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Dive Review of Nautilus Explorer in
Mexico (Western)/Guadalupe Island

Nautilus Explorer, Aug, 2012,

by David Hardie, NY, US (Reviewer Reviewer 4 reports with 1 Helpful vote). Report 6633.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments This was an unbelievable opportunity to observe great whites up close and personal in clear water while staying on a first-class liveaboard.

Our trip started at 7pm at a hotel near the San Diego airport. Paul, one of the divemasters, gathered the 22 for the bus trip to Ensenada, Mexico. We passed through Mexican customs and arrived at the boat around 10pm, with margaritas to greet us.

The guests were an interesting and international bunch: a professional videographer from Germany, a music school teacher from Switzerland, a family of four from Mexico, a firefighter from Canada, a mother and her 23-year-old son from Detroit, a young couple from Peru, two women from New Jersey, a family of three from California, two graduate students from California, a bank CEO from California, and three of us from New York.

We were the first trip of the Guadalupe season, and the first after a three-week refit of the Nautilus Explorer. Because of the refit, Captain Al decided to give the crew a full night's sleep before departing for Guadalupe. We set off early the next morning, but the delay had no impact on our three days of diving.

The crossing to Guadalupe takes 21 hours to cover 210+ miles. We were accompanied partway by dozens of spinner dolphins who enjoyed riding the pressure wave off our bow. The weather for the crossing was cloudy and much chillier than most of us expected. Bring a sweatshirt or jacket, even for a summer trip.

Everything brightened when we got to Guadalupe, which apparently radiates enough heat to burn off the cloud cover. (On a satellite map, Guadalupe looks like a sunny hole in a cloudy donut.) We anchored in 250 feet of water, maybe a quarter of a mile from a rocky beach covered with California sea lions and elephant seals.

Day 1 of diving got off to a slower-than-normal start, as there were some kinks getting the cages into the water. But then again, this was the boat's first Guadalupe trip of the season ... and launching the cages is quite a production.

By about 10:00, the four very sturdy cages were available. Two were lowered from the port and starboard sides, dropping a total of six divers to 40 feet for 45 minute dives. (These are scheduled to rotate everyone evenly.) Two other cages were stationary off the stern -- with viewing platforms at 8 feet and 18 feet, respectively.

The first dive produced no white sharks, although a sea lion visited. For the second and third dives of the day, we had two sharks cruising within an arm's length. We ended the day thinking it couldn't get much better.

But it did get even better: the shark activity increased until we had five great white sharks on each dive of the third day. We were also treated to the antics of a very brave sea lion, who showed off his agility by buzzing the sharks for hours.

The accommodations were quite good, even if not truly luxurious. We would opt for the 2nd tier of staterooms next time -- the added space in the top-of-the-line suite was a bit of a waste.

The food was plentiful and quite good. There was a continental breakfast at 7, followed by a cooked-to-order breakfast (Eggs Benedict, French toast, etc.) at 9:30. Lunch was at 12:30, always with a delicious soup. There were snacks in the afternoon, followed by a very good dinner. The bar was stocked with at least a dozen premium beers, and they liquors were all top shelf.

The crew was amazing. Al was the captain on this trip, although apparently the owner (Mike) is sometimes at the helm. There were four main divemasters, Paul, Juan, Nelson and Tigre, although Al and first mate Kevin joined in to make sure the 40-foot cages were always accompanied. The hostesses were Carmen and Dana, and you couldn't ask for a happier and friendlier pair (especially Carmen). The rest of the crew (and there were plenty) were always smiling and helpful.

If you go, be aware that the water is around 65 degrees. You need at least a 7mm suit, and the smarter folks had semi-dry suits or wore a neoprene vest underneath. The videographer wore a dry suit, enabling him to continue diving while many of us hit the hot tub.

Beyond that, the only gear required is a mask, since you dive without fins, BC, tank, or even a snorkel. The hookah system works well for air, and a weighted harness keeps you from floating around the cage.

The still and video photographers seemed quite happy with the setup, and we enjoyed reviewing the images each evening. The crew put together a "greatest hits" DVD for each of us on the last day.

Three days turned out to be the perfect amount of diving, since there are only so many ways you can be wowed by multiple great whites that measure from 10 feet to 16 feet. (The even larger females arrive later in the season, which runs from August into November.)

We left Guadalupe at the end of the third day of diving, this time for a sunnier crossing to Ensenada. We arrived a little after 1pm the next day, and were on our way back to San Diego after the Nautilus Explorer was checked out by Mexican marines and their drug-sniffing dog.

Overall, a great trip that crossed a big item off our personal bucket list. We probably won't repeat this same trip, but we are already checking out Socorro as another high-voltage trip aboard Nautilus Explorer.
Websites Nautilus Explorer   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Aruba, Bahamas, Belize, Bonaire, BVI, Cayman, Channel Islands, Cozumel, Florida Keys, Flower Gardens, USVI
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 65-65°F / 18-18°C Wetsuit Thickness 7
Water Visibility 60-80 Ft/ 18-24 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Dives in the two main cages (at 40 feet) are 45 minutes each. You can do 3-4 of these per day. Dives in the surface cages are unlimited.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals N/A Tropical Fish N/A
Small Critters N/A Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics 5 stars

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Camera table seemed to make all the photographers happy. There was good sharing of photos, and the crew burned DVDs of a slide show (using guests' photos) on the last day.
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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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