Locations and Trip Reports / Galapagos 2002

I am not one to write reports or give details but this dive trip had wayyyyyy to much excitement not to try and share about it. Pictures should be scanned and in the gallery in another day or 2.

+ Vinny is starting with the pics, so here are some thoughts.

If I even had ANY expectations, I would have short changed myself on this dive adventure. Beyond anything I thought we were in for. Almost Jurassic Park-ish it felt like. Even pre-historic -- listening to the birds, wind, waves, and splashing of water with so much action taking place even at the surface.

Mother Nature is alive and well.

This trip we booked through Ultimate Divers who did a mailing about this special itinerary. Never used or heard of them before, and I will say this, top-notch service from beginning to end. Might not ever use another company (wink) the way we were treated. When you go so far away, and all transfers, reservations, tours, are all pre-paid, and you reached the location, it is so great to see people waiting for you, knowing your name, handling all the luggage, traveling, hotels, telling you to sit back, enjoy and relax, it doesn’t get much better than this. Well, --- it could have, but we didn’t prepay for those services.

Left my house at noon Weds. Sept., 18th, for a 4pm flight. Excitement doesn’t even begin to describe it. Can’t wait to get there.
Flying out of Newark on Continental, we FF first class all the way. Trip route was real easy, 5+ hours direct to Bogota, 1-hour layover and 1 hour to Quito. Same plane, didn’t even have to get off.

An eventful flight it was, but a real treat was flying over Florida, we got to see first hand a rocket or shuttle launch, which it was, it was just beautiful watching the ship go off into space. I couldn’t believe that we were just a couple of miles outside of the flying range.

We spent the night in Quito, Alameda hotel, very nice. The city was dirty, much crime and we were warned very often, be careful while being out. The hotel hires an armed security company to man the front doors. (Which seemed to be the way as many businesses had armed guards wearing bulletproof vests)

Finally we are here!! I thought!!!

Early morning pickup, off to the airport and the next flight. I thought this was a rip-off. $375 Tame airlines, to fly an hour to Guayaquil and another hour to the Galapagos. But cant argue, this is the way it is. Upon arrival a $100 entrance fee, and a mandatory check of luggage and cleaning of shoes to make sure no food or animals were being brought into the area.

Finally we are here!!! I thought!!!

Galapagos Aggressor 1 crew was waiting for us, and no lie, this was the BEST service I have ever received on any trip anywhere. These 8-9 guys were incredible from beginning to end. The boat was beautiful. Newly refurbished, clean, and working like a clock.

Finally we are here!! I thought!!!!

Bus ride to the boat. Nice and quick and the beginning of what some of the Galapagos were about. Birds were everywhere. If this is a hobby of yours, wow, were you in the right spot.

Here we are, as the bus pulls up to the piers. There is the boat, anchored out in the bay. It is calling us. I can feel it….

Finally, Finally, we are here!!! So, I thought!!!!

Dinghies came over to get us. Life vests were mandatory, 7 people on a dinghy and across the water we went…. Oh shit, did you see that dolphin, nope, I was watching the seals, nope I was watching the birds. Animals were everywhere already. No way, adrenaline was pumping and we didn’t even hit the boat yet.

Once on board, the gear and luggage was brought over next.

Check out dive was mandatory. The boat move 15 minutes away, tied off on some rocks and the dive deck became noisy. Ok, lets get this over with and start having some dive fun. We did this in Baltra, water temps was 68F and vis was 10-15. No much to do here other than get properly weighted, which for this group, seemed like no problem. People kept the dives short, I think I was the longest of most, BT of maybe 30 minutes.. Lets get going was the game plane….Everyone back on board, Wolf Island the next stop, 16 hours to go.

Finally, finally we are ALMOST THERE!!!

Great time to get to know everyone and what a crowd it was. If you didn’t laugh, you didn’t belong on this trip. If you couldn’t take or give a joke, you were dead meat on this trip. 14 strangers, that after a handshake, it was like we had been together many times before.

The energy level was so high, somehow, the nickname for the group became “Gorilla Divers”

Dinner was served, and wow, the meals were just one better than the next. 2nds and 3rds were never a problem. Desserts. All meals were cooked almost to order, special requests were not only granted but also created.

Everyone got comfortable, some headed to bed early, and now, it was only a matter of hours.

