The Galapagos Islands have earned the reputation as one of the best big animal destinations in the world. We traveled to these “Enchanted Islands” in August 2011 and were quickly mesmerized by their magic and beauty. Our stay in Quito was highlighted by a visit to the Otavalo market where the locals bring their crafts & produce for sale. We also had the opportunity to visit the Cotopaxi volcano and enjoy a delicious lunch at a historic hacienda in the country. Our check out dives went smoothly and everyone got their buoyancy figured out- 7mm wetsuits and hoods certainly change how much weight you need! We knew we were in for a treat when we were buzzed by sea lions on the very first dive.
The crossing out to Darwin and Wolfe on board the Deep Blue luxury dive yacht. Flat seas, plentiful food and wine, good friends and anticipation all made for an enjoyable 16hr transit. Upon arriving at Darwin we were greeted by a small school of orcas. The excitement mounted as we took the pangas out to sea to try and intercept their path. The orcas stuck around for a few hours and then vanished out to deeper water. Darwin’s Arch beckoned the divers as we made our approach for the first dive. The reddish brown creolefish were everywhere, actively feeding on plankton as the divers descended to the platform of the Arch. The first sightings of hammerhead sharks really got everyone worked up! They cautiously approached the dive group and everyone had some fantastic encounters! Schools of up to a hundred individuals were spotted! The star of the show at Darwin was the whale shark, of course. We saw three of these magnificent animals, one of which was pregnant. Seeing a whale shark was on everyone’s wish list and there was much celebration following the dives where we dove with these huge creatures!
Wolfe was all about the Galapagos sharks, hammerheads, and schools of eagle rays. The current was smoking at Wolfe and everyone did great hanging onto the rocks and watching the shark parade! Graceful eagle rays glided past the group, seemingly unaffected by the strong water flow. They would circle around, making several passes as we watched in awe! The Galapagos sharks are a curious bunch. Unafraid of divers, they will approach closely before turning away. This behavior makes for an adrenaline packed dive! Before we left Wolfe we stopped by a fur seal rookery. The surge was very strong and a lot of fun to dive in. The fur seals were sleeping until they saw the divers enter the water. They joined us for a memorable dive where they darted around the divers, came around from the back, spinning around and playing with anyone they could find. This was such a great dive and so much fun! It’s always special when marine creatures choose to interact with you.
Our return to port was bittersweet. We traveled up to the highlands to see the enormous Galapagos tortoises and then spent some time walking along the coast to see some sea lions and marine iguanas. The Galapagos Islands are truly a unique place unlike anywhere else on earth. We had an awesome group of divers and everyone agreed that it was one of the best dive adventures of their lives!