The Undersea Treasures of the Galápagos Islands

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September 1st 2009
Published: December 22nd 2009
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At 6am we wake up to the hum of the air conditioner. It's freezing, but at least its dry. The drill is simple: brush your teeth, drink some water and head up deck to put on your gear. Darwin Island covered in birds, the rock of the boat, the Frigate birds swarming overhead, the dolphins swimming by... We stretch into our suits, looking over the marine layer of clouds, the Garua, that covers Pacific Ocean. They are wet and cold, but we continue faithfully by the light of the early morning fog, a shade of grey. 15 minutes later the Panga Boats get loaded and motor out for Darwin's Arch. On a 3 count we fall from the boats backwards into the 75 degree water, dropping 70 feet through schools of colorful tropical reef fish and hammerhead sharks. The rocks we land on are jagged but not sharp, and almost perfectly flat. Darwin's Arch is connected to Darwin's Island through a reef that lies underwater, the tip of a 6000 foot tall, ancient stratovolcano submerged beneath the Pacific. It was from the edge of this ancient lava that we held tight and stared east into the ocean current, into the Deep Blue.

Tucking into the rocks next to free swimming Moray eels with their gaping mouths, we sit and wait for the guides to shake the rattle. Their eyes are like hawks, rattling quickly when they spot a Galapagos or Silky Shark. The stand out 100 feet down, amongst those schools of Hammerheads so numerous they don't warrant a rattle. The Hammerheads swim close to us, darting nervously as we come into their field of vision. Holding our breath fools some of them to get a closer look, looking eye to eye. You could reach out and touch them, but instead you exhale with a burst of bubbles and the Hammerhead darts off. After 15 minutes and 2300 psi you begin to think you could do this for well over an hour, watching primitive beasts and playful creatures swim by.

In an instant though things change from calm to frenzy as you hear the nonstop shake of the rattles. When the rattles don't stop it means one thing: Whale shark! You see the Dive masters both pointing in the same direction, swimming as fast as they can towards the biggest fish in the sea. Over the Hammerheads and off
Whale Shark!Whale Shark!Whale Shark!

- taken by Boaz
you go, not realizing the form taking shape before you could be alive. Swim man! Swim!! Off to the left of you you get within 5 meters: 10 meters long, black speckles on denticled skin that looks like textured rubber. You look at its tail, swinging side to side with such ease and grace. It seems to slow down, not minding our presence.

The only other person to my left was Don- he swam above the animal, swimming with open arms over its head like a dreaming monkey. Without harassing the beast (touching it strictly off limits) my friends rocket through the blue straight toward the immense shark's mouth with their bubbles streaming. Don certainly didn't mind, trading places with Kristy. I had reservations about getting too close, it was so monstrous. I saw Jen swimming near it, watching it in disbelief.

"I summoned the courage to swim over the top of it, in front of the first dorsal fin. It is over 3 of my body lengths wide. Beautiful white spots cover it's textured skin. Out of nowhere Kristy joins me near the eye and grabs My hand, pulling me nearer. Suddenly I find myself sucked into its draft. Gliding inches over the head of the whale shark my heart pounding and out of breath I was in a dream. It feels like there is nothing else in the world but me and the shark." -Jen

On this occasion we swam with the shark for at least 5 minutes, it was the longest and most special encounter of the trip! My group saw 18 Whale Sharks total, over 3 days. Over the entire 20 dives and 6 day trip, we saw so much life and had so much variation. There was a congregation of tens of thousands of Salema fish, so dense they close in around you and block out all light. The you exhale, and as they escape the bubbles a column of water forms and as it reaches above a pillar of light shines through. On another dive at Wolf Island groups of large Silky and Galapagos sharks in packs of 3 and 4 approached us continuously. They were curious and not afraid to swim towards the center of our drifting group, and as we slowly surfaced the packs circled below us, some still swimming at us. It freaked me out, if only because these sharks were bigger than me, swimming closely and circling as if I was going to be its next meal! There was the washing machine dive: Strong currents around a large pinnacle, white tipped reef sharks, a Manta Ray, Turtles, Sea caves...

·.´¯'·.´¯'·.´¯'·.¸¸.·´¯'· Steve ·.¸¸.·´¯'·.´¯'·.¸¸.·´¯'·.¸>

Photos by Boaz
Explorer Ventures
Peter Freire
Phone- 593-9-4457209

Additional photos below
Photos: 83, Displayed: 25


Scalloped Hammerhead School Scalloped Hammerhead School
Scalloped Hammerhead School

- taken by Boaz
Galapagos Penguin!Galapagos Penguin!
Galapagos Penguin!

Spheniscus mendiculus
Galapagos Fur Seal portraitGalapagos Fur Seal portrait
Galapagos Fur Seal portrait

- taken by Boaz
Black-Striped Salema aggregationBlack-Striped Salema aggregation
Black-Striped Salema aggregation

- taken by Boaz
White-Spotted Eagle RaysWhite-Spotted Eagle Rays
White-Spotted Eagle Rays

- taken by Boaz
Fur Seals, Isabella IslandFur Seals, Isabella Island
Fur Seals, Isabella Island

- taken by Boaz
Whale Shark feverWhale Shark fever
Whale Shark fever

-Taken by Jen

2nd December 2009

4 Page!
I went in for a quick peak but couldn't stop... they all bring back such fantastic memories! I never noticed the reticulation on the face of the female hogfish-- she'll be a male soon with that yellow cheek stripe. Where's the sea lion balls?
22nd December 2009

It is my dream to visit Galapagos. What a wonderful account of your adventure with the various sharks.
23rd December 2009

Welcome to the nirwana of divers!
Darwin's Arch, it will always remain very special for me, I was there back in Feb 2008. No whalesharks, but hey, saw them again few days ago in Djibouti. Now you've got to put Tubbataha and Palau on your list, these are my three prefered. Still have to do Cocos, PNG, Rangiora/Fakarava...but coming soon. For now, next stop is Havelock, not the best diving in the world, but one of the nicest beach...and many cuddles. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Where is your next diving?
23rd December 2009

Wow wow wow :)
Great photos as ever - and the size of those whale sharks!!
26th December 2009

Wow! So you finally made it to the Galapagos. What an amazing place, and the diving looks incredible. Very envious!
3rd February 2011
Isabella Island

27th February 2011

Blog of the year, 2010
Congratulations! :) This blog was nominated one of the best of 2010, in the South America/photography category.

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