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Galapagos Aggressor trip report - October 2018

Discussion in 'South America' started by AngryMoth, Nov 23, 2018.

  1. AngryMoth

    AngryMoth Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: UK
    21
    31
    13
    A thread I posted with my video from this trip just got bumped and made me think I ought to write a full trip report because there were a few dives that I’d really like to describe, and also there’s some bits and pieces of information I picked up that I haven’t seen anywhere else online and may of interest to people.

    I'll go over the non diving stuff quickly first. I flew with Air Europa who I can’t say I’d recommend. I’ve had better leg room on 1 hour domestic flights and this was 11 hours from Madrid to Guayaquil, but can’t complain too much because they were cheap and on time. Stayed in a budget place near the airport for one night before heading straight to the Galapagos. I’d really love to have spent some time in Ecuador and doing land based activities on the islands but I’d already blown through my holiday budget this year on other trips, so money and time meant I was pretty much just there for the liveaboard. In fact, the only reason I did this one was because it was my dream destination and I got a once in a lifetime last minute deal that was too good to pass up. It was one of the best weeks of my life so no regrets!

    On the topic of the boat, I must preface everything by mentioning that I did come across this thread after I came back from the trip and based on what I read there and the fact that it seems there was never any action taken I can’t recommend this Aggressor over the other boats in good conscience.

    That aside, my own experience was perfectly satisfactory. I’ve done a few other liveaboards in the Red Sea and Indonesia and by comparison I’d say the level of luxury was definitely a step up but the service wasn’t quite as good, and that isn’t to say the service was bad, they just didn't really go the extra mile like I've experience in those other places. The crew is very experienced which is a selling point because apparently there’s a lot of new crew on the other boats, and the 2 dive guides were very knowledgeable and good at their jobs. Half of the guest spaces were filled by a Russian group who got into a few tense altercations with the crew and I thought they handled very professionally what were some rather awkward customers…
     
    drrich2 and Dogbowl like this.
  2. AngryMoth

    AngryMoth Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: UK
    21
    31
    13
    So on to the diving! As an all round package it’s hard for me to imagine there is a better place in the world. The volume and diversity of rare animal encounters is just incredible and I had possibly the top 3 dives of my life all in this one week.

    The best one for me was our final dive at Wolf island. You see hammerheads on every dive at Darwin and Wolf but I had felt a tad disappointed not to have glimpsed the famous shark wall we’ve all seen and heard about (I’ll go into this more later). But on this dive we were really seeing a lot of sharks, maybe 50 in a single view. As it’s getting towards the end of the dive our guide leads us to let go of the rocks and we begin drifting in the current, as usual. I swim out slightly away from the reef and suddenly realise there are just more and more sharks appearing, now at least 100 swimming around us and it really is just like the photos I’d seen. That was a euphoric moment but it wasn’t over yet. As we were ascending we could hear the calls of a pod of dolphins that had been pushing the sharks so close to the reef. I turned around to see 4 swimming behind my buddy. I pointed frantically to try get him to look but he was oblivious so I just finned for them as hard as I could and before I knew it they were all dancing around me.

    Surprise runner up to that one would be the iguana dive since it was so unique and exciting. It’s a little bit hectic because most of the time you’re at 2-3 meters with a decent amount of surge so you’ve got to keep your wits about you. We didn’t see anything for the first 5 minutes and were wondering if they were going to turn up since we only had half an hour to do that dive, but then we saw the first one swimming on the surface and after that it was non-stop action. The iguanas don’t mind humans at all so you can get as close as you like and they are incredibly beautiful and captivating creatures watch. But not only that, we also had penguins, flightless cormorants, seal lions and fur seals darting around us for the entire time.

    The other very memorable dive was another at wolf which was my first time seeing a whale shark. It kind of snuck up on us if you can believe that possible. We were all lying on the rocks watching the hammerhead show when suddenly we hear our guide banging frantically and look up to see there is a huge behemoth passing a just few meters above our heads. We estimated it was roughly 12m which was the biggest one we saw the whole week and to be in the presence of such an enormous yet graceful animal for the first was a massive adrenaline rush.

