
Canada/Port Hardy, BC area

M/V Nautilus Explorer, Apr, 2004,

by Ken Robertson, Alberta, Canada (Reviewer Reviewer 5 reports). Report 1024.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving All over the Caribbean, Mexico (both coasts), Galapagos, Greece, Tahiti, Cook Islands, Fiji, Panama, Canada's West Coast
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather cloudy, dry Seas choppy, currents
Water Temp 47 to 49 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 7
Water Visibility 15 to 50 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Dive times are enforced and for good reason - tidal currents can be very strong.

(You need to add a category for Dry Suits)
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 1 stars

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

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments It had been over two years since I had last been aboard the Nautilus Explorer (Nov. 2001). The boat was neat and tidy and ready for the guests when we arrived. There have been a number of subtle changes that I noticed, such as more colorful linens and the addition of pictures to the bedrooms, a full set of towels for each guest (previously you had to bring your own), and additional storage shelves under the beds and hooks for jackets, etc. They have also added kayaks for use in between dives and have opened up the very top deck for sitting and relaxation. A large plasma screen TV has been added in the lounge. The lounge area was as comfortable as ever and one would often see more than one diver having dozed off in the afternoon with reading material still in hand. After dinner (or a dive) guests are invited to show the photos they have taken on the TV or do a slide show presentation. This was a great opportunity for new photographers to get tips from the more experienced, and for everyone to practice their marine identification.

The meals were served buffet style and were well prepared, hearty, and on time. In the past, co-owner Mary Ann Lever would head-up the kitchen, but the Nautilus has now added a chef, who did a terrific job, much to the delight of the guests (and who appears to be carrying on the reputation for great meals that Mary Ann had established).

Mike Lever has added more crew for this seasons trips including an extra divemaster and a naturalist. The extra divemaster is to be available to provide guide services, be a fill-in buddy, or work with guests who are new to cold water diving. There was no naturalist on board for this trip to make room for other staff in training, but Mike gave a pretty good talk on the local sea life one night that was well received by the divers. The crew was helpful and attentive, and mixed well with the experienced group of Canadian and American guests on board. This was a great group of people to dive with.

The diving is awesome. More than a few dive publications call the Port Hardy, BC area the best cold water diving in the world and for good reason. The plant and animal sea life is just incredible. Every diver saw at least one octopus and a couple of wolf eels always a highlight. The largest of the octopuses I saw was probably about 7 feet from tentacle tip to tentacle tip, but larger ones were seen by others. There were also lots of different types of crabs to be seen including some very large Puget Sound King crabs one in particular, which we found on one of the two scheduled night dives, looked big enough to tow a Hummer across a parking lot.

The diversity of anemones, sponges and soft corals is really something to see. The Browning Wall and Hunt Rock dive sites are simply spectacular even better than I ever remembered from earlier trips to the area. There is a diverse mix of fish to see but my main sea life target on this trip was nudibranchs, and my dive buddy and I were able to find numerous species on virtually every dive.

Mike Lever is very serious about safety and having guests attend the dive briefings and adhering to the target dive times. He gives divers a lot of leeway with their profiles within the timeframes, but I have no doubt he would "bench" anyone who didnt play by the announced rules. Tidal currents in the area can be quite severe and can't be taken lightly. We had a reasonably experienced group of serious divers on the trip, so people were respectful of the time and pick-up requests which were announced at each dive. The Nautilus has also implemented the DAN roll call tag system, in addition to head counts. While our dive location schedule had to be changed from time to time because of weather, the area allows for a number of good alternate locations to use.

The fact that this was my third trip on the Nautilus Explorer in four years, and my fourth on a Mike and Mary Ann Lever boat, pretty much speaks for how much I like their operation. I would recommend this live-aboard without hesitation. Ideally divers should have some cold water, dry suit, and current diving experience to really enjoy the Port Hardy trip locations the vessel visits.

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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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