Published: August 25th 2010August 17th 2010
Yes, we went back to Cali (where the hostal owner knows us by now by our names), for a very good reason: Diving @ Malpelo. After arranging our final details in Cali (read: pay the flight tickets), we were ready to go, so the next day: ¡VAMOS!
Mingling with Colombians!
At the Cali airport we met our fellow dreamers, 4 divers arriving from Bogota, one of them our contact and guide, Jorge. From Cali we took a flight to Guapi, which is a village in the middle of the jungle. OK, from one side its borders the ocean, but no roads take you here, so flying is the best option. The second, vomiting option is by a bumpy speedboat, but that we ignored.
We boarded the small plane to Guapi and there we landed half an hour later. The airport was almost as small as the one we had on Malekula Island in Vanuatu, but at least this one had a roof on its buildings... Can you imagine, no big crowds at the airport? Actually, most of the Pacific coast of Colombia is inhabited by people with African origin, this place is so different
Mototaxis in Guapi
There go the scuba diving equipments...
from the rest of the country. At the airport we took 3 mototaxis, it was funny to see them on the unpaved, muddy road carrying us with the fancy Aqualung diving bags...
When we arrived to the harbour we realised that our home and carrier, Nemo is not there, we had to be satisfied with an old motor boat, which after over an hour of waiting (in vain) took us on a 45 minutes bumpy ride towards the ocean. But after the 45 minutes we could see the silhouette of our catamaran: Nemo was waiting for us with all its crew.
Chris and I got the "honeymoon cabin" with double bed and candies on it, it was just so beautiful. As the boat was not full, every other diver got a private cabin with en suite bathroom (!), lots of luxury indeed.
Isla de Gorgona
Upon embarking we quickly departed towards Gorgona, a small island 2 hours away, where we received an obligatory informative presentation about the national park. The guy somehow did not mention that the island is infested with thousands of venomous snakes, that´s why the name. Anyways we learned that the
Lady doing the laundry on the shore of river Guapi.
island used to be a prison island up to not long ago, a really unwelcoming place with jungle and nasty animals. But our only purpose here was to pick up 2 Brasilian fellow divers and to immerse for a dive before heading off to Malpelo. This was a nice welcome dive, we met some white tip reef sharks who were happy to pose for our photographer´s camera. And on our swim back I spotted a diving watch on one of the rocks, so I am wealthier with a watch. This time not a Rolex (like the one I found a few years ago), but it´s still pretty good.
24 hours of excitement - getting to Isla de Malpelo
After our dive in Gorgona we wrapped up and started our 500 km cruise towards the sunset. Some humpback whales followed us from a distance. It was nice to see the splashes they made, especially the young calf right in front of the sunset.
In the evening we were welcomed with cocktails by our crew (7 crew members for 8 customers!). Had a great dinner and immediately some motion sickness pills followed. Some of the guest 'retired'early
Heavily monitored by the army...
for the night... Yes, there are big waves out there, even if you travel on a catamaran. Our cabin was right at the end of boat so we were surrounded by water on 3 sides. The waves quickly convinced that it was the best for us to sleep instead of watching some movies on our in-room portable DVD player (nice feature of the boat, not ours of course, we travel low budget....).
Next day we spent with doing nothing, lying under the sun, eating, watching movies, getting to know each other. Thanks to some good currents we arrived before sunset to Malpelo. The soldiers have to climb up to their station using ladders and ropes. Really funny, the profile of the island resembles the face of an indian, amazing. So we arrived and went for a dive with big smiles on the face.
Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary
Nobody can enter the island, except for a few, very bored Colombian soldiers protecting the island from potential intruders . It belongs to the same 'mountain range' as Galapagos. As the raven flies the island is located 378 km from Colombia's Pacific coast, and approximately 362 km from
Is it a joke?
We embarked this motor boat first. Luckily it took us to Nemo at the end...
Panama's coast. But as our boat came from Isla de Gorgona, the distance for us was a mere 506 km. The island has a land area of 0.35 square kilometres. On the island colonies of birds nests (e.g. masked boobies and albatrosses), with basically no vegetation. Just some lovely algeas and some other small stuff... However the big ace of Malpelo is its marine park.
