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

Reina Silvia (via Aquatic Encounters), Jun, 2006,

by Richard Smith, TX, USA . Report 2808.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 101-250 dives
Where else diving Carribbean, Hawaii, Florida, Flower Garden Banks NMS
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny,dry Seas currents
Water Temp 73 to 81 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 15 to 70 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions No specific restrictions, but all diving (except checkout dive) was done with the guide.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 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 N/A
UW Photo Comments 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):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments 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 functional.

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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