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My Research Notes from Planning Galapagos Trip

Discussion in 'South America' started by drrich2, Jan 29, 2020.

  1. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,144
    5,521
    113
    This research compilation is from planning my recent live-aboard trip aboard the Humboldt Explorer. I drew on others' trip reports and articles about the Galapagos and 'competitor' destinations. Thanks to all who post online making such resources available to others. I hope these notes help jumpstart others' trip research. I posted plenty of photos in my trip report; here I'll avoid that and keep things more concise.

    Galapagos Research Notes

    -----For big animal encounters in the Americas several destinations come to mind; the Socorros, Cocos Island, Malpelo, North Carolina (sand tiger sharks), Tiger Beach (in the Bahamas – lemon and tiger sharks), seasonal cage-diving with great whites at Guadalupe, Jupiter in Florida (goliath grouper or lemon sharks – seasonal, or with shark-feeding dives a range of shark species (e.g.: tiger, hammerhead, bull, lemon, silky)) and…the famous Galapagos Islands, near the equator, owned by the South American nation of Ecuador. It’s not for beginners – Explorer Venture’s literature recommends divers have > 100 dives experience. For some dives they issue locators. But it’s got variety, scientific impact on our views on natural history, and it’s a household name.

    -----The Galapagos region (especially by live-aboard, allowing diving at Wolf and Darwin Islands) is known for big animals underwater (varied by season and region – potentially dolphins, sea lions, mantas, mola mola, whale sharks, Galapagos sharks, hammerheads), and an array of creatures topside – giant tortoises, marine iguanas and even penguins! At the cost of variably cold-water current diving with limited viz. where some sites often involve holding onto rocks and watching adventure unfold around you. The best of Galapagos is by live-aboard, they’re more expensive than most Caribbean live-aboards, and it’s farther from the U.S…. you’ll likely spend over a week on your trip. Regulations and travel times limit dive count – for a 7-day Humboldt Explorer trip they estimate 18-19 dives (20 offered my trip, not 25 – 27 like some Caribbean live-aboards) – but likely a land excursion or two.

    -----I went January 2020. Undercurrent’s destination page indicated that’s a good time to go, and Explorer Ventures had a $700 off sale (Year of Savings discount) for the week of Jan. 13 – 20 with 10 open slots. Travel arrangements were complex – I needed to fly to 1 of 2 optional cities in Ecuador, overnight, fly to San Cristobal (the island Humboldt Explorer operates out of), give my luggage time to catch up if misplaced, then fly home. So I used a travel agent. OutofOfficeBRB and Trailboss123 on Scuba Board praised Blue Water Travel, and I used them. I’ve been impressed with Galapagos Scuba Board thread contributions by Dom@DiveAdvice (with Dive Advice Travel, a dive travel agency with teams in France and California that’s chartered a lot of Galapagos trips) and DiveTheGalapagos (with the Calipso live-aboard).

    -----Note on costs: I don’t like paying list price for live-aboards. Periodically Aggressor Fleet had sales > 30% off near fleet wide, and Explorer Ventures had intermittent special offers. On Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28th, E.V. put out word of their upcoming Cyber Monday specials for trips booked 8 a.m. Monday 12-2-19 to Tuesday 12-3-19 11:59 p.m. A ‘normal’ week on the Humboldt Explorer was priced at $5,395; my $700 sale week was $4,695. For 2 weeks – Jan. 6th (yeah, the week before mine) and March 2nd they offered $2,000 off, $3,395!!! These prices remained in effect for weeks, with openings.

    -----A little checking on recent sales showed Oct. 14th, 2019, Divebooker.com posted a 50% sale the week of Dec. 5 – 12, 2019, book by Oct. 31st, aboard Galapagos Aggressor III, bringing the price down to $3,298. Blue Water Travel’s site listed that price $3,395, but PADI Travel gave it as $5,395! Buyer beware!

    -----Consider trip insurance. I finally caved in to uncertainty and the dread of snow and ice costing me $6,400, so I logged on and bought the DAN Basic Plan for $255.12.
     

