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Malpelo - Mv Yemaya (april 2016)

Discussion in 'South America' started by echocat, Apr 22, 2016.

  1. echocat

    echocat Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Philippines
    23
    10
    3
    Hi,

    This is only my second posts on ScubaBoard, but I've been checking this website regularly for advises. I wanted to contribute a little something back with this review of my recent trip to Malpelo, Colombia. I've based this review off the other ones I've read to try to be as useful as possible.

    Disclaimer: This trip was heavily discounted due to a last minute cancellation of a group of divers. As a result we were only 9 divers on board (vs. a max. of ~16) which had a significant impact on the trip. These conditions were exceptional so please bear this in mind when reading the rest of the review.

    Summary

    I'll start with the summary for those who don't have time to read the whole thing.
    If you're into athletic diving in strong current and big pelagic (similar to Wolf and Darwin) I would strongly recommend Malpelo. It's my opinion that marine life in Malpelo is of similar (if not higher) standard to the Galapagos and comes with the advantage that at any point in time only 1 boat is allowed on site.
    W.r.t. liveaboard, I’d also recommend the Yemaya for the simple fact that out of all the 2 liveaboard allowed to go there it's the best one by far. The crew and dive guides are serious and safety was never an issue. But if you're into luxury liveaboard (the sort you get in Indonesia) it may seem a little underwhelming. Due to new Colombian regulation, this trip might be cancelled as soon as 2018.
    I booked the trip through Arthur Portmann from Underseaventures, whom I would also recommend for his professionalism and efficiency

    The Diving

    April is low season for Malpelo. May to Sep is high season, when Silkies show up in large schools. Whale sharks also don't show up until the second half of the year. However, during the cold season (Jan to Apr), hammerheads come closer to the surface. You also have a higher chance of observing Sand tiger sharks (my understanding is that Malpelo is one of the only places where a close encounter is possible).

    Marine life highlights:
    Schooling hammerheads (~40+), Silkies, Eagle rays, Galapagos sharks, Black tips, creoles, jacks, angel fish, tunas, green turtle, Morrays, barracudas, dolphins. Having dived in the Galapagos, I felt that the Marine life in Malpelo is more "tolerant" of divers. Hammerheads especially didn't seem to mind our bubbles and were happy to circle back a number of times to the greatest pleasure of the UW photographers in our group. One possible explanation for this may be because only 1 boat is allowed on Malpelo at any point in time limiting the stress on the environment (just a thought, I'm not a marine biologist)

    Other observations:
    Water temp was at around 24C at surface, with thermoclines at ~25m depth with temp dropping below 20C (sometime as low as 14C)
    Visibility was on average 15m, better towards the end of the trip.
    The diving is done off 2 skiff boats, negative entry.

    Dive sites (by other of preference):
    The Fridge - 5 dives - Fantastic steep wall dive, strong current, the diving style was similar to Wolf and Darwin in the Galapagos (i.e. fast descend, grab onto rocks, and wait for hammerheads to cruise by). The Fridge was by far the most consistent dive in terms of marine life and we were lucky enough to see a number of schooling hammerheads (40+).

    Ghost Face - 4 dives - Sloping rocky reef and sandy bottom at ~35m depth, mild-strong current. We saw the same school of 100+ jacks on every single one of our dive which made for a mesmerizing site. Hammerheads below 30m, with a few occasionally breaking off from the group and circling around at 15-20m. Single or couple of Galapagos cruising at around 20m, close to a fantastic cleaning station (towards the end of the dive). Other highlights, encounter with a pod of playful dolphins and a small school of silky sharks (10+) feeding on the remain of a bait ball hiding under some drifting wood.

    La Ferreteria - 2 dives. Underwater pinnacle, with summit c.18m below surface. South of the Island, more exposed to the ocean and current. Low visibility. Incredible abundance of life, huge schools of tuna, jacks and others. Murray eels would literally be piling up on top of each other. Cleaning stations at 30m and 18m.

