Motor City Dives the Galapagos Islands
By George Garcia
June 27 – The Motor City Sixteen leave for Quito on Delta (with two of us flying from LA on Lan Airlines). We change planes in Atlanta, wait for extremely severe storms to pass, and play musical gates three times before we take off. The Delta crew was great, though, and got the plane moved to the front of the take-off queue before the crew timed out (with 2 minutes to spare). We arrive in Quito about an hour late, drive the 45 minutes to the city, and finally make it to hotel about 2 am.
June 28 – We rise early for a 7 am. breakfast and then get on the bus to Mindo Cloud Forest. On the way we stop for a photo op at the Equator line – which is denoted there as a 3-inch line painted on the ground, but is really somewhere unknown in a 5 km. wide swath! Turns out the equator moves around with the flexing of the planet—pretty cool. On to Mindo. The guide says it will take longer because we have to brake downhill – huh? Once we reach the cloud forest (it is sunny, with no clouds in sight) we visit a Butterfly Garden, a Chocolate Factory (yummmmm) and an Orchid Garden. We have a nice lunch at local restaurant and then split up with some going to hummingbirds and some, including me, to a Canopy Zipline Tour. 10 lines for $20 and what a trip! Uneven, mostly earthen steps, and steep grades to get to top but what a RUSH!! We head back to hotel where they have fresh fruit and a chocolate fountain for us. Some leave to have a delicious fried Guinea Pig dinner, but I’m worn out and just go to sleep.
June 29 – Another early wakeup call to return to the airport and catch our flight over the Andes to San Cristobal Island, Galapagos (by way of Guayquil). The sight of islands is neat. After we land and pass through Galapagos customs, Juan Carlos and Leandro (Galapagos Naturalists and Dive Masters) meet us at the bus to San Cristobal harbor. As we get off the bus, we’re greeted by the unmistakable aroma of the remains of sea lion diet. Sea lions are everywhere in the harbor, including on the sidewalk to our zodiacs.
Once on the Humboldt Explorer, we quickly unpack our scuba gear, and then we’re off to Isla Lobos for a quick checkout and weight adjustment dive. After we back roll into the water, sea lions join our dive, darting between us and examining our fins. Next morning, after breakfast, we say goodbye to Bill, Wanda, and Danielle, due to the death of Wanda’s mother. We dive at Punta Carrion, Baltra Island where we see Whitetip and Blacktip “charps”, morays, turtles, and lots of other fish. After lunch we land at North Seymour Island and wander among sea lions, Blue-Footed Boobies, Frigate Birds, and Land Iguanas. Mid-afternoon, we depart for the 16-hour overnight journey to Wolf Island.
June 30 – Early rise (the sun rises and sets at 6 o’clock here year round) but Wolf Island is nowhere in sight. It seems one of our two engines quit during the night and we are making slower progress than expected. Our arrival is delayed by 4 hours. We are able to make two afternoon dives (at Shark Bay and Landslide). Both are challenging with medium currents (2—4 knots) and lots of surge. Landslide had 3 different currents converging and a heavy, heavy surge—lots of banging around, trying to hang on to rocks and moving to the side when current/surge changes. Lots of Hammerhead, some Galapagos and Silky sharks. Lots of other sea life also. Some of us go for a night dive on the lee side of the island. The crew is able to make repairs to our disabled engine while we dive, much to our relief.
July 1–Two dives at Wolf Island (Shark Bay and Landslide), then we motor 20 miles to Darwin Island. We make two afternoon dives at Darwin Arch. Due to dangerous areas of surge near the arch and at shoals near the south end of island, at the end of the dives we drift into the blue water (no visible bottom) to look for schools of rays and sharks.
July 2–Four dives today at Darwin Arch. What great morning dives! On our fist dive a beautiful and huge (50 foot) whale shark comes right to us from below. We are able to swim with it for a short while as it blinks its eye at us in curiosity. Exciting and very humbling. We get some great video of her, the largest fish on the planet. On the second dive luck strikes again. This time 2 whale sharks, the first large but not quite as big as before, and the second definitely smaller, maybe 25-30 ft. We are so lucky to see them.
July 3–Two morning dives at Darwin, then we pack up and motor back to Wolf. We get in two afternoon dives. Most of the larger pelagics (hammerheads and large fish) are below 100 ft. due to the 82°water, but we have a few come to see us on each dive along with the turtles, jacks, eagle rays and moray eels.
July 4–Two morning dives at Wolf with the second at Secret Cave. A sea lion greets us on the way in. We encounter sleeping white tips in a lava tube, morays, and lots of turtles. In an air pocket, sea lions rest above the water line to escape bothersome flies. Afterward we begin the 20-hour motor back to Santa Cruz Island.
July 5–We arrive at Cousins Rock late morning for our last dive. A cursory search for sea horses in the black corals is unsuccessful, but a school of manta rays acrobatically swims near to us. Then we spot a school of golden cow rays, a couple of really big hammerheads, and some white tips. Then it’s time for a land tour to tortoise “ranch” at the edge of the national park. Despite their Yoda-like cuteness, the tortoises don’t seem that friendly and we keep our 6 ft. distance. We continue our journey to Puerto Ayoro for some souvenir shopping and dinner ashore. We say good-bye to Scott, Carol, Steve and Olivia, and return to our boat for our final journey to San Cristobal.
I didn’t mention everything we saw at each site because there were white-tip, black-tip, hammerhead, Galapagos, and silky sharks at various areas along with lots of eagle rays, some mantas, morays, turtles, and more fish that I can name. I experienced more diving conditions in this one trip that I had ever before.
July 6 – Our diving done, back at San Cristobal Island, we visit the Galapagos Interpretive Center, learning some of the history of the settlement of the Galapagos Islands before our return flights to the mainland and, much later that evening, home.
If you can ever make this trip, DO SO – it is an awesome time.
Thanks to the Motor City Scuba crew for putting this together.