    Attached Files:

  2. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,144
    5,521
    113
    Show Me The Money

    -----A note about costs…some boats were mentioned often in online reviews and postings. Here’re a few listings at what I judge to be ‘typical’ Jan. 2020 prices. To these expect to add national park fee, perhaps a fuel surcharge, crew tips, a night or two’s hotel cost and airfare, nitrox if desired. Dive insurance is apt to be required (hope you’ve got DAN, etc…). Dom@DiveAdvice in Aug. 2019 noted the Galapagos AQUA is a good option, particularly for the more budget conscious. Different live-aboards feature different itineraries, as you may want to spend more time at Wolf and Darwin vs. elsewhere for marine iguanas and mola molas.

    1.) Humboldt Explorer 8D/7N trip - $5,395 (Monday to Monday, operates out of San Cristobal Island). Up to 16 guests.
    2.) Galapagos Sky 8D/7N trip - $6,395 (Sunday to Sunday, operates out of San Cristobal Island). Up to 16 guests.
    3.) Galapagos Aggressor III 8D/7N trip - $6,595 (Thursday to Thursday, operates out of Baltra Island). Up to 16 guests.

    -----The Galapagos live-aboard industry relies on tips as part of crew income. See the mid.-2019 thread Tipping Guideline for Galapagos Liveaboards for in-depth discussion.

    -----And there are add-on fees. You pay $20 for a Tourist Card (I got at the Guayaquil airport), and upon entry to the Galapagos Islands, you need pay in cash $100 for the Galapagos National Park fee (Aggressor Fleet’s website said keep your receipt). Somewhere I saw mention of a required $35 Chamber Support Fee (don’t recall paying it my trip?), and the Humboldt Explorer currently charges a $150 fuel surcharge. At the end of your trip, pay your bill in cash to avoid the 12% VAT + 5% bank fees applied to credit cards (in Santa Cruz we had an ATM outside a bank; $200/withdrawal max. + $3 bank fee, $600/day max).

    Travel Logistics & Restrictions

    -----You need to fly to 1 of 2 airport/cities in Ecuador, on to the island your boat operates out of, deal with time-consuming formalities (e.g.: get through Immigration, pay for tourist card & SICGAL, and the national park fee), restrictive baggage constraints and some fees require payment in cash. Explorer Ventures notes the flight from Galapagos is often delayed.

    -----Baggage Restrictions: Explorer Ventures notes you are allowed 1 or 2 checked bags, but the total weight of the two must not exceed 23 kg (~ 50 lbs.) and one carry-on bag up to 8 kg (~ 17 lbs.) and one personal item; overweight luggage is billed at $2 per kg (roughly 2.2 lbs.). Given the dive conditions and need for exposure protection, a lot of divers bring their full set of gear – which can eat up the 50 lbs. allowance fast. Explorer Ventures also notes Ecuadoran airlines strictly enforce the overweight luggage charges.

    -----Per Aggressor Fleet’s Galapagos Aggressor III Know Before You Go Page, Avianca Airlines has new baggage regulations – passengers with dive equipment are allowed 1 checked bag up to 72 lbs., those without dive equipment up to 50 lbs.; the total length, width and height of each bag mustn’t exceed 62 inches. A carry on is limited to 22 lbs. with max. height 22 inches, length 14 inches and width 10 inches or sum not over 45 inches (including wheels and handles). My round-trip flights all showed American Airlines; my travel agent told me the AA flights were operated by LATAM and my baggage allowance one bag of 50 lbs. I imagine most American travelers would still not exceed 50 lbs. for a bag due to the America-to/from-Ecuador flight restrictions and penalties, but good to know…if you use Avianca.

