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The Galapagos Islands

January 2009 - The Galapagos Islands
For a long time we already loved to go diving at the Galapagos, at the most northern islands Darwin and Wolf, the Wahalla for divers. The best time to dive here are the months August to November, then you see besides the many hammerheads also many whale sharks and some other whales. But you only can get here with a dive cruise, the nearest island Wolf is 14 hours by boat from the inhabited world. But those cruises were always booked a couple of years in advance. As we mostly plan our holidays just a little in advance, we always choose other nice diving destinations. But lately your hear about several restrictions for diving at the Galapagos, you cannot dive anymore everywhere, only 3 boats still have a permit for diving at Darwin and Wolf. So it became time to book a dive cruise, the best diving season was already booked full until 2012, but we did not want to wait for 4 years. We booked in May 2008 and there was for 2009 only one boat with a free cabin on 2 cruises, also we choose the first possible option. And if you go, you have to do it well, besides de 8-days dive cruise we wanted also to dive for 7 days around Santa Cruz and a couple of days for land excursions.
The Galapagos islands are a province of Ecuador and are located about 1000 km west of Ecuador around the equator. The Galapagos Islands exist out of 13 bigger islands, of which 5 are inhabited and there are about 40 small islands, all have a volcanic origin. About hundred volcanoes determine the landscape of the Galapagos. The oldest peaks are about 4-5 million years old. The islands are located at one of the most active volcanic areas in the world. At the islands Isabela, Fernandina and Marchena you still have regularly eruptions.

The islands were never connected to the main land, so at a biological view a very unique area arose. The character of the islands are also determined by the cold Humboldt current (coming from Antarctica) in which the islands are located. So it's here much colder than you would expect at the equator. The lower islands and the coastal areas know a desert- and savannah like landscape, with many cactuses and succulents are very dry and infertile. At the bigger and higher islands you'll find fertile slopes with dense, green vegetation. Many islands hide almost the whole year under a thick fog, so at several places you'll find many trees completely covered with several kinds of moss.
Next to this the Galapagos are also very special for its animal life. Here Charles Darwin got his first ideas of his evolution theory. In 1835 he arrived here with the research ship Beagle and stayed here for 5 weeks to study the geology and biology of 4 islands. He came here to the conclusion that the animals here are a little different from the same species elsewhere in the world. He established that animals apparently adapt to its surroundings and designed his hypothesis that species evolve and arise from each other. He also came to the conclusion that in nature a struggle for life takes place with the survival of the fittest.
An example are the so called Darwin-finches.
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At the Galapagos live 13 finch species, all descended from a mutual ancestor. Although they look very similar, its bill differs at each subspecies. The bigger ground finch eats with its broad bill bigger seeds, others have tiny bills, suited to catch little insects.
Another example is the iguana, Darwin discovered that at the Galapagos the iguana is a vegetarian and that one subspecies evolved into a 'grazer' and finds its food into the sea.
A last example are the giant land turtoises, at the Galapagos you find 11 subspecies. 

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The larger islands with more wet highlands have lush vegetation near the ground. Tortoises here tend to have 'dome-back' shells and have restricted upward head movement due to shorter necks, and also have shorter limbs. Tortoises at the dryer islands have 'saddleback' shells comprising a flatter carapace which is elevated above the neck and flared above the hind feet. Along with longer neck and limbs, this allows them to browse taller vegetation.

To these tortoises the Galapagos Islands got their name. Galapago is the old-Spanish word for tortoise.
Due to its isolation the Galapagos Islands could evolve to a real nature paradise with a large diversion of animal life. Unfortunately the import of animal life through humans damaged the endemic fauna seriously. Goats, pigs and rats soon turned to be food competitors of the endemic animals. They brought new diseases and hunted the endemic animals. New plants pushed away rare plant species.
Next to this, in the past sailors took thousands of giant tortoise with them on board, through which some subspecies got extinct. Thos tortoise can live easily a year without food, so you have for a long period fresh meat on board.
Also around Darwin and Wolf at large scale whales, sharks, tuna etc. were caught. Although it's now a marine reserve, fishing at a large scale is supposed of the past, but there is still quite some illegal fishing.
Next to this, the Galapagos is very popular holiday destination, which forms an extra threat for its ecosystem.
Since 1959 the Galapagos islands are a national park. Since 1978 UNESCO recognised the islands as World Heritage Site and the park got extended with a marine reserve.

