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Our group was on its way to dive the Altar when we spotted a bait ball from the surface. The groups normally dive in separate sites, but on this occasion we decided to jump in together. Even while we were gearing up in the skiff we could already see how action-packed the dive was going to be with the shark and dolphin fins skimming the surface and yellowfin tunas jumping out of the water. The boobies were also swooping down from the skies trying to get a piece of the action.
The baitball separated into two so the groups drifted apart. We took a careful approach as bait balls can get a bit intense and dangerous if we get caught in the middle of it. In the water there were silky sharks everywhere! Some got a bit too curious that now and then it was necessary to drive them away. Big Galapagos sharks were also in the bait ball. They would slowly go in sideways, even upside down, to the compact ball then quickly jerk their head sideways to snap up some of the big-eye scads. Meanwhile we could hear a constant "thump, thump, thump!" as boobies dive bombed between the sharks and tuna to snatch a morsel with their beak.
The yellowfin tuna, some of the big guys weighing up to 100 kgs, raced up from the deep like bullets into the center of the ball and then quickly disappeared into the depths again. They were too quick for us to actually see them gobble up some of the bait fish. Other "smaller" fish that also wanted a share were mullet snappers and rainbow runners, hoping to feed on the scraps of what the bigger predators where spilling. Not to be left behind were a few blue-and-black striped pilot fish that always follow the Galapagos as well as the rainbow runners, hoping to get a little piece as well. We could hear dolphins but they had headed off to another part of the bait ball as it had split into two.
After about a half an hour the bait ball had become smaller and smaller and then the action slowed down until only one single big female Galapagos hung around. Nevertheless, there were still around a hundred sharks swimming and nosing around us, wanting to see what we were up to. Tuna still occasionally attacked, making the scads realize that it was better to follow the Galapagos shark so they would not get eaten. Then the scads decided that the best protection were the divers! That was not the best situation for us because now we part of the bait ball. For a time I managed to swim away with the bait ball so sharks and tuna started going after me! I even got hit on my back by one . I swam up to Tino, our skiff driver, and waved him over to us. Just as I thought, the school of scads chose the skiff as a better option for shelter from the sharks so we were safe again.
Sharks were still swimming around us for a long time, but the feast had ended. I think this bait ball has been the best one that I have seen in my life as a diver. It was not the biggest, but it did not move around as much so it was easy to get close to.