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Dive Review of Nautilus Explorer/Nautilus Belle Amie in
Mexico (Western)/Socorro Islands

Nautilus Explorer/Nautilus Belle Amie: "Nautilus Belle Amie - Socorro Islands...great diving", Jun, 2015,

by James K Harris, TX, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 8 reports with 21 Helpful votes). Report 8303 has 1 Helpful vote.

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 4 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments This is a new boat but wasn't quite finished in time for the June 1 trip. The two hot tubs and the nitrox equipment had been held up in Mexican Customs for the previous 5 months. This info wasn't available until a couple of months before departure but the company offered a 40% discount on a future trip for failing to deliver "perfection".

Nitrox wasn't really needed with the dive schedule and depths. And it was warm at Socorro so I don't know that anyone would have used the hot tubs.

Diving was from rigid hull inflatables. Tanks and fins were kept onboard so you only had to get on and off the Belle Amie with your wetsuit and mask. Our trip had 22 divers so we were divided 7-7-8 among the three boats. The divemaster would help you into your gear at the site and then you'd backroll in as a group. The skiff driver would stay in the area for pickup. The boats had nice ladders to make it easy to get back onboard after letting them take your tank and fins.

The four divemasters they had were all excellent (Nelson, Jesse, Frankie, Enrique). No complaints at all with them.

They offered 80 cu.ft. aluminum tanks as standard or offered 80 cu.ft. steel tanks for about $36 for the week and also had some steel 100 cu.ft. tanks. Since we didn’t have nitrox available I don’t know how they’d do nitrox analysis of each tank since they were kept on the skiffs which were rising and falling as the mothership stayed at anchor.

The also provided safety sausages, Dive Alert horns, and Nautilus Lifeline GPS/VHF radios to each diver free of charge. Plenty of dive towels available.

Due to Hurricane Blanca heading straight through Socorro, we ended up with a modified trip. Made the 24 hour run to Socorro and made 3 dives the first day (El Fundedero for the checkout dive, then two at El Canon). That evening we found out we were going to have to leave Socorro the next day as the hurricane was coming right at us. So the next day we made three dives at The Boiler and then headed north 30 hours to the Sea of Cortez. You have to give kudos to the crew and company for putting our safety first. But part of me thought maybe they should have considered cancelling the trip as the forecast had high probability the storm was going to go through Socorro. The southern Sea of Cortez is a completely different kind of diving than Socorro and wasn’t the type of diving I was interested in.

But the limited diving was phenomenal at San Benedicto so I'm glad I got the teaser and a 40% discount for a return trip next year. Large mantas with us every dive, as many as 7 at a time just swimming by eyeball to eyeball or coming right over your head time after time after time. Mostly they were around 50' so it was easy to get in the full 60 minutes without getting close to deco limits. Photo/video ops were unlimited.

We also had adult and juvenile dolphins, a couple of appearances of a 4' tuna, small numbers of black-tip, white-tip, and silky sharks, two swim-bys along the bottom of individual hammerheads, and two 25' whale sharks that swam through but didn’t stick around.

Around the rock bottoms/pinnacles there'd be a good amount of fish life. Lots of green morays, more scorpionfish than I've seen on one trip, lots of small stuff.

The night snorkel with the silkies was certainly a unique experience. The boat’s lights brought in a lot of fish, they “chummed” with some of dinner’s leftovers, and one of the divemasters snorkeled around looking for sharks. Once he said he was seeing dolphins and silkies I got in with my GoPro and two video lights and immediately attracted the attention of a silky that made an approach and turned away 2’ under me. I didn’t have my fins on and didn’t realize there was surface current and I got pulled 100+ yards away from the boat. I’m surprised I wasn’t attacked as I was kicking and trying to swim with one arm (other was holding the GoPro rig) back to the boat. Only one other guest did the snorkel. I like sharks so I was glad I did it but if the one hadn’t made a close approach it wouldn’t have been worth it.

Water temp at San Benedicto the first week in June was 80 with no thermoclines. When we moved into the Sea of Cortez the water was cooler and very distinct thermoclines on a couple of shallow dives that dropped the temp to 74.

Since we only dove on San Benedicto due to the hurricane I don't think I got to see the best Socorro has to offer. Of the 6 dives 5 of them had little-to-no current, the other dive was probably 2 knots. But what I saw exceeded my expectations and it was looking like it would rival what I'd seen on the Galapagos Aggressor for a lot less money.

The rest of the crew (in addition to the divemasters) were outstanding – probably the best of any liveaboard I’ve been on. I think there were 12-13 crew to 22 divers. The boat is big and wide so it’s pretty stable. We rode out the weakening Hurricane Blanca in the Sea of Cortez and I had no concerns about boat safety in the winds and seas. I was in a Superior Stateroom which has plenty of room for two people - they look just like the pics on their website. No hair dryers, no plugs in the bathroom.

I only have a few complaints about the boat – 1. The air conditioning didn’t work that well. In my room (Rosario room) it was set at 65 the entire trip yet temps in the afternoon would reach 85. By the morning it would be cooled down to 75 to then start rising again throughout the day. I had one of the crew look at it 4 times but they couldn’t get it to blow any cooler. The a/c in the salon and dining room could blow ice cold but some of the time was turned off and the temps would rise. Sometimes floor fans were in use in lieu of a/c – I never did ask what was going on with them. 2. The non-skid deck surface is pretty aggressive. I scraped the back of my ankle on the tread face of the stairs as I was walking down forwards and removed some skin. The gray color also absorbs a lot of heat making unshaded deck temps pretty uncomfortable in bare feet. 3. There are no benches on the dive deck so putting on wetsuits while standing on a slightly rocking boat was a small challenge. I think they could remove two of the camera tables and put in benches to make things easier for people and they’d still have plenty of room for cameras.

One other common complaint I heard was that the onboard internet ($100/device) is unbelievably slow. Good enough to text with but not to send/receive e-mail or try to load the National Hurricane Center website (things that would take over an hour). I didn't use their internet as I suspected it would be slow and not worth the $100 price.

My trip was an international mix – 12 Brazilians, 6 Americans, 2 Slovenians, and 2 Russians. Briefings were given in English and Spanish. Overall it was a great group and everyone, guests and crew, seemed to have a lot of fun on the trip.

I will be taking advantage of the 40% discount they offered and will go with them again next year. I'd say with the limited dives we did at Socorro that it's #2 on my list of best sites (Galapagos is #1).
Websites Nautilus Explorer   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Palau, Galapagos, Caymans, Belize, Bahamas, Texas Flower Gardens, Hawaii, Cozumel, Guadalupe Island
Closest Airport Cabo San Lucas Getting There Direct flight from DFW

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas no currents
Water Temp 78-80°F / 26-27°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 75-100 Ft/ 23-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions You could follow the divemaster around or you could do your own thing. The only requirement was to limit dives to 60 minutes and stay out of the blue. Buddies weren’t required. The divemaster would surface around 45 minutes to be the first on the skiff to help the divers get back onboard.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas Squadrons
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks 1 or 2
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 2 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 5 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 On the Belle Amie there's an ungodly amount of camera table space - probably enough room for 50+ cameras. Lots of outlets spread all over the multi-level tables.

Skiffs weren't set up to have a decent platform for cameras to be placed on when coming out of the water - maybe 24" x 24". You could backroll in with your camera or they'd hand it to you.

They have rinse buckets on the Belle Amie but they don't want cameras left in there because damage can occur if you're trying to pull your camera off the bottom and there's cameras stacked on top. They wanted you to do a quick rinse and then move them to the camera table.
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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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