Questions - first time diving the Galapagos

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dogengine

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My wife and I are heading out on a Liveaboard in September 2018 and we are so excited, but we want to ensure we are adequately prepared to make the most of our trip. Been reading a lot about cold water and currents and how challenging the diving can be, to the North in particular.

We both have AOW and about 100 dives. Some experience with drift diving in Hawaii and Surge diving in Costa Rica. We plan to do our first ever cold water dive locally in Canada this summer just to get a feel for diving and buoyancy in 7mm wet suits with hoods and gloves and so forth. Not sure if there is much else we can do except stay fit, and be prepared to learn a lot.

However, I am still juggling a few questions.

- Should we buy reef hooks?
- How thick of a boot would you suggest? We so far only have our thin boots that we use warm water diving
- I want to bring a camera, but Im worried that the diving will be so intense that I would prefer to not have the distraction, even though I am certainly hoping to see some amazing sights.
- any other advice?

Thanks in advance for your input.
 

scubadada

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I just did Galapagos April/May on the Aggressor Galapagos Aggressor III April 26-May 3, 2018 I have more experience than you do

The water will likely be a bit colder on your trip.

Nobody on my trip used reef hooks. I had one with me and never got it out. We did cling to and tuck into the rocks to watch the show at times.

I dived a 7 mm full suit, 5/3 mm hooded vest, 3 mm gloves and 3 mm 3/4 height booties.

I'm very glad I had my camera on this fantastic trip though, I am far from a serious photographer. You could always leave it on the boat if you decided that was best.

Have a great trip, Craig
 

Dogbowl

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Good idea to get cold water experience locally first. As a pretty new diver, I found the change from 5mm warm water diving to 7mm cold water diving with hoods and gloves a difficult change, to say the least. So much so that I haven’t done it a second time (yet). I’d also suggest hiring a DM/guide to go out with you for the first time, if not for anything than to hand you extra weights if you need it.
 

scubadada

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Good idea to get cold water experience locally first. As a pretty new diver, I found the change from 5mm warm water diving to 7mm cold water diving with hoods and gloves a difficult change, to say the least. So much so that I haven’t done it a second time (yet). I’d also suggest hiring a DM/guide to go out with you for the first time, if not for anything than to hand you extra weights if you need it.
Good point. There is a check out dive off the Aggressor on the first evening you board. I dive my 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm wetsuit each season in Florida and know my weight exactly. There were several divers who were diving with exposure protection they were unfamiliar with. Some were significantly under weighted and could not descend, while others were so over weighted that they sank like stones. It took some of these divers days before they could get their weighting to an acceptable level. It would be far preferable to have experience with the wetsuit you plan to use in the Galapagos.
 

kablooey

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- How thick of a boot would you suggest?

Full disclosure, I’ve never been to Galapagos, but I have developed some opinions about travel diving and boots.

Like good tires on your car, the pros and cons of dive boots need to be seriously considered. After seeing a friend in full gear slip and take a bad fall from a wet dock in Bonaire, I’ve always traveled with full high-top heavy soled neoprene dive boots, even on liveaboards.

A couple places where I’ve found a heavy boot especially beneficial have been on boat ladders with narrow metal tube-shaped steps, wet or pitching decks, and for all types of shore diving. Maybe it's the ankle support, or the grip of the robust athletic-shoe rubber sole, but I just generally feel stronger and more stable with a heavy boot. They really increase comfort and safety in those kinds of situations. Falling with all your gear on can really ruin your day.

On the down side, heavy boots weigh more in your luggage, and take up a lot more room. They’re also harder to take off and on quickly, if you like to free up your toes between dives.

The biggest challenge with switching to heavy boots is they don’t fit a lot of the fins being sold out there. I like to travel with Oceanic Accel or Hollis F2 fins, both of which have a bigger wider foot pocket which are prefect for heavy boots.

Anyway, it’s a personal decision for everybody. As a minimalist at heart if not practice, it took me a while to come to a compromise with myself over the benefits of a heavy boot. But having started my travel diving with full-foot fins, then going open-heel with low-cut soft boots, then finally graduating to full heavy boots for travel, I’m happiest with that last choice.

