Ecuador - Dive With Galapagos Hammerheads

Arrived in Galapagos! After visiting countries Colombia, Peru and Ecuador’s Quito on this trip, it was time to jump in the Pacific water around Galapagos to see some hammerhead sharks.

Yes, the main reason why I wanted to dive here are the Hammerhead sharks, for which this place is the most famous for. With some luck, they can be seen in schools of hundreds, especially when driving with the Liveboard up to the north for days. Up in the north of the islands is no-mans land. No fishing is allowed there and other boats are hundreds of miles away – this is real untouched nature up there. But as always there is no guarantee to see anything under the surface and the chance to see hammerhead sharks at all is small, very small, even though the price for this week of diving from liveaboard is incredibly high. Galapagos is definitely not cheap!

Sunday, April 19

It’s a long way to the Galapagos and finally, at 2 pm I was in the guesthouse. It’s a cheap guesthouse which I booked over Airbnb and I am surprised how nice it is, especially as hotel accommodations are high priced. It's actually the first time I used Airbnb (it's 2015). I like it, cause the room is privately owned and not like a hostel or guesthouse. Here I have a huge room with own kitchen, which I do not use but, however :). Also have aircon, unusual free water, nice bathroom, and a nice bed. But yes, ill only stay one night here and tomorrow ill check in on the Liveaboard. Due to my eye laser operation last January, I'm really excited to dive for the first time ever without eye lenses!!

So far I have only seen the Galapagos harbor area, but even in that small area, I already saw something which I have never seen before in reality. Sealions outside a cage!! :D! In huge amounts and only an arm's length away and they live at the beach in their natural habitat… so cool! There are hundreds of little ones and big ones and it's so funny to watch them. I could spend hours watching them playing, fighting, swimming and sleeping..! Also, the sounds they make… hilarious :D!

The climate changes here is also fatal. In Quito, it was super cold like in Europe, and now, here in the Galapagos, it’s the same as in the tropics. Very humid and hot!! In the afternoon I made an extended walk to the south of San Cristobal, past the airport, to the lava fields to visit the coast at “Playa Loberia”.

Monday, April 20 – LET THE DIVING BEGIN

Today it was time to check in on the liveaboard The boat itself (Humboldt Explorer) is now fully occupied and the divers on it are all ok and friendly people. It is an interesting group of people, as there are fellows from many different ages and nationalities. The most of them come from the US, then there are two from Japan, China, Sweden, Italy, Germany, and three (including me) from Switzerland.

The first day on a liveaboard is always hectic until the rooms are assigned, rental gear is set up and everything is prepared for diving, Today we only made one check dive in the extended harbor area of San Cristobal. Check dives are meant for testing equipment or for the staff to spot fake divers (people who cannot dive). Fake divers are thankfully seldom, but here on the Galapagos important to filter em out, cause when in this environment a person lacks knowledge on how to dive, it can be deadly. Galapagos is famous for its very strong currents and once a diver gets lost, the chance to find and recover is almost zero.

Wednesday, April 22 

We had to scratch one dive from the program because the current was too strong and the liveaboard wasn’t able to make enough progress on distance. However, the lost dive we will be able to add on one of the incoming days because we also have to drive back south again and so the current is helping up catching pace to win time for an additional dive.

Thankfully not too many murays to see in the Galapagos archipelo, although, even here, the small amount that is available is scary and ugly as hell.

The last two days, although, were great to dive. Almost on every day, we saw rays, sharks and sea lions and these sea lions are now some of my favorites to observe while scuba diving. They literally look like dogs and also have similar behavior in means of playing with stuff. They are very active and energized and come close to us divers to play hide and seek : )

The dive buddies from the M/V Humbold Explorer under the surface

And dive buddies from the M/V Humboldt Explorer above the surface

Yesterday after one dive we anchored on an island to make a land visit on Seymour Island to see some birds with cool blue feet. I've been told they're only existing on the Galapagos.

