Galapagos Glamping!

A few of our members went Glamping off to the Galapagos in March, so I asked for a write up, which I have in the whole not tampered with (…okay may have).

So this is thanks to Kev Tulip, who has also made a fantastic video of the whole trip, looks absolutely awesome and mega jealous.  I have added the headings.

Thanks Kev, great work.

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Photos courtesy of Kevan Tulip, Elaine Porter and Brian Maskell

So Kev, where did you all go?

Nine Kingston and Elmbridge Club Members have just come back from a 3 week trip to Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos. The trip was organised and booked through Latin Odyssey and cost around £6,500 each.  It is a lot of money but also a lot of trip! 

[Ed. I would just like to point out that the club offers members a whole raft of differently priced diving trips that don’t usually cost as much as a fairly new second hand Fiat 500].

Trip in a Nut Shell…or Should That be Tortoise Shell?

Itinerary was KLM flights from London Heathrow to Schiphol Airport Amsterdam then a KLM flight to Lima in Peru . Seven night stay to visit Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, followed by several flights to Guayaquil then San Cristobal and 7 nights on Galapagos Sky. Park fees, tourist fees and Recompression fees are included [Ed. One would [bleeping] hope so, for that price]. Internal flight back to Guayaquil and three nights stay then return KLM flights via Quito.

Tell Us A Little About the Boat

MV Galapagos Sky is a 30m Ecuadorian owned steel dive boat built 2000 and run by some of the same crew for the 10 years. The Holding Company is called Ecoventura and they have 3 other land tour cruise ships in the fleet. Dive Encounters is the American company that market the boat.

MV Galapagos Sky was previously known as the MV Sky Dancer. Ecoventura has been handling all local organisation for 10 years. 

The dive boat is the best I’ve been on. Great food three times daily in saloon and evening drinks are free. Hot chocolate and snacks on dive deck after each dive. They have a huge selection of dive gear in a 5′ walk in locker so if you are cold you can borrow another layer or if for example your reg set broke, there are ones to use.

[Ed.  Would like to point out Kev is our club kit man, responsible for all our training and hire equipment (unashamed plug) at the club for new and existing members…. and it is blatantly obvious from reading this he was rather geeking out at this point…I am sure Gill had to remind him at night where their cabin was a few times]

Nitrox was free [Ed. TANSTAFL rule Kev…it was in the above price]. Plenty hot water in comfortable rooms. All crew were exceptionally helpful. Whenever the divers were going or returning there would be 6 or 7 crew often including the Captain, to ensure getting in and out of the two Pangas (RIBs) went smoothly. Several of the crew are divers. The two dive Guides Max and Joffrey were knowledgeable, enthusiastic and obviously smart – being experts in all Galapogoan wildlife and topography..

There were 16 guests, so 8 divers per guide in a Panga.  Groups are identified by either being fins in Yellow or Grey box. All your gear is brought back on board, from the Panga, by the crew and tanks refilled. They are 12l or 15l tanks pumped to 200 to 230 bar.

Captain’s Log, Star Date…

Day 1 – Sunday.

Arrive Guyaquil airport. Met by Ecoventura rep who tags checked luggage and arranges it to be transported to boat. Gives you your boarding card and Galapagos entry permit. Wait in Aerogal lounge then short trip to San Cristobal airport. Ecoventura staff and bus meets you. Five minutes and you are at dock. Thirty mins for anyone who needs any last toiletries.

There are Sea Lions, Marine Iguanas and Sally Lightfoot crabs on the beach and in water. Sea Lions lie on the moored boats in the bay. Frigate Birds, Boobies [Ed. sngggr…..no….I better not….I must resist….], Gulls and Terns Wheel overhead. Onto ship by Panga and allocated cabins. Dive logs, insurance and certification cards checked. Given Marine Alerts to wear on BCD. Once the port authorities agree, the ship heads out to sea.

Dive 1. Isla Lobos (Sea Lion Island), San Cristobal Island. This is a checkout dive for weighting. Topography is a rocky bouldery shore to 7m then gently sloping sand. 7m max for 25 mins unfortunately no Sea Lions for us! 10m viz. 26 degrees.

Then beer and a safety brief on the Sundeck, trying on lifejackets and an explanation of the safety gear on board. Beer, evening meal with wine. 

[Ed…you know what, I’m sure so many more people would turn up to these briefings if there were beer anyhoo…moving on…]

Day 2 – Monday.

Starts early with a 4 hour motor to Pinzon Island. Breakfast starts 7am. Dive brief 8.30 and onto Pangas for 9am.

Dive 2. Pinzon Island. This is a rocky reef on sand between Santa Cruz and Isabela Island. The topography was similar to Isla Lobos. Shoals of Grunts [Ed. that was just from the noise of the group getting into their wet suits after breakfast], Bass and other reef fish.  Big black and orange Chocolate Chip pincushion starfish. Both Sea Lion and White tip sharks plus One Red Lipped Batfish [Ed. “Holy Smokes Batman”].  35m max for 50 mins. 10 to 15m viz. 28 degrees.

Short SI [Ed. Surface Interval – otherwise known as tan top up time] and then back onto Pangas for 11am

Dive 3 and 4. Cousin Rock. Rocky wall. High current drift. Lots of blue Striped Nudibranch, Cushion Stars and Urchins. Shoals of Grunts, Surgeonfish, Bass and Salima. Eagle Rays, Sea Lions, Turtle, Whitetip and Galapagos sharks. 25m max for 50 mins. 15m viz. 28 degrees.