January 8th, 2009 - Santa Cruz
Last night we departed and this morning against 10 AM we already arrived at Baltra, a small island north of Santa Cruz, where we are going to stay for 10 days.

Overzicht 20090117 IMG_5296.jpgAt Baltra you only find an airport and a marine base. The airport has some busses to take everybody to the Itabaca Channel, from where you catch a boat to Santa Cruz. At the boat our driver was waiting for us. Baltra is quite barren and dry, with here and there big cactus and many withered bushes and a few green palo verdes with beautiful yellow flowers. The coastland from Santa Cruz looked quite similar, but as soon as we went a little higher inland, it was getting greener and greener. After about 15 minutes you drove through trees fully covered with several kinds of moss. Bloem 20090112 P1100746.jpgJust after having seen the first farms along the road, we saw the first giant tortoises, some just in the meadows not far from cattle. It's more easy to walk around here than between all the rocks full with trees and bushes and the grass is quite tender. Once we saw about 10 giant tortoise together.
After about 45 minutes we arrived at Puerto Ayura, where we'll stay for the next 10 nights. First we passed by our diving centre to make to first appointments for tomorrow, at the end of the day we would check in and bring our dive gear.
After a nice shower and with cooler clothing we went exploring Puerto Ayura. Our hotel is 2 blocks from the sea and as soon as we arrived at the sea we saw our first pelicans, blue footed boobies and some sea lions. Strange enough you hardly have any hotels located at the sea, even no restaurants. Zeeleguaan 20090125 IMG_5677.jpgSo we went first for a small hike, admired the first marine iguanas before having lunch. After lunch we went to the Darwin centre at the border of Puerto Ayura. Along the road we saw one lizard after another, also many marine iguanas. At the Darwin centre we could admire some tens of giant tortoises of several islands, also some breeding projects with tens of baby tortoises. You could see very well the difference between the subspecies of the different islands. Indeed the shells of the tortoises of the drier islands had 'saddleback' shells, elevated above their longer necks than the tortoises we saw earlier this day at the greener Santa Cruz. Some were really giant, with shells over a meter. And when you saw their giant legs! So photographing time.

