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Dive Review of Scuba Iguana/Casa de Mathias in
Galapagos Islands

Scuba Iguana/Casa de Mathias: "Hammerheads!", Oct, 2015,

by Mark A. Magers, CA, US (Sr. Contributor Sr. Contributor 20 reports with 23 Helpful votes). Report 8600 has 2 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments We had only a couple of days on our itinerary for The Galapagos, and so lined up a single day of diving with land-based Scuba Iguana. Our straw poll of friends and acquaintances who had been there all said these were the people to go with. We checked in at the shop in the afternoon before our day of diving, fitted all the gear, checked c-cards, filled out paperwork, and were ready to go the next morning at about 8 am.

We timed our visit based on SI’s general schedule to dive Gordon’s Rocks, which we believed to be the one place to go if you could only go to one place. We were not disappointed. The ride out was about 30+ minutes. We did (as “new” divers with the shop) a 5 minute check out dive, in calm water and sandy bottom, to show we could flood and clear our masks, and remove and replace our regs underwater. While these are extremely basic skills, we never complain when an operator is careful. The ones who pay no attention, and we’ve all been with a few of those, are a lot scarier than rudimentary skill checks are annoying.

At the site, the surface swells were several feet. Entry via backward roll off both sides. They broke us into 2 smaller groups of 4-5. Very soon we came upon a couple of green turtles, followed by a pair of Galapagos sharks, maybe 5-6’. As we admired them, our divemaster started shaking his noisemaker – hammerheads, a group of about 5, and cruising past at 10 o’clock in the water column! They were utterly graceful looking and not too interested in us. The dive progressed, and we saw a mola mola, a mobula ray, some black tip reef sharks, a passel of chocolate chip starfish, and near the end of the first dive, the biggest school of barracuda we’ve ever seen – at least 200 of them forming a shiny steel curtain. That $100 “Galapagos access fee” was looking like a great investment. There was lunch, basically tuna sandwiches, and it turned out, after the second dive, we got the hot lunch (fish, rice, salad) which was precluded earlier by a choppy ocean during the surface interval.

The second dive started similarly to the first, and after maybe 10 minutes in, 15-20 hammerheads swam beneath us, perfectly silhouetted against a white sandy bottom. It was spectacular, and also caused our divemaster to “forget” the dive plan. We were on a second dive, after doing 50-75 feet on the first, and our plan was to stay around or above 60 feet for the second dive. The hammerheads were at about 110 feet. Two of our party, one with a camera, pursued them. So did our DM. My wife and I tried to stay back and up, and checked our computers at the same time to see, nonetheless, that we were at 95 feet. OK if we head back up, but this was not happening, and this turned into a yoyo dive, down, up, down, up as we stayed with the DM. We drifted higher while keeping people in sight, vis was good for Gordon’s Rocks (50-60 feet) but not “Cayman clear”.

We tried to indicate to the DM that our computers were telling us to go shallower, and he took it as an indication that one of us needed to share air. When we finally did start the safety stop, 2 of the group were in “extra deco” and a 3rd (of the 4 of us) had his computer calling for a 10 minute safety stop. He did maybe an extra 3-4 minutes from the rest of us (as we bobbed on the surface) and still had a shrill alarm going off once we were on the boat. I’ll add that one of the causes of DM Distraction, in our opinion, was that the DM was shooting video to sell us later. We didn’t buy.

You would think after 300+ dives we would do this every time, but we had not – asking the DM, before you go in, how to let him/her know about computer and dive profile issues. Not asking will not happen to us again. So two things to take away: 1) confirm communication for dive profiles beforehand; 2) be very wary of a DM who is more focused on photography than his divers.

The boat was nice, 30-32 feet, dry area in head and marine toilet, O2, comfortable seating area with roll-down awnings for protection from spray as needed, plenty of under-seat storage.

We stayed, by the way, at Casa de Mathias, owned and operated by the dive shop owners. They have a couple of small apartments with kitchens that are very nice, very convenient, and reasonable. Bicycles available to explore if you want. Highly recommended. We found the apartment to be perfect for our needs, we gave it 3 stars only because some folks expect luxury for 4 and 5 stars. On our rating system it was definitely a 4. Ocean view would have made it a 5. There is bottled water there, and also a filter set up for purifying rainwater they capture. Both worked well and we had no issues from the water.

It is a bit out of town, which can be a good or bad thing, depending upon your point of view, but still a pretty short walk. They will give you a 10% discount on diving if you stay there, and if you dive with them you get breakfast supplies waiting in your refrigerator. Good deal! Also arranged a combined airport transfer and Highland tour for an additional charge, which was a good use of time, as the airport is actually quite a ways from Puerta Ayora, and the tortoises are on your way to town. So we got to see the land tortoises and lava tunnels on the way from the airport. Very cool.

A few Galapagos items in case you go: Take toilet paper in a Ziploc with you everywhere, you never know what you won’t find just when you need it – even in the airport. There is a $20 fee per person (cash only), payable at airport for the immigration transit control card. If you are not an Ecuador resident, there is an additional $100 fee per person, payable when you land at Baltra (cash only). You must also get your checked luggage scanned by the Agriculture folks before you check a bag. So there are 3 lines at the Guayaquil airport for trips to Galapagos: 1) $20 immigration transit control fees; 2) ag screen; 3) regular airline check-in. You can divide and conquer, one person at fee line and one at ag screen, and you might be able to time it with a 3rd person in the airline check-in line – maybe!
Websites Scuba Iguana   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving GBR, Saba, Montserrat, Dominica, Caymans, Barbados, USVI, Cuba, Belize, Mexico, Panama, Ecuador, HI, CA, WA, RI
Closest Airport Baltra Getting There via Guayaquil (GYE), direct flights to Balta (GPS); bus to short ferry from GPS (free), ferry to Isla Santa Cruz ($1); bus ($3?) or cab ($18) for 45 min drive to Puerta Ayora from ferry

Dive Conditions

Weather cloudy Seas choppy, surge, currents
Water Temp 73-75°F / 23-24°C Wetsuit Thickness 7
Water Visibility 10-60 Ft/ 3-18 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions 5 minute checkout for new divers on basic skills on way to first dive; profiles discussed pre-dive, you are required to stay with DM, though there were some regulars who seemed to have a lot more freedom; see write-up for more
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 1 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 N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments We do not do UWP but several people on boat did; no camera tables per se, nor rinse buckets, but ample room on board and secure dry area, seemed pretty manageable
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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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