Our Galapagos Trip Report

Pete & Lauri - June 2005

 

 

Why we went

The reason we went to the Galapagos Islands is simple - It's somewhere Pete has always wanted to go. The main driver for us actually getting there was Michael Tyzbar. He was the owner of Blue Dolphin Scuba (now closed), in Frisco, Texas. Michael went there in June 2004 and stayed on a yacht called "Deep Blue". He was so impressed by the boat, crew, diving and the Islands, that he chartered the yacht for the same week in 2005. Places on that charter were sold through his dive shop. Pete was so impressed that he and Lauri were booked the morning after the trip was announced. Our group of sixteen divers included only four ladies.

I'm so glad I married  Lauri - She is such a trooper. 

 

After all, we have seen lots of nice coral reefs. We have seen lots of pretty fishes.
Now it's time to see something different - BIGGER...

 

 

Galapagos History

The Galapagos Islands maybe best know because of British Naturalist, Charles Darwin (1809-1882). He was here on the ship HMS Beagle from 15th September until 20 October 1835. He conceived the ideas of Natural Selection - and the evolving of species to suit their environment. He noticed how some of the giant tortoises, for example, had high neck openings on their shells - so they could reach higher branches. Others had low neck openings - for foraging on the ground. Also the Marine Iguana's are unique to here. There are even different species of birds or animals on different islands His groundbreaking book "Origin of Species" was first published on 22nd November 1859.

Unfortunately mankind has had a large impact on some islands, such as Isabella. Here whalers and sealers killed and ate most of the tortoises. Then in the 1950's fishermen  introduced feral goats onto the island as an alternative food. Unfortunately the goats destroyed much of the vegetation and the island is now almost barren. The tortoises then further reduced in numbers. Introduced goats and pigs destroy nests and eat reptile eggs. Introduced dogs have attacked colonies of Iguana's for sport - leaving their bodies to rot. The national parks service is now trying to remove the introduced species.

 

 

Location

currents.gif (30404 bytes) The diving here is not for the feint hearted or novice diver. The water is normally cold (we wore 7mm wetsuits) with strong currents. The Islands are volcanic rock and are extremely jagged and sharp - they are also covered in barnacles. We used gloves with Kevlar palm and finger protection, and reef hooks to enable us to stay on these rocks.

The technique is to cling onto the rocks while getting blasted by the current. Then, when Hammerhead Sharks or a Whale Shark comes by, you swim out and drift along with them. I described this as "Underwater rock climbing during a Hurricane". 

The map to the left shows the location of the islands and the currents that meet there. They are 600 miles west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Although they are on the Equator, they are blasted by the cold Humboldt current from Antarctica. There are even penguins here. Because there are so many currents mixing here, you can be blasted all over the place. Hence divers require safety sausages and dive alerts.

 

I think most of the dive group also purchased airfares through Blue Dolphin Scuba - although this was in addition to the Deep Blue package. We departed Dallas Fort Worth airport just after lunch on Sunday 5th June 2005. We flew to Miami, then down to Guayaquil, Ecuador. We spent one night in the Grand Hotel. There was no chance to see any of the town as we arrived too late. This was probably just a well - the place did not look very friendly at night with businesses secured behind steel shutters and armed guards everywhere.

This map shows the islands. It takes a full day to sail from San Cristobal island up to the dive sites at Wolf and Darwin islands. They are the unnamed islands at the top-left of this map. The scale of this map also illustrates why the Deep Blue needs to find it's passengers at the end of a dive. There is a lot of open water out there.

I found a good description of the individual islands at www.galapagosonline.com

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Monday 6th June - First Impressions - San Cristobal Island

On Monday morning we were bussed to the airport for the short flight out to the Islands. We flew on a "AeroGal" Boeing 737, not the "puddle jumper" I expected. On San Cristobal island we paid $100 cash for our park entrance fee. We were met at the airport by "Juan-Carlos" - the owner of Beep Blue. He bought us lunch near the airport. We were busy watching the sea lions on the beach. A short ride in the pangas and we were on board. The Deep Blue is a beautiful 106 foot yacht and we are all very excited.

