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Diving the world renowned Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands map

written by Lee Johnson – Perth Scuba Manager (images by Joey Pool)

Part 1

During August 2012, Lee and Joey led a group of Perth Scuba Divers to explore the world famous Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands are one of the few places in the world where you are guaranteed to see schooling hammerheads and whale sharks when scuba diving – and this was the reason we wanted to explore! The islands are a giant marine park where fishing is strictly governed to a level that is very sustainable (only hand fishing to a small number of vessels is permitted).

Our tour kicked off in Guayaquil, Ecuador about 1000km away from the Galapagos Islands. Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador and we were completely unprepared for the sheer scale of the city with a population of approximate 3.5million people! After a 24 hour journey from Sydney to reach Guayaquil (via Auckland New Zealand and Santiago Chile) we were all very happy to slip into bed at the Macaw Hostel on our first evening. After completely bombing out we awoke to the sounds of Guayaquil the following morning – now it was time to hit the town and EXPLORE! Guayaquil is loaded with old buildings including enormous cathedrals, grand parks and outdoor art galleries. It’s a feast for the eyes – but watch out – while you’re looking at the sights there’s some kids closely watching your pockets. That’s right, we had a fascinating experience at the Iguana Park, watching the kids give you big doe eyes until you turned around and they madly scouted out what they could pinch before you knew it. Our crew was very switched on and had no problems with the pick-pockets and watched bemused as they tried their luck on other tourists – no successes whilst we watched! After a day of exploring the sights it was time to hit the hay ready for our early flight to THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS!

The Gal├ípagos Islands are a group of volcanic islands located around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, about a 4 hour flight west of continental Ecuador. The islands are geologically young and famed for their vast number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

We landed in San Cristobal in no time – one of THE Galapagos Islands – yippee!!! We’d finally arrived after LOTS of flying!!! It was a beautiful sunny morning and after pouring out of the plane we waited patiently whilst ONE – count them ONE – person unloaded the plane… Finally, after the customs doggies had sniffed everything it was time to grab our bags and get out to the waiting arms of our guide Juan Carlos! (JC) Juan quickly loaded us into the bus and drove us down to the marina where we were greated with a dozen sealions lazing across every surface. This included park benches, boats, ramps, rocks (which you’d expect), footpaths and low walls. Anywhere there was a spot of shade, you’d find a sea lion lounging and snoring… What a life!Guayaquil Perth Scuba Group

We loaded our dive bags onto a zodiac and followed our luggage to the vessel “Humboldt Explorer”. From a distance the Humboldt appeared smaller than some of the other vessels but upon arrival it was clearly big enough for everything we needed.

After a briefing from JC about how everything worked and how the trip was going to run, we headed out for our first “check out” dive. (This was just a dive to make sure all of our equipment was working and to show the crew that we could all dive.) The water temperature at San Cristobal was a balmy 16 degrees! We were all starting to question what we had brought in the way of wetsuits and rashies as we sure weren’t expecting it to be that cold! We were told later that this was the coldest place to dive and that as we got further north into the Galapagos Islands the water would get up to 24 – 26 degrees… Whew!

The water was very clear and the Sea Lions were very playful with us on the dive but keeping them interested was difficult. After all how do you compete with an animal that can zip arouns at a hundred miles an hour, turn back on it’s own axis and spin and twirl at a rate of nots? We tried. One of our guys had his head nibbled on because he wasn’t paying attention to the sea lion above him who wanted to play… very cute and very funny to watch.

Dive over and with the dive crew happy that we knew what we were doing, it was time to dry off and make for the better diving of the Galapagos Islands.

During the evening JC told us of the exciting things that lie ahead and a bit about the Galapagos Islands. We were sure in for a treat! We were all asked what we would like to see and were all promised that we would see what we wanted… a tall order but if JC could come through with the goods, everyone would be happy.Galapagos Islands land iguana Johanna Pool

The crew on the boat were introduced to everyone on the trip and very quickly the banter started between guests and crew. It was going to be a fun trip.

After steaming all night we arrived in the early hours at North Seymour Island. After a quick breakfast we worked out who was going to be in the A and B team of divers and kitted up accordingly. Group A was ready within a minute and champing at the bit to get into the water. After lots of cameras were handed down to our “Panga” including Joey’s Praying Mantis, our driver hit the throttle and headed out toward our first real dive site. A short briefing from our Dive master (JC) on how to exit the Panga all at the same time without giving the diver next to you concussion and we were ready on the count of 3.

1… 2… 3 it must have looked funny from a distance as 8 divers all rolled back at once from the boat leaving the driver from a full boat to empty in 3 seconds. We hit the water, settled ourselves and clipped everything into place, then descended into the cool but clear waters of North Seymour Island.

The water temperature was now 19 degrees so it was (as promised) getting warmer. The visibility was around 20 metres and the marine life was already starting to show us what we could expect on this awesome and much anticipated trip. Sharks, Eagle Rays and fish everywhere! we sat in one location and took it all in before moving with the current along the steep and barnacle encrusted reef wall.

Joey’s strobes were firing madly – it was like a disco and the go pro cameras were all chasing everything that moved on the reef.

The anticipation was high and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The massive Eagle Rays cruised by us flexing against the moderate current an arms length away from us and they stayed along side us for 10 minutes, almost as if they were checking us out as much as we were them. With lots of photographs and videos taken it was once again time to lift up and move along the reef. This time we swam into a school of Giant Trevally which herded and barrelled through us. there would have been hundreds if not thousands of them… the welcoming party had arrived! with the stampede over after a few minutes the water cleared and there was once again fish of every species zipping around getting in the way of every photo opportunity of a shark or larger fish. We encountered our first Galapagos Shark on this dive and countless other critters which would surely make this trip one of the best dive trips ever… We ascended after an hour and were welcomed by our driver who was waiting to take our cameras and assist us back onto the panga. With the first real dive down, it was going to take a long time for the smiles to wear off this group of divers faces. 3 more dives at North Seymour Island and then we headed towards the equator for our equator party… and of course the best dive sites in the world… Darwin and Wolf Islands.


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