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Socorro Dec 20-28, 2019 Nautilus Belle Amie Video and Trip Report

Discussion in 'Mexico' started by scubaNYC16, Jan 18, 2020.

  1. scubaNYC16

    scubaNYC16 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: New York, NY
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    This is my first trip report so might not be as detailed as others but feel free to ask any questions about the trip or the boat and will be happy to answer.

    This was my 3rd live aboard after the Palau Aggressor and Blue Manta in Komodo. I chose the Nautilus Belle Amie because it looked very nice, is the largest boat going to Socorro (Revillagigedo Islands), heard great reviews from friends and liked how the company is so focused on safety. It's definitely priced on the high end but there were 8 of us and the 8th diver is free so we were able to get a $420 discount each.

    GETTING THERE
    Flew NYC to Cabo via Dallas the day before. $20 per person shared ride with Terramar Transfers, the company that Nautilus recommends. Pick up was fast and nice new Suburban. We stayed at the Tesoro Los Cabos, also recommended by Nautilus because their local dive shop and check in for the boat is located there. Average hotel but fine for 1 night, nice central location and $80 a night including breakfast. Check in for the boat started at 7pm and was quick with an online link you could use on your phone. The boat was located at the marina in front of the hotel and they started taking us to the boat by van at about 815pm.

    THE BOAT
    It was built in 2015 and it's very big at 135 feet and felt very roomy the minute we got on. We had 30 divers and a crew of 12. After crew and diver introductions, we were given a very detailed safety briefing and were told not to charge anything in the cabins and there were plenty plugs on the camera tables on the dive deck. The boat has smoke detectors and sprinklers in all the rooms and throughout the boat and larger sprinklers over the camera tables on dive deck.

    When we were shown to our cabins, they made sure we knew where all the closest exits, fire extinguishers and fire alarms were located. My cabin was on the top deck and they showed us how to exit thru the wheelhouse in case the other exit was blocked by fire. We had a more extensive evacuation drill in the morning with life preservers while on the way to Socorro and the crew had a full on fire drill right after with fire fighting equipment and hoses. I was in a superior cabin on the top deck which was really nice and roomy with a nice size bathroom and 2 large windows. The beds and sheets were great quality like you would find at a luxury hotel. We pushed the beds up against the walls and put the nightstands in the middle which opened the room and was perfect for 2 dive buddies to share. There was plenty room on the boat for everyone with a large dining room and salon and a large sun deck with jacuzzi. The service was outstanding and the food was very good.

    CROSSING
    We left the marina at midnight and the crossing took about 24 hours. Sailing was pretty smooth with swells rolling in from the side but they were slow and about 15 seconds apart. The boat was very stable and quiet. I took Bonine at night and in the morning and had no issues. On the way out, we had plenty time to set up our gear, relax and had a great presentation about the islands, mantas and diving. We had a great mix of divers, half from the US and the rest from Canada, Israel, Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy and Hong Kong. We arrived to San Benedicto around midnight and diving started the next morning. The return crossing took 30 hours since we were going against the wind but was also pretty smooth.

    DIVING
    On the way out, they checked our C cards and asked about our experience and put us in groups. You have a choice of 3 groups: Sharks are divers that have been there before and want total independance on dives; Mantas are for experienced divers that want to be guided by DM and stay loosely in group but have freedom to explore to explore with buddy; And dolphins are for less experienced divers who want the DM to stay close to them and get extra attention. Everyone opted for Mantas and we were split into 4 groups. We were each assigned a spot on the dive deck and the groups departed 10 minutes apart so the group before you has room to get ready. Everyone was given a Nautilus Lifeline rescue radio to use free of charge if you didn't have one.

    When it was our turn to get ready, we would gear up, grab fins and walk down to the dive platform. You hand your fins over and get onto the zodiac one at a time by holding onto a rope, put one leg over at a time and then slide down the side. Once everyone was on, they bring the fins and cameras onboard.

    We did 4 dives a day except 1 day when the Navy comes on board to inspect and instead did 3 dives and a night snorkel with silky sharks. This was our typical schedule:

    AD4C1C1A-8F5E-4B7D-ADF8-7353BA589D75.JPG

    Day 1 - Canyon, San Benedicto
    Day 2- Roca Partida
    Day 3- Cabo Pearse, Socorro Island
    Day 4- The Boiler, San Benedicto
    Day 5- Canyon, San Benedicto

    Water temps were 76-80 but mostly in the 77-78 range. I wore a 5mm wetsuit with beanie the first day and then added Lavacore hooded vest and was comfortable. We were very lucky to be the only boat on every dive. I was told that other companies shut down over Xmas and Nautilus coordinates with their other boats so Xmas is a great time to go.

