Day 235: Puerto Ayora – Galapagos Islands – Feb 7th

Today is our test of scuba skills.

Galapagos, although an awesome place for scuba diving with its abundance of ocean life, makes for a challenging diving experience. One reason the Galapagos is so diverse is because there several currents that congregate around this area, and with current comes an abundance of food, hence more ‘life’. The currents though, make it hard for scuba, as its like a washing machine, constantly moving you in all different directions!

There were 7 of us diving today and 2 Instructor/DMs. Everyone else seems to have boatloads of diving experience, one man (whom we later found out was celebrating his 70th birthday!!) started diving back in 1972! We were novices but didn’t matter, we were just super excited! We were all suited up in thick wet suits and booties to keep us warm, as the water, we were warned so many times, was extremely cold.

We did a quick check-out dive to make sure we had enough weights and all our equipment was in good order, which is always a good idea when diving with a new shop because you don’t want to be 30m under water before realizing your mask is leaking!

The dive site we’re going to is called Gordon Rocks, probably the most popular site to dive in Santa Cruz island because of the numerous sightings of hammerhead sharks, tortoises, rays and all the diving goodness.

First dive: We do a backwards roll into the Pacific Ocean, and after 5seconds we had to make our descent to avoid getting washed out by the currents at the surface. At the bottom, the currents were strong, pushing us all around, but with our 7mm wetsuits we were well protected from the scratchy rocks. And the way people dive in the Galapagos is totally against what we were taught, and you’re supposed to HOLD ON to the rocks at the bottom! We didn’t have gloves, and that would’ve been a good idea because the currents were strong and it was so easy to get cuts on our hands. The sights were amazing though, as we saw a school of eagle rays swimming just above our heads, several turtles feeding and swimming, schools of barracuda, and even several white tip sharks! Alan swears he saw a hammerhead really far away, but nobody else made the sighting to back him up. One difference in this dive though, is that divers would judge for themselves when to raise to the surface because everyone consumes air at a different rate. The group dive times ranged from 21mins to 54mins! We did okay, and hung in there for about 35mins. This girl had some incredible air consumption, coming up at 54mins with 1/3rd left in her tank…which is pretty ridiculous.

Surface Interval: The dive was exhilarating, but sitting on the boat was horrible! Lunch was sandwiches, but both of us could barely eat half as the boat was rocking back and forth, and the tight wetsuit resulted in some sea-sickness. It also didn’t help the regulators leaked a bit of salt water in, so every breathe you’d get some air, but also some salt water messing up your taste buds. We toughed it out, and it felt like an extremely long hour, but it was time again to dive!

Second Dive: Diving at the same site but with a different entry point, we got down and felt instantly a much stronger current already. And sometimes it gets really strange, as your head could be in really warm waters, while your body is in lukewarm waters and your legs are in freezing cold waters because of all the current movements! This time around, we saw this amazing stone fish that was camouflaged exactly like the surrounding rocks, and right next to it as we were watching, an octopus with even crazier camouflage walks by!!! That was pretty amazing, seeing those two masters of disguises just next to each other. The rest of the dive, we didn’t see as much, but mostly because we were struggling so hard fighting with the currents it was difficult to enjoy ourselves. We sorta feel like we should get some more diving experience so we can actually get the most out of diving in the Galapagos…

One diver with about 60 dives under his belt, went without a wetsuit. He seemed pretty confident and didn’t seem like he would be bothered by the cold. Somehow, he gassed out pretty quickly and during his ascent, he seemed to have panicked and ran out of air, and got washed onto the rocks by the current instead of swimming towards the boat. He ended up with some really nasty cuts throughout his legs and body, showing us the dangers are of diving in strong currents!!!! And we felt really different compared to diving with our instructor, because now you’re just a paying diver, and most dive shops seem to have good operations but when shit happens, they don’t seem to be able to respond properly. Our shop didn’t even offer any first aid to the injured diver! We definitely didn’t feel like we were in safe supervision, as the instructor was too busy looking for sharks than actually taking care of the crew. We’ll definitely pay more attention to our own safety and not rely on others for sure. Think we were too spoiled by our instructor in Roatan!!

We were really tired after the dive, but being the last day in the town we made the most of it. Visiting another nature reserve, and grabbing some really delicious ice cream (soursop and passion fruit!), we ended the night with some seafood from the street markets along with two of our fellow divers. It was a great night, had a few beers and shared some of our travel stories!! What a perfect way to end the day!

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