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Dive Review of Nautilus Under the Sea in
Mexico (Western)/Guadalupe Island

Nautilus Under the Sea: "Great Whites Galore on the Nautilus Under the Sea", Aug, 2017,

by Brent Barnes, OK, US (Reviewer Reviewer 6 reports with 5 Helpful votes). Report 9783 has 3 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 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 4 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments I just returned from a trip aboard the Nautilus Under the Sea visiting the great white sharks of Guadalupe Island and had an excellent trip. In August, the Nautilus company offers a special in which a paying adult can take a child or teenager for free, so I took my 16 year old son in what essentially was a "two for the price of one" special. He had a great time and I would highly recommend that those with teenagers interested in doing this trip consider the August special through Nautilus. The Nautilus office was excellent in responding to all of my emails and answered all of my questions in advance. Their website will answer many of the common questions about diving with the great white sharks. If you have any interest in diving with great white sharks, Guadalupe is the best place in the world to do it. Though there is reliable great white shark encounters in South Africa and in Australia and the Farallon Islands, none of those sites rival the excellent water visibility with these apex predators to allow great encounters. The male great white sharks arrive at Guadalupe first, arriving in July/August. They are smaller, with an average size of 12 feet or so. The females are larger and begin to arrive in October. They average 15 feet or so, though the largest female at Guadalupe was measured at 21 feet in length. The females are larger, but the males tend to be more active so consider those factors when you choose the dates of your trip.
The Nautilus fleet now has three boats, the original Explorer, the Belle Amie and now the Under the Sea which is the newest boat. The Under the Sea was just purchased from another live aboard fleet and was completely refitted. Our week was only the third trip out for the Under the Sea since Nautilus refitted the boat and though there are still a few minor items they are finishing, the boat was very nice and we had no issues on it. The Under the Sea will carry 16 - 18 divers and is nice if you want to avoid a larger number of divers. Their nicest boat is likely the Belle Amie, but it carries over 30 divers.
The Nautilus team has the trip planned very nicely. It is suggested that you fly into San Diego. They have a base at designated Best Western hotel which is 3 miles from the airport. No shuttle is available, but the taxi ride from the airport was about $20 including a tip. They have a designated room at the hotel which is open from noon until the time the chartered bus leaves about 7:30 PM. So, you can drop by the room and drop off your luggage and check in at any time after noon and then go enjoy San Diego for the day and be back at 7 PM to catch the bus. We actually flew into San Diego the night before and stayed at the Best Western that night. Nautilus has a special negotiated rate of $179 per night. The hotel is very nice. We rented a car overnight. We slept in the next morning, checked in and dropped off our luggage with the Nautilus rep at the hotel's designated room, and then went and spent the afternoon at La Jolla and had a great time. We then returned our rental car to the airport and caught a taxi back to the hotel. The Nautilus has someone at the room watching over the luggage all day so you do not have to worry about your luggage. The bus normally leaves at 7:30 PM, but due to some minor last minute issues requiring fixing on the boat, we were told we would not leave until 9:30 PM. Upon return to the hotel at that time, we were told that the crew would be working on the boat all night, and as that would be noisy and difficult to sleep through, the Nautilus company had arranged for us to spend the first night at the Coronado hotel right by the marina and we would leave the next morning. We loaded the bus and left at 9:30 PM. You do have to get all of your luggage off the bus to go though immigration and customs going in to Mexico, but this whole process was easy and took us about 30 minutes for the whole boat. We arrived at the Coronado hotel about midnight and they already had our rooms designated and we quickly checked in. The Nautilus had us set up for a full free breakfast the next morning and we then boarded the bus and were take the five minutes to the boat which was then fully ready. The crew took all of our luggage and took it directly to our rooms and we had a very nice welcome and orientation briefing. At first, I thought the first night stay at the Coronado hotel was a little irritating, but afterwards I concluded the Nautilus made the right call and handled everything very well. I will also note that once we boarded the boat it was fully ready and we had no maintenance issues on the whole trip. Also, spending the first night on land did not affect any of our dive time as we arrived at Guadalupe at 5 AM on the first dive day and we were fully set up and ready to get into the water by 7:30 AM and did not miss any dives.
The Under the Sea is very nice with 3 levels. The top level has a large covered lounge area, a hot tub and the Premium Suite which is very spacious and nice. It costs a few hundred dollars more and if money is no issue I would recommend staying in it if it is available. The middle level has a very large dive deck with two very large camera tables. Each diver has a large "locker" to keep their dive gear. As this trip does not involve scuba and is all cage diving with surface supplied air, you only need a wet suit, gloves, booties and a hood. By the way, all of those items are available for rental from the Nautilus though you will need to notify them in advance so they can be sure to have the right size on board for you. The salon has a nice large dining area and a small library area and TV. A quad room is near the kitchen and is the cheapest of the rooms. The lower level has six staterooms, each with a pair of bunk beds. Like all liveaboards, the rooms are small though they were slightly larger than other liveaboards I have been on. There was a reasonable amount of storage in the room and plenty of electric sockets and individual reading lights for each bed. The bathroom is small but reasonable. We never lacked for hot water or water pressure. Of note, I always get hot on most liveaboards. The Under the Sea has individual thermostats in each room which worked VERY well and I was able to quickly cool the room to 68 when I wanted.