January 9th, 10th, 11th, 2009
Zeeleeuw 20090117 IMG_5209.jpgWe always had to be at 7.00 AM at dive centre, there we got a short briefing and went to the harbour, to our boat. We had a boat with space for maximum 8 divers. We were divided every time into 2 groups, each with an own dive guide (obliged at the Galapagos).
The first day we were diving at Santa Fe, an island one hour away from Santa Cruz. An inhabited, dry island with many rock walls with on top cactuses. First we dove at Punta. Before we entered the water we saw already several sea lions, but as soon20090113 IMG_0973.jpg as we entered the water, they were gone. Just one passed by during our dive. This dive spot existed mainly out of many big rocks and a sandy bottom full with big sea stars. We saw many eagle rays, stingrays and many large schools of fish. Especially the schools with the yellow tailed surgeonfish grazing between the rocks were great to see. At the end of the dive a large school of barracudas circled around us. The water was a little chilly and we had already our first thermo clines, then the water is really cold, every time just for a few minutes. As soon as we were on board we saw again tens of sea lions in the water and20090112 IMG_0886.jpg at the shore. A little further away at a small bay, we had enough time to snorkel with the sea lions. Really great, you could get so close by, some, especially the females are quite curious and playful and swim around you. You also saw several females with young ones. Of course also some big males. You could snorkel here for hours, so much to see. As you had to snorkel with your 7mm wetsuit and we had no weight belt, your are really floating. So while Han was filming, he came a little too close to some females with young ones, at least a big male thought so. BlauwvoetJanVanGent 20090114 IMG_4989.jpgHe came to Han to warn him, but Han did not see him. Then the male though let me pull to his fin as a warning. So now it was obvious Han had to move a little away. But no real aggression.
At the rocks you saw also several marine iguanas, blue footed boobies and some hawks.
The 2nd dive was at Archo, a similar surrounding. We saw a young silvertip shark, about a meter in length. Here you saw really many stingrays, many were quite big, bigger as usual. Also many eagle rays. 20090109 IMG_0583.jpgAbout a half hour we were accompanied by 2 trunk fishes, nice how close they swam next to us, than behind Han's fins, than behind mine or just a meter next to us. No luck in seeing sharks, except for the silvertip in the beginning, but tomorrow another day with new chances. Diving here is quite exciting, you never know what you will see, you look every time in to the blue, in case sharks or other big fish pass by. Like the many eagle rays you see in to the blue, however the stingrays you always find on the sandy bottom. Also now many large schools of fish.
20090112 IMG_0807.jpgThe second day we were diving at Floreana, an island about 1,5 hour by boat from Santa Cruz. Our first dive was at Punta Comaran, again many rays, the stingray, they are here really big, about 1,5 to 2 meter, also many eagle rays and mantas. Also many porcupine fishes, trunk fishes and puffer fishes. We also saw 2 sea lions under water, but they are quite fast, within a few seconds they are gone, although they pass by several times. We also saw our first Galapagos sharks, what a beauties! At the end of the dive there was a huge school of barracuda's circling around us. Also now, between the dives, we had the time to snorkel with the sea lions. 20090110 IMG_0664.jpgVery special.
Our 2nd dive was at Endersby, a small island next to Floreana. You hardly could see anything, due to the many fishes, unbelievable how many fishes. Sometimes it got almost completely black of all the fishes, you were completely surrounded by thousands and thousands of fishes, or if you swim next to the school, they formed dense walls, you could not see through. Han was just swimming behind me, but sometimes in no time you lost each other. So a little later you went up for a few meters to see if you can see somewhere some bubbles to get an idea where the other is, if you still can trace bubbles ;-). 20090111 IMG_0725.jpgWe say many different schools of fish, one school even larger than the other. Again many rays, many sea lions and Galapagos sharks. The sharks remained quite close to the surface. Deeper at the bottom we saw a Galapagos horn shark, this is a real beauty, we had never seen a similar shark, this one we would love to see more.
Our third diving day was at Gordon Rocks, a few rocky islands east of Santa Cruz. At both dives we saw several hammerheads, the first time a group of 14-15, who passed by twice and several times we saw a few hammerheads. We clinged to some rocks at the corner of one of the islands for quite some time, 20090114 IMG_1133.jpgas there was a strong current. Also several Galapagos sharks passed by, many white tip sharks, mantas, eagle rays and stingrays. Half way the dives we went to a spot with less current and let us drift away. Here we saw many playful sea lions, who kept on returning to play with us.
From Gordon Rocks we went to the Itabaca Channel, where our boat lied at anchor. The next few days we'll dive north of Santa Cruz, if you leave from here in stead of Puerto Ayora, it's just 45 minutes by car, by boat it's more than 2 hours.

Schildpad 20090111 IMG_4907.jpgHalf way back to Puerto Ayora, we were dropped at a farm at the border of a National Park with many giant tortoises. Already at the first meadow we saw several tortoises. It looked a little unreal as if they were kept at a meadow. In the midst of the last century many farmers had laid out meadows for their cattle, these grasslands were quite attractive for the tortoises, this grass was much juicier and more tasteful as the original grass of the island. Schildpad 20090111 P1100680.jpgFarmers had killed many tortoises as they ate all the grass in front of their cattle. But as the Galapagos islands have since 50 years a protected status, the farmers were no longer allowed to kill the tortoises. Now some farmers earn a bit of pocket money from the tortoises. At meadows along the National Park the fences got removed or just the lowest rows of barbed wire, so the tortoises can walk in and out freely. This farmed had a covered area were tourist could buy some drinks and souvenirs. Regularly tour buses pass by, they have to pay a certain amount and the tourist can walk for a while around.Schildpad 20090109 IMG_4827.jpg Fortunately it was not busy, only one little tourist bus, but we escaped soon from  these tourists. An hour later we would be picked up by a small group with whom we would return to Puerto Ayora.

