January, 2012, Trip Report

Peter A. Hughes traveled to the Galapagos Islands to join the 1/15 – 1/22/12 cruise aboard M/V Galapagos Sky.  His Trip Report, Slide Show, and Video Highlights Reel are included below:

 

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SUNDAY

Our Aerogal AM flight from Guayaquil to Galapagos left on time (wish I could say the same for our return – approx 4 1/2 hours late but – poop happens) and we were quickly & efficiently transferred to the pier – the pier never ceases to amaze me as this is where we get the first glimpse of the peaceful coexistence between man & beast – w/ our friendly marine mammals the Sea Lion, delivering an important message “Conservemos Lo Nuestros” – basically:  “Save What Is Ours!”, or more idomatically a call to ongoing action by everyone “Save What Is Here“… (see Slide # 2)

Sunday is a busy day after arrival – lunch, briefings, safety drill, gear set up, check out dive, welcome & crew introduction and finally rest …

MONDAY

We awake at Isla Santa Cruz, enjoy breakfast, and disembark. The Galapagos Sky “deserts” us as she leaves to take on fuel for our travels to the northern islands of Wolf and Darwin.  As a small group we travel via bus to Rancho Primicias in the highlands to learn about & see the Giant Tortoises in the wild.  Highlights on this trip included seeing an early season pair in the mating process,  plus a visit & walk in the lava tubes – very cool.  Plus we and tour and see the three sink holes and Scalecias forests.  Everyone loves this trip and photos are great!

Back to Galapagos Sky for lunch and then 2 x afternoon dives at Cousin Rock – Temp: 21C/70F, Viz: 10m/35′, adequate marine life, including white tip sharks, schooling barracudas, countless turtles, and the always popular and playful sea lions. After dinner a long (120+ nautical miles) trip north t0 Wolf Island

TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY, THURSDAY

We arrive up north and immediately make 2 x morning dives (Landslide & Shark Bay) Temp: 23C/75F, Viz: 15m/50′, minimal current and the action a little slow for Wolf.

1 x afternoon dive (the Caves) – same temps but better viz & current and “Wolf action” at its best – playful sea lions, hammerhead & Galapagos sharks, “countless” turtles, eagles rays and dolphins (again) including a mating pair!!! ‘Tis that time of  year in Galapagos!!

Very early AM departure to Darwin Island, the farthest northern island in the Galapagos archipelago for our much anticipated dives at the famous Darwin’s Arch – we made 5 x dives at the “Arch,” all day Wednesday & Thursday morning and we were NOT disappointed – temp was a consistent & comfortable 24C/76F, viz: 18-20m/60-65′ and currents “manageable” – sightings included, but were not necessarily limited to, a late season (small) whale shark, a (very large) tiger shark, “walls” of hammerheads, cruising Galapagos sharks, truly “countless” turtles, silky sharks (especially during blue water safety stops,) schooling big eye jacks & bonito/tuna w/ large individual or small “groups” of black jack, blue fin trevally, African pompano, large snapper and “millions” of fish such as king angel fish, yellow tail surgeon fish, banner fish, Moorish idols, grouper, wrasses, moral eels “everywhere,” trumpet fish, coronet fish and again, “countless” turtles and rivers of Creole fish etc – you get the picture – some truly Kick Azz Diving!!

During lunch and early afternoon we sail back to Wolf island for our last dive “up north!” We were not disappointed – the Galapagos sharks certainly made their presence known this time around at Shark Bay – big animals and up close & personal encounters for all. A nice display of “reef etiquette” by a large spotted eagle ray chomping at the bottom for his/her evening meal and I mean “chomping,” allowing Roberto, one of our photographers from Brazil, to get amazing close up video footage of the action! The “wall” of hammerheads was again evident as were the silky sharks on our safety stop – they can certainly grab your attention!

If you prefer video, check out this exciting YouTube clip made during this trip by David Espinoza, Andrea Stangarlin, Roberto Parola, Jonathan Fields, and Steven Maday (thanks to all of the guests who contributed).  David, who’s the editor of Scuba Diving Magazine, shot his footage with a GoPro Video Camera, Backscatter Housing/Flat Port, and mounted on an Ultralight Control Systems Pistol Grip.