    Bajo del Monstro - 2 dives. Underwater pinnacle with large plateau at c.18m. This is the famous Malpelo dive where an encounter with a Sand tiger is possible. Sand tiger usually live at +100m depth but occasionally rise up to the surface in Malpelo. We weren't lucky on this particular occasion but were rewarded instead with schools of hammerheads

    Altar de Virginia - 1 dive. Sloping rocky reef and sandy bottom. Check dive. Weak current.

    Cast Away - 1 dive. Sloping rocky reef and sandy bottom at ~35m depth. While next to Ghost face, we didn't see nearly as much.

    David - 1 dive. Dive start at one rocky plateau at 30m then crossing a sandy patch at 35m to finish at another plateau at 25m. Our group didn't have much luck (sting ray and a few lonely hammerheads) but the other group saw a school of 50+ hammerheads swimming along the sandy bottom between the two rocky plateaus. Most of the dive is at 25+m so a couple of us risked deco time.

    D'Artagnan - 1 dive. Large plateau at 30m surrounded by sandy bottom. Supposed to be great for hammerheads but we didn't see anything. Cleaning station on the nearby "Three Musketeers" dive sites.

    La Gringa - 1 dive. Wall dive, through a small cavern to the open sea. Low visibility. Thermocline hit 14C here but unfortunately visibility was too low to fully appreciate the hammerheads.

    The Yacht

    Cabin: There were 8 cabins - 2 en-suite on the main deck, 4 on the main deck with shared showers (1 shower per 2 cabins) and 2 en-suite on the mezzanine deck. I was in one of the en-suite cabin in the main deck (twin bed configuration perpendicular to each other).
    Cabins had A/C (which was always too cold), 4 bed drawers and 1 bedside table, very small reading lights. Showers worked great with hot water, bath towels were provided. Disturbance from the engine was I thought minimal and soon everybody was getting used to the constant humming. As mentioned at the beginning of the review, the total capacity of the boat is ~16 divers and we were 9. As a result we all ended up with individual cabins and more than enough space for everybody.

    Lounge: Small space in the main deck with no windows. Mainly used by the crew as their chill-out area. Everybody was on the Upper deck outside

    Dining area - In the upper deck outside. Meals served by the cook at the kitchen (also outside). Woodenchairs. Nothing fancy but comfortable. Not sure what happens if the weather turns bad.

    Dive deck - Individual stations with storage. Rails for wetsuits, 1 rinse tank for cameras, 2 showers. Tanks, BCDs, fins and masks were left on the skiff boats. There was enough room to gear up at the same time but it would probably be too tight with 5-6 more divers.

    Outside areas - upper deck is sizeable. Doesn't have anything fancy like a Jacuzzi (which usually never gets used) but there were more than enough seating/lying spaces for everybody.

    Camera stations - 1 outside on the dive deck, protected. Enough space for 6-7 large DSLR UW cameras with lenses and strobes.

    Food and Drinks - Only one choice for each meal but all cooked well. Might be a little unexciting for vegetarian (you basically get the same dish minus the meat). Hot food was always hot and everything was fresh. Fresh fruit, juice, soft drinks, tea and coffee always available. Alcohol was expensive ($3 for a can of beer, $5 for rum), however we could bring our own liquor (not beer).

    Overall the boat is a little old but well maintained and had a distinct charm to it. The crew was very friendly, English is not widely spoken but sign language and broken Spanish usually got you what you wanted. A/C units were too cold most of the time, no issue with hot water. The yacht was stable throughout the crossings, but the sea was relatively calm the whole time.

    On the last day we ran into the Colombia liveaboard that replacing us. It was a re-purposed old fishing boat (40+ years old) and from its look we felt that it wasn’t fit for sailing. We learned that it has 3 cabins (2 upper deck cabins for 2, and a communal form for 6 in the lower deck). Our dive guides has assured us that they've never had an accident, but it goes without saying that our boat felt like a palace in comparison.