The tortoises here are really big, males have a shield of more than one meter. The females are a little smaller. They can get about 150 years old. The first 50 years they grow quite fast, than much slower until the end of their lives. They can eat up to 8 kilos of grass per day, but if necessary they also can live a Schildpad 20090112 IMG_4941.jpgyear without food. In the winter season you find the adult tortoises mostly here in the highlands, as the summer season with their many rain showers starts, it gets here quite muddy, then the tortoises leave for the lowlands. At the lowlands the females lay their eggs, mostly once per 2-3 years. The young tortoises often stay the first tens of years in the lowlands.
Due to the high temperatures, the tortoises look for cooling in shallow ponds or lagoons. They keep floating. The theory about how they got here, is that they originate for the Seychelles, in one way or another they ended up into the sea (it sometimes happens here as well during the heavy rainfalls of El Niño) and the currents brought them to the Galapagos Islands.
After we got picked up, we visited with a guide and 4 tourists an old lava tube. About a km long, at some places about 30m high, but at the end the tube was collapsed and we had to crawl at our elbows several meters, but than we could walk further. After the lave tube we visited 2 ancient magma chambers laying next to one other. They were completely overgrown with trees. Along the side the trees were overgrown with moss, some also with epiphytes and small orchids. We even found a tree with many bromeliads. Always when we see trees with bromeliads we have the tendency to look for frogs, but here we did not have to look, you don't find frogs at these islands.
January 12,13,14 and 15,  2009
Our 4th diving day was at Beagle. Here a giant manta was circling for over 20 minutes just above us. Also several large schools of barracudas circling around us. Of course again many sea lions, white tip sharks and a huge black tip.
The following day we were diving at North Seymour, here you have a sandy bottom full with sea eels everywhere were you can look. Both times we saw a large school of hammerheads and many white tips. At our first dive we saw the white tips resting at the sandy bottom, at our second dive we visited 'shark city', here you saw about 30 white tips circling around above the rocks in shallow water, less than 10 meters deep. Again many playful sea lions who kept circling around us. If you looked after a little while to something else, they just swam in front of our face, to claim our attention again.20090113 IMG_1079.jpg

At our 6th diving day we went to Cousins Rock, one of the few diving spots with many corals. We are getting spoiled to dive almost every time with several playful sea lions. You never have a dull moment. Our 2nd dive was planned at Barthelome, here you can find some penguins if you are lucky. But unfortunately the night before a boat had sunk just in front of the island, you could smell the fuel already from far-of, soon we saw already the oil floating at water. Our guide said, that with all this oil probably the most big fish would be gone temporarily. We still could dive here but he said we also can go back to North Seymour. An easy choice. Now we saw a school of about 25 eagle rays, they passed by very slowly, as there was a little current we just let us float a few meters above the school. There were 2 giant eagle rays, several normal ones and many smaller ones. Really great to swim with them for about 15 minutes. Again several hammerheads.
At our last diving day we went first to Mosquera, a tiny island between Baltra and North 20090113 IMG_1081.jpgSeymour. Again a large school of hammerheads. We sat for a while next to a cleaning station where 2 big black tips let themselves cleaned up. We saw also some golden cow nose rays. Our last dive was again at North Seymour, we went again to 'shark city'. Now also hammerheads were swimming between the white tips in these shallow waters, some just passed one meter above us, really great! We were sitting quietly between the rocks.
We also saw some dolphins and cow nose rays.
January 16th, 2009
BlauwvoetJanVanGent 20090116 IMG_5050.jpgAs we missed two days ago the penguins at Bartelome, we had booked for today an excursion to Bartelome. At this excursion you had the possibility to snorkel with penguins. As the rest of the boat, we had a boat with place for 16 tourists, went ashore to climb the highest mountain of Bartelome, from where you would have a great view over Bartelome and Santiago. We waited for the Zodiac to return. The boatman who brought the others ashore, would take us for a little trip along the rocky coast. APinguin 20090116 IMG_5060.jpgt the mountain you would hardly spot any animal. Along the coast you can see many marine iguanas, lizards, sea lions, all kind of birds etc. The blue footed booby is my favourite, these birds are real beauties, great to see them hunting fish, like rockets they dive into the water. And we saw our first penguin, unfortunately just one. Then we went ashore at a small sandy beach, here we could snorkel, we hoped to see here more penguins. But no, unfortunately no penguins. Snorkelling here was nothing special, just a few fishes. Pinguin 20090116 IMG_5083.jpgWe had been at so many spots full with fish, but we saw some marine iguanas swimming. Great to watch them, there were quite some waves, the waves pounded at the rocks, so for some of them it was quite difficult to get climb out of the water. Also we had to be careful not to be pushed against the rocks.
When we returned to the boat we saw a second penguin, but the rest of the boat had not seen a penguin. So we can say, we were lucky to have seen two of them.
January 17th, 2009
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Today we went on excursion to Plaza. You have North and South Plaza, only at South Plaza you can go ashore. From far-away you could already hear the sea lions, you find here a large colony. The most adult ones were into the water but you had here several kindergarten for the young ones. Between the rocks were shallow water full with young sea lions. We found the adult ones during diving already very playful, but if you see those little ones!

