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Dive Review of Scubadragon/Tres Palmas (associated) in
Galapagos Islands/Tortuga Island, Isabela

Scubadragon/Tres Palmas (associated): "Scubadragon/ Tres Palmas, Diving Tortuga island off Isabela Galapagos", Jul, 2018,

by Linda Burlak, MA, US (Reviewer Reviewer 3 reports with 4 Helpful votes). Report 10372 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 1 stars Food 1 stars
Service and Attitude 2 stars Environmental Sensitivity 3 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 2 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Scubadragon dive center also operates several rooms as Tres Palmas Ecolodge on the same grounds, both run by Galapagos marine life and travel writer Pierre Constant. To begin with the one major problem: we were exposed to a rash of insect bites during our stay in a bungalow at Tres Palmas, and we are fairly certain these were from bed bugs based on location, pattern, and time of bites. It is unfortunate that even the fanciest hotel these days can fall prey to this from someone traveling through. We have informed the owner (Pierre Constant) and assuming he fumigates the bungalow thoroughly and completely, this is what I would say about the rest of the experience:

The Tres Palmas bungalows are simple and rustic. For U.S. families familiar with campgrounds, they are somewhat like camping cabins - complete with the local mosquitos that aren't kept out particularly well. Our bungalow, Sunset, had an attached bathroom, and both a double and single bed. Our fellow diver had the Guardia bungalow with a single bed and had to walk a short distance to separate lavatory and shower stalls. The bed was comfortable and there was plenty of hot water. Linens and shower towels are provided. You need your own soap, shampoo, drinking water (can be bought in the village), and extra towels for beach/snorkeling/diving. A flashlight can also be useful if you are returning from the village at night. The lodge is quiet at night, being about 10 minutes out of the town center, so no bar/restaurant noise to keep you awake - just some amazingly loud frogs that sing for a couple of hours after sunset, and then trucks early in the morning. The room was extremely dusty due to the lava sand on the edge of the roads that border the compound so we had to wipe down all surfaces we wanted to use. A thorough and regular cleaning would be a plus for the space. Pierre provides a continental breakfast of fresh croissants, butter, jam, Nescafe coffee or tea, (and juice one morning.) Tres Palmas is very close, easy to find and convenient to the ferry dock and to the trail to Concha y Perla lagoon.

We chose to stay there since we were diving with Pierre at Tortuga Island. We chose Scubadragon for diving due to the mixed review for Isla Bella dive center, although it turns out Pierre collaborates with them in using their boat for getting out to the dive sites. The equipment was in good condition, with 5 mm full wetsuits that were not worn out, unlike some of the shorties or 3 mm suits we saw people renting from other places. Pierre was prepared for our arrival and got everything set up for the next day quickly, with good guesses on the weights and suit sizes. The BCD's worked effectively, although mine was a little large and couldn't fit snugly on the shoulders - I should have asked for a small. The regulators breathed fine, if a bit honking at times, and the gauges worked well. Pierre's BCD's have safety sausages attached as an extra safety precaution, though luckily none were needed.

Pierre worked very hard on the dives, setting up and breaking down all the equipment and doing a thorough explanation of the dive site and process. Entry is by back roll. Exit is doffing and handing up weight belts, BCD and tanks, and then fins before climbing up a small ladder. PIerre did most of the handing up and it was clearly tiring. A more solid ladder on the boat would simplify some of this as it is a bit exhausting for everyone concerned. Don't wear anything attached to your wrist since it can be easily pulled off during the exit process - I almost lost my dive computer which we had wrist mounted, but luckily my partner was able to skin dive and retrieve it (whew.)

We did two dives at Tortuga Island which were wonderful: we saw mantas, white-tips, and turtles on both dives, along with a full complement of schooling fish, black corals and a wide range of invertebrates. We essentially backrolled in about 20 feet above the first manta, and then saw more along the way -actively feeding and interested in us. Pierre was taking pictures of both dives and showed us a short slideshow during a nice meeting for dive recap / log writing later that afternoon. He is very knowledgeable about the marine world, and has written multiple books that we had been pleased to see on the one-week boat cruise we were on before coming to Isabella. He paid careful attention to the one novice diver during descent and ascent, but was sometimes far ahead (same ocean buddy) taking pictures on other parts of the dive and leaving my partner and I to watch over the new diver most of the time.

Harry, the boat owner and guide for Isla Bella seemed to also do a good job with his divers, despite the mixed reviews for that company. They stayed a little higher on the second dive and saw hammerheads as well as even more mantas.

We had also planned a snorkeling tour to Los Tuneles, which Pierre arranged with Harry's company. Pierre planned to attend, but there were too many on the boat. Unfortunately the winds had been blowing for several days and the ocean swell was quite high (10-15 feet) so the boat couldn't enter the Tuneles lagoon for the tour of the lava tubes and arches, nor could we do the land walk. We were able to snorkel, and saw many turtles feeding, white-tip and black-tip sharks, and a seahorse, but it was very murky due to the waves action. Tuneles is supposed to be beautiful but I'd suggest skipping it if the wind is up as it was disappointing to only do 1/3 of the planned experience. In hindsight, doing a second day of diving would have been a better choice.

The flamingo lagoons, tortoise breeding center, and Concha Perla lagoon (boardwalk and snorkeling area, replete with snoozing sea lions) are all very enjoyable and accessible and do not need a guide. Tours to the volcano (if it is done erupting) and other activities can easily be scheduled with one of the many, many companies in the village so waiting to do that there is probably the easiest and most effective - that way weather can be taken into account.

If you can afford to take the light aircraft from Baltra into Isabela, it's probably more comfortable than the very bumpy 2 hour ferry ride. If you are on the ferry, try to get the seats at the front of the outside section (against the bulkhead to the inner section) for the best average of less bumpy but also dry. Otherwise it's a toss up between being bounced around inside, or sprayed continually outside.

Overall: we'd dive again with Pierre or with Harry, but would probably stay somewhere slightly more upscale.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Florida, Hawaii, Caribbean, Bali, Northeast
Closest Airport Isabela (small planes only) Getting There From Baltra on Santa Cruz, only light planes fly to Isabela. 2 hour (bumpy) ferry is the most common transportation to Isabela.

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, cloudy Seas choppy, surge
Water Temp 72-73°F / 22-23°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 40-50 Ft/ 12-15 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Mandatory to follow the dive guide since you're within the National Park.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas Squadrons
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 4 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities 1 stars
UW Photo Comments No camera rinse tank. One rinse tank for all on shore (cameras first). Be sure to rinse the camera carefully on your own. Great picture opportunities abound.
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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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