    Apparently the Colombian government is going to change its regulation in order to keep all the profit the island generates, restricting access only to Colombian boats. The owner of the MV Yemaya is unwilling the relocate from Panama to Colombia and therefore may stop operations as soon as 2018.

    The Crew
    Dive guide - Our two dive guides were Jaime and Juan. I understood that they were the regular dive guides doing most of the trips. There is also a Swedish dive guide who comes in every now and then. We switched dive guide in the middle of the trip (apparently standard practice at the Yemaya). Juan speaks great English, ex-marine biologist, he was very friendly and knowledgeable. Jaime speaks very little English but a Spanish guy in our group translated everything to us. He's more experienced than Juan and has been coming to Malpelo for +15y.
    They were both friendly, helpful, professional, and made an effort to mingle with the customers (sharing stories, raising awareness on shark fishing in the area, etc...). They were also very relaxed underwater once they assessed our respective level. Our reduced group meant that we were only 4-5 per dive guides so arguably this was easier for them to manage.

    Crew members were helpful a nd always ready when needed but tended to stick to themselves.

    Thanks for reading and hope this helps if you were thinking of going there,

    12983380_10154222471228313_3480933049359172737_o (1).jpg 12983229_10154222471443313_7288253982583785961_o (1).jpg 12968059_10154222469318313_8751471058084333851_o.jpg
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2016
    diverkim likes this.
  2. Dom@DiveAdvice

    Dom@DiveAdvice Dive Travel Professional

    # of Dives:
    Location: South of France
    466
    80
    28
    Thanks Echocat - a great report and I am glad that you were able to give Malpelo the justice it deserves - I have been there several times and for me it is the Everest of diving, but like climbing a mountain, you have to pick the time and be prepared for changing conditions. At its best it is probably the ultimate big animal destination, and although there is a certain amount of luck involved with hitting it at the perfect time, we have been sending people there for more than 20 years and you can hit pay dirt at almost any time, although I would stack the odds towards May thru Oct as probably the best months to be there. As you mentioned, the two boats from Panama - Inula and Yemaya - will probably not operate there after 2017, and so far there has never been a successful operation from Colombia, which owns the island. The boat you described was the Maria Patricia and hate to say it, but is not a boat that I would ever consider using. Unfortunately the new regulations will have a double whammy effect on the island as there will be fewer boats, meaning fewer park fees but most of all, no one monitoring the fishing boats and finners who will be all over it the moment they pull thew boats out. We should be fighting to keep this World Heritage Site alive, but without being totally cynical, I would encourage people who may have this on their wish list, to think about going there sooner than later. A good note from your report is that I noted none or little effect of the much talked about and feared El Nino. On the whole we are getting reports back from most destinations as effects being far less than what had been predicted and from historic perspective, they diving following an El Nino is usually far better than any other time. So for those who would like to go this year, the Yemaya still has a number of spaces on several trips from now thru October - some of them may also be discounted, so I hope people can make it.
     
  3. Rusty Liam Booth

    Rusty Liam Booth DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwark, United Kingdom
    233
    19
    18
    thank you for this, almost booked a trip to malpelo but dates and price didn't add up. going to cocos instead so not the worst thing in the world. really good read none the less and will be looking to try and get on before the colombians change the rules. do you have any more photos or videos?

    thanks
     
  4. Dom@DiveAdvice

    Dom@DiveAdvice Dive Travel Professional

    # of Dives:
    Location: South of France
    466
    80
    28
    Hi Rusty - you will not be disappointed with Cocos, we just got feedback that the waters have cooled and the hammerheads are back in great numbers but I thought I would share the following with you that I was just sent by Otmar Hansen, the owner of the Yemaya.

    Hammerheads are taking over Malpelo.


