• Welcome to ScubaBoard


  1. Welcome to ScubaBoard, the world's largest scuba diving community. Registration is not required to read the forums, but we encourage you to join. Joining has its benefits and enables you to participate in the discussions.

    Benefits of registering include

    • Ability to post and comment on topics and discussions.
    • A Free photo gallery to share your dive photos with the world.
    • You can make this box go away

    Joining is quick and easy. Login or Register now by clicking on the button

MALPELO review on the Ferox liveaboard

Discussion in 'South America' started by moorish8idol, Sep 7, 2019.

  1. moorish8idol

    moorish8idol Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Canada
    72
    84
    18
    Hi folks,

    I have recently returned from a fabulous 9 day trip to Malpelo on the lovely Ferox and as promised, am going to share the details of my experience. TLDR: It’s a fantastic trip, a fantastic site and Tony’s operation is amazing. This is not a “luxury” liveaboard in the traditional sense but it is a huge luxury to have such a fantastic dive site ALL TO YOURSELF and with a highly competent, kind and safe boat/crew.

    Intro
    As many of you know, the Ferox is a new operation and has been running Malpelo trips for just about 18 months now. The owner Tony is a Colombian-American former merchant marine and bought the Ferox from the Swedish navy. He has made a number of adjustments and improvements to make the sturdy vessel into a more dive-friendly vessel. Since he still considers this a burgeoning op, it appears that Tony accompanies most (or all) of the boat's dive trips just to make sure that crew are excelling and guests are happy. I enjoyed our many chats and really wish him and his operations the best of luck and look forward to joining the Ferox again in the future.

    Cabins and boat space
    At present, Tony takes a max of 12 divers - there are 4 single cabins, all with en-suite and individually controlled AC in addition to 2 twin cabins and 2 double cabins (all in the lower deck except for 2 single cabins on the main deck where you will find the dive prep area and dining space). I saw one of the double cabins and it was very spacious with a TV and a long, narrow bathroom. I LOVE that Tony has made for small but highly functional and private single cabins and wish more dive ops did this. As much as I have been ok sharing my cabin with other (strangers) divers in the past, this has really spoilt me. While at Malpelo, the bow area has space for some sun loungers and there is a covered dining and chill area on the stern of the main deck. The stern of the top deck also has sun loungers and a bar space. Your dive equipment and tanks stay on the tenders for the duration of the trip so you only need to get on and off with your wetsuit, mask and camera. Since the seas can be rough, you gear up into your vest and tank once you arrive at the dive site. A lot easier and more comfortable! Tony is rightly proud of his all-Colombian crew and especially his two lancheros who are experts at navigating the Malpelo marine terrain and making sure they are following the divers’ bubbles (or not - they purportedly even manage to follow rebreathers!) and we never had any issues with pickups once the dive was over. By popular demand, Tony built an upstairs indoor lounge with AC, TV screen and couches, though admittedly this is seldom used. We really only stayed in there during the Park presentation on the way over (a Malpelo park ranger accompanies all trips and will dive with you throughout the week) and during a photo sharing ceremony at the end. We didn’t encounter super hot or sunny weather on our trip (it was mostly overcast with some wind and rain and with the diving) so we tended to congregate in our warm clothes and ponchos in the social-dining areas between and after dives.

    Diving style
    Security and safety is Tony’s number 1 priority and it shows. All divers are equipped with Macready GPS beacons and must carry them at all times. Tony is the only recreational vessel using these GPS beacons. Independent diving is not permitted at Malpelo. You will be in one of two dive groups and need to stay together for the duration and ascent together. There is little to no tolerance for divers that refuse to respect this and for good reason - we encountered fairly tame conditions during our trip (only a few examples of moderate current and tricky swells/surge) but Malpelo is famous for having some very rough and tough conditions in the water and topside and they can change in the matter of an instant. There are 3 dives a day but longer dives are certainly possible if the group can manage their air effectively. My all-female group was excellent on air consumption so we generally were able to stay down for 60-75 minutes each dive. Since I was the least efficient on air, Tony happily gave me one of his 15 L tanks to extend my time with my buddies - he is the only operator in Colombia that has these tanks available for diving so take advantage!

