Galapagos Diving & Humboldt Explorer Trip Report Aug. 30- Sept. 8, 2010

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tstormdiver

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Sorry I have not gotten this out sooner. Been very busy since arriving home. Aug. 29- After work, I went to the airport & met up with the group. We flew out & were in Quito by 10pm. We stayed at a plush hotel. Could really feel the altitude there (elev. about 9,000 ft). All my luggage made it, Yay!
Aug. 30- we fly from Quito to San Christobal Island Galapagos. It was strange to see the airline crew open up all the overhead bins &, as we found out later, spay for pests. There we met up with the crew of the Humboldt. We were ferried out to the Humboldt Explorer. I was in one of the middle lower cabins. Not too bad. The room was very nice with wood floors. The only minor thing about the room was that water from the shower would “jump” the lip of the shower stall & run along the floor a little. The boat went out to a channel a few minutes away & we did a check- out dive near a colony of sea lions. I had a blast watching them play! The diving is done out of Pangas (inflatable Zodiacs) I wound up having to wear 40 lbs to be weighted enough for the salinity of the water, my dry suit & for getting down quickly. I would basically back roll out, then straighten out & go down head first kicking. The boat went back to the harbor for the night.
Aug. 31- The boat arrives at the next dive sites,... What a wake- up call when they dropped the anchor at 5:30 am. The sound reverberated throughout the whole ship. There the dive masters see how we handle deep diving & some moderate currents. No problems in general. Late that morning we set out for Darwin & Wolf Islands (20 hrs away). I had mild sea sickness, but didn't take anything for it. Mostly slept.
Sept. 1st.- Darwin Island. We had to dive in 6-8 ft seas. 1st dive- The panga I was diving from didn't see much of anything, the other one saw a whale shark. I used the dive more just to become acclimated to the conditions. There was moderate surge, but nothing major. Diving in the Galapagos goes against almost everything I’ve been taught. When you dive you use the rocks on the bottom to get around from place to place, a bit like pull & gliding in a high flow cave. Dive 2- We saw several sharks (Hammerheads, Galapagos & Silkies). Dive 3- saw more sharks & schooling fish. During my safety stop I had a 50 ft whale shark pass within 5 ft of me. I heard the dive master’s rattle going & turned to see a 10ft wide face coming at me & my buddy our of the murkiness about 20 ft away. I tapped my buddy’s shoulder & when she turned & looked, her eyes got as big as saucers. We could have reached out & touched it, but that is forbidden & doing so would mean sitting out all the dives for the remainder of the trip. I was completely astounded at the size & grace of the animal. CHA- CHING!!!
4th dive- saw more sharks & lots of schooling fishes. The rough surface & the panga rides nearly beat me to death. After the last dive I tore the right wrist seal of my newer drysuit.
Sept. 2nd- Used my older drysuit for the remainder of the dives that trip. 1 dive,... nothing much, a couple of sharks. I sat out dive 2 because of soreness of being beaten y the rough waters in the panga with nearly 80 lbs of gear on me. Dives 3 & 4 more sharks & schooling fishes.
Sept 3rd- Wolf Island. Here we experienced some much stronger currents. Dive 1- saw several sharks. Dive 2- I tore a leg muscle getting off the Humboldt into the panga. I could still dive, but standing & walking was painful & difficult. We did a drift dive. Saw several critters around the reefs. Dive 3- we dove along a wall. Had VERY strong currents coming from every direction. I got caught in an up current that, with my drysuit acting like a sail, separated me from my group & after exhausting myself trying to hold on & signal my group, I lost my grip & the current forced me to the surface very quickly. My computer was not happy with me on that one. It was not fun surfacing in nearly 12 ft seas. After a couple of minutes, the panga came around & picked me up. That dive certainly reminded me to respect sheer power of nature. I will honestly say that is the toughest dive I have ever done to date. My buddy was forced to buddy up with the dive master to come to the surface. 4th dive was a deep dive to find a red- lipped batfish. Very weird looking creature.
Sept. 4th- We did 2 dives along Isabela Island. Saw some huge Mantas! & a few sharks. Afterwards we took a tour on the pangas of the shoreline. Lots of sea lions, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants & Blue Footed Boobies (Yes, the birds,... not the other ).
Sept. 5th- we did 2 dives at Cousin's Rock, looking for sea horses, none were found other than a plastic one planted by the dive masters as a joke. Unfortunately I didn't get to enjoy the first dive much, as my neck seal rolled & my drysuit flooded in 52 degree water. I did manage 35 min. before calling the dive. I was freezing. I sat out the second dive because of being too cold. Some eagle rays were spotted on that dive. I started to dry out my equipment. In the afternoon, we went on land & took a tour of Santiago's highlands. We visited a tortoise reserve,... very cool! .
Sept. 6th- we packed & left the boat. All but 5 of us flew back home. The 5 of us who stayed in Quito walked as a group around town learning the nearby neighborhoods. We found a little restaurant that had brick oven pizza. Some of the best pizza I've ever had.
Sept.7th- We shopped in the morning & took a tour of the equator & the old section of town. Mind blowing tour. It was really cool! Our guides were excellent.
Sept. 8th- We shopped some more in the morning & in the afternoon took the tram up the side of the mountains overlooking the city. Breathtaking! Our flight left at 11pm. It was completely full & very crowded. We were packed like sardines. Not pleasant at all. We arrived home Thurs. about 10 am.