    Even after 4 days back on land, we are still full of adrenaline form our last Malpelo expedition.

    The sharks have taken over Malpelo and transformed the whole island into a big cleaning station.

    Hammerheads are nearly everywhere and interacting with them, the first large schools of Silkies in the season, and smaller groups of Galapagos, and the first Whale sharks are showing up.

    Since the beginning of May, Malpelo is booming in life, as we have never seen it in over 7 years of operation.

    As if Nature is celebrating the end of EL NIÑO, with the most gigantic shark congregation ever.

    Water temperatures have dropped significantly; 27°C on the surface and 17°C below. These are the coldest measurements we’ve had in 40 meters.

    These are La Niña settings. As Scientists advise, it will be like this for a while and it will develop even more in early fall and will possibly last until spring 2017.

    If this happens, it will be the ultimate chance to experience Malpelo at its peak, as this happens only every 6 or 7 years.

    We still have a few spaces left on our trips in July, August and October. Book now and enjoy Malpelo at its fullest.

    Here is the video that was just taken there by my friend Michael Christ -
     
  5. Freewillow

    Freewillow Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Brussels
    1,664
    417
    83
    Hi Echocat,

    you are mentionnig MAlpelo to be equal if not superior to the Galapagos. You are laso mentionning temperatures " Other observations:
    Water temp was at around 24C at surface, with thermoclines at ~25m depth with temp dropping below 20C (sometime as low as 14C)
    Visibility was on average 15m, better towards the end of the trip.
    The diving is done off 2 skiff boats, negative entry."

    20 ° to 14° IS VERY COLD For me.

    How do these temperatures compare to the Galapagos?

    Thank you

    Guy
     
  6. echocat

    echocat Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Philippines
    23
    10
    3
    Thanks Dom, I was just going to post that video (much better than any of my pictures!)
     
  7. echocat

    echocat Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Philippines
    23
    10
    3
    Hi Guy,

    I believe the average temperature to be very similar to the Galapagos.
    14C is indeed much too cold for a prolonged dive without the proper equipment but these were only experienced a few times when crossing the thermoclines. I suspect that these temperatures were a little exceptional for Malpelo and most likely due to the El Nina phenomenon Dom described above.
    A lot of the divers on the Yemaya wore a 3mm shortie on top their 5mm and seemed to be fine, so perhaps if you consider going you could pack an extra wetsuit to be on the safe side!

    Hope this helps!
    Eric
     
    Freewillow likes this.
  8. Freewillow

    Freewillow Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Brussels
    1,664
    417
    83
    Thank you Ecocat. I have a 5/4/3 mm wet suit and can add a hooded shorty of 5mm. That should make it, right?
     
  9. Dom@DiveAdvice

    Dom@DiveAdvice Dive Travel Professional

    # of Dives:
    Location: South of France
    466
    80
    28
    Thanks Freewillow - you should find yourself comfortable with the combination you describe - I use a 3/5 and have a hooded polartec vest that I wear underneath and a thin 2nd hood that I wear over the top of the polaretc hood. It all helps to keep the water in place next to your body. There are thermoclines at Malpelo, Cocos and Galapagos, but during the next few months they tend to be very deep, below 25mts or can dissappear altogether, so you are never in the cooler water for long and coming back thru it, it feels like a warm bath, it should not be an issue.

    One of our clients just sent me an image of the first whale shark of the season in Galapagos and he should arrive at Cocos today, so I should hear back from him in ten days and will try and post a report. Feedback so far has been very positive so it looks like La Nina maybe waving her magic wand for an epic season ahead.
     
    Freewillow likes this.
  10. Freewillow

    Freewillow Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Brussels
    1,664
    417
    83
    @dom. Thank you for all the information. I am thinking about registering for a cruise in November 2017. So plenty of time. I was just wondering about conditions before signing up., because water under 20°C we never did and the idea of it is just terrifying :)
     

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