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Galapagos Trip Report, August 2013

Galapagos Trip Report, August 2013
Our recent trip to Galapagos was planned far in advance to ensure we would be there at the best time possible to dive these enchanted islands. The July-Sept period is an infamous time in Galapagos when the underwater action explodes producing some of the greatest diving on the planet. So it was with high expectations that we began our journey to Guayaquil in mainland Ecuador – the jumping off point for the short flight to Galapagos. With us on this trip were a fantastic group, some of who had been on our group trips before, and others who were joining us for the first time – as always there was an International mix, with divers from the UK, US, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and Latvia.

Cape Marshall
After a night in Guayaquil in a super-comfortable (and very well appreciated) bed we made the short hop to the Galapagos Islands, landing in San Cristobal. From here we were whisked to our waiting liveaboard. Shortly after boarding and following a delicious lunch it was time for our check-dive at Isla Lobos. Here as we adjusted to our 7mm suits and the required extra weight we were entertained by the resident sea lions and the famous red-lipped batfish. Back on board we were briefed for the following days diving at Cape Marshall – here we hoped we would see the first of the pelagics on our list – Giant Pacific Mantas!

The next morning we woke early ready for a full day’s diving at Cape Marshall. Entering the water the first thing most divers saw was a Giant Pacific Manta! It swam over our heads and some of the divers had further close-up encounters during the dive – a great start to our trip especially as August is not traditionally considered to be Manta season in Galapagos! Other encounters at Cape Marshall were a huge school of Barracuda, Eagle Rays, Whitetip Reef Sharks, Sea Lions, Turtles and lots of schooling fish. A superb days diving – but a day destined to be eclipsed as we set sail for the fabled Islands of Wolf and Darwin!

Schooling Hammerheads at Wolf Island!
The crossing to Wolf and Darwin took around 8 hours and was remarkably smooth for the season. But would this calm weather mean subdued underwater action…no chance! In fact the action during our three days at Wolf and Darwin would even leave the dive guides surprised for it appeared we were a very lucky group!

Under the new Galapagos rules we would be able to do four dives each day at Wolf and Darwin and so in we went for our first dive at Wolf at 6.30am! Early bird gets the worm – or in this case Hammerheads schooling together with Galapagos Sharks! On each dive we made at Wolf we were constantly entertained by these two spectacular shark species surrounded by a swarm of small orange fish – Galapagos really is an ocean full of life! During safety stops in the blue we would be greeted (circled) by elegant Silky Sharks that would gather in numbers below our waiting panga. Back on our liveaboard the Silkies would hang out by the dive platform and Dolphins would surround the boat – in Galapagos you are really spoilt with ever present marine life! Of course the dives at Wolf are not all about Sharks, we also saw plenty of other marine life – Mexican Hogfish, Razor Surgeonfish, Yellow Snapper, huge Tuna, Eagle Rays, walls of Barracuda, Jacks, friendly Green Turtles and plenty of Moray Eels – careful where you put your hands!

Giant Whale Sharks at Darwin’s Arch!
Wolf Island would be enough to send any diver home with a huge smile but somehow Darwin Island managed to go one better. One of the main reasons divers love to visit Galapagos during July-October is the Whale Sharks – it’s their peak season. Having been in the water with Whale Sharks in Asia I thought that for me Galapagos was going to be all about the Hammerheads but I was wrong. The Whale Sharks of Asia and Galapagos do not look like the same species – when you look at your photos side by side the Asian Whale Sharks suddenly look small and thin – even though they are 7 metres long! The Galapagos Whale Sharks are ocean giants!

Arriving at Darwin Island with it’s spectacular Arch rising out of the ocean our guides broke some unsettling news – they had not seen Whale Sharks for two weeks. Orcas were in the area and that had sent the Whale Sharks into hiding. Still we thought Orcas would be a good substitute!

We needn’t have worried however for very little time passed before we saw the dive guides go berserk – they’d spotted a colossal Whale Shark! Over the next three days this scene would be repeated time and time again as giant after giant cruised the reef. The Whale Sharks were accompanied at times by the resident Dolphins and of course there were the ever present Hammerheads. Cruising slowly it was possible to swim side by side with the Whale Sharks capturing photos and of course unforgettable memories. These ocean wanders were measuring in at 14-20 metres – depending on who was measuring! But it was not really their length that was shocking, it was their girth – they were just impossibly wide!

Cape Douglas
Eventually it was time to leave Wolf and Darwin with certainly the happiest boat of divers I’ve ever seen. Our next stop would be Cape Douglas and Punta Vicente Roca for what would be our coldest dives of the trip. But it would be worth it for we would see sights that you cannot witness anywhere else in the world.

At Cape Douglas we got a lie in as we needed to wait for the Marine Iguanas to heat up on their rocks and slip into the ocean – around 11am they obliged and we followed them into the water watching them feed on the algae cover rocks. Other highlights at Cape Douglas included Red-Lipped Batfish, the small Galapagos Bullhead Shark and Electric Torpedo Rays. Upon surfacing we found ourselves surrounded by Marine Iguanas swimming on the surface – simply magical!

Punta Vicente Roca – Mola Mola madness!
Warming ourselves up with a cinnamon infused hot chocolate we set sail for Punta Vicente Roca with one last pelagic on our list – Mola Mola! These strange looking giants are a common sight in Bali but our guides assured us that Galapagos Mola Mola would be super-sized! After the giant Whale Sharks we had no doubt this would be true!

At Punta Vicente Roca our first Mola Mola appeared almost straight away along with acrobatic Sea Lions! But it was another 40 minutes in rather chilly water before we were rewarded with two of the really huge Mola Mola our guide had told us about! Well worth a few shivers! Upon exiting the water our boat driver cruised the coast line and found us one of the Galapagos most unique species – the Galapagos Penguin.

Land tours
For our remaining time in Galapagos our attention turned from the ocean to land tours – recently allowed again due to changes in Galapagos park rules. Our land tours got us up close with Marine Iguanas spitting salty water out of their noses, Giant Tortoises and lots of Sea Lions – including newborns suckling their mothers. We also climbed Pinnacle Rock on Bartolome Island to see one of the most spectacular views of the Galapagos Islands – perfect for our group photo!

Galapagos Video

Filmed by Jennie Brown on Equator Diving’s 2013 Galapagos group trip.