We just came ashore and we saw already the first iguanas, about 10 iguanas were quarrelling for a piece of cactus. What a big yellow beauties you could see! You could get so close, they did not move away when you passed by, sometimes you even had to step over them. Under almost all the big cactus trees you could find them. Sometimes you saw one climbing into the cactus tree to get a cactus leaf. Plaza is a rock island with many cactuses and succulents.
Those succulents formed whole coloured fields, from yellow to deep red. Also between those plants you found iguanas. At the other side of the island, this side was much higher, a rock wall of about 50 meters. Here you found many marine iguanas. Unfortunately you only have little time for 'land visits', after 2 hours we had to get to boat. We could have stayed here for hours, there was so much to see.

January 18th, 2009 - Sky Dancer
Overige 20090119 P1110314.jpgToday we flew with a tiny plane to San Christobal (just with 4 man on board, the pilot, a local, and us) to embark the Sky Dancer. Yesterday afternoon the Sky Dancer was at Puerto Ayora, our diving enter had contacted Sky Dancer if our diving gear could get already on board. Those tiny planes are very strict with weights, even the weight of your hand luggage counts. So this was quite comfortable. As we came on board it turned that the group existed out of 11 French who were diving together for many years, two friends from Malaysia and 20090109 IMG_0534.jpgSingapore (originally French and American) the two of us and 12 crewmembers. After an extensive lunch and a complete briefing about all 'to do and not to do' on board, we had a check dive at Isla Lobo. Luckily there were many sea lions here, otherwise you would not have seen anything as we had a visibility of just a few meters. As sea lions are so curious they came within the visibility range. Tonight our boat will sail along Santa Cruz, where we will have tomorrow morning our first dive at North Seymour.
January 19th, 2009
Unfortunately there are problems with the motor. When we woke up, our boat went already a bit slower than the night before, but we did not really notice something. Just that our dive was almost 2 hours later than planned.
We dove at our already well-known dive spot 'shark city'. One sea lion got really so interested in us, she stayed almost the whole dive with us. Back on board, we went to Baltra, here our boat had to fuel up, as it has the only dieseloil station of the Galapagos. This would take 1,5 hours, than we would sail to Cousins for our 2nd dive, snorkelling at Bartoleme with the penguins and than sailing all night through to arrive tomorrow morning at Wolf.
They told us everything took a little longer as planned as they had some problems with the Fergatvogel 20090117 IMG_5204.jpgengine., but during fuelling they could fix it. But after fuelling we heard nothing, we stay there longer and longer. As we knew the surroundings already a little, we knew it was at least 1,5 hour sailing to Cousins and as it was already 3 PM, we started to worry if we still could dive at Cousins. Some tried to inform what was going on, but we received no information. A little later we heard 'a change of plans', they needed a little more time for the engine. Diving at Cousins was not possible anymore, Fergatvogel 20090119 P1110395.jpgbut we could go ashore at North Seymour for a land excursion. Han stayed on board. Two days ago at Plaza the soles of his shoes let loose and had to be glued, so he went on slippers to eat. As the pavements here are not that flat as we are used, he stumbled and got a big cut in his big toe. Yesterday it was already very painful to get into his shoes and to walk now for a while, no. He preferred to let his toe heal, to have less pain with diving.
At North Seymour you have some colonies of frigate birds and blue footed boobies, some of them are nesting all year around. So we saw many nests of the frigatebirds, we also saw their courtship behaviour. Great to see the male impress a female, what a splendid inflated red gular pouch, lifting his head completely backwards and emitting a shrill trill. And what an acrobatic display!

