Author Topic: Land based diving Galapagos  (Read 6565 times)

manneca

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Land based diving Galapagos
« on: February 15, 2009, 00:20:01 UTC »
I've read the thread on Galapagos, but wondered if someone could compare land based diving with a dive boat. I'm a diver, but I'm not hard core and I'm not sure I want to spend that much time in the Galapagos diving. And besides, I'm hard pressed to do two dives a day. I can't imagine doing four. Thanks  I guess I'd like to know if I'd be making a really big mistake by not taking a boat. How much of a difference in sea life is there between the more southern islands and Wolf and Darwin?

JudyG

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Re: Land based diving Galapagos
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2009, 22:00:11 UTC »
I am going to reply more fully re Galapagos diving in the Cocos vs Galapagos thread, but I will say that I have been to Galapagos three times, all via live aboard (Aggressor).  Assuming you are hoping to see whale sharks, and schooling hammerhead and Galapagos sharks, which for most are the siren call of the Galapagos dive experience, you are likely only going to see these populations up at Wolf and Darwin Islands, and the diving at those islands is only accessible via live aboard vessels.  If you are going to go live aboard, you should get confirmation from the op of the planned itinerary.  There are live aboards that operate in the Galapagos that do not go up to Wolf & Darwin.  That would be a mistake, in my opinion.

In answer to your question, there is a big difference in sea life between the north and the south.  To see it all, you should dive it all.

You do not need to do four dives a day to capture the experience, but having travelled all that way (and spent the dough to be there), if you were doing a live aboard, you would likely take advantage of most of the opportunities to dive.  Diving from a live aboard is so much less strenuous than land-based diving.  Suit up, climb into the panga, a short ride to the dive site, back roll in, enjoy your dive, surface and get picked up by the panga, short ride back to the mother boat, peel wetsuit, hot shower, towel off, have a hot drink, a meal, a nap and then do it all again.  No gear schlepping required. Set up your gear once at the beginning of the trip, break it down at the end, and you are good to go.

Land-based diving is done out of the more southern islands (Porto Ayora has more ops than you can shake a stick at).  You will likely see sea lions (definitely a highlight of the Galapagos experience), and if you are lucky, at Gordon Rocks, you might see a squadron of rays or even an odd hammerhead or manta blowing through, but I think it is highly unlikely that you will see whale sharks nor schooling sharks in that part of the Galapagos.  Cousin's Rock is also a world class dive (doable with land-based ops), renowned for its tiered walls covered with black coral bushes (which are actually yellow), schooling barrracuda, sea lions and wonderful macro life (sea horses, frogfish, nudibranchs etc).

Also, you should be aware that the water temps in the southern islands are significantly chillier than the temps up at Wolf & Darwin, at least in my experience.  I have seen temps as low as 58F at one of the southern sites, with the norm somewhere around 65-74F.  In the northern islands, temps have run between 74F and 80F, sometimes on the same dive ;^).  All of my trips have been in late August/early September, which is prime whale shark season (which, if memory serves, generally runs late June through September/early October).  These prime whale shark months are in the Galapagos winter, so water temps are likely quite a bit warmer during Galapagos summer.  Winter is also typically quite overcast, which, when combined with murky water, can make for challenging wide angle photography.

Also, whether you are diving via live aboard or land-based, you should be aware that the diving conditions in the Galapagos are generally quite challenging - oftentimes significant current, surface waves, big animals, murky water and cold water all will add to the complexity of the experience.  It is not to say that newer divers can't handle it, but it is definitely more difficult than benign Carribbean or South Pacific diving.

I hope this helps.  I understand that we are not supposed to post trips reports in this forum, but I do have a lot of stuff on the Galapagos on my personal website - http://www.awoosh.com - have a look in the Galapagos Directory linked in the main site directory.  Awoosh.com is a totally non-commercial website, the purpose of which is to share information and experience with other divers, so I hope the moderators do not mind if I direct you there from here.

J.


sinduda

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Re: Land based diving Galapagos
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2009, 23:03:00 UTC »
Found this thread with a google search and wanted to weigh in.  With the sole exception of her description of Gordon Rocks, a site almost all live-aboards also visit, I would have to agree with much of her response.  However, I just got back Monday from 2 weeks in the Galapagos of which 8 days were diving via an island-hopping dive program. And it was an astounding trip.  

There were only 4 of us and 1 great divemaster.  We did see up to 12 hammerheads at a time and since I came in early and extended my stay beyond the Dive Triangle, I was able to dive Gordon Rocks 4 times.  Saw hammerheads every dive there and a whale shark once.  Back in March, I saw a school of 18 hammerheads at Mosqueras next to North Seymour. I was speaking with some folks who had just come off the Agressor and had only seen 2 whale sharks while diving Darwin and Wolf, but yes, it is a bit early in the season up there.  Judy is right that a bit later is optimal if whale sharks are the goal.

However, we had this small group, our own boat and total flexibility.  It was like a private cruise by day and staying in small hotels on 3 different islands at night.  I had dived Santa Cruz sites, but ended up being most surprised by Isabela sites.  Lots of seahorses, tons of fish life, and lots of giant mantas.  Not many sharks in Isabela though.  White-tipped reef sharks are always so abundant that I don't even count them any more.  Cousins is beautiful and schools of dolphins seem to always be somewhere nearby....in Floreana near Champion, too.  Sea turtles were so abundant they became ho-hum.  Loved the walls (not schools) of salemas, so thick that from maybe 20 feet away the only way you could tell there was a diver inside was the bubbles.  Lots of rays: graceful eagle rays, stingrays, diamond rays and marbled rays.  Lots of sea lions and at this time of year, lots of juveniles who will imitate your turns underwater.  As always, abundant schools of sargeant fish, grunts, gringos, barracuda and more.  

Perhaps it's not a live-aboard, but I loved that we could decide on the spot what we wanted to do.  One day, we had a small boat meet us between Floreana and Isabela so we could both dive Isla Tortuga and then go into Los Tuneles, a labyrinth of lava tunnels inside the breakers with 2 active volcanos in the background and not a sole anywhere in sight.  It was the land before time and the water was swimming pool clear, very shallow and full of fish, turtles and there were even 4 penguins.  And of course, the ever present sea lions, marine iguanas and white tipped reef sharks.  

One day we trekked the edge of Sierra Negra, the 2nd largest caldera in the world on an active volcano and on down to Volcan Chico with its otherworldly moonscapes and vistas.  We saw, not just the majesty of underwater Galapagos, but above land, too.  It was an amazing, amazing trip and I am still waiting for 1 of our group to come off the Agressor this week to compare the two experiences.  He has over 2000 logged dives and is a dive travel agent.  I think the intimacy of what we all shared and the amazing dives we did on our land-based island hopping program stacks right up there with anything.  

update: Last month in the Galapagos, saw over 100 hammerheads in 2 days, both 2nd dive at Mosqueras.  2nd day had schools of 35+.  divethegalapagos.com
« Last Edit: August 04, 2009, 02:16:11 UTC by sinduda »

sinduda

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Re: Land based diving Galapagos
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2009, 22:22:53 UTC »
UPDATE AUG. 6 from the Galapagos National Park...the authority in Galapagos.  As Judy G pointed out, there are more dive shops in Puerto Ayora than you can shake a stick at.  Well, because land-based diving is finally being regulated in the Galapagos, shops were notified yesterday that they had until October 31st and after that, without one of the new permits, they would be shut down.

Word is that unlicensed shops will continue to act as an agency of sorts by renting boats with cupos.  We shall see since the small number of boats with cupos available to rent will be expensive.  You most definitely need to be careful about who you dive with. 


 

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