Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Galápagos, Ecuador

Galápagos is most diver's holy grail, especially for us from the other side of the world. For me it was my dream destination since I started diving. It wasn't hard to reach if I have the money and time. It will easily cost us US$12k to make a trip there and back. I finally made it to this remote islands in 2011 during my Round The World trip on budget.

Lonesome George
What makes Galápagos so special? I guess is the influence of National Geographic, BBC The Blue Planet, BBC Life of Birds etc capturing the beauty of the island with abundant bird life, marine life, reptiles, giant tortoises, marine mammals, flora and fauna. The image of hammerhead sharks swimming in school always came into my mind when I thought of Galápagos.

Isla Santa Cruz
Getting here is a long way from Asia. One has to fly through US to get to Quito, Capital city of Ecuador. From there catch another flight to Isla San Cristobal (SCY) or Isla Baltra (Seymour – GPS). I checked out some LOB when I was at Quito, the cheapest one I found was 10D9N dive cruise at US$4k. This is way over my budget, so I decided to fly in and book from there. This only make sense when you have the time. Since I am on my RTW trip, I have the time of my life yet bound to the budget I had. :-)

At Puerto Ayora, there are plenty of dive shops but the best one are fully book and the small one are not going out. I have decided to make just day trips because I wanted to see both the land and underwater and one can't do that on a single LOB. The LOB are licensed either on diving or land trip, a strict rule apply by the Galápagos National Park.

Gordon's Rocks
I managed to book 2 dives to Gordon’s Rocks, a famous dive site at the north east of Santa Cruz Island. We left at 5am on a speedboat, the sea was a bit choppy. By the time we reach the dive site, the sun is up but the water is still COLD! I put on my layered 5mm long suit and a 2mm shortie, very uncomfortable. We hurry to get in the water before everyone gets seasick as the boat was rocking badly. Visibility was around 10m with big surge. There were abundance of fishes, a few large turtles and a sea lion busy hunting for food. Watching the sea lion zooming around made my day. We were looking out for hammerheads but no luck. 30 minutes in the dive I was shivering. There was no time to look for nudibranch. :-)

Spotted Eagle Ray
2nd dive was better, we were welcome by 5 spotted eagle rays and some huge turtles. A few sea lions zoom pass us and a few white tip sharks came check us out. While at the end of the dive at around 10 meters, the hammerhead appeared from nowhere, we first saw one which swam away fast but then another one appeared closer and then 2 more just pass 1 meter away from me. They were huge! The dive was so intense with non stop actions and the finale of 4 hammerhead sharks! I wonder how a 10D9N dive cruise will be if 1 day dive has already top my chart! For me the only challenge of Galápagos is the water temperature and current, you will definitely enjoy more when you are prepared. I am glad I did it. If I have the money and time, I will do it again. :-)

Travel date :  30 Oct - 8 Nov 2011
Travel route : On my round the world trip, by flight from Quito to Seymour Airport, Baltra Island
Accommodation and diving :  Hotel Lirio Del Mar, Albatros Galapagos Diving Tours
Type of diving : Reef
Water temperature : 20-26°C
Best time to dive : Diveable year round

Green turtle
Marble ray
Scalloped Hammerhead Shark
Scalloped Hammerhead Shark

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