The yacht looked great. The crew clean every part of the yacht every day. There were 16 passengers, 8 crew. All passengers are in twin or double bed cabins with private bathroom. We had the suite as we were the first people to book this trip. The crew were professional and seemed genuinely happy to welcome us on board. To say the crew were great is an understatement. They were all superb. For instance, Eddie, the barman, would look after the bar, wait tables, clean the yacht, help us get off the panga's. All the crew were always busy. The yacht was always in perfect condition. Stabilizers were fitted on the last upgrade and all sailing was smooth.

Nitrox ~32% is available for $100 extra for the whole trip. Most divers took this option, including us.


Soon after arriving we were doing our check out dive at Isla Lobos. The purpose of the check out dive is simple - To get your weight correct while there is no current. You have to be slightly negatively buoyant. All later dives have a lot of current, so you need to be weighted correctly. The fun part of this dive is the sea lions come and play with you. They played and mimicked you... whatever. It was like underwater gymnastics. We have never dived with sea lions before. It was great !!!!

 

Here is my log data for today:-

Dive Location Start time Depth (feet) Bottom time
1 Isla Lobos 16:09 35 46

 

At the end of every dive we had a hot shower on the dive deck. The crew then gave us clean towels after every dive. Drinks and snacks as well....  (Think, we did 17 dives this week - 16 divers - that is a lot of clean towels)

This trip is going to be spectacular....

The chef is Roberto, who was the "Lammer Law" chef for 20 years. All meals were gourmet - real five star. There was just enough food. If somebody had two eggs for breakfast, then there was no egg for the last person in line.

Then we set sail....

 

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Our Flight

 

Juan-Carlos

 

Lunch

 

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Sea lions on the Beach

 

Isla Lobos dive buddies

 

The "Deep Blue"

 

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Dive Area Lounge Area Dining Room

 

 

 

Tuesday 7th June - North Seymour Island

Deep Blue arrived here 06:20 this morning. First thing we did was a dive off the north-west corner of the island. We saw Whitetip Sharks, Yellowfin Surgeonfish, Wrasse, Golden Surgeonfish and King Angelfish. Fantastic....

The diving protocol here is different to other places we have been. You remove all air from your BCD and get ready on the edge of the panga. The divemaster counts....  1.... 2.... on the count of 3 we all backroll into the water and swim as fast as possible to the bottom. Here you grab hold of rocks, barnicles or stick your reef hook somewhere. Then the group gets together and follows the dive plan. Typically this involves hanging onto the rocks waiting for something interesting to come along - then following that. The current often switches direction so be prepared to be blown around.

Divemasters were Juan-Carlos (Yacht owner) and Walter (Great Guy).

After breakfast there was a land tour of North Seymour Island, lasting about an hour. This was unbelievable. I have read about the wildlife having no fear of humans, but, it's really true. We were greeted by sea lions laying on the steps at the start of the path. They just don't care. You have to move around them. This is great. Next we come across a blue footed boobie which has made it's nest in the middle of the path. This is the season for chicks, and many of the boobies are nursing young. We took loads of photo's. Many of the other boobies on the island are doing the strange dance that I'm sure gave them their name. They sure act like fools.

The other popular bird on this island is the Frigate Bird. Many of the males had their red neck pouches inflated in order to attract mates. Others were already nesting. Again you can walk up to them (provided to don't leave the path).

I also got some pictures of the Sally Lightfoot crabs.

This place is unreal.

At 12:07 we did our second dive of the day. The current was blasting and gave us a good chance to practice using the reef hooks. Saw several Whitetip Sharks.

 

Here is my log data for today:-

Dive Location Start time Depth (feet) Bottom time
2 North Seymour 07:10 98 52
3 North Seymour 12:10 98 54

 

As soon as we were all on board, Deep Blue set sail for the long ride to Darwin Island. There was a beautiful sunset on the way. We also cross the equator on this leg of our journey.

 

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Whitetip Shark

 

King Angelfish

 

Blue Footed Boobie

 

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Sally Lightfoot Crab The Boobie Dance Frigate Bird

 

 

 

Wednesday 8th June - Darwin Island Dives

Deep Blue arrived here just before our 6AM wake up call. We did four dives today beside Darwin's arch, rather than by the main island. We followed the same protocol - straight down and cling onto the rocks. Here we are looking for sharks and whale sharks.