Humboldt Explorer Review- The Humboldt Explorer (HE) is a newer ship that completed construction in June 2010. It is a little over 100 ft long with 8 staterooms that can accommodate up to 16 guests. The rooms are very nice for a live aboard. I have been on 4 other live aboards & you usually get bunks to sleep in. The rooms had beautiful wood floors & tile floors in the bathrooms. The beds could be separated or put together, depending on the needs of the occupants. There were main lights in the rooms & also some softer ambient lights. I would usually leave the ambient lights on for my roommate, since I liked to turn in early. There was a window, but it was located so high,… it kind of defeated the purpose of it being there. It took a couple of days to figure out the ventilation system, but once I did, the room was comfortable. There were 6 cabins below deck & 2 on the main deck. The lower deck had the 6 cabins, engine room & crew quarters. The main deck had the dive deck, salon (gathering & eating area), 2 cabins & the pilot house.

The top deck had the sun deck & hot tub. To be honest, I did not spend much time on the sun deck because it was too cool & did not use the hot tub because of being cautious of the excess nitrogen in my tissues. Also up on the sun deck was a large upright cooler that stored the beverages.

The main deck was where the dive deck & salon was. The dive deck was large, but always seemed a bit busy or crowded, especially just before or after a dive. Not sure if it was a matter of how things were laid out or what. The one thing I was truly not crazy about was the crew would put all the BC weight pockets & weight belts in a plastic crate together. It was rather a chore to have to go through the whole thing in order to find your weights. Even with names & ID marks on them, most of us used the same type of weight pockets, which added to the confusion. I quickly got into the habit of finding my weight pockets & belt immediately after the dive & loaded them into my BC to save some hassle later. The salon was very nice with very comfortable furniture to lounge on, but wish there was more, as some people would have to take chairs from the dining tables to have a seat. We had many great conversations there.

The lower deck with the cabins was just as it was, nice, but not fancy. There was an area in the main corridor where some of the tiling was coming up, but overall, everything was in order. For the bathrooms, I would recommend that everyone bring their own wash cloths (sponges/ luffa’s, whatever), as these are not supplied with the linens. The boat only had a clothes dryer which was nice, but a washer would have also been a big help. The ship was keep spotless & constantly cleaned.

The crew worked well together to get equipment back onto the ship from the pangas after the dives. Our dive masters Peter & William were top notch at keeping us together & showing us the animals & sites. Their briefings were very good & clear, with the only exception being when asked if the currents at Wolf were appropriate for less experienced divers (they said it was, but in the opinion of all there, it was not). We were told that the dive masters were not really allowed to socialize with us between dives, this seemed a shame. I realize that there must be some professional distance & they have jobs to do, but being they were the only ones of the crew who spoke decent English, it would have been welcome for them to be able to engage in conversation with us. Kudos to the panga drivers. How they found us & could follow our bubbles in 8- 12ft seas is beyond me. Sheer talent.

The food was decent. I cannot honestly say it was great (maybe I’m just too spoiled), but it was decent. The biggest complaint was that we had fish served at least 4 nights. Though I do like to eat fish, it did get a little old after the first couple of times. There was decent variety of foods. Also a couple of extra portions would have been good. We had a couple of people who didn’t realize that there was just enough portions for everyone to have 1 & those at the end of the line had to go without. Maybe this should have been explained to the guests to prevent confusion & embarrassment, although it should have been apparent.

Overall the HE was a very clean, well run & beautiful boat. There are a few areas for improvement, but with as short of time as the boat has been running, they are things that can be surmounted. I would certainly do it again, if I could. The boat was great, as was the crew. The people of Ecuador were very friendly & hospitable. A very memorable trip. Once in a lifetime.