    -----In New regulation to enter Ecuador as of May 1, 2018 (date’s got pushed back to June 22nd, 2018), DiveTheGalapagos notified us we’ll be required to have medical insurance to cover us while in Ecuador, in addition to dive insurance, and Dom@DiveAdvice noted it looks like regular DAN or DIVE ASSURE insurance won’t be adequate – it’ll need to be a general travel medical insurance – any person entering Ecuador as a tourist must be able to present proof of public or private full coverage international health insurance for the duration of the stay. Also covered in Do I Need Health Insurance in Ecuador? What Residents & Travelers Need to Know (April 2018 article in Gringos Abroad). I asked my travel agent about it for my planned Jan. 2020 trip; on 12-10-19 he e-mailed I don’t need to show evidence of health insurance to enter the Galapagos Islands, that proposal was suspended, and here’s a link to the official statement (in Spanish).
     
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  3. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,144
    5,521
    113
    Ecuador

    Except as noted otherwise, info. for Ecuador, Quito, Guayaquil & the Galapagos Islands condensed from Wikipedia’s Ecuador page

    -----Ecuador is a west coast South American nation just south of Columbia (Peru borders east and south), and includes the Galapagos Islands (~ 563 miles west). Area 109,484 square miles (including Galapagos Islands). Estimated population 17.1 million (70% Mestizo, 7% Black & 7% White), predominantly Christian. The capital (and largest city) is Quito. The dominant language is Spanish but the currency is the United States dollar. Time Zone: UTC-5 / -6. They drive on the right side of the road. The government is a unitary presidential constitutional republic (a democracy) – but there’s been unrest (e.g.: Oct. 10, 2019 protesters overran Quito complaining of an end to fuel subsidies and austerity measures, and the government relocated to Guayaquil with plans to return to Quito). The economy is classified an upper-middle-income country.

    -----Classified a megadiverse country, Ecuador features a wide range of habitat (e.g.: coastal and inland, mountainous/highland areas, mountain valleys, Amazon jungle – with national parks and land set aside with Amerindian tribes living traditionally) and is subtropical/tropical except in the highlands.

    -----Ecuador’s population began as a variety of Amerindian groups then incorporated into the Incan Empire, then colonized by Spain, became independent, then a sovereign state in 1830. Slaves taken from Africa were not a large part of the labor force in the past, unlike some Caribbean islands.

    -----For travel to the Galapagos, you’ll fly into one of 2 cities; Quito or Guayaquil.

    Quito – Mariscal Sucre International Airport - Airport Code UIO. Quito is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site on a long plateau in the northern highlands, with a nearby active volcano. Due to the interaction of the equatorial setting with high altitude (9,250 feet), it has a fairly constant cool climate yet intense sunlight. Explorer Ventures notes scenic Quito is your best choice if you plan to do some topside touring in Ecuador, but the flight to the Galapagos stops in Guayaquil for passengers going and coming. Area - ~ 144 square miles, population > 1.9 million.

    Guayaquil – Jose’ Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport - Airport Code GYE. The 2nd largest city, and largest coastal city and main port, on the Guayas River, which flows to the ocean. Tropical savanna climate – hot and humid; part of the year heavy rainfall. Area ~ 133 square miles (city), population ~ 2.7 million city, > 3.1 million metro. At risk for earth quakes.

    The Galapagos Islands
    Galapagos_Islands_topographic_map-en.png
    Galapagos_Islands_topographic_map-de.svg: Eric Gaba (Sting - fr:Sting), translated by NordNordWest derivative work: MatthewStevens (talk) - Galapagos_Islands_topographic_map-de.svg CC BY-SA 3.0. File:Galapagos Islands topographic map-en.svg. Created: 2011-09-02 00:13

    -----An archipelago of 21 (18 major – land area at least 1 square km) volcanic islands (plus rocks and islets) split by the equator, 563 miles west of mainland Ecuador, spread out north (Darwin)-to-south (Espanola Island) 137 miles) with 9 active volcanos, a total area 3,040 square miles and population > 25,000. Isabella is the largest island at 2,250 square miles (nearly ¾ the total land area). Time Zone UTC-6 (an hour behind mainland Ecuador). Includes the Galapagos National Park (covers 97% of the land area of these islands) and Galapagos Marine Park. These ancient islands vary greatly in age and size. The Galapagos Islands were made famous by the work of Charles Darwin from the 2nd voyage of the HMS Beagle…and the huge Galapagos tortoises. For a menu offering individual descriptions of 20 of the islands, see the Galapagos Conservatory page.

