Dive Report: Sea of Cortez

Scuba Diving on the Great Escape Southern California Live-Aboard Dive Boat

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Posted by Jeff Reeb on November 07, 2021 at 07:49:49:

International Dive Report: Ocean Safari Charter to the Sea of Cortez on the Nautilus Gallant Lady 10-30-21 to 11-5-21
This was my first international live-aboard trip, and was initially planned during the middle of the Covid outbreak in the United States. I chose this itinerary specifically because it was relatively close to the US, was modest in length and visited an area on my bucket list.
We dove the Southern portion of the most commonly dove area of the Sea of Cortez and did so from the Nautilus Gallant Lady. This vessel was built in the early 1980ís and was acquired by Nautilus in 2018. They converted this former private yacht to a commercial live aboard dive vessel. Designed to host twelve guests with a crew of seven, the outfitting included installation of an additional escape hatch, a modern fire protection system in all of the vesselís spaces and a night-watch monitoring system.
The diving consisted of visiting isolated reefs and pinnacles that were close to the islands that dot the Western portion of the Sea of Cortez. On this trip I found the diving varied from mediocre to spectacular and included two standout opportunities: swimming with Orcas and diving at Cabo Pulmo National Park.
Prior to our departure from Cabo San Lucas, the vessel Captain reported that Orcaís had been sighted in the area we were transecting to reach the dive sites. He explained that if we could intercept the pod, he would put us in the water with the mammals. We all awoke on the first morning to urgent door banging and the call ďGet up, get up, we dive with Orcas.Ē Everyone grabbed their mask, fins and snorkel and jumped into the smaller RIB dive boat. Once the Orcas were spotted and a general sense was determined for their path of travel, the crew expertly maneuvered the RIB to intercept the Orcas as they swam by.
Unlike dolphin encounters Iíve had where the animals were inquisitive and toyed with the tourists, the Orcas were ambivalent. They neither avoided us, nor stopped to play, they simply cruised by as we hopped in the water as close to them as we could get. (If you are concerned for your safety around Orcas, there has never been a report of a wild Orca attacking a human.) We made about five passes and all of us got close to the pod on at least one of the attempts (See short video taken with my Go Pro Hero 5, due to the wide angle lense the Orcas appear farther away than they actually were.) After about an hour of chasing, the Orcas moved out of range, and we returned to the boat.
The next four days were spent diving. We did four dives a day, usually from the smaller RIB. Divided into two groups of six, each group was led by a dive guide. No solo diving was permitted. Briefings were thorough and the guiding was first rate, with a single exception. The guides did not focus on pointing out unique or interesting inhabitants. You had to hunt for them on your own. (There were no serious photographers on this trip, so the guides may have felt it was unnecessary.)
I made twelve dives and considered four of them to be exceptional, two were great and the rest were a bit mediocre. Visibility at Isla Animas was well over 100í, huge dramatic walls, pinnacles and schools of swirling fish. Cabo Pulmo was excellent for the schools of Snapper (see video). Our group got the wreck site, whereas the other group got the Jack schools, so Iíll plan to return in September 2022 on a dedicated trip to Cabo Pulmo as the Jack schools are still on my list. To dive the Park, dive pangas picked us up directly from the anchored Gallant Lady so we did not have to stay ashore. This approach to the Park was a one-off arrangement made possible through a collaboration between Ocean Safari Scuba, Nautilus management, and the Park concessionaires, as this stop is not part of their standard Sea of Cortez itinerary.
Service on the Gallant lady was excellent. Itís a roomy vessel with contemporary interior finishes, en suite bathrooms, plenty of room for twelve divers and staffed with a super pleasant and hardworking crew. Meals are prepared and served individually, (no buffet lines). Ocean Safari, arranged all of the logistics including a hotel stay in Cabo before departure, all ground transportation, and pre-arranged the required Covid testing.
Note: I recommend viewing the video clips with the "Mute" function engaged.
Orcas: https://flic.kr/p/2mH4Du8
Cabo Pulmo: https://flic.kr/p/2mGY2ee

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