Posts Tagged With: Diving

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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Day 229: San Pedro Sula – Honduras – Feb 1st

Our last day in Roatan, we eeked it out with our last dive required for our Advanced course. Couldn’t have timed it better! The day was sunny, the waters were calm and a gentle ocean breeze made it a perfect day in paradise, and another great day for scuba!

The last dive required of us is a Wreck Dive, where we’d be visiting the wrecks of the sunken freighter Aguilar (?) at about 110ft deep. Unlike other dives though, this time we’re going straight down from the surface and we won’t be seeing any coral. We geared up on the boat, tilted backwards with our regulators and were ready to dive like pros (not really). The descent down 110ft from the surface was a bit different, as this time the water was so deep you couldn’t see the bottom (usually we enter in shallow waters and land at the bottom before going deeper).

Looking down as we began to descend, the beautiful blues of the ocean was such an amazing hue it’s hard to describe. It is sort of creepy though that you’re descending into nothing!! After about 30ft, the outlines of the wreck start to emerge from the depths, and a sense of adventure creeps up inside. We’re just so giddy from the experience!

Once at the bottom, we were greeted by this friendly stranger. From the sides of the metal hull, this MASSIVE moral eel laid lifeless with his mouth gaping open, staring into the abyss. Only half its body was showing, and our instructor estimated him to be around 8-9ft long!!! This was one of those times that you’re gently reminded that, as a human being, you really shouldn’t be 110ft under water. The rest of the dive was spent navigating the interior of the ship, which is not easy if you’re claustrophobic!

Back on board, we wrapped up the paperwork and was officially certified as Advanced Open Water divers! And before we could even catch our breathe, we were back on the ferry towards the mainland.

Our afternoon was spent on the ferry and then a short wait for the bus. At the bus stop, we grabbed some fried chicken off a street shop that, despite being in heat lamps, was some ridiculously juicy chicken!! Next door was this outdoor dollar shop, and we found some shampoo packets…..from China… and expired for 2yrs!!! Haha, that will have to do….

The bus was going towards San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras where we were flying out from, and the world’s #1 city in terms of murder rate per capita. Fun. We rolled into the bus station at 9pm in the dark and were greeted by a taxi driver who was wearing half a shirt (it was too hot, he rolled up his shirt to reveal his rather large belly). Sure enough, this guy knows our hostel and got us there safely. Arriving at the hostel, this place definitely blew us away.

We stayed at La Hamaca hostel, and the staff there was absolutely AMAZING! They were such great help, and the hostel itself was just so well run. And to top it off, they had in-house stir fry with rice noodles!!! We ate our delicious meals outside in the patio, played with their house dog who looked like Bacon. The only downside is that there was no hot water for showers!

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Day 228: Roatan (Bay Islands) – Honduras – Jan 31th

Deep dive today! The dive site is called Hole in the Wall, which is aptly named as there’s this narrow ‘hole’ in the coral that you just dive down into starting at about 80ft. As we were drifting down in our really cool poses, these massive groupers just seemed to followed us down into the chasm of dark blue. They seem really curious, but we’re just hoping they’re not eyeing us as food as those guys are pretty massive! We got down to 130ft, you really don’t feel any different except for the loss of colour and the same eerie calm as in any part of the ocean.

We DID see a few turtles, lobsters and tiny flounders that sort of float at the bottom of the sands in a strong camouflage. Not sure if it’s the currents changing or the weather, but somehow the reefs just seem dead quiet compared to the lively vibrancy we saw the first time around. Weird?

And for dinner, we couldn’t resist and grabbed ourselves a massive seafood platter big enough for the two of us. Yes, it’s ironic, but it was also delicious. Let’s just say, fresh ingredients make everything taste WAY better!

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Day 227: Roatan (Bay Islands) – Honduras – Jan 30th

When we got to the dive shop at our usual time, we rolled in just in time to see a van dropping off a dozen or so tourists with all their scuba gear, looking ready to go. We were like “Uh ohhhh”.

Roatan is a stopover for a lot of cruise liners, and that’s cool and all but what that really means for us is that the streets suddenly get REALLY crowded, and the locals try to sell you on anything and everything they can. It’s sort of strange to see that kind of transformation from quiet, comfy beach town to crowded, touristy beach town in a split second. The place doesn’t change, only the people.