    San Cristobal Island – (info. taken from the Galapagos Conservancy) the east-most island, with an area 215 square miles and population ~ 6,000. Has an airport, government offices, a fishing fleet, sea lion rookery, Navy facility, Galapagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS) and port town – Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (with restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops). Laguna El Junco is the largest freshwater lake of the archipelago, in a highland crater. Base for Humboldt Explorer, Galapagos Sky and Galapagos Master live-aboards.

    Baltra Island – (info. taken from the Galapagos Conservancy) a small (8 square mile area per Galapagos Conservancy), flat, very arid island with an airport and ferry service to much larger Santa Cruz Island just south. Base for Galapagos Aggressor III, Tiburon Explorer, Aqua and Nortada live-aboards.
     
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  4. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,144
    5,521
    113
    Diving the Galapagos Islands

    -----It’s cold-water diving, but that varies widely by site and season. There’s current and not much coral reef…you may spend some dives holding onto (perhaps barnacle-encrusted) rough, rocky bottom watching the action around you. The ‘work flow’ is much different than Caribbean live-aboards; you dive from an inflatable (i.e.: panga), and on return take off and hand up weights, BCD and fins before climbing back in. Clint Cora (cleung on Scuba Board) had an intense trip and recommended discussing contingency planning with the guides – as in what to do if current sweeps you away (which happened to him), and recommended using nitrox. I saw mention of negative entries for some dives. You’ll be wearing a full wetsuit and gloves (for abrasion protection holding onto rocks) and perhaps a hood (for warmth); be mindful hanging on stationary on the bottom you may get colder than you would actively finning around. I’ve read of dry suit diving being discouraged (e.g.: abrasive conditions, drag, air can go to your legs, currents), but some dive dry - read Is a drysuit overkill in the Galapagos?

    -----You can dive the Galapagos all year but what you see is seasonal (PADI Travel has a chart on this page) and regional (not all islands are good for all creatures). If you’re willing to brave colder water, you’ve got a better chance of seeing whale sharks. Blue Water Travel has a ‘Best Time To Dive’ section – noting 2 broad seasons, the whale shark season (June – November (colder, rougher seas – increase nutrient levels in the water, fish life much more active)) and manta season (Dec. – May (warmer, calmer seas – mantas and large schools of hammerheads)). They note June – Nov. is cooler, frequent mist, overcast days, slightly less viz. and water temp.s 60 – 75F, compared to Dec. – May warmer, common brief afternoon showers, tropical sun, water temp.s 70 – 86F (some thermoclines) – but northern islands colder.

    -----The Adventure Junkies notes from Jan. – June, overcast skies and daily showers typical, water temp.s 68 – 82F, vs. ‘dry season’ – water temp.s 61 – 73F. Aggressor Fleet’s Galapagos page claims June – Nov. water temp.s 60 – 75F, Dec. – May 70 – 86F (warmer, clearer water).

    -----Water temp.s vary widely by region! On an April 26 – May 3, 2018 trip, Scubadada reported at Cabo Douglas and Punta Vicente Roca the water temp. was in the 60s a low of 63, but at Wolf and Darwin it was 76 – 77, and in-between at other sites. In a May 2017 trip report discussion, Dom@DiveAdvice (Post #6) said Darwin and Wolf tend to be as much as 10 degrees warmer than in the south, but that’s also where you find the strongest currents (his description is worth reading!). In a Sept. 2017 thread, he noted (Post #8) from Dec. through May typically sea conditions are calmer, waters warmer and visibility can be good, but the most prolific pelagic action is from July through November (when cooler water, sea can get agitated, viz. can still be excellent).