As soon as we get back the boat leaves for the 16 hour journey to Wolf Island to the north.  

[Ed. there are no wolves or any natural predators of any kind on the Galapagos, above the water at least; the island was named after Theodor Wolf (Got ta Love Wikki – makes one sound clever).  However, saying that, anyone watch that BBC Documentary on Galapagos and those snakes chasing the baby Iguana… that definitely ain’t natural, that’s real scary …., give me a Great White any day]

Day 3 – Tuesday.

Arrive Wolf Island about 10am. Dive brief as approaching so ready to dive when ship arrives at destination.

Dives 4, 5 & 6. Wolf Island Landslide and shark Bay. Three dives at similar sites. Bouldery Reef which we mostly hang onto and watch the action. The first dive was in such high current that you felt you could spin off out of control if you lost your grip. Adrenaline stuff!

The three dives ended by going into blue and ascending from there. The first dive was astounding. Small fish soup. Wallpaper of Hammerhead and Galapagos sharks – hundreds at a time finning slowly past in current. This is just like every picture you see of massive schools of hammerheads. All true!

We also saw, Turtles, Sea Lions, huge shoals and bait balls of fish, Eagle Rays, free swimming Morays, Triggerfish, Tuna and Pufferfish. Silky Shark circling us as we ascend. All 3 dives 25/30m max for about 50 mins each. Viz 10 to 15m and temp 28 degrees.

Day 4 – Wednesday.

Starts with a 2 hour motor to Darwin Island. All 4 dives are on Darwin Arch which lies just off the main island. There are pods of Bottlenose dolphins jumping and tail slapping around us.

Dives 7 to 10. Darwin Arch. 4 dives at same site. Bouldery reef which we hang onto watching action then out into blue looking for whale sharks. There are less Hammerheads and Galapagos sharks, but still plenty about. We see dolphins, bait balls of Bigeye Jacks, Tuna, Turtles, Dolphins.

Day 5 – Thursday.

Two dives at Darwin then back to Wolf during lunch.

Dives 11 & 12. Darwin Arch Two more dives following same pattern. Same fish soup. 20m max for 50 mins 10 to 15m viz and 26/28 degrees.

Dives 13 Wolf Landslide. Hammerhead and Galapagos Sharks and Eagle rays flying overhead. Finished with a great fast drift across a bouldery reef at 16m before heading into blue. 20m max for 50 mins. 10 to 15m viz and 25 degrees.

Dive 14.Cape Douglas Marine Iguana Dive . We did a shallow dive onto a boulder strewn landscape looking for Marine Iguanas. Warned that there could be a large swell we still were not prepared for its power, which was a little like being fired from a slingshot. We found at least 4 Iguanas at 6m. Strange looking creatures and unique to the Galapagos. [Ed.  Probably was thinking the same – strange looking that is]

Day 6 – Friday.

2 hour motor during lunch to Bartholomew Island then land visit to the Island. RIB trip round bay. Penguins, Sea Lions and sea birds. Walk up to the lighthouse on a boardwalk. Very volcanic island. Lots of ash fields and craters. This is where part of Master and Commander was filmed where the surgeon discovers the French frigate in the bay.

Dive 15. Vincente Roca Isabella Island. Saw a Sea Lion approaching dive site. Bouldery wall. Mainly looking for Mola Mola [Ed. Sun Fish…about the size of the Fiat 500 mentioned earlier]. Saw 3 well on the cleaning station, absolutely stunning. Lots of small reef fish. My buddies told me the next dive was pretty similar. 33m max for 50 mins. Temp 23 degrees and viz <15m.

Day 7 – Saturday.

Ship moves early in the morning to Gordon Rocks, by Santa Cruz Island

Afternoon land visit to Darwin Research Station, Santa Cruz island, to see Giant Tortoises, various Iguanas, small Tortoises as part of their breeding program. Before this we settled up any bills (only for T shirts and fleeces) and get our passports back. Also left crew tip in a sealed envelope ($400 recommended).  Our gear is washed and left to dry by crew. [Ed. too right they left it…to go down the pub to celebrate with $400]

Day 8 – Sunday.

Ship leaft at 6am to go back to San Cristobal [Ed…should have gone there first to “forewarn” (spooky sound effect) you of the TIP that wasn’t included in the all inclusive]. Pack up gear. Bumble around San Cristobal [Ed. Womble’s get everywhere don’t they] for an hour before bus to airport and then flight onto Quito in Ecuador for a couple of days to unwind.

So did you enjoy it?

It was a great trip. Lots of new friends. If you are thinking of going think about these:

  1. Only 6 dive boats currently go to Wolf and Darwin – 2 Aggressor boats, Galapagos Sky, Humbolt, Estrella del Mar and Deep Blue. The last 3 only go at the high season and do land based tours at other times.
  2. Only 3 dive boats can do these land tours – 2 Aggressor boats and Galapagos Sky.

That’s all folks…

Thanks Kev for the great trip report.  I for one am mega jealous, but pleased to see the photos and video of your time at the club.  You also visited so many places on the way and way back that wasn’t to do with diving too.

I hear there was a certain BSAC photographer out there, who might have some photos of you all clinging to the rocks that may or may not end up in some famous BSAC monthly magazine….who knows, watch this space.

One of the nice things of diving BSAC is that you get to go to these places with friends, make new ones, see unbelievable places, meeting amazing people and seeing awesome wildlife. 

Challenge yourself…why not join us, try something new – thrive not just survive!

[Ed. although for £6,500 I would probably would –  just that – survive the rest of the year on rations!]