Have great trip, and please post a trip report. I hope to follow in your boot steps one day.
 
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BAMA6977

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Please keep this going and don't just limit to diving. Lesson's learned? Where to fly into? Hotels on front end and back end? New requirement for medical insurance proof? Booked for May 2019.
 

Johnoly

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.... Not sure if there is much else we can do .....
- any other advice?.

Practice, practice, practice shooting a surface marker buoy from 30 feet before you go. Some of the best insurance you'll have to be picked up quickly and be warm topside instead of in the water. The chase boat captains love them also, makes their job real easy.
 
OP
dogengine

dogengine

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Thank you everyone for your input so far.
We are keen to get our cold water practice done next month. It should be interesting. I am used to diving a 5/3 with about 12lbs and expect that I might need more than double that with the 7mm suit with hood, etc. And yes, definitely planning to practice deploying SMB's. We bought some but have never used them and want to ensure we are comfortable with them. We saw how useful they could be in Hawaii in April when a current change split our group in half.

Someone else asked about other logistics, so I can share a little, although it is all from a plan, not from experience yet.
We fly Calgary-Houston-Quito, then booked an overnight hotel at the airport. Fly to Baltra the next day to be picked up by the liveaboard operator at the airport. Booked the flights through expedia, cost about $1500CAD each. They had one reschedule and called us to organize an alternate flight, that went smoothly.
After our dive trip we booked time at Semilla Verde Boutique Hotel, in Puerto Ayora. Also on expedia. it had great reviews and despite being a bit more expensive it looked really nice. fingers crossed. No plans on what we will do during our days at the hotel, probably some tours or whatnot, might just see what the hotel owners or the boat operator suggest. I will definitely do up a trip report after. cheers
 

large_diver

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You will have a great time. My buddy and I returned from our first trip about 2 weeks ago (Galapagos Sky) - the trip definitely exceeded expectations. Several whale sharks up close and personal, huge schools of hammerheads, mantas, amazingly playful sea-lions, penguins, the marine iguanas - amazing diving.

I would agree with most of the comments above. We had folks with a wide range of abilities/experience on our trip, including a German couple in our zodiac group who had about 20 dives of total experience each (not recommended). That said, they hired a private guide for the trip.....which worked out very well for them and for us. They had a great experience and were safe.....making it a win-win for everyone. There was one other solo traveler with limited experience on the other zodiac who did the same.

There were three important safety procedures we were briefed on during the prep for the remote diving at Wolf and Darwin islands: (1) SMB usage; (2) Divealert; (3) EPRIBs....to be utilized in that order in the event of separation from the zodiacs. The Sky had spares of all 3 for folks to use. I had my own sausage/spool and Divealert and had practiced with them at home in New England before the trip. The EPIRB is easy enough to use and clips easily into a pocket.

In addition to the familiarity with thick suits and gear, the other thing to consider is how the diving is conducted at Wolf and Darwin, where there are often strong currents. Negative entries tend to be the rule, and once you reach the bottom you find a crevice and/or grab onto a barnacle-covered boulder to brace against the current and sit tight to watch the amazing marine life show in front of you. For us, sometimes the current was pretty pedestrian; on a few dives it was like being a flag being whipped by a strong wind, sometimes going hand-over-hand to get in position against the current. Good to use the shelter of large rocks or other formations to make moving around easier.

On one dive, our group moved from one viewing area to another, but i thought we were heading into the blue...by the time I realized where everyone else was going the current had me and away I went. I knew the right decision was to go with the current and not blow all my gas trying to swim back to the group. One of the group saw me and came along - I sent up the SMB, we did our safety stop calmly, and then surfaced 300-400 yards from the nearest zodiac in relatively bumpy seas - I could see the boat every second or third wave. I got my 6 foot Halcyon sausage fully inflated and my buddy began blowing his whistle. The zodiac driver said he indeed saw us the whole time given my big sausage that I was constantly lifting as high as I could...but it was a good 10-15 minutes before they got to us, as they were picking up the rest of the group. No big drama...it just illustrates the need to be comfortable in current and doing blue water ascents, deploying an SMB and making yourself visible.