    -----In Galapagos – best month to go for best of sea and land? – DiveTheGalapagos (Post #8 – he’s with Calipso Galapagos live-aboard) said the polar Humboldt current starts arriving in June with cooler water, lower viz., rougher seas and more nutrients that support increased life, hammerhead populations are good except from late Feb. – April (due to migration to Cocos), whale sharks (the majority huge pregnant females) typically begin arriving in June peaking Sept. and Oct. and usually gone by December. He said Punta Vicente Roca is the best bet for seeing mola molas but they’re sometimes seen at Punta Carrion. In Galapagos April 2018, Dom@DiveAdvice (Post #7) noted Dec. – May has been described as the Manta season, where it’s not unlikely to see huge schools of hammerheads but warm waters sometimes push them deeper, but for many photographers and experienced divers the favorite time is June through Nov., optimum months most years Aug., Sept. & Oct., when you should see everything in larger numbers, plus large whale sharks – at the cost of cooler water and overcast sky and morning drizzle.

    -----A key advantage for live-aboard scuba trips is the option to offer dives around Darwin and Wolf Islands, two remote uninhabited small islands (Darwin 0.9 and Wolf 1.1 square miles) about 12 miles apart, each the tip of a massive volcano, with nearby islet Darwin Arch. Wolf Island is ~ 100 miles NW of Isabela Island. (Note: Wolf & Darwin info. from Galapagos Conservancy).
     
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  5. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,144
    5,521
    113
    Trip Reports & Related

    -----My focus is helping people research Galapagos diving and compare and contrast it to competitor destinations. There are logistical differences. For a Galapagos trip, you fly to a city in Ecuador, then to one of 2 islands in the Galapagos. For a trip to Cocos Island, you board the live-aboard then travel 36 hours from Costa Rica. I’ve seen it claimed the Socorros entail a 20 - 26-hour transit and may be a cheaper trip overall, but can get crowded. Only 1 live-aboard currently serves Malpelo (holds 12 guests); moorish8idol noted it’s a 30 hour voyage to reach Malpelo (Post #2). Topside excursions are a draw for the Galapagos. You can do a land-based Galapagos trip (without Wolf and Darwin islands); these others are live-aboard only. In The Adventure Junkies article Liveaboard Diving Guide To The North Pacific (updated Oct. 31, 2018), their price range estimates (I think just the live-aboard cost) are Cocos Island - $4,500 to $6,000 (8-10 days), Socorros - $3,000 - $4,000 (8-10 days), Malpelo - $4,500 - $5,500 (11-14 days) and Galapagos - $3,500 - $6,000 (7-8 days). A Galapagos trip often entails an extra 2 to 3 days for air travel and advance arrival in case of baggage delays; I don’t know about the others. Some destinations have added charges – for Cocos that includes $490 park fee (10-day trips; $350 for 8-night trips) and you may face a fuel surcharge and ground transportation costs. For the Socorros, there’s a $78 Natural Park Fee.

    -----Jan. 1, 2020 I asked (Post #18) how these big animal destinations stacked up on terms of total trip cost. Dan reported from what he’s seen the cost order was Socorro<Malpelo<Cocos<Galapagos. Dom@DiveAdvice said Malpelo is by far the best value of the major big animal destinations; they could get a rate under $100/night at Intercontinental Cali where they transfer you to the Ferox live-aboard, nightly cost ~ $560/night vs. Galapagos with some boats twice that and Socorros similar at $500 - $600/night, Cocos $550 - $645/night, based on twin share.