    I went to Socorro to see pelagic animals and the minute I jumped into the water on the check out dive, several large silky sharks swim close to me. We headed to the first cleaning station and saw many silver tips and some Galapagos sharks and could hear dolphins. We didn't see the dolphins until the 2nd day but the other groups had pods of dolphins on their check out dive. The diving is amazing and the topography was so different than typical reefs. You are diving around volcanic islands and the topography is volcanic rock with no coral but the main attraction are the big animals.

    The Socorro mantas are huge and seek human interaction. We were taught how to interact with them by mimicking what they do with the 2 cephalic fins and to make eye contact with them. They would swim right by you or over you for your bubbles and then go to another diver and come back to you. Some mantas would follow us on the dive or spend time with us on safety stops, sometimes 2 or 3 at a time. You could also swim on your back below them and blow bubbles for them. Other times, you would just watch what felt like the mantas were dancing for us. It was an incredible experience to have a connection with them underwater.

    Now to the dolphins. One of the main reasons I went was to see dolphins as this had been a dream of mine for a long time and the Socorro dolphins did not disappoint. My group was very lucky and saw more dolphins than others and felt like it was raining dolphins. We saw 8 pods over 5 days of diving. They also seek interaction with divers and swim close to you and make eye contact. They danced for us and sometimes mimicked divers, an unbelievable experience.

    Sharks, sharks, sharks. If you love sharks, you will not be disappointed. We saw so many silver tips, white tips, silkies, Galapagos and hammerheads. I learned that hammerheads are very shy and you have to be very still and quiet or they will swim away quickly but we got lucky and saw a few large schools and a few close up. Others in my group saw 2 tiger sharks and we got super lucky and saw a whale shark the last day. We saw the whale shark on the same dive after seeing hammerheads, mantas and dolphins....truly the dive of a lifetime!

    I didn't find the diving too challenging. We didn't have much current and on the few dives that did, there were always spots to get protection and many big rocks to grab onto. A reef hook is definitely a good idea, but was given wrong information and left mine at home. We didn't have to do any negative entries but might have been lucky with the conditions. Some divers might find diving in the deep blue with no references challenging. At Roca Partida on a couple of dives, we swam out to the deep blue to look for schools of sharks swimming by. Other than that, they don't allow diving in the blue unless you are following DM for something like that or doing safety stop. There is some strong surge at Roca Partida and the Boiler when you are close to the pinnacle or walls but was fun to bob up and down and watch the sharks doing the same.

    CONCLUSION
    This was truly the experience of a lifetime. I cannot rave enough about this trip and boat. The crew and DMs took such good care of us and the service was like something you would experience at a hotel. This was more than a trip, Socorro is a really special place. It was a profound experience to have the connections underwater with the dolphins and mantas. It was a very emotional experience for many of us and hard to explain unless you were there.


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    Kmart921, large_diver, EdC and 5 others like this.
  2. KrisR

    KrisR Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Dundee
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    Great report, Socorro is high up on my dive bucket list. I’d heard the Belle Aime took a large number of divers, but it sounds like they split it really well.
     
    chillyinCanada and scubaNYC16 like this.
  3. chillyinCanada

    chillyinCanada ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Excellent and enthusiastic report! Thank you. How do you mimic the cephalic fins?
     
    scubaNYC16 likes this.
  4. chillyinCanada

    chillyinCanada ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Also wondering if the Belle Amie has always given such thorough safety briefings and always had the same safety coverage for fire suppression or if some is new in light of recent events. I know that the OP cannot answer this as it was his only time aboard.
     
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  5. scubaNYC16

    scubaNYC16 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: New York, NY
    363
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    We were told to mimic them with our arms because that’s how the mantas communicate with each other.
     
    chillyinCanada likes this.
  6. scubaNYC16

    scubaNYC16 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: New York, NY
    363
    234
    43
    There were signs in the rooms above the outlets that said not to charge anything unattended but the captain said not to charge anything in the rooms during the safety briefing so that must be a recent change.
     
    chillyinCanada likes this.
  7. chillyinCanada

    chillyinCanada ScubaBoard Supporter Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Do you mean to curl your arms in and out? I've only ever waved with my arms spread wide, arms slowly up together back down together and so on.
     
  8. rongoodman

    rongoodman ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Albany, NY
    5,274
    1,970
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    Nice report. I'll be there in April and am psyched!
     
    chillyinCanada and scubaNYC16 like this.
  9. scubaNYC16

    scubaNYC16 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: New York, NY
    363
    234
    43
    Yes, I did that. Let's go back and see which technique works better. :)
     
    chillyinCanada likes this.
  10. scubaNYC16

    scubaNYC16 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: New York, NY
    363
    234
    43
    April is humpback whale season, should be awesome. I am psyched for you too.
     

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