Dive Report: Adventure in the Land of Darwin
5:29 p.m. Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. It is our last stop before our homeward bound journey out of Baltra. I am sitting upon a handcrafted barstool at "Limon Y Cafe," an open-air bar/ night club/ internet cafe. One week on a boat without access to e-mail and you start to see what sanity really is. We are sitting, smiling and laughing as we enjoy the last gurgling sips of our well-deserved, much-needed Long Island Iced Teas. Our Cocktail Maestro, George (that's pronounced HOR-HAY to you non-Spanish speaking readers) has just poured us each a shot of a local Rum. Some would call it a thank you of sorts, he just called it a shot, we all kicked them back and George urged us to return later that evening, after dinner when things are certain to be "mucho loco." I, the Salty Dog, and my mates stumbled boisterously out of "Limon Y Cafe" and made our way back to the docks to meet up with Walter, our Dive Master aboard the Galapagos Aggressor I. He and Dario, our Panga charioteer, will take us back for our Cocktail Party with the crew and then we come back to town for dinner. It is funny how time can fly and stand still both at the same time. It is sad to leave this magical wonder but I'm anxious to get back home too. Walter joins us for one last Cervesa as we all sit quietly staring out into the harbor, pondering about our lives on the sea. Ahh, the suspense, the intrigue, the fresh open air, the diving - oh yeah, the diving!
To satisfy the interests of all the readers, I will give two versions of the diving report.
Version 1. Galapagos Diving-- GOOD. Next time we go, you should go too! Sign up today, call Janet at 248-442-2772.
Version 2. I will write this report a little slower because I know that most divers cannot read very fast. The Galapagos Aggressor I was spectacular. Beautiful boat, excellent crew, fabulous food. Seven days of diving, 2 days of flying and hotels and 10 days of sweating. It was hot. Sun every day, rain never. The heat however was complemented nicely with the water. It too was a warm, balmy, crisp, cooler temperature ranging from a high of 72 degrees down to a slightly colder 63. What do you expect - you're diving with Penguins! It's not like you're on the equator. I mean you are, but that's not the point. Anyway, the visibility ranged from 20 to 60 feet and it varied from dive to dive along with the currents and surge. In some ways it was like diving in the Great Lakes, but with Sea Lions, Dolphins, Sharks, billions, no wait, trillions of fish in schools the size of Lake Erie.
Our 7-day journey took us from Baltra and North Seymour Islands out around Santiago. We cruised 14 hours up to Wolf Island and then another 2 hours up to Darwin. We came back down to Isabella, to Bartolome and over to Santa Cruz. The week was filled with beautiful, overwhelming sights that would surely amaze the most veteran of divers.
Almost every day we saw Hammerheads, it was usually only 2 or 3 at a time, however Darwin gave us a big school. We had close-up encounters with Galapagos and Silky Sharks, White Tips as well. If you like turtles, big friendly sea turtles, Galapagos is the place to go. Every dive had turtles, not just 1 or 2, but usually 6 or more on some dives.
Enormous schools of fish. Not in the hundreds or the thousands, but some that had to be in the millions. Schools of Jacks, Barracuda, Creole Fish, Tuna, Wahoo, Snapper, Grunts and more. Sometimes we would be enveloped in fish, it was all you could see. No Dive Master, no buddy, only fish in every direction you looked for up to a minute or more. Sea Stars 2 ft across, giant Pufferfish that looked like small foreign cars. Lobster, the night dive had hundreds of slipper lobster, bright neon pink slipper lobsters cruising the bottom. Marble rays 4 ft in diameter, Sting Rays, Eagle Rays, fleets of Golden Rays, 3 giant Mantas. I even watched as a Giant Manta leaped clear out of the water 5 ft into the air.
Did I mention the Sea Lions yet? No! Happy, friendly, frolicking Sea Lions barking in our faces, swimming circles around us. They didn't want to let us leave. Penguins zipping by at 20 mph, chasing and eating fish. Every dive had something to offer.
The diving was amazing but the land tours were just as unbelievable. Sometimes we were on cactus-encrusted desert islands, some islands looked like you were walking around on Mars. Iguanas everywhere. Land Iguanas and Marine Iguanas everywhere you looked at times. One Island was covered with good looking boobies. No, not at the Nude Beach! I'm talking about Blue-Footed Boobies, it's a bird for crying out loud. Friggets and Finches, Pelicans and Lava Lizards. More Sea Lions and Fur Seals. We got to see the evolution of cacti and trees, not to mention the Galapagos Tortoise.
The diversity of life in the Galapagos Islands is amazing. It is surely an experience that everyone who has been there will cherish throughout their lifetime. Divers and non-divers alike.