Morning came and there was no need for a bell to get everyone up. All 14 divers were up early and just waiting…The sun was breaking into the day, Wolf Island was in sight and breakfast was served.

Dive briefing was next.

Rules and regulations were shared. Safety issues were imprinted in ones skull. They weren’t kidding, and wanted to make sure everyone understood the challenge of these dives, and what the dangers were. IF you had a sausage, they said put it away, it wouldn’t be worth a dam in these conditions. They gave us those flags, kind of like a blind man’s cane. Folds out and together and stands tall in the wind with a flag attached to the top. Also, now they give out beacons. IF you are on the surface to long, to far away, or lost, open the can, turn the beacon on, and you will be picked up on radar hopefully to be found. (I like this toy very much. Glad though, no one had to use the beacons.)

Bottom time is absolutely cutoff give or take 50 – 55 minutes….

NO night diving. “Why not?” 3 reasons…1- ”when you see what you see during the day, you wont want to get in the water at night’ 2-“currents and conditions make it to hard to find people at night” and 3 ‘because we say so.” Ok, so much for negotiating this.

Time to dive.

We all got dressed and basically split up into 2 groups. 7 divers and a divemaster per skiff. Get dressed and geared up on the Aggressor, carry fins as you bounced, dance, slip into the dinghy, wait for all, cameras are passed to you, and away we go….

At the dive site, as you are pulling up, the DM starts barking to the driver. (U understand Spanish, I don’t, especially when they talk that fast) Anyway, a little this way, a little that way, then he points out into the ocean as if saying, we’ll be surfacing somewhere ---anywhere out there….
Oh well….. here we go…..I am psyched!!!…..Fins are on, regs in mouth, grab and hug in tight all gauges, cameras and anything else you want to grab. Everyone backrolls at the same time. On the count of 3, we go…Not on 1-2-3roll, but 1-2-3- go!!!!! 8 bodies hitting the water, negative entrance is the best, head for the rocks and grab on.

(get into my conversation in my head for this)

Hitting the water, rolling over, negative entrance!!!

“Holy shit, look at the ALL the mudda F*****en sharks, head for the rocks, but watch out for the sharks, look at the turtles, tunas, more turtles, head for the rocks, look at all the fish, head for the rocks-------oooppss I missed the rocks,,,,kick kick kick,,,,grab--got it…..Hold on….Holy shit, look at all the sharks…..Wow, hold on real tight,,,,,the current is kicking ass…..slow down the breathing…..look at all the sharks….is this for real…..wow, there goes a diver who lost a grip…..flying right by me….don’t turn you head, you can’t turn it back….holy shit, the current is purging my reg, I am breathing wet, 1ks of thoughts going through my head……bite that mouthpiece real hard, you are going to lose it….look at all the sharks…..hanging like a flag on a pole I am….look at all the sharks….I hope these guys aint hungry…..I look down, no shit, a Moray, crossing right over my hands, don’t let go……oh no…..current getting stronger…..forget taking pictures, no way, just hold on tight…..there goes another diver…….Guess what…..WE ARE FINALLY HERE!!! Buddy diving forget it for now….just keep an eye on the DM’s yellow tank in the distance….stands out well….visibility SUCKS….you cant see a thing through the clouds of FISH!! OH shit, look at this hammerhead, how close is he going to come….then 2, then 10, then forget it….you cant count them, they are everywhere. Galapagos sharks, a little more braver than the hammerheads, oh shit, look at all the dolphins, they are bigger than the sharks, In close they come….Holy shit…is this for real….”who’s idea was this” me and the currents and the sharks….where is everyone….This is the first dive….oh shit…. A week of this….no way!!!”

Barely I can see the DM’s yellow tank, but there he goes, letting go, heading into the blue in the current. Oh well, time to go…..Letting go, I felt like a kite in the sky……or a ride in the park…..being in control was realizing you have no control and just go with the current. Surface after the safety stop, inflate the bc, wait for the dinghy, pass up the weights, take off bc, pass it up, grab the straps, and kick and pull yourself up into the dinghy
IT WAS GREAT. Fish were everywhere. Hammerheads, Galapagos, Black tips were everywhere, tuna, wahoo, dolphin, eels, king angel fish, tropicals, and I was already tired of the turtles getting in the way:):):). I get back to the Mother ship, take off my suit, sit down, and just look up saying, “did that really just happen”? I ask the DM, is the current always like this, he says, “no.” I am thinking, “you mean it is stronger?” He goes on to say this was a little more than usual, that that current today was about 2-1/2 knots. “No shit….that’s all.”

