Date: 14 Feb 2016
By: Susie Erbe
When you dive the Galapagos it’s great, when you’re on the right boat with a great crew its brilliant but when you add in a fun group of friends you’ve got the most amazing experience ever! That about sums up our recent 10 night dive trip aboard the Galapagos Master liveaboard.
Our group came together in San Cristobal eager to board the yacht for our highly anticipated adventure. JC and Solon, our experienced guides, met us at the airport and brought us to the port where the dive tenders were waiting to ferry us over to our liveaboard home. Captain Javier and his crew welcomed us aboard and we got settled in to our cabins, set up equipment then convened in the lounge for the first dive briefing. The check dive at Isla Lobos, there were sea lions playing about and the first blue footed boobie bird was spotted on the rocks.
Getting underway we cruised overnight to Baltra Island off the northern tip of Santa Cruz for two dives at Mosquera, bringing in the first hammerhead shark sightings, along with marble rays, white tip reef sharks, schools of surgeon fish, barracuda and moray eels. We also made the first of our land excursions at North Seymour where frigate birds come to nest, land iguanas rest in the shade of the cactus trees and sea lions frolic in the surf.
A very steady and surprisingly un-noisy overnight crossing to Darwin followed. We spent 2 days diving the rocky outcropping known as Darwin’s Arch where the warm 27C water had not diminished the schools of hammerheads coming in to be cleaned by the angel fish. We made 8 dives in total, my favourite being the shallow sandy reef where a school of 14 hammerheads cruised about us for the entire dive time. Also seen were huge green turtles with various encrustations, dolphins, Mexican hogfish, spotted moray eels, schools of jacks and angelfish, silky, white tip and black tip sharks, stone fish, burrfish, scorpion fish, blennies, marbled rays and schools of pacific creole. The most surprising find was a pair of harlequin shrimp; In the Galapagos – Who knew???
Two dive days at Wolf Island followed, with much the same pattern as the previous days with dive, rest, dive, eat, dive, rest, dive, drink a few beers, eat some fresh tuna sashimi, fall asleep from exhaustion. As we watched the schools of hammerheads and display from the eagle rays, JC’s furious rattling could be heard to announce the surprise visit of a whale shark with a Galapagos shark alongside; totally unexpected for this time of year but very welcome. We braved the colder 21C water – yes that was some “thermocline” JC – to see the red lipped batfish, though we also saw the rarer variety the Rosy Lipped batfish too. Such odd looking critters!
We left the warm waters of the north behind and travelled overnight to Fernandina Island, chaperoned by a variety of gulls and frigate birds, eager for scraps or to rest on the bow of the Galapagos Master. The dives at Cabo Douglas offered something very special – the chance to be underwater with the marine iguanas. When the sun is out and they have warmed up a little, these fascinating creatures dive down to feast on the succulent algae, braving the 19C water for their tasty bounty. Giving them space and time, once the iguanas were feeding we divers could approach and observe their behavior. Totally cool experience! The ragged reef wall provided a stunning divesite full with black coral bushes and overhangs. We all had our first sighting of the diminutive horn shark, plus for Sarah her first ever sighting of a seahorse. Long nosed hawkfish were happy to pose for photos and there were plenty of blennies, wrasse and parrotfish – plus a few nudibranchs and another red lipped batfish.
Day 8 saw the Galapagos Master cruising north once again to the west coast of Isabella Island to dive the delightful Punta Vicente Roca. We spent the full day diving here and managed to fit in a dinghy ride to see penguins, sealions, blue footed boobies and iguanas hanging out on the rocks. The dives were some of the best and certainly not marred by the cold upwelling and green water. I achieved a few “firsts” during this day… My first ever mola mola, first dive with a penguin, first time to see a sealion playing underwater and first dive with a flightless cormorant. The day really did go to the mola mola though. The 2m long fish sidled up to our group as we made our way along the wall at 25m, it paused briefly to open and close its mouth at me and I managed to resist the urge to give it a quick peck. The second group saw 3 different mola mola but for me that experience was hard to top. Diving through the dense school of striped salema was superb and made even better by the sealions who ploughed through, momentarily parting the school in their quest for a morsel.
Cabo Marshall on the eastern coast of was our quest for the following day. Our dives were graced with hammerhead sharks, white tip reef sharks, a school of barracuda, mobula, eagle and golden rays plus an oceanic manta put in a brief appearance. Happy divers all round!
Our trip rounded off with 2 dives at Cousin’s Rock where eagle rays danced in the current, marble rays glided over the rocky reef top and sea lions joined the mixed just for the fun of it! A cruise over to Santa Cruz Island offered the opportunity for a land visit with the slow but fascinating Galapagos Tortoises and a walk around Puerto Ayora before our final night aboard – complete with Captain’s cocktail hour! The wine flowed as we lamented our impending disembarkation. During the whole trip Captain Javier and his crew looked after us all superbly well, the Galapagos Master is a well run and maintained yacht; very comfortable and spacious, we dined well and the post dive hot chocolate and chicken wings were all consumed with gusto!
All too soon a fabulous trip was over and we boarded our return flights to Guayaquil for onward journeys back to the US, UK, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Thailand. Galapagos Master provided a trip of a lifetime –I’d definitely go back!