Preparing for Galapagos/Socorro

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Wow. It's always amazing that I find people who see things the way I do. That's really rare. I did NOT think about the toll diving in current would take on me. After some trips to Florida and half-a-dozen trips to Bonaire, I thought, "what the heck, I'm ready for the big time." I booked a trip to Komodo with Mermaid (they're great; 2 years from now when I do Raja Ampat, I'm going with them). The first few dives went fantastically. Then we hit a dive with a moderate current. All I remember of that dive is me finning like crazy to stay up with everyone else (who didn't seem to even NOTICE there was current). I was CLEARLY not ready for the current. Fortunately for me, there were few dives like this. I've learned my lesson and have taken steps to improve my abilities in current for when I do my next trip to the Maldives in January. I've started working out vigorously each day now. I got dry suit trained and made a few cold water dives. Next summer, I'll schedule a couple dives to the Missouri River. Like you folks, my goal is to dive the Galapagos and get a great experience.
As for which liveaboard could you book to get the experience without the current; I might suggest Grand Cayman. Although I haven't done Grand Cayman, my brother did and he had only good things to say about the trip and not a word about current.
 

borisphotosafari

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It is different for everyone.
Getting used to the currents is very important, you want to enjoy your diving in all location. Buoyancy control is also important for all divers. I just got back from Raja Ampat and some divers on my LOB didn't want to dive currents. No current, no fish. Last year on my Komodo trip some divers bailed out on drift dives which where the highlights of my trip.
On Galapagos trip you will need to do a negative entry, get down as fast as you can, and hang on to a barnacle covered rock. At Wolf and Darwin islands you can do with a hood and a good 5mm suit. But down south I had a 7mm and it was just enough. High adrenaline dives help with keeping warm in the water, but the surface is also windy and can be cold.
For Socorro buoyancy is definitely important. Mantas and dolphins come right up to you. 5mm was warm enough for me. But I have seen divers in shorties there. Just looking at them made me cold. :) November is a warmer time to go, saw pregnant whale sharks. Feb and March you have a chance for humpback whales there.
Please dive your own abilities, diving should be fun and not a frighting experience. The more you dive, the better you going to get.
I will give you credit that you are trying to prepare, some people don't and make it hard on themselves and every one around them.
For preparation for Socorro try land based diving out Cabo and around Sea of Cortez.
 

Doc

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It's not so much WHERE, but instead- WHERE you find the WHAT.

The "what" pertains to the new, previously un experienced challenges. It is also a cumulative effect of stacking new challenges, one atop the other....task loading as it is sometimes described.

What new experiences should you be prepared for in the Galloping Pogos?

Let's assume liveaboard, but truth be known, the majority of logged dives in the Pogos is done land based. Largely, the same challenges apply to an extent.

Water temps. It's cold, but not Great Lakes, PNW, or rock quarry cold. I once showed up in the Galop with a PolarFleece suit and somehow managed to survive 18 dives. Check the actual historical water temps expected for your time of year. This is where log book experience comes into play in order to determine the exposure protection needed based on past experience. Great time to buy a neoprene head beanie.

Now consider surface interval. This is something most know on a hot sandy beach or the foredeck of a cabin cruiser lounging on a hot fiberglass deck. The G? Not like that. Your SI will be degraded as a regenerative period because a liveaboard....any liveaboard, it will not be anywhere near as pleasant. Your body will not recover at the rate to which you are previously accustomed.

Diving? All sorts of horror stories abound. A few thoughts come to mind about the G. You can spend all sorts of money on very specialized gear, or not. As for gloves, we have been wearing leather work gloves since Day 1. Divers show up all the time dressed like what some had referred to as a Japanese Astronaut. Danglies and inexplicable gadgetry sprouting forth.

The SMB on a reel is one thing. Knowing how to flawlessly deploy it from 25' awaiting a pickup...quite another. Then how to use it to facilitate your approach and RIB recovery. Passing your gear up without exposing your thin skull to a slippery fingered boatsman's grip? Clambering up a ladder or gunnel?

Working a line system along the surface, ascending or descending a down line, deciding how to retain a grasp on a line that is encrusted?

Doing a Backroll on countdown command with a negative (immediate) descent? Got that?

Current? That's really the easiest part. Just go with the flow. If you are just flying in the current, that free flowing regulator that's being ripped from your mouth? The guy that's telling you that story is not expressing the situation correctly. Reg problems only occur when you're in current and latched on to a rock, fighting it. Also- only when you have your face exposed to that flow. Turn your head, likely you'll survive like everybody else. Regs being ripped from your pie hole are apocryphal at best, mask loss, the same improbable sea-dragon stories.

