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Dive Review of Reina Silvia (via Aquatic Encounters) in
Galapagos Islands

June, 2006, an Instant Reader Report by Richard Smith, TX, USA
Report Number 2808
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
101-250 dives
Where else diving
Carribbean, Hawaii, Florida, Flower Garden Banks NMS
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
73   to 81    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
15   to 70    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
No specific restrictions, but all diving (except checkout dive) was done
with the guide.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  2 stars
Tropical Fish
2 stars  
Small Critters
  2 stars
Large Fish
4 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  
Camera rinse tank right next to the dive platform, and plenty of space
inside and out to work on cameras between dives.  All the photographers on
our trip were shooting digital, and the boat does not appear to have any
specific facilities for film.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
2 stars   
5 stars    
Everything about the trip met or beat my expectations--no small feat since
the Galapagos is one of the most talked-about dive locations in the world.

The Reina Silvia is a bit more expensive than some of the other live-aboard
options, but is well worth the money.  The ship holds a maximum of 16
passengers, but we only had 10 along on our trip.  This makes for a
blessedly uncrowded ship.  Standard cabins are somewhat larger than other
liveaboards I have been on, with nice storage space and comfortable beds. 
Each cabin has its own small bathroom, with a handheld shower nozzle
connected to the sink for bathing, with a drain in the floor--very

The crew, service, and guide were all excellent.  The ship is maintained
immaculately, with everything kept spotless.  If you rested in your bed
between dives, you would return from the next dive to find your bed was
once again wrinkle-free.  Meals were very good, which is a huge plus when
you are stuck on a boat for a full week.  Snacks were always available,
with everything from fresh fruit to homemade pizza.

Our guide, Victor Medina, was a freelancer who bounces between the various
live-aboards.  Count yourself lucky if you end up with him on your boat,
although Marc Bernardi of Acquatic Encounters appears to use Victor
regularly.  Victor was top-notch, with solid pre-dive briefings and a great
eye for all the stuff we came to see.  He also shot video on land and
underwater the entire week, which he edited together very professionally
and made available for purchase at the end of the week.

On to the diving.  Our first day of diving was only a check-out dive in
shallow water at a little island called North Plaza.  It was shallow water,
only 20 feet or so deep, but was livened up by a number of playful sea
lions.  A land excursion to South Plaza was much more enjoyable, with more
sea lions, plenty of land iguanas, and all those birds that could not care
less if you walked right up to them.

The next morning, we anchored at Darwin Bay on the island of Genovesa.  We
only did one dive at Genovesa, as the main attraction was the thousands of
frigates, boobies, and other birds on the land excursions.  The one dive
was nice, however, with marbled stingrays, half a dozen turtles, a squadron
of golden cowries, and our first hammerhead of the trip.  The land
excursions were even better, particularly since it was mating season for
the frigates so the males were all showing off their bizarre, bright red
throat pouches.

After Genovesa, we headed north for three straight days of diving at Darwin
Island.  Darwin more than lived up to its reputation.  Immediately after
you drop in, you see dozens to hundreds of hammerheads, which is
overwhelming the first time you see it.  Dropping down to the reef at about
60 feet, you simply grab onto any convenient rock and watch the scenery
swim by.  At times, you practically want to push the hammerheads out of the
way to see what else is down there, especially the whale sharks.

June is the beginning of whale shark season, and we were lucky enough to
encounter eight of them in our time at Darwin.  Fortunately, the currents
were mostly mild enough to allow us to chase after the whale sharks, which
allowed for several extended encounters of up to seven minutes, with really
great photo opportunities if you had the gas to keep up with them.  And if
the whale sharks and hammerheads weren't enough, we also had several
Galapagos sharks, plenty of silky sharks (including a circling school of
about 20 on one blue-water safety stop), a couple of dolphins, giant
schools of jacks, even a yellowfin tuna swimming past at top speed.  And if
you can take your eyes off of all of that, the reef at Darwin is actually
pretty darned nice in its own right.

After three days at Darwin--we skipped Wolf because of better odds for
whale sharks at Darwin--we headed back to the central islands for one last
day of diving.  Our morning dive was at Albany Islet, which showed itself
off with mixed squadrons of eagle rays and cowries, one or two mantas, more
marbled stingrays, a couple lone hammerheads, and a whitetip.  After that
dive, we moved over to Cousins Rock, where a tremendous school of
black-striped salemas--I could not even begin to estimate numbers, but
really, really huge--would envelop you and block out the sunlight when you
swam inside.  The salemas were unreal, and Cousins had turtles and a fair
amount of nice macro critters too, including a couple seahorses.

The final full day of the trip was spent on land at the Charles Darwin
Research Station, the town of Puerto Ayora, and the highlands of Santa Cruz
Island.  Most of the day was dedicated to the famous Galapagos tortoises,
but Victor, as always, did a great job of pointing out and explaining
everything of interest along the way.

I just can't imagine diving getting any better than this.
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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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