Reef hooks - 50/50. No one on our trip had them...hands and crevice-wedging seemed to work. If you use one you would need to have it on the shorter side. Also, the hammers seem to be on the shy side - video lights or divers actively swimming or hovering seemed to cause them to move away.

Camera - better to bring it. The initial dives prior to Wolf/Darwin are definitely lower key. Many of these "easier" sites had great things to see, especially the sea lions and marine iguanas. For Wolf and Darwin, really depends on conditions and your comfort level. Add a camera to the things above, meaning in the event of having to deploy SMB/spool from depth, do you have a way to secure/clip-off the camera and not have it get in the way.

Just to end on a more positive note - here's a link to the video I put together from our trip. Hope you are able to see all of this and more :)

Chris

Galapagos 2018
 
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jfcl01

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You will have a great time. My buddy and I returned from our first trip about 2 weeks ago (Galapagos Sky) - the trip definitely exceeded expectations. Several whale sharks up close and personal, huge schools of hammerheads, mantas, amazingly playful sea-lions, penguins, the marine iguanas - amazing diving.

I would agree with most of the comments above. We had folks with a wide range of abilities/experience on our trip, including a German couple in our zodiac group who had about 20 dives of total experience each (not recommended). That said, they hired a private guide for the trip.....which worked out very well for them and for us. They had a great experience and were safe.....making it a win-win for everyone. There was one other solo traveler with limited experience on the other zodiac who did the same.

There were three important safety procedures we were briefed on during the prep for the remote diving at Wolf and Darwin islands: (1) SMB usage; (2) Divealert; (3) EPRIBs....to be utilized in that order in the event of separation from the zodiacs. The Sky had spares of all 3 for folks to use. I had my own sausage/spool and Divealert and had practiced with them at home in New England before the trip. The EPIRB is easy enough to use and clips easily into a pocket.

In addition to the familiarity with thick suits and gear, the other thing to consider is how the diving is conducted at Wolf and Darwin, where there are often strong currents. Negative entries tend to be the rule, and once you reach the bottom you find a crevice and/or grab onto a barnacle-covered boulder to brace against the current and sit tight to watch the amazing marine life show in front of you. For us, sometimes the current was pretty pedestrian; on a few dives it was like being a flag being whipped by a strong wind, sometimes going hand-over-hand to get in position against the current. Good to use the shelter of large rocks or other formations to make moving around easier.

On one dive, our group moved from one viewing area to another, but i thought we were heading into the blue...by the time I realized where everyone else was going the current had me and away I went. I knew the right decision was to go with the current and not blow all my gas trying to swim back to the group. One of the group saw me and came along - I sent up the SMB, we did our safety stop calmly, and then surfaced 300-400 yards from the nearest zodiac in relatively bumpy seas - I could see the boat every second or third wave. I got my 6 foot Halcyon sausage fully inflated and my buddy began blowing his whistle. The zodiac driver said he indeed saw us the whole time given my big sausage that I was constantly lifting as high as I could...but it was a good 10-15 minutes before they got to us, as they were picking up the rest of the group. No big drama...it just illustrates the need to be comfortable in current and doing blue water ascents, deploying an SMB and making yourself visible.

Reef hooks - 50/50. No one on our trip had them...hands and crevice-wedging seemed to work. If you use one you would need to have it on the shorter side. Also, the hammers seem to be on the shy side - video lights or divers actively swimming or hovering seemed to cause them to move away.

Camera - better to bring it. The initial dives prior to Wolf/Darwin are definitely lower key. Many of these "easier" sites had great things to see, especially the sea lions and marine iguanas. For Wolf and Darwin, really depends on conditions and your comfort level. Add a camera to the things above, meaning in the event of having to deploy SMB/spool from depth, do you have a way to secure/clip-off the camera and not have it get in the way.

Just to end on a more positive note - here's a link to the video I put together from our trip. Hope you are able to see all of this and more :)

Chris

Galapagos 2018

Your video is astonishing. Thanks for sharing it.
 
https://www.shearwater.com/products/swift/

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