 

Here is my log data for today:-

Dive Location Start time Depth (feet) Bottom time
4 Darwin Arch 07:07 105 50
5 Darwin Arch 10:27 124 38
6 Darwin Arch 14:18 105 47
7 Darwin Arch 16:48 87 36

 

On the first dive we saw a few Hammerhead Sharks. The rocks here are covered in Moray Eels - hundreds of them - you really have to be careful not to lay on them or kick them - really. There were also Teardrop Butterflyfish, Leather Bass, Moorish Idols, Snapper, Jacks, Tuna & Barracuda. What a blast.

Second, Third & Last dive. We saw Whale Sharks on all these dives. They are awesome. It's almost impossible to describe the feeling of diving with something 45 foot long, that glides through the water like a silent submarine. The fins of the whale shark have several parasitic fish attached. I got to the front of the last one for a while. We were all swimming as fast as we could to try and stay with them.  The first time you see "Mr Big" is an amazing experience. Your heart pounds, you get breathless, you are in awe... I got right over the top of one and was able to touch it's tail fin for a moment. I was wearing gloves so I don't know how it feels.

We saw other things during these dives.  Rainbow Runner, Bigeye Trevali, Parrotfish, Turtle, Trumpetfish, Hammerheads, Jacks, King Angelfish, Puffer, Moray eels, Yellowtail Damselfish.

There were so many fish everywhere it was like "diving in fish soup".

I like this place....

 

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Darwin Arch

 

Moray Eel

 

Whale Shark

 

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Whale Shark Whale shark Whale Shark

 

 

 

Thursday 9th June - Darwin Island Dives

We did four more dives here today. No more sightings of "Mr Big". A Pacific Flounder was the highlight of the first dive. During the safety stop there were millions to tiny jellyfish. Everybody was complaining about an itchy face during this.

Second Dive - we had a Dolphin swim through the divers. Usual stuff - Hammerheads, Mexican Hogfish, Jacks.

Third Dive - Turtle. Freaking Hammerheads everywhere.......

Fourth Dive - Few Galapagos Sharks, Giant clams, King Angelfish, Trumpetfish, King angelfish, Lobster.

Usual stuff......

 

Here is my log data for today:-

Dive Location Start time Depth (feet) Bottom time
8 Darwin Arch 06:51 120 37
9 Darwin Arch 10:19 88 46
10 Darwin Arch 14:22 97 44
11 Darwin Arch 16:51 92 39

 

 

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Hammerheads

 

Hammerhead

 

Hammerheads

 

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Dolphin Galapagos Shark Galapagos Shark

 

 

 

Friday 10th June - Wolf island Dives

At 04:00 "Deep Blue" left Darwin Island the the two hour ride to Wolf island.

First dive was a site called "Land Slide". Lauri lost her weight pocket on entry. Luckily I managed to pull her down, find her weights on the rocks, get everything back together, and we completed the dive. This site is the most current & surge I have yet dived in. My logbook entry says "This is like underwater rock climbing during a hurricane". There were no sharks but we found several trumpetfish, scorpionfish and lobsters. 

Second dive was a site called "Shark Bay". We saw a couple of Galapagos Sharks but that was all. Lots of Giant Clams, King angelfish, Parrotfish, Lobsters, Eels.

Third dive was a site called "The Banana". This was a cave where we were told there could be whitetip sharks inside. 5 divers went inside, and the others met us outside. The cave was at 60 foot. There were no sharks, but the was a stingray and the biggest Moray Eel I've seen. After the cave we swam out into "the blue". Some divers were not happy, as drifting like this with poor visabilty was unnerving for them.

The "Deep Blue" left here at 15:50 for the 16 hour journey to Cousins Rock. Most of the divers were enjoying a good party on the back of the yacht during this afternoon and evening.

 

Here is my log data for today:-

Dive Location Start time Depth (feet) Bottom time
12 Land Slide 06:52 82 42
13 Shark Bay 10:01 105 50
14 The Banana 14:31 82 48

 

 

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Trumpet Fish Lobster Mike with Sea Cucumber

 

 

 

Saturday 11th June - Cousin's rock Dives & Bartolome island

We did two "WOW" dives on cousin's rock. Very little current. The variety of life was amazing. Highlight of the fist dive was a Spotted Eagle Ray.