This marine park is HUGE: 857,150 ha, this territory is bigger than Hungary. The largest no-fishing zone in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, and it provides a critical habitat for internationally threatened marine species, and is a major source of nutrients resulting in large aggregations of marine biodiversity. It is in particular a ‘reservoir' for sharks, giant grouper and billfish and is one of the few places in the world where sightings of the short-nosed ragged-toothed shark, a deepwater shark (sounds cute, doesn't he?), have been confirmed. (This piece of information was primarely pulled down from the UNESCO World Heritage Internet site)
Oh my God, at every meter of our dive there was a moray eel observing us, you could not have painted more of them on the
rocks, like in a crowded zoo. No sharks, though, still a nice start. So we floated around until our air let us do so and finished when it was almost dark. And yes, that night we had a proper sleep, no big waves this time. The next day 2 days we spent basically only with diving: 4 dives in a day. Diving at Malpelo is know for its big creatures and sharks. And indeed we saw quite a bit of them: Silky, Galapagos, Hammerhead sharks were passing by, while the eagle rays were just sailing past us.
From the boat we got super diving computers, ones that can even communicate with each other. So we could send messages to the other divers and the boat from underwater in case of emergency. Nice feature in waters with strong and sometimes unpredictable currents. Less changes to get lost :-) But our computers (nicknamed: Robocop) also brought us some inconvenience, as due to the super-conservative settings, Chris and I had to spend 35 minutes on an extra bottle of air at 3 meters as emergency deco stop. Of course all the other divers had their own diving computers too and even though
This view welcomed us when we arrived on the catamaran. We got some jelaous looks from the others :-)
we all dove together they could finish with a simple 10 minutes stop. Normally you would only need a shorter safety stop, but those eagle rays at 30 meters brought us down again at the end of the dive. I guess this extra fun was the reason for Chris and I hanging on that bl##dy bottle. But at least during this time approx 5 silky sharks came to visit us and swam around to keep us entertained. Nice animals... We paid a bit more attention to our computers on the 4th dive on the same day, so all went fine.
After the last dive on the first diving day we still had enough time to go for a small boat trip around the island. With the rubber boat we could get close to the rocks which serve as home for many birds and we also entered some caves.
Next morning we woke up early again and had a lucky start. A young whale shark of cca. 8 meters came to say good morning. This made us extremely happy and excited, especially when this graceful animal returned to see us again 2 minutes later. OK, some of us say
that this second encounter was with a different whale shark, but I think it was the same as the other one... No one knows... The rest of the dives on the day went all right, we saw many silky and Galapagos sharks, lots of hammer head sharks, some sweat turtles posing for photos and videos.
Whaleshark for Lunch
But the big moment of the day was at lunch time when we spotted a big dorsal fin behind to the boat. We were having lunch that time, so just noted: "Yes, an other silky shark." Chris got a bit more excited than the others, so after finishing his last bite he took the mask and snorkel and slipped into the water. He came up screaming: it´s a WHALE SHARK!!! Yes, this sweet, harmless animal was swimming right around our boat, sometimes stopping to feed on the kitchen leftovers that were drained into the water. So all of us went to snorkel (including most of the crew) and this beautiful animal did not mind! He did not go away, stayed with us, posed for photos and videos and responsible divers as we are, we did not ride him....
A nice gesture from our crew.
our Brasilian photographer got so excited that he did not notice when the current took him away from the boat. Just got a bit worried when 4 silky sharks came up to him and started bumping into his legs. Thanks God he had his huge camera in his hands which he could use to push them away until the rubber boat went to pick him up. Since then he does not like silky sharks... wonder why!
So our last day of diving was super satisfying, however, we left Malpelo a bit sad at around 6 pm as we wanted to stay one more day! Here again we had a cruise back to Gorgona, more or less 24 hours. Upon arrival we saw some whales jumping again, but this time not so close... We spent the night next to Gorgona, said good bye to our Brasilian friends (damn, they had an extra day of diving at Gorgona), finished the bottle of Aguardiente and went off to sleep.
Next morning we left at around 4 am as we had to be at Guapi airport by 8. Said good bye to Nemo and the crew. At
Preserved snakes for educational purposes. I guess the people who spend a day in Gorgona need to be able to recognise them?
Cali airport we waived adios to our Colombian friends too, however we are going to meet Jorge in Bogota for some paperwork!!! Ps, we got some really cool underwater pictures from Kadu, including from the whale shark. But as these pics are his bread and butter, we will wait to publish these pics , until he has published them... Guess it won't be until October.... So that will become a separate entry.
There are more photos below