Worthwhile dives/daytrips to add on to liveaboard?

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jjmochi

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Hi,

We are going to the Galapagos in Dec! I had originally wanted a bit more experience before tackling the Galapagos but with Indonesia and Philippines looking unlikely to be open by year end and the husband not wanting to repeat the Maldives or Thailand the Galapagos it is. We're doing a 7 night trip on the Galapagos Master. There was luckily a 20% discount on our preferred dates and it ended up being half the price as the 10 night trip we would have taken in 2022.

We're doing 2 weeks total and will have 3 days free in San Cristobal prior to the liveaboard, and 4 days free in Santa Cruz after the liveaboard. We want to do some easier refresher dives in San Cristobal prior to the liveaboard as we're a bit rusty (will have been 2 years since we've been in the water) and still new to cold water diving (coldest we've done is a single dive off Crystal Bay in Bali at 22C, plus a few in French Polynesia at 25C).

So far we've decided to do 1 day / 2 dives at Kicker Rock (from my research is not too challenging but often noted as one of the best land-based dives), are there any other sites in San Cristobal that's worth diving? It's not cheap, ~$190 for a 2 tank dive, so I don't want to waste money on so-so dives. TripAdvisor is not so helpful because most of the reviews are glowing just because they saw a single turtle/shark/etc.

We do want to take a day trip to Espanola to see the albatross and there's a couple operators that offers a dive there instead of the usual snorkel - price difference is ~$100 - has anyone done this, is it worth it? This would be pre-liveaboard.

The other one I kept reading about is Gordon Rocks in Santa Cruz, but that would be after the liveaboard, thoughts on whether it's worth doing after seeing Wolf/Darwin?

In Santa Cruz I was considering adding on a day trip to Santa Fe (for more sea lions) or Bartholome (for more penguins- but not sure if it's the right season?), but both would be snorkels. I kind of feel like any snorkeling on day trips would be a bit of a let down after a week of diving? We're thinking 1 day to relax at Tortuga Bay and 1 day to El Chapo to see the tortoises, but don't know what to do for the other 2 yet, any suggestions?

I understand water in Dec is typically ~23C but Isabella dives are much colder. I bought a new 7mm wetsuit (Henderson Aqualock, older orange-lined version for >50% off) and have a 3mm vest, 3mm beanie. I get cold easily and am concerned this won't be enough - think I should buy a Lavacore or Sharkskin vest or full suit to layer under for Isabella? I don't like hoods but is a tight hood with full bib likely to keep me much warmer vs layering more on the core? Problem is I have a big head but skinny neck so the Henderson Aqualock hood doesn't fit me, b/c I need a Medium for head but a XS for neck.

My husband has a brand new 5mm Scubapro Thermal Tec that is supposed to be warmer than a regular 5mm, I wonder if that would be comparable to a rental 7mm that presumably has been compressed to some degree? The 5mm suit has wrist and angle seals and is kind of semi-dry, he says very little water gets in. He also has a proper 5mm hood. I wonder if he would ok as is, or if we would be better off renting a 7mm from the Master? He doesn't want to buy a new one for just this trip.

Lastly on currents, other than Wolf/Darwin are the other sites generally pretty tame? I'm debating whether to bring my strobes or not, it adds considerable bulk/drag to my camera. I want to prioritize having my hands free at Wolf/Darwin for sure in case I need to crawl hand over hand against current (done this in Tiputa pass in French Poly and regretted having a large camera with long arms/strobes hanging off me). But I'm not sure if the other sites are tamer and I can get away with the larger setup (I was ok with my full camera in every other dive in French Poly other than the pass, and also during all dives in the Maldives). We have some experience with current but definitely still pretty beginner (~110 dives). I've also noticed most dives are pretty shallow, seems like most don't go below 20m (so there should be a decent amount of ambient light), is that true?

Thanks!
 

Scared Silly

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We just returned after being there for three weeks. We spent 4 days on San Christobal, the one day spent at Espanola, was well worth it. Nice snorkeling as we a great encounters with playful sea lions - one wall we snorkeled by could be a good dive. The topside was very nice. We did a local inland tour (the lake, turtle breading center, and Playa Chino) which was nice as we hopped the ferry back to Santa cruz that afternoon. We also did a nice local walk at Playa Loberia (go past the beach) as well as a hike around Playa Mann, Mirador Cerro Tijeretas and the interpretation center.

After diving the week before we did not feel a need to dive Kicker Rock. Personally, I would do a refresher dive or two before going to the Galapagos and instead spend time topside. Especially given the amount of traveling you will doing to get there. You will see plenty of sea lions. There are everywhere. The theme of my trip was taking pictures of them sleeping off herring hangovers on the park benches.

If you have four days afterwards on Santa Cruz a couple of things to consider. As the Master is based out of San Cristobal, jump ship the last night and just stay in Puerto Aroya. Otherwise you will need to take the ferry back the next day. We did something similar even though our boat was based in Baltra as we took the 7am ferry the morning everyone was disembarking and did not want to get up at 5am for 30min panga ride plus 30min taxi ride.