 

Here is my log data for today:-

Dive Location Start time Depth (feet) Bottom time
15 Cousin's Rock 08:26 71 51
16 Cousin's Rock 10:58 66 54

 

Here are my logbook comments for the second dive:-

We descended beside a Manta Ray.
Found Whitetip sharks resting on a ledge.
Then a Seahorse.
Then a Frogfish.
Then two Scorpionfish.
A school of barracuda
Fur Seals


How about that for variety?

At lunchtime the "Deep blue" move to Pinnacle Rock on Bartolome Island. Only a 20 minute ride.

After lunch we had a choice of a panga ride around the area, or a chance to snorkel with the penguins at the base of Pinnacle Rock. Since we were told that penguins swim at 25 miles per hour, we elected to do the panga ride. It was great to see Penguins, Marine Iguanas and Sally lightfoot crabs. It's unbelievable to find a colony of penguins here on the equator. This panga ride was very relaxing after all the diving of the previous days. Pinnacle rock is the most photographed point in the Galapagos Islands.

After the panga ride we were taken to Bartolome Island. We walked the "summit trail" to the top of the island. At the landing point on the island there were sea lions and marine iguana's on the steps. It was fantastic to walk up the trail of wooden steps on this volcanic landscape. Very little pant life has taken hold, except a cactus and a little grass. Secondary vents and lava tubes make this place look like the surface of the moon. 

Views from the summit are spectacular. It's easy to see why this Island is the most visited and photographed of all the Galapagos island tours. It's a strenuous walk to get to the top, but well worth it.

This place is great....

 

At 16:00 the "Deep Blue" set sail for Santa Cruz island. At 20:00 we anchored in the Canal de Itabaca, between Santa Cruz and Baltra islands.
 

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Manta Ray

 

Sea Horse

 

Whitetip Shark

 

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Pinnacle Rock

 

Bartolome Island

 

Bartolome Island

 

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Galapagos Penguin Getting off the island Marine Iguana

 

 

 

Sunday 12th June - Plazas - Dive - Darwin Center

At 06:00 Deep blue moved to anchor beside Plazas Islands. At 08:00 we did a land tour on South Plazas. On landing we were greeted by sea lions, marine iguana's and a yellow warbler. That was even before we took more than 20 steps on land. During our tour we all enjoyed taking lots of pictures of the Land Iguana's in particular. The island is very rough scrub and has many cactus "trees" scattered around.

By 10:00 we were diving again. This was a Gordon's Rock. This was our worst dive of the whole trip. We were fighting against the current the whole time. Still managed 98 foot for 43 minutes. There was a lot of surge as well as currents going up and down. Highlight of the dive was a school of garden eels. 

 

Here is my log data for today:-

Dive Location Start time Depth (feet) Bottom time
17 Gordon's Rock 10:03 98 43

 

After the dive, the Deep Blue set sail for Santa Cruz island.

After lunch we were taken on a tour of the Charles Darwin Research Center. The center has been working to get the giant tortoise population back to natural numbers. So many have been killed, that already 3 of the original 14 sub species are extinct. They collect tortoise eggs, hatch them, and protect the babies for five years. After that their shells are hard enough to protect them from predators, so they are released. The center is also home to "Lonesome George". Poor old George is last of his sub species, so they will also be extinct soon.

After the tour we were free to walk into town - Puerto Ayora. Here we shopped a little and bought some ice cream. We had dinner back on the Deep Blue. After dinner we came back into town for "Goodbye" drinks at one of the bars in town. 

 

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Marine Iguana

 

Marine Iguana

 

Land Iguana

 

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Baby Tortoises

 

Lonesome George

 

Giant Tortoises

 

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Giant Tortoises Good Looking Fellow Lauri in Town

 

 

 

Monday 13th June - Departure

We had breakfast on the boat. Panga ride to shore. Some time for last minute souvenir shopping. Ride to the airport. Fly to Guyaquil. Check in at hotel. Go to local park to see many Iguana's in the park. Eat Crab claws. Sleep. Fly home tomorrow.

 

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Bye-Bye Bedroom Our Flight Lauri in Guayaquil

 

So...... did we have a good time?

You bet...... we were expecting the trip of a lifetime. In fact, this trip exceeded our expectations. Everything about the deep blue was fantastic. The crew were superb. Everything was just right.  The wildlife was just amazing. I would love to go back here again. This will be a very difficult trip to follow.

 

HERE are comments from the guestbook on the boat.

HERE is another trip report by Silvija.

 

 

 

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