We saw also blue footed boobies with young ones. Also here you saw big yellow land iguanas, but not the numbers as on Plaza. One of them was aiming at a young blue footed booby, mom had to chase him several times before he gave up. At the coast some swallow-tailed gulls were nesting. Here an iguana tried to plunder eggs, but mom and dad were able to chase him away.
Back on board we were told that the repairs still would take some time, but within 15 minutes we could have a dive at Mosquera. It was a late dive, the sun was almost set. But therefore we saw several spawning fishes. Again a big school of hammerheads, eagle rays, stingrays, white tips and sea lions.20090114 IMG_1194.jpg Back on board they didn't tell us anything, but as the boat started to sail into the direction of the Itabaca Channel, I knew 'problems'. I went to our dive guide and told him, I see we are sailing into the wrong direction, we are heading for the Itabaca Channel, he was not amused that I recognized the direction. He told us they are still working on the engine, but he was convinced that tonight everything would be all right.
An hour later the captain came and told us that the program for tomorrow would be different. They had to wait for a spare part, this was ordered and would be delivered tomorrow morning. We could visit tomorrow Puerto Ayora and our dive guide would pick up the spare part. Instead of today we would leave tomorrow afternoon to Darwin and Wolf, but for sure we would have our 3 diving days at Darwin and Wolf. 
Hopefully tomorrow everything will be fixed.
January 20th, 2009
Hagedis 20090108 IMG_4716.jpgHan stayed at board, but as I'm still not used to the swaying of the boat and I'm the most of the time a little seasick I decided to got ashore, I know already the giant tortoise farm, the Darwin center and Puerto Ayora, but that is better that staying on board. In the afternoon we got back with the spare part for the engine and 2 hours later the engine was fixed and we could leave for Wolf. When things go right, we'll arrive around 10 AM at Wolf.
January 21st, 2009
We missed the first morning dive as we arrived around noon at Wolf, but we were still able to make 3 dives. This was were we came for, hammerheads, hammerheads and once more hammerheads.  
As there was quite some current we first hold on the rocks. Twice a huge school of hammerheads passed by slowly against the current. We also stayed for a while at a cleaning station for Galapagos sharks, about 20 sharks were circling around and got themselves cleaned. You also see several dolphins and giant schools of all kind of reef fishes, tuna, jacks, mackerel etc. Sometimes they formed a complete black wall.
January 22nd,  2009
We made 4 dives at Darwin, again huge numbers of hammerheads. Han counted one school of at least 80 hammerheads. Every dive is happy hour. First holding on the rocks to see what is passing by and than a drift dive. Here you even have more fish than at Wolf, much more mantas and Galapagos sharks. Really great diving. When we came on board after our 2nd dive a baby whale shark was swimming behind our boat. Warm water of our boat pours just above sea level into the water and he opened the whole time his mouth to drink the warm water.  20090111 IMG_0789.jpgWhile it was a baby shark, not even 3 meters tall, mom must be somewhere around. We hoped to see her at the next dive. We dive in 2 groups, the other group saw mom at the 4th dive, we were not that lucky. But maybe tomorrow. During the right season you can spot here between 10 to 20 whale sharks each dive. You also see here many sea turtles, they are here less shy as at the other dive spots we have been. Some are even quite curious and are coming to you. We saw also several turtles mating.
20090111 IMG_0743.jpgThe plan was to make tomorrow morning 2 other dives at Darwin and in the afternoon 2 at Wolf, however tonight our dive guide told us, we are not going to make it, we only can do 1 dive at Wolf. We all together said, can we plan our first dive an hour earlier, we want to have 2 dives at Wolf, we already missed our first dive at Wolf as well. After talking for over an hour, the captain also had to come, it was decided to dive half an hour earlier, probably we than would make it to have a 2nd dive at Wolf.
January 23rd, 2009
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This morning we made our last 2 dives at Darwin, unfortunately we did not see the whale sharks but therefore again many hammerheads, Galapagos sharks and mantas. In the late afternoon we arrived at Wolf. We only would make one dive, we got all quite fed up, the captain noticed. They told us they had done everything to be here in time, but it looks like the boat still does not sail at full speed. They made excuses like strong current etc. But at the moment there is no real strong current. They make this trip every week, year in, year out, they know how long it takes to get somewhere, 20090114 IMG_1135.jpgeverything is scheduled, every night they tell us the plan of the next day, when and how late we dive where, and every day times change. As we were so fed up the captain decided we still could make a 2nd dive at Wolf, a late dive, twilight already started, many spawning fish and the hammerheads and Galapagos sharks always keep passing by. 
Tonight our boat will sail to Isabella, here we will make 2 morning dives and in the afternoon a land excursion at Santiago.