    Galapagos

    -----1.) Humboldt Explorer Trip Report Jan. 13-20, 2020 – my trip report.
    -----2.) Trip Report: Galapagos Humboldt Explorer – April 8th – 15th, 2019 – by Nicolas Pottier.
    -----3.) Trip report in the Galapagos with Aquarius live-aboard – early Sept. 2019, by funscuba.
    -----4.) Galapagos Aggressor trip report – October 2018 – by AngryMoth. Galapagos Aggressor III.
    -----5.) Galapagos Aggressor III April 26 – May 3, 2018 – by scubadada.
    -----6.) Trip Report – Galapagos Aggressor III Live-aboard – May 2017 – by Lavalamp.
    -----7.) Trip Report: Galapagos Islands September 2017 – by Premo83, aboard Humboldt Explorer.
    -----8.) Galapagos Sky Review 21 – 28 Aug. 2016 – by judyo1. Note: Shiva1985 reported showing up for a Jan. 2016 trip and finding it cancelled – without notifying them! But it was a mistake somebody got fired over (see Post #8 in Galapagos April 2018).
    -----9.) Galapagos Master Feb. 2016 Review – by nudisusie.
    -----10.) Galapagos Diving & Humboldt Explorer Trip Report Aug. 30 – Sept. 8, 2010 – by tstorm. Older report remarkable for descriptive detail on a range of issues – rough seas, physical demands and issues with dry suit diving.
    -----11.) How is diving in Galapagos in December? – 2016 Thread discussion; Dan posted about his Dec. 2016 trip, Dec. 26 – Jan. 2nd aboard the Galapagos Master. He noted they did negative entries most of the time, to get down fast and avoid getting swept away by current.
    -----12.) What I Thought Of Scuba Diving In The Galapagos – Sept. 2019 thread by clueng, who did the Calipso live-aboard. He also wrote specific thread on My Review Of The Galapagos Live-aboard Calipso, and an online article What Scuba Diving In The Galapagos Is Like Plus Tips. He noted most dives his trip were around 72 to 78 feet max. depth and he thought all 16 guest divers dove nitrox all week.
    -----13.) Calipso – New Galapagos Live-aboard – Dec. 2018 thread by DiveTheGalapagos. Broader discussion about diving the region.
    -----14.) Galapagos: Where Bubbles Don’t Always Go Up – March 2019 Trip with Eco Dive Center and Bluewater Travel by Tim Yeo, who led 2 1-week back-to-back trips aboard Humboldt Explorer and had different experiences.
    -----15.) Questions – first time diving the Galapagos. 2018 Thread.
    -----16.) Galapagos without live-aboard: is it worth it? 2016 thread.
     
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  6. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,144
    5,521
    113
    Socorros

    -----1.) Socorro Live-aboard suggestions for May – Dec. 2019 discussion. Good info. to know about Solmar V, Rocio del Mar and more.
    -----2.) Socorro Islands Trip Report – November 25 to December 4, 2019 – by cpace aboard the Quino El Guardian. He found this boat a less expensive option, noted crossing times to/from the islands of 28/33 hours, 21 dives offered (3-4/day, no night dives), most water temp.s 79-81F (some dips down to 75F), but it was windy topside which can make people colder between dives. He summarized the diving as sporty with negative entry most dives, blue water, current and surge when close to seamounts/rocks.
    -----3.) My Week On The Socorro Aggressor – May 2019 report by mcohen1021. There was an advance, advice-seeking thread – Socorro Aggressor in April – where Dan posted a listing of average water and air temp.s and viz., by month, and a table showing wildlife by month.
    -----4.) Socorro 22-30, December 2018 Trip Report – by Dan. A 9-day trip on the Nautilus Undersea.
    -----5.) Socorro Live-aboard Recommendations? – May 2018 discussion.
    -----6.) Socorro around Christmas/New Years – conditions, etc… - Jan. 2017 discussion. In Post #3 seaturtle504 gave a trip report Dec. 27 – Jan. 4 aboard Rocio del Mar.
    -----7.) Best time to dive Socorro (Revillagigedo). What is November like? – July 2017 Discussion.
    -----8.) Socorro live-aboard – June 2017 thread by MitchB, who in Post #9 noted differences in taxes charged by 3 live-aboard options.
    -----9.) Socorro Trip Report – May 10th to 18th – 2015 report by Hintermann aboard Rocio del Mar.
     