Currents are mostly invisible, but if you engage your brain- with a little experimentation (and remembering), you can quickly learn how these lava rock structures create hidey holes, allowing for quiet pockets of respite. Current flows differently a few feet above a flat surface. If it ain't working, change your separation. Tumbling across the landscape is kind of amusing. Funny how current doesn't really bash you into the rocks, that's not how it works...it's called laminar flow. Google it and "how to fly a glider", same idea.

Currents not only flow <- and -> but also like this V and ^ too. Lateral currents and Vertical currents. Learn how to read them, meaning- know your surroundings (depth), and not by just relying on that gauge. Be aware. React fast. If fighting isn't working, stop fighting.

As to where? In the Caribbean? I have trained a lot of divers for many years of my land based Galapogis trips. I like to first see absolute comfort in easy simple conditions. Then, let's go to Tobago Speyside (or Grenada (NE end). Here you will find the heaviest currents in the Caribbean (Cozumel is a mere summer breeze). You can and will learn SMB use and small boat recoveries. Those who do well there can do the trip to Ecuador.

Oh, and one last thing...how will you do for at least one gateway city overnight at 9350' above sea level, trying to sleep in Quito?

Lots of new stimuli, stacking one atop the next- task loading... It can be quite a lot to swallow.
 

scubafanatic

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Hi scuba colleagues,

My wife and I certified this last year and completed our advanced open water certification along with 20 additional dives in grand cayman this summer. One of our goals is to get the experience necessary to feel comfortable diving on a liveaboard trip to Galapagos (Darwin and Wolf) and Socorro Islands. We know we want some additional experience before we do this trip, so our question is:

Where are the best places for us to travel and get lots of dive experience at over the next two years to prepare us for the conditions we would encounter on a Galapagos/Socorro trip? Are there any additional certifications beyond advanced open water that would be beneficial for us to take?

As far as Pacific diving goes, I've done liveaboards in Socorro (Nautilus Explorer) , Sea of Cortez, (Don Jose) and Okeanos Aggressor II (Costa Rica/Guanacaste + Bat Islands)...all were very remote from civilization/help. On some Socorro sites the hard bottom is at 10,000' ! Diving from all 3 boats was from skiffs/pangas, and on Okeanos Aggressor II many sites were literally MILES from the boat, so we had 30 min inflatable panga rides (each-way), like riding a bucking bronco (Costa Rican nautical butt-massage!). All 3 trips were extremely excellent diving! Living in Texas our local salt-water diving playground is the TX Flower Gardens, 110 miles offshore, done plenty of trips out there (great diving too) which was/is excellent 'combat training' for the other trips listed above.

On my Costa Rica trip I felt like I was on 'Seal Team 6', especially at night, zooming at high speed, in a rubber inflatable with hard bottom 'panga', to and from the dive site in total darkness (so as to not mess up the night vision of the boat pilot). the only light in use was a blinking strobe hung up on the back of the panga, otherwise we were in full blackout/stealth mode, kinda neat!

Pointers: Get Nitrox certified and use it on your trip. You will need more thermal protection than you expect. Test out gear/regs/weighting (even if only in a pool) before the trip. Know how to use/understand your dive computer(s). I always dive with (2) computers minimum/fresh batteries (and I actually bring 5 on any trip). Keep a log of your weighting requirements depending on variables like salt vs. fresh water, wetsuit thickness, etc. on each trip, this will prove invaluable as a future planning resource. Stock up on rescue/signaling gear. Bring spare masks and a decent save-a-dive kit. Liveaboards are usually steel and can be slippery, so be careful moving about the boat/stairs, I often see significant diver injuries due to these factors. This includes buying quality dive shoes/sandals so you have good grip on the deck/stairs. (boats can frown on black soled shoes, which mark/scuff up the deck, so go with something lighter in color) Stay hydrated, failure to stay hydrated is the #1 cause of getting the bends.

I didn't find Socorros a scary dive site, probably because I was such a frequent flyer out at the TX Flower Gardens, so big-boy ocean diving was routine for me by then, but if you are a newish diver, Socorros could definitely be intimidating as you are out in the middle of the Big Blue in the middle of nowhere. I don't remember the Socorros boat putting any restrictions on us, they left us alone as we appeared to know what we were doing.

With respect to temps, off hand I don't remember the actual temps, but the weather was delightful (we went early November) I did wear a full 7 mm suit and never really noticed the temps while diving, so 7 mm was about perfect for me.

