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Dive Review of Explorer Ventures in
Galapagos Islands

Explorer Ventures, Sep, 2014,

by Jeanne Downey, PA, US (Top Contributor Top Contributor 44 reports with 11 Helpful votes). Report 7758 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 2 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments A group of nine adventurous divers headed for the Galapagos Islands to spend 10 days aboard the Humboldt Explorer, hoping to see whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, and much more. Our desires were mostly fulfilled.

The Humboldt Explorer, part of the Explorer Ventures fleet, comfortably houses 16 divers and almost as many staff. There are 8 guest cabins, all with ensuites and no bunk beds. Some of the cabins can be configured with either one or two beds. Two cabins are on the main deck and the rest are below. My cabin had two beds, a small, short closet with two drawers, two large storage shelves above the closet that were hard to reach, a small desk with no chair (handy for stashing toiletry items), a night stand between the beds with three small drawers, individually controlled AC, individual reading lights by the beds, and a small TV screen and DVD player which I never used. The bathroom was large, and the full size shower was great. Unfortunately, there was not much counter space and also not enough hot water. Since I was usually not one of the first to shower, the water would start off hot, turn cool, eventually turn hot again, then start cooling down permanently. This was a pet peeve of mine, as I love hot water. They recommended that tap water only be used for brushing teeth; we were given bottles of water the first day that we could refill from large commercial bottles on the dive deck.

The boat is very noisy, even on the main deck; sleeping during overnight runs was difficult for some guests. My husband had ringing ears for days after the trip, even though he was wearing ear plugs. And he noticed that the downstairs, forward escape hatch had no ladder to climb, only a stool; that definitely needs to be fixed.

The dive deck was spacious, with tanks along both sides and also along the stern. There were two hanging bars for wetsuits which didn’t get in the way too much. There was a fair sized camera table that quickly became crowded. The only rinse tank was for cameras; everything else was rinsed under one of the two deck showers or one hand-held shower. A hose was also available. I was assigned a spot and never had to remove the BC from the tank. Nitrox was available for an additional fee. When it was time to go dive, I got dressed, donned my tank, and walked onto one of two pangas, with assistance from three crew members. We had some rough seas, and one guest twisted her ankle while entering. She thought it was a sprain, but after returning home it was diagnosed as a chip fracture. One of the two pangas had continual engine problems, causing it to repeatedly stall; it had to be towed by the other panga a couple times. This was very inconvenient for everyone, especially in choppy seas, and also unsafe. This had been going on for a while—they need to fix it and provide a spare motor.

After a couple days, one guest noticed his air tasted strange; sure enough, the air in all the tanks tasted and smelled funny. The crew had to drain the tanks, change the compressor filter, and refill the tanks. The taste and smell gradually dissipated over the next few dives, but I wonder if an oily residue remains in the tanks.

We did anywhere from two to four dives a day, depending on travel times; after each dive it was time for either a snack or a meal. Snacks were usually a warm drink, fruit, and some type of munchies, but no cookies or brownies. There were a couple times the snacks were gone by the time I finished putting my gear away—they needed to have more. Meals were served buffet style. Breakfast consisted of eggs, toast, pancakes or French toast, cereal, fruit, and yogurt. Lunches were full meals with a meat and/or fish, salad, vegetables, and dessert. Dinners were also full meals similar to lunch. Coffee and hot water were available 24 hours a day, and soft drinks, beer, wine, and local hard liquor were also included. There was always some type of candy sitting out. Before the 6:30am dive toast and fruit was available—I could have used more before a cold dive. I got the impression that dietary requests were not looked at ahead of time, so if you have a serious food allergy, call them a couple weeks before your trip, or bring your own supplies.

Between dives I mostly hung out in the lounge area, consisting of a couple couches and a large screen TV, but few DVDs—bring your own. The two dining tables were popular for photo-shopping and viewing recently taken videos. There was a nice hot tub on the sun deck along with lounge chairs and some cushioned bench seating.

The crew were all locals, and most spoke at least some English, with guides Jimmy and William speaking English the best. There was one guest who was fairly fluent in Spanish, and she became our interpreter. But there wasn’t much interaction between crew and guests, and even in the pangas the guides pretty much just talked to the panga driver. I thought that took away from the diving experience.

So, the diving. The first dive, shortly after boarding the boat, was a half hour “get your weights adjusted” dive, and most of us needed it. Few of their weights are marked, so it took some swapping out to get the right mix. This dive also introduced us to the panga procedures. Boats start in the South, where the water was as cold as 62 degrees, and work their way north to Wolf and Darwin, with 79 degree water. I saw lots of smaller turtles at multiple sites, but they spooked and fled as soon as they saw us, until we got to the more north sites, then they hung around. At Cabo Douglas, I saw several red lipped batfish, sea robin, horn sharks, and paddle rays—a neat dive in 64 degree water. On another location at Cabo Douglas we dived with marine iguanas and sea lions; now that was way cool. There were a couple penguins on the beach and a cormorant nest. At Punta Vicente Roca (Isabella Island), up to six mola molas came to be cleaned, a highlight of my trip. Another dive in the same area was a large cavern with lots of resting rays and turtles.

Wolf Island was the best I’ve ever seen it, with hundreds of hammerheads that know how to swim just out of camera range, a few Galapagos sharks, and many eels. Some of us also saw one whale shark there. At the top were fur seals and one eagle ray.

But the main reason I went to the Galapagos Islands in the middle of whale shark season was to see whale sharks at Darwin and that was the disappointment; we could only find one, although our guides did their best. Possibly it was too warm—79 degrees at times—and very little current; no reef hooks were necessary during any dive. There were plenty of hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, a couple fly-by tuna, and some dolphins, all exciting things, but not whale sharks.

Back at Wolf, starting to head south, we went to “Secret Caves”, a huge three-chambered cavern with turtles, eels, rays, lots of fish, and some sea lions resting on a ledge way in the back. Our last two dives were at Cousins Rock where a dozen eagle rays slowly swam by and we got to play with sea lions.

Except for the lack of whale sharks, it was a very successful trip.
We visited a tortoise ranch before boarding the boat where we slogged behind the guide wearing borrowed boots—very enjoyable. We also did a land tour on Seymour Island, seeing all kinds of birds, iguanas, lizards, and sea lions. At the end of the trip we had an afternoon on Santa Cruz Island to shop and see the sights, including the Darwin Center. One final overnight run, some land time on San Cristobal Island, and our trip home began.
Websites Explorer Ventures   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving Bahamas, Caribbean, Cocos, Truk, Malaysia, Indonesia, Guadalupe, Socorro, Fiji, Palau, Maldives, etc.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, cloudy Seas choppy
Water Temp 62-79°F / 17-26°C Wetsuit Thickness 7
Water Visibility 50-100 Ft/ 15-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions Nitrox depth, 55 minutes including safety stop. No deco diving.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks 1 or 2
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals N/A Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 3 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 3 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Cameras in bow on pangas. Large rinse tank on mother boat. Camera table crowded if several large cameras; also used for other things.
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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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