Thursday, April 23

Yesterday we reached the furthest point of the trip at “Darwin Island” and the opulent landmark here is called the “Arch of Darwin”. At this point, we are 400km from San Cristobal and 200km from any other island with civilization. The current in this area is very strong and intense all the way down below the surface. If caught by a current while diving and lost from the group, one can move 200 meters within 1 minute. So we got instructions on how to avoid and in case it happens on how to behave. Also, each diver got a GPS emergency rescue system which has to be activated in case of an incident. Such an incident happened one year ago and the woman has been located 4km from the “Arch of Darwin”. Good to know I can be located in case I get lost, but I didn’t want to try if this GPS gadget really works.

Friday, April 24

Finally today the hammerhead sharks appeared. There have been a few the recent days, but only single exemplars.

During the first dive this morning we saw some single ones and then a few in a pairs, but after a while of staring into the dark blue water without any point for orientation and surrounded by only blue, the hammerhead suddenly appeared. They swam from left to right above us, maybe 20-25 meters away from us.

The whole show lasted for about two minutes and the amount was massive with several dozens of hammerheads passing by. That was the moment for which I was coming here! BINGO! After the dive, we saw some several other occasions with hammerheads and they are impressive creatures.

I read articles and studies, watched movies about sharks and in particular hammerheads. Hammerheads are fascinating creatures which navigate through an advance electromagnetic sense. They can spot living objects without seeing and they can figure out what status and pulse of the body of the object or in some cases, target. They can sense fear or stress of objects. I realized this as it always felt like they come close as long they know we don’t see them. They come from a direction from which we don’t see them. We almost never saw them when we were on high alert, but almost always when we felt relaxed and on low pulse. Once we saw them our pulse rises and they can feel that, they know we are now on high alert and ready, so they disappeared quickly again in the blue.

 A last glimpse into the "Darwin Island", an island only for a huge amount of birds. Then time to let the wet diving stuff rest for today and depart from the most northern point of this week.

Saturday, April 25

To the end of the week of diving, it only got better. I thought after the Hammerheads yesterday the top pick of the week was settled, but I'm glad we had a few more dives with sightings of a big school of Eagle Rays and again the funny sea lions.

More and more and more Eagle Rays

And the funny sea lions also came around again saying hello

Can't get enough to see sea lions (one of my most favorite animals to see below the surface)

Sunday, April 26

We are now still on the way back to San Cristobal, a long way with great dives along the 400km distance. However, the last dive was in the morning and In the afternoon we made a stop on Santa Cruz Highlands to check out the giant Galapagos turtles. They are indeed huge and make strange noises when stepping too far into their comfort zone.

Monday, April 27 – The Week of diving is finished

I'm back to the wifi world…:D! Now back from Galapagos Islands and back to Quito, where I'm flying out tomorrow back to Bogota. But not directly I will make a planned detour over Panama and have a stopover for 10 hours there!

Galapagos… oh wow, this was a wonderful week of excellent diving. It was amazing and I saw many cool scenes underwater that I couldn’t even imagine seeing. Summarized there was clear water, schools of hammerhead sharks, schools of manta rays, eagle rays, soo many turtles and the coolest among all underwater animals was the sea lion and the seals.

The week was so filled and I never got bored having no wifi or tv or anything. I was even busy all week and felt more stressed this week as there was so much diving and to exchange with new buddies. Also, we made land visits to the remote Galapagos islands and so it was great to see a bit of what Galapagos has to offer above the water. But mainly, we stayed on a 24-hour boat ride from the main island and on a place where our dive boat was the only one diving and no other people on land or on water for hundreds of kilometer :)

Just feel super tired now and was glad to have a not-on-the-boat-shower before. Also, I'm glad to have my own room again and not to share it with some other person like on the dive boat…haha!

Tomorrow I have to get up at 5 am again. Panama and visiting the city and the Panama Canal is next. After that excursion tomorrow, I will continue and arrive again in Bogota Colombia around before midnight. Just hope to get fast to the hotel then and prepare for getting back home.

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