Depending on the liveaboard chosen, you MAY have to option to rent a larger capacity tank, but the odds are you'll be issued the 'standard' AL80, and you'll want to practice your strategy of figuring out how to make the most of it (not needlessly fighting currents/using rocks/outcroppings to shelter away from current, staying a bit shallower if you find yourself unable to keep up with the group gas consumption wise, there's many an article/book written on this subject alone.)
 

MOABCHICK

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I have a slightly different perspective. I'm 48, and my husband and I just took a Galapagos trip this June, and brought our children, age 15 and 12 with us. This trip was land based only. We stayed in an AirBnb on Santa Cruz island, and our kids finished their OW cert dives the first day, then we all dove the next 3 days. It was amazing! No whale sharks, but we checked hammerheads and mantas off the list! Obviously, we didn't go out to the famous Wolf and Darwin and couldn't with beginner children. I have 87 dives, my husband is around 150-175? I feel ready to dive Wolf and Darwin.

Thinking about why I feel comfortable in drift/current/chop, etc:
1. We've dove Cozumel 3 times. It's all drift diving and you definitely become comfortable with drift. In fact, I find it to be the easiest and most relaxing type of diving! No effort! And the boat follows your bubbles and picks you up.
2. We are very very very fit swimmers. My husband and I were both college swimmers, and our kids are competitive swimmers too.
3. We once did a Bahamas trip on Blackbeard live-aboard. While there is a DM who gives a briefing, you dive without them. Learning to dive without a guide builds your skills in a lot of ways, and encourages you to be self sufficient.
4. In the Galapagos in June, the water at our dive sites ranged from 65-70 F. We all wore 7mm with hoods and remained comfortable. My daughter had to add a warmer vest.
5. Learn how to re-enter the boat when it is rocking hard. I found the chop at the surface a much bigger problem than the current at depth.
6. I agree with someone's suggestion to dive Hawaii in the winter, or So Cal. I bet Bahamas in winter would be good too.

I hope to get rescue diver certified and then do Wolf and Darwin someday :)
 

Eptel

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You will be doing negative entries if diving at Darwin/Wolf sites in Galapagos. Sometimes currents are strong and its required to get deep asap so practicing negative entries certainly helps.
Also you will be using zodiacs/pangas (inflatable boats) for diving. Practice to remove your bcd/bpwing along with weight belt while in the water as well as practice getting into zodiac.
Be prepared to do it in very choppy waters with some winds.
 

scubafanatic

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You will be doing negative entries if diving at Darwin/Wolf sites in Galapagos. Sometimes currents are strong and its required to get deep asap so practicing negative entries certainly helps.
Also you will be using zodiacs/pangas (inflatable boats) for diving. Practice to remove your bcd/bpwing along with weight belt while in the water as well as practice getting into zodiac.
Be prepared to do it in very choppy waters with some winds.

In all my Pacific diving experiences, I've never HAD to do 'rush' negative entries, and I try to avoid trips/locations where that's going to be a requirement, a diver's eardrums are by far the weakest link in the chain and you stand an excellent chance of badly hurting your eardrums doing that, which will screw your VERY expensive dive trip right into the toilet!
 

DiveTheGalapagos

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I found Texas Flower Gardens had more challenging currents, but perhaps because when I was there, I was inexperienced and all dives were navigational dives, not drift dives. California diving can also be good prep for the cooler water and adapting to more weight due to more neoprene in order to improve your buoyancy skills.
 

lamarpaulski

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Hi scuba colleagues,

My wife and I certified this last year and completed our advanced open water certification along with 20 additional dives in grand cayman this summer. One of our goals is to get the experience necessary to feel comfortable diving on a liveaboard trip to Galapagos (Darwin and Wolf) and Socorro Islands. We know we want some additional experience before we do this trip, so our question is:

Where are the best places for us to travel and get lots of dive experience at over the next two years to prepare us for the conditions we would encounter on a Galapagos/Socorro trip? Are there any additional certifications beyond advanced open water that would be beneficial for us to take?


California, esp Channel Islands. They have liveaboards too.
 

scubadada

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Hi @lancemajor

Deep Ledge in Jupiter would be a good trial dive for you. It is the first dive each Friday on the Jupiter Dive Center 3 tanker. It requires a quick descent, in usually brisk current, to about 100 feet or so. It is then a rapid drift, with variable visibility, at decreasing depths. The water temp is warm in the summer but generally in the low 70s, occasionally cooler, in the winter. The payoff is the opportunity to dive with sharks, most commonly, Bull Sharks. There are often schools of jacks and other fish also. The regular drifts in Jupiter would also be good experience and could give you the opportunity to practice deploying your SMB
 
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