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  7. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,144
    5,521
    113
    Cocos Island

    -----1.) Cocos Diving Trip Report, 17 – 27 September, 2018 – by Dan. 11 Trip aboard M/V Argo.
    -----2.) Cocos, March 27 – April 5, 2017 – by scubadada. Aboard the Okeanos II.
    -----3.) Cocos trip report with pictures, August 2019 – by Erwin Poliakoff. Aboard the Argo.
    -----4.) Cocos on Argos, last minute trip.. – by alam555. June 2019 thread; useful for info. by divers about Cocos; rongoodman wrote some dives are deeper and can edge into deco., the bottom is mostly fractured volcanic rock and sea urchins are thick at some sites. Some dives had negative entries. Peeweediver noted you spend lots of time hunkered in the rocks; despite care he took 4 urchin hits.
    -----5.) Trip report Cocos Island on Underseahunter’s M/V Argo, 2-12 Nov. – 2016 thread by rs86.
    -----6.) Cocos Island trip with Undersea Hunter Group – Oct. 2016 report by peeweediver.
    -----7.) Cocos Island trip review with Aggressor Okeanos, Sept. 6 – 16th, 2015 – by Roger_Scuba.
    -----8.) Cocos trip report on Undersea Hunter – Dec. 2019 trip report by KrisR.
    -----9.) At the risk of fear-mongering, 2017 and 2018 saw ‘issues’ with tiger sharks – one killed a woman and injured a guide Nov. 30, 2017 – Death in Cocos from shark attack – and on April 28, 2018 one possibly ‘test bit’ the BCD of a diver at the surface – German diver attacked by shark – Isla del Coco, Costa Rica – and Undersea Hunter live-aboard noted procedural changes due to risk concerns. Tiger sharks are a ‘feature’ of Cocos diving, but be aware.


    -----An 0.46 square mile (~ 1 mile long, 2100 yards wide) island over 300 miles off the coast of Columbia, South America. Part of the Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary. A UNESCO world heritage site. Blue Water Dive Travel offers an overview (well-written and candid; recommended!), which rates it well against diving the Galapagos, Socorros or Cocos Island, though the diving’s advanced, seasonally cold (even when warm, thermoclines a factor) and access is ‘very limited’ as of 2019 just one active live-aboard, the Ferox; it can only be done by live-aboard, with a transit time around 32-35 hours from Panama.

    -----1.) Malpelo review on the Ferox live-aboard – Sept. 2019 report by moorish8idol. Detailed, practical, excellent review. She noted there were only 2 mooring lines, the main boat may stay put (you tender about 15 – 20 minutes to dive sites), you’re exposed (not a huge island to hide behind in rough conditions), a lot cooler/breezier/less humid than the port city, it was 3 dives/day for 18 total over 6 days and they had some 15-L (big) tanks. She reported the dive guides’ favorite time of year for diving is February (low season! Look for sales!) – much colder water and currents can be fierce, but excellent viz., huge hammerhead schools (e.g. 200+) and more likely to see Ferox sharks (normally not at recreational depths).
    -----2.) Malpelo Dive Log: April 18-28, 2019 – A group leader recounted the experience of taking his first group to Malpelo aboard the Ferox.
    -----3.) Malpelo – Ferox new Columbian live-aboard – Dec. 2017 thread announcing it, with a good deal of discussion. Columbia Dive Adventures said trips run 10-16 days, transit time to Malpelo is 30 hours, and they do 3 dives/day except 2 the last day and no night dives. Dom@DiveAdvice (Post #11) explained why it’s the only live-aboard serving Malpelo, and a bit about the boat and diving.
    -----4.) Recent experience at Malpelo? Dom@DiveAdvice (Post #3) cited an agent/colleague’s report; it was said it’ll be a wild, remote place, it’s slightly cheaper than Cocos, much cheaper than the Galapagos and a bit more expensive than Socorro.
     
