Trip Report: Nautilus Explorer and the Sea of Cortez – By mathauck0814 on ScubaBoard


Last September my wife, Ashley, and I joined some friends in Cabo for a non-diving weekend of adult beverages and general debauchery. To our surprise, we were able to get in a day of diving with the good folks at Nautilus Dive Tech. While this is not meant to be a review of NDT, I feel I should give them a solid shout out as our experience with them directly led to our next trip. The diving was fantastic and life was plentiful in the area surrounding Cabo and we decided to look into a making a return trip with our own equipment so that we could more fully explore the area.
Just last week we made that return trip, only this time we decided to see more of the sea and do it in a bit of style. I had seen the Nautilus Explorer’s banner ads on this site and clicked through to them (see, advertising does work) and found a 7 day Sea of Cortez charter in late June. They had availability. After a few emails back and forth with a very prompt and accommodating customer service representative we were able to ascertain that they were rebreather friendly, able to boost pure oxygen on the boat, provide us sofnolime and rent us 3L steel tanks with inline valves (which it just so happens is exactly what our rebreather units require). Having the boat provide so much of the consumable product meant that carrying our rebreathers on and stowing them in the overhead would be possible and made for far less anxiety that an airport monkey would lose, damage or steal our machines.
We arrived on Wednesday evening into Cabo and spent a couple of days getting our minds into the right frame poolside at the Wyndham in the marina. Hit some of our favorite local spots. Loaded up on dramamine, sunscreen and random Mexican essentials for the trip. On Friday afternoon we made our way over to the cruise terminal to board.
We were met by the captain of the boat, Gordon, and his first mate, Shawn. The two sherpa’d our bags aboard while we cleared the security checkpoint. Once aboard we were greeted by our two hostesses Carmen and Silvia and were shown to our room. We had rented one of the Superior Suites for our voyage (which have ensuite facilities, sitting area, desk for editing photos and while we didn’t use it at all it did have a flat screen television and DVD player). The room was massive and very comfortable.
After settling in we were shown the ship and introduced to the rest of the crew. On this trip there were also two chefs, a deck hand, an engineer and to divemasters (a total of ten crew for 24 passengers). We set about the business of assembling our rebreathers and getting organized on the dive deck as other passengers arrived and did the same. Shortly thereafter dinner was served, we were given a boat briefing and cast off the dock to head north in to the Sea.
On Saturday morning the boat was anchored near La Reina (you’ll have to forgive me in advance for the terrible butchery I’m likely to do with any and all Spanish names in this post). The divemasters gave a briefing and the gates were open. On our first dive the water was very blue and quite warm (~70’F). The dive sites that we visited were either sprawling reefs with reasonable uniformity in their depth and structure or pinnacles which rose from the abyss to break the surface where sea lions basked in the sun. This site was an example of the latter. Tremendous rock formations, cracks, canyons, etc. On the second dive of the day, also at this site, cold green water moved in. It would remain with us for the majority of our trip.
The dive day routine was easy to settle into. Wake around 6am, come downstairs to the salon where the hostesses remembered how you took your coffee and served you while you heard the dive briefing for the first dive site and the plan for the day. Dive 1 was around 7:30-8:00. As you came up from the first dive the hostesses would take your breakfast order as you got out of your gear (I’m not sure I’d ever eaten Eggs Benedict every single day for a week before). After breakfast there was time for a nap or some reading before the second dive briefing at around 11. The second dive was followed by lunch and sunbathing on the upper deck of the boat. Dive 3 splashed around 2pm and dive 4 around 5. After the last dive of the day we were greeted with our beer or beverage of choice on the swim deck and headed up to the hot tub to watch the sun set. There was a happy hour each day at 7pm and dinner around 8p. After dinner folks settled in to edit the days photographs, have one last glass of wine or read a book before turning in.
Our shipmates were almost uniformly from California (with the exception of a few from Canada and elsewhere) and were very frequently and loyal customers of the Nautilus Explorer boats. They were quite competent divers and had many stories, films and photo albums of the other trips they’d taken on the ship.
On the second diving day of our charter, at a small island called Los Islotes, one of our shipmates regaled us with a story of how he’d once been bitten by a reasonably aggressive sea lion. No one knew it at the time, but this turned out to cast an ominous foreshadow on the rest of our day. After our dive at another reef adjacent to Los Islotes we returned to the boat to find that the same gentleman with the story had been badly mauled by a sea lion. Such was the end of our diving day as we pulled anchor and motored to La Paz so that he could get proper medical attention. His wounds ended up requiring more than 60 stitches and the lacerations penetrated ~2 inches deep into his “love handles”. This would be the last sea lion rookery our captain would escort us to.
Our charter continued north to the islands of Los Animos and on to San Francisco and San Diego islands. The diving improved some over the course of the last few days. The boat was very accommodating of Ashley and I with our CCR units, leaving the dive window open for us to do longer and deeper dives than our open circuit friends were able to execute. The visibility in shallow stayed pretty low in the ~30-100fsw range but opened up tremendously deeper. We had chance encounters with large schools of jacks, bluefin tuna and a single mobula ray and my wife delighted at the number and variety of nudibranchs climbing about on the rocks (17 species in all).
The food on board was among the best I’ve ever eaten on vacation. Our chefs varied the menu quite a bit from prime rib one night to searing an entire tuna “roast” before slicing it to reveal how perfectly rare through the center it was to freshly caught red snapper; I could go on endlessly about the food. Needless to say no one lost an ounce on this boat.
It was bittersweet to pull into port the following Friday and after breakfast to disembark and say our goodbyes. We spent another few days in Cabo at the Riu Santa Fe resort just to make sure we didn’t go home in any sort of stressed state. The Nautilus Explorer is a first class operation and its crew were truly magnificent. I couldn’t recommend it more.
We’re already planning to return in January when the boat sails for the Socorro Islands.
– By mathauck0814 on
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