    I’ll give a tip quickly for filming the sharks since I believe I had the best encounters in the group, with a few occasions when one practically bumped into my camera lens. Most of them are very shy, especially the hammerheads, and so you need to stick very close to the rocks and avoid making bubbles if possible when they are close. I quickly realised though that while I can control my own bubbles I couldn’t do anything about the other 7 diver with me so I started positioning myself about 10 meters down current from the main group and this proved very effective. Being down current I felt perfectly safe because if the guide decided to switch locations or begin drifting I would see him going past as it’s impossible to go the other way, and the animals generally swim into the current so I had a chance to see them before they got spooked by the large group.

    We were a very lucky group both in terms of what we saw and the conditions we had. Dolphins, penguins, mola mola, flightless cormorants and schooling mobulas are not guarantees and we saw them all. In fact the only thing we had a decent chance to see and didn’t was schooling eagle rays, although there were plenty of individuals around. We were also blessed with better than average visibility, what more could you ask for!
     
  3. AngryMoth

    AngryMoth Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: UK
    21
    31
    13
    Unfortunately I want to end on 2 concerning points. The first is the water temperatures we experienced. We were told to prepare for 23/24 celsius in Darwin and Wolf, and instead got 26/27, and as low as 17 in the western islands but saw nothing lower than 23. I’ve just checked the captains logs on the Aggressor website and it seems that these significantly above average temperatures have been persisting since my trip. I’m no climatologist so I have no idea if this could be the start of an el nino or something like that, but the guides were definitely concerned about the effects those conditions might have on the ecosystem. I know certain species like the iguanas and penguins are very vulnerable to these kind of events and have had their numbers decimated in the past at various points so fingers crossed the effects here won’t be too bad.

    And the other thing as I eluded to earlier is about the shark numbers. There was a story last year of a fishing boat that got caught inside the marine park with 6000 sharks on board. Now, I can only report report the anecdotal opinion of our lead dive guide, but this is a guy who’s been working there for 20 years and he told me he feels that the number of sharks is only about 40% of what it was a few years ago, which he attributed to fishing at the border of the marine park. Unlike the past it is no longer a sure thing that you will see them schooling in their hundreds as we were privileged enough to see on one dive. Small side note, I also asked our him about the common wisdom I’ve seen online that the January-June season yields better hammerhead sightings and he said that’s a myth and it’s all down to luck, make of that what you will.

    Anyway, the marine park is currently a 40 mile radius and supposedly there are talks of pushing that out to 100 miles which hopefully would help the situation if it goes through. I don’t know about the situation at Coco’s but I’ve heard similar things about fishing at Malpelo. It’s heartbreaking to think that the experience I had on this trip could potentially soon be a thing of the past.
     
    drrich2, Dogbowl and chillyinCanada like this.
  4. AngryMoth

    AngryMoth Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: UK
    21
    31
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    Here is my video from the trip for anyone that didn't see the other thread. I'm more than happy to answer any questions.

     
    J J, Nays, Trailboss123 and 4 others like this.
  5. Tippytoes12

    Tippytoes12 Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: UK
    875
    317
    63
    Wow , that’s a wonderful report, many thanks for sharing this and the fantastic video. Presumably you travelled by yourself and shared a cabin . Was that OK ?
     
  6. chillyinCanada

    chillyinCanada Solo Diver Staff Member

    7,092
    3,592
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    Awesome report! Thanks so much for sharing.
     
  7. BAMA6977

    BAMA6977 Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Gulf of Mexico
    68
    23
    8
    Thanks for the report. Great write up! I'm going in May 2019. Quick question, what did you use for proof of medical insurance coverage?
     
  8. AngryMoth

    AngryMoth Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: UK
    21
    31
    13
    Yeah. I go on liveaboards by myself because I don't know anyone that's too into diving and I've always had a great time, there's always been at least a few other solo travellers in my experiences. Thankfully I've never had a snorer in the shared cabin situation haha.
    All insurance and certification stuff was handled by entering numbers into an online form prior to arrival, no questions asked when we were actually there.
     
  9. Queequeg

    Queequeg Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Smithsburg, Md
    183
    3
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    Wow. Thank you for such a Great video and write up. Amazing!
     
  10. BAMA6977

    BAMA6977 Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Gulf of Mexico
    68
    23
    8
    Again thanks for great write up and video. Finally was quick enough to stop video for answer on how to enter water with camera rig. Old "Hug and Roll"!!
     

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