Here is a link to a video filmed by the lead instructor who orchastrated this trip, of some of the highlights of the trip. YouTube - Galapagos Diving
 

mantajohn

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Hi

Galapagos is one of my 'must get there' destinations, so i really enjoyed reading your trip report.

Thanks for taking the trouble to post.

cheers

John
 

kennedy

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Glad you had a good trip Tammy - sorry about the torn leg muscle though! One can read about the current, waves, etc of diving the Galapagos but until you actually experience it - you just can't imagine. :) Loved the video too! Seeing the part where the divers are flying in the current and grabbing for something to hold on to just to slow down brought back vivid memories of my trip in Dec 09!! welcome back!!!
 

fishi

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I really enjoyed watching the video, and reading your trip report. Looks like you did some awesome diving. Are most of the dives drift dives, or do you go down and hold onto the reef and just stay in one place? Do most people dive dry or wet? Looks like fun!! I would have a hard time staying out of the hot tub though.
 
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tstormdiver

tstormdiver

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Some dives were drift dives, some were "hang on to the barnacle incrusted volcanic rocks (there was actually very little reef) for dear life". There were some wetsuit divers, most wore 7mm semidry's; I was the only one in our group who wore a drysuit (I actuallly brought 2). I was going to wear a semidry, but when it finally came in (was on back order), only a week before we left, it would not fit. A drysuit was certainly a disadvantage for the drag it created, but an advantage for the warmth.
 

Mossman

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Glad you enjoyed your trip and had whalesharks. I thought I had talked you out of bringing the drysuits, though? At least now I can add your experiences when I advise the next poster who asks the drysuit question :wink:

Also, for picky eaters, the Galapagos Aggressor II and the Sky Dancer offered a choice of entrees, never just fish alone, and there was plenty of food to go around. It would suck to go hungry on a liveaboard.
 

ScubaSam

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Tammy - Thanks for the report and the video. I'm super interested in diving the Galapagos but am concerned about getting seasick on a liveaboard.

You seem to have only one bout of seasickness on this trip or was there always a touch of it each day? What was the water temp at depth?
 
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tstormdiver

tstormdiver

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Scubasam, I guess I forgot to mention, I eventually caved in & wore 1/2 a patch for most of the trip. For the most part, the HE wasn't too bad, unless we hit really rough seas, which was usually at night, so I was sleeping anyway. It was the pangas that made me really green. I've tried patches before & they tend to knock me out, hence my reluctance to use one. A friend on the trip (An LPN) suggested only using 1/2 of it. Worked like a charm. I was not seasick & wasn't left in a fog. The water temps in the Northern Islands (Wolf & Darwin) was about 71. Central Islands (Isabela) was in the mid- low 60's & in the southern Islands around San Christabol & near Cousin's Rock was about 52 degrees.

Mossman, I WAS going to use a SP semidry, but it did not arrive until the week before we left (back ordered). I tried it on & it would not fit my upper arms to where we could get it zipped up without injuring me or damaging the suit. By then it was far too late to order a new one of a larger size to try. My LDS will order them, but does not stock them. We went by the sizing guidelines & generally they work well, I must just be of a strange body type :D, I dunno. I am not very tolerant of thick 2 layer wetsuits (they're much to confining) & that is all that my LDS has in their rental fleet, so yes, I was pretty much relegated to my 2 drysuits. I'm very glad I took both, after the wrist seal blow- out. If I hadn't, that would have put a serious crimp in my diving on that trip. The biggest negative, as mentioned above was the drag the suits had. It did make navigating in heavy currents difficult, but then I'm used to having my drysuits on when cave diving in high flow caves. Only that very strong up current that separated me & sent me to the surface, caused me problems that I could not surmount. The only other issue with the drysuits was the fact that when I would backroll out of the panga, I would land in the water pretty much completely upside down, so I would just straighten out & start kicking for the bottom. This would cause the residual air in the suit that I could not "burp" out to go to my feet, where I could not vent it, thus the need for the extra weight. After getting to depth, I would get myself upright & vent the suit, not really a big deal. Other than that, I was glad I had them, I was toasty warm for the whole trip, except for my last dive when the suit flooded.
 

ScubaSam

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Tammy - I'm not a fan of medication nor the patch cause it makes me loopy (at least loopier than normal :D) but happy it worked for you.

What was the water temp?
 
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