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Dive Review of El Mar Diving Center, Mesa Az./Hacienda Tetakawi Hotel in
Mexico (Western)/San Carlos

El Mar Diving Center, Mesa Az./Hacienda Tetakawi Hotel : "San Carlos, Mexico with El Mar Divers", Jul, 2015,

by Dan Panzica, AZ, US (Reviewer Reviewer 5 reports with 2 Helpful votes). Report 8310 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments San Carlos is a quaint beachfront town within the port city of Guaymas in the northern state of Sonora, Mexico and is approximately half way down the mainland side of the Gulf of California. It is a 450 easy driving miles from Phoenix making it the perfect destination for a long weekend dive trip.

El Mar Diving Center in Mesa, Az. is one of the many local dive shops that offer weekend dive excursions to San Carlos, Mexico. Most (El Mar included) offer self-driving caravan trips. El Mar is one of the few offering bus trips. Traveling by bus was a great way to go for my first visit to San Carlos. We departed from the dive shop at 07:30 and arrived at El Mar Diving Center in San Carlos at 15:30 with a couple of well-timed stops for lunch and breaks. The USD $599 cost of the trip included two days of 2-tank diving, transportation, and 3 nights in the Hacienda Tetakawi Hotel which is clean, quiet, and located across the street from the beach within easy walking distance to several restaurants, bars, convenience stores, and shops.

The guests were an eclectic mix of folks from all walks of life. The trip leaders were all working professionals supporting their diving habit as dive masters and instructors. The high caliber and professionalism of the El Mar dive staff made the trip flow efficiently while keeping things fun for the guests. The local boat crew joined the staff keeping watch and lending hands to guests when needed. The El Mar team organized the divers by experience allowing each group the freedom to dive their own profiles while keeping a watchful eye over each group. After each dive, roll call and count was taken to ensure all had returned to the boat.

Diving was from the Piesquita which is a 36í Norton cruiser designed specifically for diving. The boat was roomy enough and comfortable enough for a 2 tank day trip and was set up with a rinse tank for camera equipment. The entries required a giant stride with access to two wide ladders and helpful hands from the crew to facilitate easy exits.

The morning dives were at Isla San Pedro Nolasco located eighteen miles from shore which was a 75 minute cruise from port. Most of the action at San Pedro was well within 60 feet of the surface although there was a group that dove to 130 feet as part of their advanced training. Visibility was between 70-90 feet, water temperature was 83-85 degrees F, and currents were minimal. The area near the islandís shore was rocky providing excellent hiding places for sea life.

Underwater sunbeams lit up schools of tropical fish, sergeant majors, hawkfish, triggerfish, and moorish idols, but the stars of the show were the sea lions. The high-velocity, athletic mobility, and control of these underwater missiles were a sight to behold. The sea lion encounter at San Pedro was like a combination of a Yap manta dive and a visit to a dog park full of happy bouncing Labrador retrievers. The dives were truly amazing. The younger sea lions would swim playfully toward the divers turning inches from their masks. However, if you tried to venture too close to shore, an elk size male made it clear that you were not welcome. He was the guardian of the nursery. From the boat we could see the pups huddled next to a rock, and the big guy ensured we knew the nursery was off limits.

The afternoon dives were conducted at the smaller islands of San Antonio and San Nicholas. Visibility at the two islands was 20- 40 feet with light current and significant surge. Both islands had a wide variety of sea life including octopus, sea horses, pipe fish, moray eels, and puffer fish. The islands each had an arch which you could swim through only if you could handle surge and maintain good buoyancy control. If not, you would be thrown into the rocks. The entrance to the arch was strewn with boulders and rock canyons which funneled the surge shooting you through the opening. Part of the group spent the dive photographing the sea life while the adrenaline junkies went crashing through the arches in the surge.

My overall experience diving San Carlos with the El Mar dive team was excellent. Warm water diving, prolific and varied seal life, professional staff, all without having to get on an airplane. A great weekend indeed!
Websites El Mar Diving Center, Mesa Az.   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Sipadan, Palau, Truk Lagoo, Palau, Philippines, Layang Layang, Similans, Kho Tao/Samui, Kona, Cabo, Catalina, Niagara River, Lake Erie
Closest Airport Getting There Bus from Phoenix/Mesa, Arizona

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, surge
Water Temp 82-85°F / 28-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 1
Water Visibility 20-90 Ft/ 6-27 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions People were allowed to dive their own profile, while the suggested dive time of ~60 minutes was not strictly enforced.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Almost every other guest carried GoPros' while three guests carried higher end, old-school, housings with strobe light systems.

The boat had a large work table on the main deck and a rinse tank reserved only for cameras. The staff tried their best to point our the sea horses, octopus, lobsters and other interesting critters.

Everyone with a camera or GoPro had a clear view for excellent pictures of the sea lions.
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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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