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Dive Review of Explorer Ventures/Estrella Del Mar I in
Galapagos Islands/Ecuador

July, 2008, an Instant Reader Report by Paul Selden, MI, USA
Sr. Reviewer   (11 reports)
Report Number 4535
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
California, Florida Keys, Great Lakes, Andros, Roatan, Caymans, Mexico,
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

windy, cloudy  
choppy, currents  
Water Temp
73   to 81    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
70   to 90    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Staying together with our group was important, and understood to be
critical in this environment.  Safety sausages and tank-powered air horns
were mandatory.  Diver-worn GPS was provided in certain locations.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  2 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  5 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
Photographers didn't have a lot of room to charge batteries or setup
cameras, but it was easy to make do.  There were two plugs in each room,
outlets in the forward salon, room enough on dining tables to assemble
gear, a couple of powerstrips on a shelf outside the dining area, and a
spacious padded cubbyhole (about one per room) outside the dining area for
storing camera gear when not in use.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
5 stars
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
5 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars    
2 stars   
5 stars    
This was to have been a combination land and dive live-aboard itinerary,
but when we arrived we were told the government had just changed its
policies.  Now our itinerary would be dive-only, with brief stops on land
at the beginning and end of the trip.  Fortunately for my wife, a
snorkeler, we had just finished two weeks of fantastic land tours covering
the highlights of Ecuador.  Also lucky for me, we learned we would now
certainly dive the legendary Darwin and Wolf Islands.  Our Galapagos tour
was led by Dave Kaspar of Huron Scuba (Ann Arbor, MI); our group more or
less filled the eight double bunk cabins, each with its own sink, flush
toilet and shower, on the 75 foot Estrella Del Mar I.  Our first dive was a
check out dive after our flight from the mainland to the island of Baltra. 
Unneeded luggage was hauled away and stored on shore.  (Tip: We needed to
decide whether wed be using the nitrox aluminum 100s for the week,
before we left the channel.  This was an extra cost, but well worth it
since repeated dives can be deep and I soon discovered that my SAC rate was
even higher in the strong currents.)  Traveling overnight a short distance,
our first dive the next day was at Mosquera Island, followed by a dive at
North Seymour Island after breakfast.  All our dives were from Zodiacs
(pangas), everyone backrolling in at the same time.  Reentering the
inflatable was either by climbing up a ladder in the rear, or vaulting up
and over the side after first taking off weights and BCDs (leaving on mask,
snorkel and fins).  (Tip: Watch out for any loose gear that can be lost
when the BCD is dragged up and over the pontoon.  I gave a dive scissors
and photo white card to Neptune that way.)  After getting back on board we
began the long overnight journey to Darwin.  A 4-6 foot chop was against us
the whole way; rough enough so that many people had a sleepless night and
were queasy.  My wife, usually prone to motion illness, used ginger root
and a medicinal patch, and was not seasick the whole trip.  Typically, the
first dive of the day was at 7am.  After a hot breakfast, dive 2 was
typically around 9:30, dive 3 around noon, before lunch.  The last dive of
the day was around 3pm.  Sunset was close to 6pm, with no night diving
allowed.  At Darwin we dove the Arch seven times, and on the coast once. 
The Arch was incredible; scores of hammerheads circled in front of us while
we held on to the barnacle covered rocks to avoid being swept away by
strong currents.  The journey to Wolf Island was short, but at night.  At
Wolf we dove Pinnacle Rock, Landslide and Shark Bay.  Wolf offered a
variety of marine life from King Angelfish to Galapagos Sharks.  Some of
our group saw a Whale Shark they estimated at more than 40 ft. long.  Then
we traveled the rest of the day and overnight back to Isabella.  Again, a
number of our party was hit by seasickness.  At Isabella we dove Coca Beach
off Cape Marshall and S_it Rock.  We then traveled the rest of the day
back to the area around Bartolome where we made two early AM dives on
Cousins Rocks before heading back to Baltra.  These last were ultimate
dives, swimming through clouds of Pacific Creolefish so thick they hid me
from view, with Eagle, Mobula, and Manta Rays gliding past us very close. 
Our tour ended on land with a visit to a tortoise sanctuary on Santa Cruz
and dinner in the town of Puerto Ayora.  Throughout, the crew, and our
informative dive guide Fabricio (he had an MA in Marine Ecology and some
10,000 dives) were helpful and cheerful.  Meals were decent if not gourmet
quality; my favorite was Wahoo with lemon caper sauce.  Ecuador is a
wonderfully diverse and beautiful country, with geography that ranges from
snow capped mountain highlands to Amazonian jungle to sea coast, to the
Galapagos Islands.  If you can take the time to explore it before or after
a Galapagos expedition, you wont be disappointed.  We used for an unforgettable excursion from Guayaquil to Quito, for our stay at Paradise Huts Jungle Lodge, and for the Galapagos portion.  Be prepared for last-minute
changes of plan, tips at checkout, and extra charges (we paid extra for
nitrox and a fuel surcharge).  Pack so your dry clothes will all fit into
small storage compartments.  Try to go as a group; sometimes extra weight
charges are not heavily levied if your group leader can negotiate a group
rate.  A comment on diver safety in the Galapagos is worth mentioning. 
Everyone had an tank powered air horn or was provided one and required to
wear it.  Everyone had safety sausages; mine could double as a horse collar
to keep my face out of the water when using my back flotation style travel
BCD.  Although GPS locators were provided by the boat, there were not
enough for everyone; I felt I could do without it.  Our group stayed
together well; throughout the whole trip, I never felt in danger of being
stranded without help being nearby.  The panga drivers were very
experienced, and kept close to our bubble trail so that when we surfaced,
they were always close by.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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