Trip Report Galapagos May 2021 Highlights

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birdman27

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Well, we are back home from the Galapagos. Lots of feelings, but overall, one of gratitude and awe that I was able to see that wonderful place. I can honestly say this is the first time in a long time that I haven't been ready to come home.

Before I get into the highlights, though, there is something that needs to be said. What we saw was amazing, beyond anything I have experienced before. But, it is also a fraction of what the place was even just 15 years ago. The scourge of destructive fishing just outside of (and probably inside of, due to the difficulty of enforcing) the marine reserve boundary, specifically by the Chinese, has caused the stock of charismatic megafauna and fish to plummet. Something needs to be done to protect this amazing place, be it better enforcement, extended marine reserve boundaries, or, even better, the creation of a no take zone between the islands and the mainland, extending from Ecuador up to Costa Rice and including the Cocos Islands and Malpelo. #SaveGalapagos

But now the fun stuff, highlights!

Day 1: after too much travel, the sights start right away. Iguanas on the runway; pelicans, frigate birds and boobies on the zodiac ride to the boat (the Humboldt Explorer); sharks by the boat and jumping rays at sunset

Day 2: first dives at North Seymour; giant frogfish; reef sharks galore; island visit with nesting frigates and boobies; baby marine iguana

Day 3: Wolf Island, which means Hammerheads! But also Galapagos sharks, awesome Eagle Rays, and probably some Silky sharks; rescuing a baby booby on the panga ride back to the boat

Day 4: Wolf Island AM; more hammerheads and Galapagos shark; Manta in the blue on safety stop! Transit to Darwin Island to dive Darwin’s Goalposts (trademark pending); more hammerheads; snorkeling and diving with dolphins!

Day 5: Darwin Island, more hammerhead. Dive 2- whale shark! It wasn’t really the season, so really cool to see that. Big schools of jacks; tuna; wahoo; turtles everywhere

Day 6: Back to Wolf. Search for the redlipped batfish (Angelina Jolie) in the morning was unsuccessful, but we saw the most free swimming moray eels any of us had ever seen. Also a sea lion walking on the bottom at 100ft. Caves! Giant marbled ray in the secret cave; sea lions dancing with us underwater; hammerheads where you don’t expect them!

Day 7: Nice easy dives at Cousin’s rock; sea horses; turtles; one giant slipper lobster; more turtles; couple of reef sharks just for good measure; a great way to end a week of diving. That afternoon, we visit the giant tortoises, which are as goofy as advertised, then to Puerto Ayora for dinner. I don’t know anywhere else that the sea lions are allowed to take over the benches on the pier and will just ignore the barking dogs!

Day 8: Transit to Quito for the night. What a cool city! Way up in the mountains (9,000+ ft), but green as all get out. The historic center is amazing. Dinner with views was hard to beat. Any we even saw all the motorcades for the new president getting inaugurated.

This is only a teaser pic, but one that you go to the Galapagos for; we saw probably around 1,000 of these critters! To link back to my point, that sounds like a lot, but 15 years ago you would see that many in one good dive.
hammerhead.jpg
 
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birdman27

birdman27

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I want to link to a thread by @drrich2 , because he did a great job explaining the diving and the boat (Humboldt Explorer) overall. I also don't have the time to post anything as thorough as what he wrote, but I will add a couple of notes. We had a slightly different itinerary than him as well, as we went in and out of Baltra.

This was my first extended liveaboard (I have done one 3 day at the Channel Islands, which was a completely different experience). Overall, the amenities were nice, even if it was an older boat. My wife and I got cabin 2 on the main deck, with the beds pushed together into a king (they said queen, but it was bigger), two huge windows to the water and a nice size bathroom with another window out (on the last day I saw dolphins playing in our wake about 10 ft away as I was showering!). Food was generally good, with lots of fruits and veggies. They did a great job accommodating diets (we had one lactose free and one no sugar), including special desserts. For the size of the kitchen, they put out really good food.