FRIDAY

We left after dinner for the sail south to Roca Redonda – a rock in the middle of the ocean – here the dive is “touch or go” as sometimes conditions dictate we cancel however, we lucked out – temp: 22C/73F, viz: 12-15m/40-50′ and current strong but manageable – the volcanic fumaroles at beginning of the dive always fascinate and make for some excellent photo ops and the marine life seems to thrive in this environment – as we left the fumarole vents and drifted w/ the current we came to an area of huge boulders on the bottom where we could grab on and “duck” the current and here is where the action was – did I mention earlier Galapagos sharks making their presence known?? Well here the Galapagos sharks came among us in small “schools” of 6-8 at a time and interspersed among them were hammerheads which made for interesting (and exciting) viewing – the multitude of sharks kept us mesmerized w/ heads snapping from side to side and up and down for the best possible sightings but for the rest of our dive we had to drag our eyes away long enough to enjoy & appreciate the large numbers of grouper on this site along w/ “everything” else. We were entertained on our safety stop by playful sea lions, silky sharks, schooling bonito & steel pompano and sea birds peering below the ocean to look at us w/ much curiosity as we looked at them – upon surfacing among a floating flock of these birds they remained in place, totally unperturbed by our human presence – beautiful!!

We the sailed on south to Punta Vicente Roca – a truly amazing area on the north west corner of Isabella Island where the cold, nutrient rich Cromwell current “hits” Isabella island creating one of the most bio-diverse & amazing corners of the earth – both above & below the water – that you can ever imagine…

Temp: 14C/56F at surface and a breath snatching 12C/52F at depth (below 28m/90′, viz: 8m/30′ up shallow but 15-18m/50-60’below the thermocline, current negligible – deep, dark, cold – AMAZING! Sheer wall covered in soft corals & sponges and endemic black corals – beautiful! Mola mola (oceanic sunfish,) horn sharks, several sea horses, red lipped bat fish, tiny, almost invisible flounder, endemic Salemas, sting rays, sea slugs & nudibranchs and … the always present “countless” turtles and the ever playful sea lions.

My coldest dive ever but I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

After two great dives in this unique underwater environment we take a panga ride along the rocky shore line for photo ops for terrestrial creatures that included but again, are not necessarily limited to, seeing & photographing brown noddys and witnessing a mating pair in full action.  While still viewing the noddys, we also saw tow males in what appeared was to be a fight to the death [but happily was not] over mating rights – a truly a violent display of the natural, in the wild, process of procreation.  Next we viewed a stunning paraged of brown pelican, blue footed & Nazca boobies, magnificent frigates, Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants (one of which swan to our panga and “played” w/ ropes, fenders and even the prop for many minutes), sea lions settling in for the night, a nursing mother & pup, dominant male defending his territory, marine iguanas in water & climbing high on the side of the hill for night warmth & safety, spotted eagle rays swimming under the panga, and even more “countless” turtles motionless on the surface – a perfect display of all these differing animals, mammals, reptiles & birds + … sharing the area almost in perfect harmony – how we as mankind, could learn from them!!

CONCLUSION

All my trips – and  there have been many over the past 12 years – have been memorable but I can honestly say this one was one of the best – the company aboard was excellent w/ England, Ireland (Scotland, if you count me) Canada, America, Brazil & Japan and of course, Ecuador through our incredible crew all represented and I think if you asked any one of my shipmates they’d tell you the same – this “off” season, as it is so frequently referred to those less well informed, is perhaps the perfect time to visit the Galapagos!!

Admittedly, seeing a whale shark this late in the season is very unusual but seeing everything else is “par for the course” and enjoying calm seas, beautiful blue skies dotted w/ puffy white clouds and brilliant sunshine, green on the mountains & islands thanx to the rain and clearer, warmer water for diving is again, as I have said it many times before, the BEST time of year to experience the Exceptional Underwater Adventures aboard the beautiful M/V Galapagos Sky!

If you  are one of those people that have so incorrectly been brain washed into thinking the period between July thru’ October is the best or even the only time of year to visit the Galapagos Islands, I have only one thing to say to you: “You’re nuts, heh, heh!” “You do not know what you’re missing!”

Soooo, what are  you waiting for? I return May 13 – 20, 2012 for our Scubapro Demo Week and I cannot wait!! Will I see you on board?? I hope so??

Thanx and as always . . . keep an ocean mind,

Peter