The trip to Guadalupe takes about 20 hours. It can be rough, the seas were relatively calm for our crossing but still about one-third of the passengers had at least mild sea sickness. This is not an issues once you get to Guadalupe as the boat will anchor in a flat bay for the three nights you are there and the sea is very calm in the bay. The cage diving is done in the bay, less than 100 yards from the shore. The Under the Sea operates two submersible cages and assigns a continual rotation of teams through each cage. Each rotation lasts 45 minutes. Each team consists of 2 - 3 divers. The rotation is very east. You simply gear up in your wetsuit and hood and be ready at the back of the boat 5 minutes before your rotation time. They assist you in directly stepping into the cage on the surface air supplied hookah system, close the cage and then you are slowly dropped to forty feet below. If you did not want to go that deep, you could designate your depth. The shark action tends to be heavier at the surface as that is where the shark wranglers are working. Some groups stayed at the surface. My son and I generally elected to go down to about 15 feet as that would get us out of the shop of the surface and we could easily see sharks at the surface or below. There are two shark wranglers working the back of the boat all day. They will throw out a line with a large piece of tuna tied to the rope. They use that to attract the sharks and when the shark makes a rush to the tuna they will suddenly pull it back. Most of the time, the wranglers are successful but occasionally the shark gets the tuna. The surface cage is attached to the back of the boat and is essentially open to four divers from 6:30 AM to 5:30 PM or so. The first day, I did all of my submersible dives and went in with two other groups that had an opening. I also spent an hour in the surface cage. In short, I spent almost 5 hours in the water on the fist day. On the second day, we had unusually poor visibility of 10 - 15 feet making photography very difficult. I only did my 4 submersible dives. Thankfully, the viz cleared up the final day and I did all four of my submersible dives. If you do not want to do a submersible dive, you simply scratch your name off the schedule and it is "open" for anyone to sign up for on a first come first serve basis.
A couple of comments about newer rules set up by the Mexican government. First, no bait is allowed in the cages. Apparently this was done in the past but there were a few incidents of the sharks working into the cage (one of which went viral internationally) so this is not allowed. Second, you cannot put your hands, arms or feet outside of the cages at all. Also, in the past people get get up on top of the cage and this is no longer allowed. The Mexican government is sporadically sending "observers" on trips and as it can cost them their permit the Nautilus company enforces these regulations strictly. I was told there would be no strobes before the trip but called and was told to go ahead and bring them so I did take them and was allowed to use them. However, I shot way more natural light photos then strobe photos, and in fact on a couple of dives left my strobes off. The strobes are very inconvenient in quickly moving around the cage as they will often get caught up in the cage.
Food was outstanding on the Under the Sea. Pancho was the cook and was excellent. One night we had a taco night up on the deck which was great. We also had a variety of soups. salads, steak, salmon and vegetarians had good options. Breakfasts consisted of your choice of omelettes, french toast, pancakes, etc. One of the things that was great about the Under the Sea was the fact they would bring your hot breakfast and lunch out to you on the back deck in between your dives if you did not want to get out of your gear. On all three dive days, I spent 8 AM - 5:30 PM on the back deck in my wetsuit and the ship hostess made my breakfast and lunch plates and brought them to me. The service on the boat was outstanding. Divemasters Hector, Juan, Ray, Jorge and Renaldo were all great and were willing to work with me to get special photos I wanted including over-under shots.
The crossing back to the mainland was easy. When we arrived at the marina, the crew unloaded our luggage onto the bus and we were taken back to San Diego. Those with flights that night were taken to the airport and those staying the night in San Diego were taken back to the Best Western.
In short, this is an outstanding boat and crew and I would highly recommend them if you have a desire to see great whites. They provide a safe and consistent way of getting in to close proximity with the sharks and are very knowledgable about them and Guadalupe Island. You do not have to be a diver to do this trip, you can dive all week in the surface cage if you are not certified. If you are considering this trip, I would strongly recommend you do it. As you are there to see one particular species and little else, this will likely go into my "been there done it" list but if I were to return I would gladly go again on the Under the Sea.
Websites Nautilus Under the Sea   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Gulf of Mexico, Florida Keys, Bahamas, Saba, St. Eustatius, Indonesia, California, Socorros Islands, Cocos Island, Belize, Cozumel, Curacao, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, West Palm, Cabo, Dominica, Mexican Cenotes
Closest Airport Getting There Best to fly into San Diego and the Nautilus team will pick you up at a designated hotel and take you the 2 hour trip to the boat in Mexico on a roomy air conditioned bus

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 69-73°F / 21-23°C Wetsuit Thickness 7
Water Visibility 10-80 Ft/ 3-24 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Cage diving only. Each team would consist of 2 - 3 divers and would each have 3 - 4 shifts of 45 minutes in the submersible cages and could elect the depth of their cage (anywhere between the surface and 40 feet). The single surface cage was unlimited diving. All "diving" is done with surface air
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 1 stars Tropical Fish 2 stars
Small Critters 1 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments A large multiple level camera table with many electric sockets was available. Cameras were handled with care with a designated large trash can sized camera rinse bucket. Crew went out of there way to wrangle the sharks and work with photographers to get their desired photos. Photographic opportunities strictly involve the great white sharks, there is not much else to photograph.
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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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