    Quality of the diving and wildlife - really excellent!
    Not all Eastern Pacific dive sites are alike - based on what I had read beforehand, I think I was really quite pleasantly surprised about Malpelo and would have to say that I prefer it to Socorro (though Socorro is still excellent and highly recommended - I haven’t been personally but fellow guests that have also traveled to Cocos appeared to agree that Malpelo topped their experiences there as well - the Galapagos appears to still take the top-spot however). The diversity of the wildlife and the dive sites/types of diving makes Malpelo extremely interesting. The topography changes quite a bit from site to site so at times we were “chilling” off of rocks at a cleaning station or swimming through channels, exploring caves or drifting around the rocks, pinnacles and some sandy bottoms. We saw hammerheads on every single dive. Numerous individuals regularly made fairly close passes and we saw large schools (at varying distances) every day (most dives I would say) ranging from 20-100 sharks or so. I am told that for much closer interactions with even bigger schools, February is one of the better times of the year (due to much colder water in the 18-21 degree range). In August, we encountered water temps around 25-26 degrees on average though the hammerheads were frequently seen very high up at around 10-15 metres! Silkies were regularly encountered closer to the surface and during safety stops. I am told the best chance at seeing the huge schools of (up to 1000) silkies is in the month of May (though I was also told that such schools aren’t necessarily present every year). I have never seen such huge Galapagos sharks and we reliably saw small groups of them on most dives and at cleaning stations. These buddies were regularly seen in the 3 metre range and came very very close, as in almost uncomfortably close! Our group had very very good luck at El Acuario site where you hang around the rocks and see 7-8 or more come in very close for cleanings while we the hammers also came in for a clean, though less close. August is whale shark season and we were lucky to encounter different animals on 2 different dives, one a very curious 8 m juvenile male who hung with the group for about 25 minutes and another very large about 12 metre animal that made a couple passes. We also were lucky to encounter dolphins a few times. Free swimming moray eels are ever present and eagle rays are an extremely common sight - we were able to encounter mobulas a few times and even met with a decently sized oceanic manta when coming out of the Gringa cave heading into El Bajon site (where schools of hammerheads also patrol the channel). Schools of jacks, snappers etc also very common. On less exciting moments at the cleaning stations, we were entertained by curious hog fish, super cute gobies, very well fed white-tip sharks, Moorish idols and so on. The sand-tooth tiger shark (aka the monstruo aka the Ferox shark) tends to congregate in non-recreational depths so we didn’t see one though we were told they are more commonly seen as rec levels in the cold water months (ie January-February). Nitrox is free and obligatory on this trip and we used 32% mixes on each dive so didn't exceed the 30 metre threshold though this was plenty deep for the action. The colder water months mean you can stay even shallower and spent a lot more time underwater if you like.

    Food and drink
    Food and drink were plentiful and largely Colombian (seafood, fish, pasta, burgers, curries with rice, soups, plantains, beans etc) and the kitchen was happy to accommodate special dietary needs such as vegetarian and pescatarian diets. The bar isn’t huge but we had regular access to wine, Colombian rum and Poker beer. Snacks between dives were always on offer and there is hot water/coffee/hot chocolate available all day. If you need anything at any time, the crew is there to help you out.

    continued...
     
  2. moorish8idol

    moorish8idol Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Canada
    72
    84
    18
    Logistics
    The trip begins at the Intercontinental Hotel in Cali. The airport is fairly well-served and there are numerous flights with Copa from Panama City in case you are eager to avoid Bogota airport (I was). The trip into town is less than $20 US by taxi and can be made in about 30 minutes. I stayed at a nearby hotel and one of the dive masters kindly picked me and my gear up to head over to the IC the afternoon of our departure. The dive guides come to the hotel and the group is transported the 3-4 hour drive (with bathroom/food break) to Buenaventura port which, despite the many government official warnings, is a fairly safe destination to board the boat. The bus arrives, luggage is transported down to the dock and taken on tenders out to the vessel and you quickly get on the Ferox and begin the 30 hour voyage to MP. On your return, the crew aims to be back in Buenaventura before nightfall the last night so you can comfortably leave around 8 am the next day and be back in Cali before noon. If you don’t second-guess yourself going down to Cabo San Lucas to board a Socorro LOB, you really shouldn’t think twice about heading to Cali/Buenaventura for Malpelo. Having spoken to Tony a lot, I understand how important it is for a Colombian operator that employs a Colombian crew to have a regular presence in Malpelo - particularly important for conservation efforts and to try (minimally) to deter illegal fishing in the park. If Tony is able to see through his plans to introduce a second LOB by 2021, there would be a near permanent presence of divers in the Malpelo park. Unfortunately the crew reported on the previous trip to seeing 37 illegal fishing boats in the park - once reported, only 6 boats were detained and crew arrested (ie 31 free to continue to fish).

    Let me know if you have any questions or concerns and I'd be happy to answer here since there isn't much info about Malpelo on this forum and the Ferox is still new. If you love wild diving all to yourself and don't need all of the luxury amenities, please go and support this liveaboard and help keep Malpelo protected!
     
    Steelyeyes, Sushi Boy, Moray and 3 others like this.
  3. chillyinCanada

    chillyinCanada Solo Diver Staff Member

    13,274
    8,335
    113
    Excellent report, thank you.

    Why were only 6 arrested? Man power or something more nefarious? Do you know?
     
  4. moorish8idol

    moorish8idol Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Canada
    72
    84
    18
    100% manpower issues. The Colombian navy is 30 hours from Malpelo (when not in the area - we did have a navy diver just hop on board with us for a couple of dives one day) and they are mostly focused on drug trafficking though they are starting to realize that these boats often combine illegal fishing with drug trafficking so there is a bit of a peaked interest. The presence of dive boats in the area is a deterrent which is why is so important to try and have a near-permanent presence there!
     
    chillyinCanada likes this.

Share This Page