So we took the time off knowing we won’t be able to dive and headed to West BAY, which apparently has really nice beaches and great for snorkeling. And boy, were they right! We had to walk 40min to avoid paying a $3USD water taxi ride, and we sort of regretted it haha. The walk was over mossy rocks with gross seaweed all over, and garbage here and there… just gross.

As we got closer to the West Bay, we saw a ray chilling in about 3ft of water, and some big crabs running into the ocean, while some really small ones were trying to camouflage themselves once they knew we were there. Really neat! Once we got there, the beach was long, white silky sand with crystal blue waters. It was awesome!

We ended up doing one dive today, and part of the curriculum is to plan and execute the dive to certain depths. It was easy to just follow your instructor and just constantly look around, but when you have to keep checking your dive computer and depth, then make sure the time is alright, it got a bit more stressful. Still not used to this! And the scary part is we can already dive on our own!

Bummer: Alan wanted to get a tan, so all day he had his shirt off walking in the sun. Well, what happens when you don’t put on sun tan lotion in a sunny Caribbean day is that you get sun burn. By night time, it was NOT FUN!!

nice...

nice…

sunset @ Roatan

sunset @ Roatan

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Day 226: Roatan (Bay Islands) – Honduras – Jan 29th

Making a remarkable recovery, Alan is back to health and pretty anxious to get back out. It’s really hard to get sick when you’re traveling, since you feel like crap but you feel even worst because you should be out there doing stuff instead of stuck inside sleeping all day. And everyday, when you walk out and the palm trees open up as you walk out the door and into the warm glow of the ocean waves, it’s even harder!

We did our last dive to complete our Open Water Certificate, and did another to work on our Advanced Open Water Certificate. The exams don’t stop! It’s okay though, these tests for scuba are easy, straight forward and actually fun to do!

The first time, we saw THREE turtles in their natural habitat just chilling around and eating coral. Another was just gently gliding up onto the surface for a breathe of air. It was amazing at how gentle those creatures look, and how well adapted they can be in the water just gliding along so effortlessly…. unlike us who have to carry like 20lbs of gear.

It’s just weird at times how you’re down in the ocean, thinking you’re in the jungle and at any moment a massive predator would come and kill some of these fishes. In reality, it seems like every fish is busy doing ‘their thing’ and not really caring about you. There ARE some curious fish though who like to swim up close to divers and follow us around…and they usually aren’t the pretty ones!

Note: One of our Divemasters at the shop was walking home at 7pm, in the West End (the touristy area), and he got robbed by two guys. They pointed a gun at him, stole his cell phone and whacked him on the back of the head with the pistol!! That’s CRAZY!!!!! The guy was okay and despite bleeding a lot no stitches were needed, and only lost his phone while everything else remained…. Best of a worst situation I guess.

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Day 225: Roatan (Bay Islands) – Honduras – Jan 28th

Managing to climb out of the bed, we managed to get our dive instructor (such a nice guy!) to drive us to the local clinic to get checked out. Turns out, the doctor says the allergies and the fever was totally separate, Alan has an infection in his throat that was probably left behind from last week in Antigua! The allergies to the jellyfish was separate!!!!

*phew*

A few prescriptions, and a needle to the bum (seriously, who still does injections on the bum!?!?) later, Alan was back home getting some rest.

For dinner, we cooked up a pot of Shin ramen we bought back in Antigua!! Hot tropical climate, crappy stove, camping sporks instead of chopsticks, and eating while squatting on the floor (because there’s no table). Good times in Roatan!

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Day 224: Roatan (Bay Islands) – Honduras – Jan 27th

Diving in Roatan is extremely popular, as noted by the numerous dive shops that operate in the West End (where all the gringos are). This is what we would’ve imagined beach towns to be like, and not like the megapolis city built along the beaches like that of Cancun! Sorry guys, no love for Cancun one bit.

We arrived last night, and it was raining. When we woke up, it was still raining. When we arrived at the dive shop, the owner told us it has been raining continuously for 11 days! Well, that was about to change because the moment we stepped outside to get geared up, the sun was out and the clouds were gonzo! Yeahhhhhh!

Planning to get both our Open Water & Advanced Open Water certifications, we definitely found a great shop to learn from as the owner is our instructor, and he’s been certified since 1978! Extremely patient and knowledgeable, you just feel safe with him as your teacher, and it’s hard to get this feeling because for the most part, diving for the first couple of times is a strange experience. Continue reading

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