As for things to do on Santa Cruz. We did mostly casual topside hikes/swims as that was our arrival, Tortuga Bay (walk and swim), Playa El Garrapatero (swim and sea kayak). If I had for 4 days afterwards I would take the ferry to Isabella as I think there is a bit more or may be Floreana. I should note we did a 7 day naturalist boat tour after diving.

As for suits, though early June we dove 7mm suits the whole time. A bit warm in the north but we just flushed water around to cool down. I bagged taking my camera, the water clarity was not that great, and some ripping currents at times in the north (enough the last part of one dive was aborted). About the only shots I missed were of the marine iguanas eating.

Note: if are planning anytime on the mainland in Ecuador I would encourage you to spend more time in the Galapagos because it will harder to get to again. And at this point things are not so great thus crime can be an issue.
 
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jjmochi

Contributor
Messages
126
Reaction score
83
Location
Hong Kong
# of dives
100 - 199
We just returned after being there for three weeks. We spent 4 days on San Christobal, the one day spent at Espanola, was well worth it. Nice snorkeling as we a great encounters with playful sea lions - one wall we snorkeled by could be a good dive. The topside was very nice. We did a local inland tour (the lake, turtle breading center, and Playa Chino) which was nice as we hopped the ferry back to Santa cruz that afternoon. We also did a nice local walk at Playa Loberia (go past the beach) as well as a hike around Playa Mann, Mirador Cerro Tijeretas and the interpretation center.

After diving the week before we did not feel a need to dive Kicker Rock. Personally, I would do a refresher dive or two before going to the Galapagos and instead spend time topside. Especially given the amount of traveling you will doing to get there. You will see plenty of sea lions. There are everywhere. The theme of my trip was taking pictures of them sleeping off herring hangovers on the park benches.

If you have four days afterwards on Santa Cruz a couple of things to consider. As the Master is based out of San Cristobal, jump ship the last night and just stay in Puerto Aroya. Otherwise you will need to take the ferry back the next day. We did something similar even though our boat was based in Baltra as we took the 7am ferry the morning everyone was disembarking and did not want to get up at 5am for 30min panga ride plus 30min taxi ride.

As for things to do on Santa Cruz. We did mostly casual topside hikes/swims as that was our arrival, Tortuga Bay (walk and swim), Playa El Garrapatero (swim and sea kayak). If I had for 4 days afterwards I would take the ferry to Isabella as I think there is a bit more or may be Floreana. I should note we did a 7 day naturalist boat tour after diving.

As for suits, though early June we dove 7mm suits the whole time. A bit warm in the north but we just flushed water around to cool down. I bagged taking my camera, the water clarity was not that great, and some ripping currents at times in the north (enough the last part of one dive was aborted). About the only shots I missed were of the marine iguanas eating.

Note: if are planning anytime on the mainland in Ecuador I would encourage you to spend more time in the Galapagos because it will harder to get to again. And at this point things are not so great thus crime can be an issue.

Wow thanks for the detailed response! 3 weeks in the Galapagos sounds like a dream. We are not spending any time on the mainland as our focus is seeing as much wildlife as possible and all 14 of our days will be spent on the islands :)

The boat did confirm they can drop us off at Santa Cruz the last night after the highlands tour so we will avoid the 2hour speedboat back to Santa Cruz. The reason we need to end on Santa Cruz is because we need to do a PCR COVID test to fly back home and from what I've read this can only be done on Santa Cruz. So it looks like Isabella will need to be put on hold for another trip as we will lose one full day shuttling to Isabella and back, and want to take it easy after the diving.

Kicker Rock will be our refresher dive as we don't have any access to cold water for practice (being based in Hong Kong now and soon Singapore - water ~28-30C). But it sounds like there is no need to try to fit in more dive off Santa Cruz after the liveaboard.

During your naturalist cruise where there any islands that stood out (and is accessible from Santa Cruz)?

How would you compare the current to other places you've been? Where I've struggled with current in the past has mostly been due to lacking the leg strength to swim through it (literally could not move in French Poly while the divemaster swam ahead) and sucking up too much air while I tried to swim in vain, so I've been doing a lot of running/biking/lifting to improve my aerobic fitness and leg strength. I feel a lot more ready (i.e. can run a half marathon in 2 hours, so should be able to keep up with the group hopefully) and haven't really had issues with panic in the past, plus I stick to the dive guide like glue on high current dives. But I've been reading through some of the older accident/"are you ready for Galapagos" threads and am admittedly starting to psych myself out a little.
 

Scared Silly

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I would not worry about cold water practice, just do some diving beforehand and you should be fine. You will do a couple of dives before heading to Darwin/Wolf so you can dial in your thicker suits.

I have done some harsh currents in the past and all of the dives but one at Darwin/Wolf were very manageable. The one exception was at Landslide when we had an unexpected second current that made for a mask ripping current. That dive got cut short.

In general I do not fight currents, but go with them and think about places to duck out of them or go places to grab.

Our land tour was around Isabella with most of the land tours on the west side. Here is what we did: https://www.belugagalapagos.com/fernandina-itinerary

I would have to look to see what guided land tours would be worth doing from Santa Cruz. The day at Playa El Garrapatero (swim and sea kayak) was certainly worth while as well as the walk to Tortuga. Those you can do one your own.
 
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