Our Galapagos adventure started from the easternmost island of San Cristobal. Divers had flown in from all over the world and met and chatted as we gathered on the quayside at Puerto Banquerizo Moreno. Whilst we waited we were entertained by the sea lions sleeping all over the sea wall and around the car parks and bus stop benches!
We joined the Humboldt Explorer via zodiacs and were shown to our cabins and briefed about our trip. During the afternoon we made a nearby check dive just to make sure our buoyancy was OK.
We travelled to the island of Santa Cruz overnight and made two morning dives at Punta Carrion where we saw our first hammerhead shark and lots of green turtles and southern stingrays, plus all the classic East Pacific reef fish and some large bumphead parrotfish.
We had an afternoon excursion to North Seymour island to see the blue-footed boobies and nesting frigate birds. The views across to the nearby small islands were beautiful and the photographers were busy capturing the large monitor lizards lumbering around. It was very hot, but it was a very worthwhile excursion.
After an overnight crossing we arrived at Wolf Island. Along with Darwin, these remote tiny northern islands provide the signature Galapagos dives. We made several dives alternating between Landslide and Shark Bay sites where we saw lots of hammerhead and Galapagos sharks plus schools of large spotted eagle rays, yellowfin tunas, huge green turtles with steel pompano entourages and walls of Pacific creole fish, large trevallies, etc.
The stars here are the sharks and there was just never enough time during each dive spent around 28m to see the sharks meandering up the rock faces to visit the cleaning stations. The slightly-higher-than-normal temperatures kept conditions for the divers comfortable but meant that the sharks were a little deeper and we were eeking out our no-deco times, even on 32% nitrox.
We moved onto Darwin island and were offered 10 dives there over 2 1/2 days. We had three whale sharks of various sizes visit the divers, including a small one which swam around the liveaboard several times and had us rushing around the deck to see it. We decided not to snorkel because there were a lot of frisky silky sharks around the boat which can really intimidate snorkelers! The scuba-diving encounters with the whale sharks were special. These were big sharks and it was hard to keep up with them as they swam around. There were both males and females sighted, which is unusual.
Some lucky divers saw a tiger shark. There were also chunky black tip sharks, many turtles, a sea snake, wahoo, scorpionfish etc. You really can see just about anything at these amazing remote sites.
We spent another day at Wolf on our return journey with more shark action and accompanied on the zodiacs by a large pod of dolphins passing through.
Cabo Douglas and Cabo Marshall
After another overnight travel we arrived at Fernandina to visit Cabo Douglas and see the marine iguanas. A volcano on the nearby island of Isabela was erupting and the sight of the lava and the dust cloud in the early morning light was impressive. We managed to see the marine iguanas and the strange red-lipped batfish but the swell made diving conditions rather tricky.
A diving cormorant was a remarkable sight! Such a good swimmer, deeper than the divers watching the iguanas!
We travelled on to Cabo Marshall on the east side of Isabela. We were extremely lucky and saw several giant mantas plus small schools of mobulas (M. tarapacana), some large black tip sharks and an amazing school of barracudas which posed for photos. The visibility at this site was outstanding, and the steep wall was just amazing: you really felt that anything might pass by.
We made another dive at a site a little further along from Cabo Marshall where the wall was even more spectacular, but we were not so lucky with the creatures (although we did see white tip sharks and yellowfin tunas).
We had a memorable snorkel with penguins too – they move so fast! They are such good divers and were really curious of us poking our cameras at them and quickly came over to test our cameras out with their beaks. I promise we were back pedalling and they came after us. Just so endearing.
We awoke next morning next to the famous rock formation (think Master and Commander) at Bartholeme. We made two dives and saw so many turtles, it was incredible. There was some really pretty areas of reef with beautiful seafans and corals, tantalising tropical reef fish like longnose and pixie hawkfish, cloud morays, scorpionfish, snake eels, etc.
No visit to Galapagos is complete without a visit to see the giant tortoises and this was done back at Santa Cruz island during an afternoon/evening excursion which included a visit to Puerto Ayora for some shopping, lots of cocktails and dinner. We made our final journey back to San Cristobal and had a morning in the town before heading back to the airport and onward connections.
It was an incredible trip, with so many memories of so many creatures and lots of new friends made among the divers.
Photos: Matt Kitchen and Anne-Marie Kitchen-Wheeler
Here are the dates:
17 Jul – 24 Jul 2017 * 7 nights aboard Galapagos Master from £3,587pp
25 Jun – 02 Jul 2018 * 7 nights aboard Galapagos Master from £3,696pp
03 Sep – 10 Sep 2018 * 7 nights aboard Galapagos Master from £3,696pp
Prices include transfer between San Cristobal airport/local hotel and M/V Galapagos Master on days of embarkation and 7 nights aboard the Galapagos Master sharing a twin/double cabin, all meals, soft drinks, diving and land visits.
For more specials and exclusive tours from Scuba Tours Worldwide, visit www.scubascuba.com/specials/exclusive-tours.