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Natasha Smith Malpelo trip with Sea Wolf March 2011

Hi Arthur,

Yes I am back and happy to fill out your survey.

 - Cabins Very clean. But very small, even for a liveaboard. Without closets or shelves or drawers it would be very difficult if there were 2 people in each "double". With 1 person in my cabin it was of course fine. Would be nice to have a top sheet in addition to the blanket. The windows that opened were great, especially because the air conditioner was shut off all day so the rooms got very hot. The hook to hang items in my cabin was broken - it would be good to fix them. The air conditioning is very strong (but I knew this from reading another report).

- Dive deck For a group of 13 it was fine but I would not want to be on this boat with more than 13-14 people - it would be extremely crowded.

- Eating area Nice set up and clean. Nice flat screen TV and having the cord to attach it to laptops was great. Good protection from the wind.

- Generell infrastructure - No hot water. We were all surprised to find there was no hot water available on the boat. I think this is very important for guests to know in advance but it is not noted anywhere. - Several times motors on the zodiac boats did not start. This is not only a safety issue, it also delayed dives and created an overcrowded orange zodiac for one trip (sea water up to our ankles due to overloaded equipment). Suggest this be looked at. - It was somewhat inconvenient to have the water always shut off during the day without warning. If you had to use the toilet there was no way to wash your hands. - With the size of the rooms and no salon or camera table it was challenging to work on large SLR camera systems. If there had been another person in my room it would have been impossible. Sometimes my body was half into the hall in order to have space on the floor to work on the camera. - I would not want to be on this boat with more than 14 people with no salon.

- Staff Safety - Jimmie was excellent underwater. Very safe. He always briefed us with a plan B in case the currents changed. He was able to reunite divers who were separated, and he was a very safe buddy to me (I had no buddy, so he was my buddy in my boat). - Zodiac drivers were also very safe.

- Friendliness - All the staff I met were friendly and helpful.

- Professionalism - I thought Jimmie was excellent as a cruise director and also as a dive guide. I would definitely recommend him to my friends! He was always very professional, and very knowledgeable. He was always ready to help you find the name of a fish or anything else - he went beyond the minimum and he worked very hard. He was always searching very hard for underwater animals to show us, especially in bad visibility and especially when there were no hammerheads. I know he was always doing his best for his divers. - I must also mention the excellent panga drivers -- always safe, always great at spotting us even if we didn't put up a safety sausage (because some had large cameras), and they also did a great job reuniting divers when 2 were separate from the group at the start of our dive. Really our lives are in their hands so that is very important. Carlitos (driving the other zodiac) even managed to find my dive cap in the ocean when it had fallen off unnoticed by everyone on my zodiac - just amazing. - Also it was very helpful for Lenner to come to my hotel to get the photocopy of my passport stamp that he needed. Also it was very nice of him to ask me about vegetarian food.

- Dive sites - More or less what I expected. Having the flexibility to decide as a zodiac where to dive was very nice. Jimmie always did his best with our requests and also made great suggestions. We had bad visibility for the entire week, in a month that was supposed to have good visibility, but I think this must happen quite often at Malpelo.

- Fishlife - I found Malpelo "hit and miss" but this is more or less what I expected. A couple dives were amazing, a few dives were very good, but in three dives not only were there no real hammerheads, but there were also very few fish (e.g. La Nevera x2, Puerta del Cielo - I am sure the sites change all the time). I would not tell friends that there were a lot of hammerheads at Malpelo. We never saw large groups compared to what I have seen at Galapagos and Cocos. Even the videographer on rebreather saw only 7 max (close). And when we saw hammerheads, they were far more scared than the hammerheads I have seen in Galapagos or Cocos. I have lots of experience with being quiet to get close to sharks and in Malpelo hammerheads never came close at all. We saw no silky sharks at all. - The best of what we saw: schooling leather bass, the massive school of jacks at La Gringa, the school of barracuda, schools of whipper snapper. Many large tiger groupers. The best hammerheads and Galapagos sharks we saw were at Arrecife. We also saw a group of 5 eagle rays at Arrecife. - Re. the Odontaspis Ferox: 3 of the 12 of us (2 professional videographers plus me with large still camera) unfortunately never found a ferox/monster shark in 4 deep dives. Pierre and Gloria, the tour leaders and dive masters of the French group who found 1 twice were touching it and according to their group, scaring it. I was extremely surprised at their behaviour.

- Difficulty level - No question this is advanced diving, especially because of the lack of infrastructure of the boat and Malpelo. The ferox dives are also deep. All the required safety equipment is very important and I am glad that you stressed it in your emails. I am adding one category: -Trek on Malpelo This was absolutely incredible - besides 1 dive at La Cara del Fantasme, it was the highlight of the trip. Malpelo is true wilderness - it is so pristine and such an honor to get to walk here. I have done 3 trips to Galapagos and this land visit I would rate as good as the very best land visits there, but Malpelo is especially special because we have no time limit. The Nazca boobies (sulas) are amazing, the endemic animals are fantastic, and the views are just unbelievable. It was an incredibly special experience.

One suggestion - tell guests to bring a dry bag. I thought we would not need one, but because of the sea and the cameras, it is definitely needed. Also the climb to get to the island was harder than I thought. 8 of us went in the boat but only 3 of us made it to the island (I was the only female).

Hope that is helpful.

Arthur thank you again for all of your help.

 

I was happy with my hotel choice.

Best, Natasha

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