January 24th, 2009
20090112 IMG_0848.jpgThe atmosphere on board gets more and more grim. We arrived at the end of the morning at Isabella. The captain told us we had a strong reverse current, we only could make one dive. We were not able to visit Santiago otherwise we would not be in time at the harbour tomorrow morning and everybody would fly home tomorrow around noon. 
But as we got into the Zodiacs, we floated with the current, how so reverse current? The boat does not go at full speed.
Back on board they told us, it is still 5-6 hours to Santiago, we will not arrive before dark. Now we all were really pissed off, we paid for a very expensive cruise, than it takes 2 days to repair the engine20090113 IMG_1089.jpg. This is bad maintenance, why not a spare engine on board? We missed in the beginning a dive at Cousins, snorkelling at Bartelome, a dive a Wolf. Mostly the afternoon dive is too late, when the sun already has gone, due to a too low capacity of the compressor. We always had to wait a while before all the tanks were filled up, the Nitrox compressor already broke down at the first day. And now we were sailing directly to San Cristobal? We missed a dive at Isabella and the original 2 dives at Gordon Rocks on the way back to San Cristobal were already skipped. So reasons enough to be pissed off and to complain. We are all going to hand in a complaint. 
And than all of a sudden a call, make yourselves ready for the land excursion at Santiago.  With 3,5 hours we had arrived at Santiago. Probably due to our grumbling the captain had decided to go full speed so that we could have our land excursion. And what kind of excursion! 
So many marine iguanas, you stumbled on them, giant colonies of sea lions, fur seals, so much interaction. A fierce, barren landscape full with lava formations. Unfortunately the sky got really dark, we were just ashore as the rain poured down. Zeeleguaan 20090117 IMG_5363.jpgNo problem for the marine iguanas, sea lions and fur seals, also not really for us, only for taking good pictures, the sky almost got black. But nevertheless, it was a great excursion, completely soaked we went 3 hours later on board. We were the captain grateful that we were able to visit Santiago, but we still would hand in our complaint.
At diner our dive guide told us we probably would not arrive at San Cristobal before noon, they would try to transfer our flight to the afternoon flight.

January 25th, 2009Overzicht 20090116 P1100856.jpg
Before we went to bed we had the feeling it looks like the boat goes now at full speed. And indeed we arrived the following morning at schedule at San Christobal, just around 8 AM. Why the boat could sail now at full speed and the rest of the cruise not? We felt screwed, now there was a deadline to be in time at the harbour for the next trip and the boat could sail at full speed.
Although we had made only 1Overzicht 20090122 P1110491.jpg4 dives in stead of the 20 dives scheduled, we had really great, great dives at Darwin and Wolf. But it was not the 'Walhalla' we had expected. Before they had told us, diving around Santa Cruz is nice, but not special. But we had already really great dives around Santa Cruz so we had expected really surpassing dives at Darwin and Wolf. It were really great dives, but we had expected a little more. We knew the whale shark season had passed, but we had hoped Cactus 20090117 IMG_5291.jpgto see other whales, marlins and if we were lucky to see orca's, at least from the boat. We also saw no moa moa, while it was the moa moa season. But nevertheless, despite the missing big game fish, diving at the Galapagos is perfect, despite of the bad luck on board, the Galapagos has to offer so much, we saw so many special and great things, as well on land as under water. We had a really great and an unforgettable holiday. The Galapagos islands are really a dream destionation, for sure we'll come back one time. Then we take some more time for land excursion, several islands we haven't visited yet.

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