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  8. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,144
    5,521
    113
    Comparisons

    -----1.) Galapagos, Cocos, Socorro – Anyone been to all 3? Dec. 2018 thread by qwimjim.
    -----2.) Galapagos vs. Cocos Island – Oct. 2019 thread.
    -----3.) Galapagos or Cocos in Dec. – Aug. 2015 thread.
    -----4.) November 2017 – Galapagos or Socorro?
    -----5.) Preparing for Galapagos/Socorro – Sept. 2018 thread on a pair of fairly new, warm water divers looking to advance their readiness for these destinations.
    -----6.) Pro’s and Con’s Between Galapagos, Socorro, Coco or Malpelo – 2016 thread.
    -----7.) Trip video – Socorro, Dec. 2019 – very nice video by CWK. See posts by AdivingBel, Dan, peeweediver, cpace and Moorish8idol for their impressions. Per Dan – Galapagos more diverse big animal encounters than Cocos or Socorro; he hadn’t been to Malpelo. Had sea lions and molo mola. Socorros had more giant pacific mantas. Cocos has hammerhead cleaning stations. Peeweediver got to dive with humpback whales in the Socorros – but that’s not common – and found Cocos all about the hammerheads (up close) and a few tigers, Socorro about whales, dolphins and mantas with hammerheads usually 50 feet below them. Cpace noted Socorros as mantas, dolphins and sharks galore, with dolphins coming to and interacting with divers. Ferox (small toothed sand tiger) sharks are a Melpelo feature, but rare per Moorish8idol, who noted Malpelo is for hammerheads. All 4 destinations have other shark species I didn’t discuss.
    -----8.) Galapagos – Aggressor III versus Humboldt Explorer – 2019 thread asking about trips mid/late May. Dom@DiveAdvice (Post #7) noted besides cost, their itineraries differ – H.E. spends a full 4 days at Darwin & Wolf but no time at Isabela & Fernandina; which is better may depend on season. In May the Aggressor offered only 2 days at Darwin & Wolf as they concentrated more time at Cabo Marshall, Cabo Douglas and Vicente Roca – north of Isabela & Fernandina, where you are more likely to dive with marine iguanas and possibly mola mola.

    -----Since all these destinations entail some chance of being lost at sea awhile, consider Dan’s 2018 thread – Best signaling devices from the searcher’s point of view – update.
     
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  9. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,144
    5,521
    113
    Sources & Useful References

    Galapagos Conservancy.

    Wikipedia Page – Ecuador.

    Wikipedia Page – Quito.

    Wikipedia Page – Guayaquil.

    Wikipedia Page – Galapagos Islands.

    Wikipedia Page – San Cristobal Island.

    Blue Water Travel – Dive Travel Agency. Useful on a range of destinations and trip options. Nice info. for diving Malpelo.

    Explorer Ventures Special Flight Info. Page on the Galapagos Islands (current as of May 2016).

    Humboldt Explorer Galapagos Islands Trip Information Sheet.

    Adventure In You – Best Galapagos Liveaboards 2019: The Ultimate Diving Experience. Their top picks were Humboldt Explorer (best value for money), Nortada (best for chartered groups) and Galapagos Master (best for extended trips).

    The Adventure Junkies – Best Galapagos Live-aboard Trips (Nov. 2019). Their top picks – Galapagos Sky (best overall value), Galapagos Aggressor III (luxury), Nortada (dive groups & charter), Galapagos Master (extended itineraries) and Humboldt Explorer (groups with non-divers). They have a comparison table for those boats. Also see Liveaboard Diving Guide To The North Pacific.

    Dive Advice Travel – a live-aboard specialist agency I found linked by Dom@DiveAdvice, who contributed info. in a number of Scuba Board threads.

    PADI Travel – the Galapagos. Per their March 2017 article, best list – Galapagos Sky (best luxury), Humboldt Explorer (best mid-range), MY Nortada (best budget).
     
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  10. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,144
    5,521
    113
    All done, and hopefully without screwing it up too much. I've been to the Galapagos once, never to the Socorros, Cocos Island or Malpelo, and tried to cite plenty of sources for the info. and observations I found in online discussions. I figure people interested in the Galapagos will be interested in the others, and vice versa.

    If anyone has more observations about these destinations and how they compare, trip tips for any of them, spots errors in my notes or can offer good advice, please post. Others' efforts help me, and I'm trying to 'pay it forward.'
     
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