Everyone is laughing-- talking loud, and again, I ask out loud, “was that ONLY 1 dive?” What more could happen?” Oh well, no shit, what I am going to find out is the fun hadn’t even started yet.

We do 3 dives here @ Wolf, basically I could re-write the above, the only thing different was the current slowed down plenty. It became very manageable but still full of energy and much fish life.

Off to Darwin we go. Major currents, underwater topography is all about rocks and boulders and a huge platform area to become a home underwater when not out in the blue…Another rule here. No tank banging unless MR BIG shows up…..So, now picture the same diving as described above, everyone bunkered down behind/under/to the side of some big boulders,trying to stay out of the current and though you cant see much through the clouds of large and small fish…..you hear the noise…You hear the tanks banging….where? where do you look? You follow people following the DM------ looking into the murky dark blue ocean, coming into sight, little by little ---- there she is….. a monster--- a school bus, --- a tractor trailor sized Whale Shark……No shit…..As big as she is, try and keep up with her, no way…..look at all the bubbles being exhaled…..what a sight around her….
We did 11 dives @ Darwin, 9 dives gave us 16 sightings and maybe—just maybe, 3-4 were repeat passings…Imagine all this action, and then these majestic creatures crash the party……Incredible…. The last dive at Darwin, the interaction for me was the best….the closest….and also I came this close to getting whacked by the tail……3 Whale Sharks one after the other, and the last one, after I didn’t chase and watched everyone follow her, she turned around, and came head on…..Wait for the pics….You should see the video…..

Water temps was a nice – on the high end 78-79 degrees, usually around 75 at Darwin and on the low end 70 at Gordons Rock.
Cousins Rock was about macro and seals…..lots and lots of schooling tropicals, 9inch Blennies, Steroid Seahorses……Gordons rock, limited vis, cold water, 1 dive, but a nice, very nice Manta sighting. Also some more hammerheads but after what was up north, there wasn’t many here.
Other highlights, or should I say, character building opportunities!!

---Finishing a dive, just drifting along, and looking below, there was a time, not 10, not 100s --- I don’t know how many but as it was put “a never ending river’ of hammerheads, they just kept coming and coming and coming……

---one dive I left my weight pockets on the boat, so we went back to get them and then the driver brought me back to the dropoff point….Uggg. Off by myself I went….no one to be found, no where. just me and all the sharks…..sorry but I bailed after 20 minutes…just to much action around me and I had no idea where everyone was or exactly where I was drifting to.

---scariest moment…ending of a dive I am drifting by myself, this was pretty common at times, but somehow out of nowhere, comes Todd and Bo. Both very skilled divers….well we are floating in a diamond shape, looking out into the blue and out of no where, there is a Silky in front of me and out of the corner of my eye, there is another one, and as I turn to say something, they also are turning to say something and we are being CIRCLED by a bunch of nasty looking, sneaky, silkys, then they start squeezing the diameter of the circle….we back up tank to tanks, we are laughing more out of -----, this isnt happening, our eyes are starting to look like the size of ½$ coins, I don’t know, but this wasn’t looking to good…..What happens --- a wahoo enters the scene and all of a sudden we weren’t the center of attention anymore off they went, and up and out we went…..

---if DAN saw these dive profiles, we’d be banded from diving…..up/down/up/down….forget about diving deepest on the first dive….we’d be finishing a dive, doing a hang, Mr.Big, shows up and next thing you know we back at 60-70ft again…..Computer jumped into deco regularly…..

---backrolling from the dinghy, wasn’t about worrying if you were going to hit the person on either side of you, it was about NOT landing on a shark or dolphin….no lie, we had to wait a few times for the areas to clear

---drifting in the blue, by yourself, well sorry, not by yourself but without another diver and ALL the shark & fish activity around.

---quality not quantity…18 dives in a week on a liveaboard, I would have been barking….BUT, every second of every minute of every dive was so INTENSE, it didn’t matter.

---Ivans comments about me and the turle were almost true… There were so many of them, you were actually swimming away from them to get pictures of other subjects…and as of being BETTER than Thai & Burma, I am not so sure cause it is totally different diving….not a fair comparison 3 totally different types of diving……

Thats it for now!!



"Sometimes, It's better to be lucky than good." - Pasquale Pascullo

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