Diving was in 2 groups of 12 as we did not have a full boat. In fact, our group from our dive shop was 11 of the 12. Our 12th was a lovely new diver from Chicago who is just wrapping up a teaching contract in Quito. The rest of us are North Coast California divers. Even with that, one guy had trouble and only made 6 dives. Only half our group made every dive. Our diving at home certainly helped, but the amount of current and cross surge made it difficult at times. Vis was better than we get at home, but probably only in the 30ft range. I saw max depth temps range from 70-83F, so my 7mm suit was overkill, but it did mean I didnt have to wear my hooded vest. Alex and Kevin, our guides, did a great job keeping everyone safe and putting us on animals. The amount of life is simply amazing.

This is a video of our highlight, I hope you enjoy! I certainly didn't capture everything, but I got enough. The music is from our dinner in Quito on the last night before we flew home.

Let me know if you have any questions!

 
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birdman27

birdman27

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Last note is on my pictures and videos. I decided to try a phone case as well as my normal camera setup. The phone case I used is called Hotdive and I backed it on Kickstarter earlier this year. I ended up using it exclusively because my other camera case got cracked in transit (I think the airline dropped it, because the sunscreen next to it was all mashed too). The phone case has a built in vacuum pump and it worked well...until it didnt. On about the fourth day a screw holding the contacts in came loose and the pump stopped turning off, or would turn on randomly during a dive. The case didnt leak at all, but it wasnt trustworthy, so I stopped using it. I am in contact with the company to see if I can get it fixed, because I was actually happy with the performance and ease of use before those issues. I liked the simplicity, as it allowed me to focus on my diving. I will probably end up getting a kraken phone case for the future, since I have a pixel and can use the native photo app with that case.
 

drrich2

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Glad you had a good trip! Good video, with a pleasant soundtrack. One thing my trip reports lacks is video; I just don't 'think in video,' so with me it's snap shots. Your video gives a sense of what it's like to be there. Of the places I've dove, the Galapagos most made me wish for higher viz. water, because there was so much to see. Congrat.s on the whale shark! I've never seen one. Nice giant hawkfish shot.

I thought the Humboldt Explorer hit the 'sweet spot' between experience and comfort on one hand, and value on the other. So you guys ported in Baltra? That is quite a difference. I haven't been there; from what I understand it's a tiny island. I liked San Cristobal, which is much larger, as I enjoyed seeing mating iguanas on the rocky shoreline as I walked in town, and loads of Galapagos sea lions.

Can you tell us a bit more about what Baltra was like to walk around? Was there a decent town with restaurants, or is it very rustic?

Richard.
 
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birdman27

birdman27

Contributor
Messages
90
Reaction score
92
Location
Santa Rosa, CA
# of dives
100 - 199
Glad you had a good trip! Good video, with a pleasant soundtrack. One thing my trip reports lacks is video; I just don't 'think in video,' so with me it's snap shots. Your video gives a sense of what it's like to be there. Of the places I've dove, the Galapagos most made me wish for higher viz. water, because there was so much to see. Congrat.s on the whale shark! I've never seen one. Nice giant hawkfish shot.

I thought the Humboldt Explorer hit the 'sweet spot' between experience and comfort on one hand, and value on the other. So you guys ported in Baltra? That is quite a difference. I haven't been there; from what I understand it's a tiny island. I liked San Cristobal, which is much larger, as I enjoyed seeing mating iguanas on the rocky shoreline as I walked in town, and loads of Galapagos sea lions.

Can you tell us a bit more about what Baltra was like to walk around? Was there a decent town with restaurants, or is it very rustic?

Richard.

Thanks! I used to mostly do photos as well, but I realized with all that action it would make more sense to try some video. I was able to pull some stills from videos, but I also grabbed a few pictures, like the hawkfish, when things werent moving too much! I get your point about vis, but after spending the last year diving around home, I was plenty happy with the vis, haha. We are more used to 10ft or less, so the 30-40 we normally got was pretty good (though definitely not as clear as some other places we have been). I do think the lower vis brought the animals closer. The whale shark was unexpected, since the season hadnt really started, but definitely a highlight. After that pic I tried to take a video, but it didnt save; the only time my phone setup let me down.

So on Baltra, all you do is land and take off. There is no town and no one lives there; everyone comes over from Santa Cruz every day for work. We were gathered from the airport and taken to the boat. We spent every night on the boat. Our last day, we did the Santa Cruz highlands, then had dinner in Puerto Ayora, before being taken back to the boat.
 
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