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Trip Report: Galapagos Humboldt Explorer - April 8th -15th 2019

Discussion in 'South America' started by Nicolas Pottier, Apr 20, 2019.

  1. Nicolas Pottier

    Nicolas Pottier Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Ecuador
    41
    18
    8
    I've been living in Ecuador for the past three years but we are headed back state side this summer, so while we did a bit of diving in the Galapagos on day trips I decided doing a live aboard should be on my bucket list before I leave. I reached out to dom@diveadvice and told him I was down for any last minute deals and sure enough a month later he set me up with a seven day cruise on the Humboldt. To be clear while I had an excellent experience with Dom and the Humboldt, this report is totally unsolicited and I'm not receiving any compensation for it, just thought I'd share.

    The Humboldt is definitely nicer than I would normally pick but after having been on it I can recommend it whole heartedly, mostly because the itinerary seems to be focused on Wolf and Darwin and that's where I think the unique diving is.

    I did eight dives in the Galapagos previously on day trips through the most excellent Academy Bay, but I have to say that that diving while interesting was both expensive and not exceptional in any way. We were diving in September and we didn't do the most famous day trip dive (Gordon's Rock) but the diving was dark, cold and while we saw a few hammer heads in general the amount of life we saw really didn't make the diving especially notable for us.

    Now having done 20 more dives aboard the Humboldt I think I can safely say the key to diving in the Galapagos is getting to Wolf and Darwin Islands, the diving there is completely different and just in a completely different class. While liveaboards are expensive in Galapagos, so is day diving and I just don't think the sites you can reach on day trips are worth it. If you are going to go to the Galapagos to dive, just save up until you can do a liveaboard that gets to Wolf and Darwin, those are the places that make this a diving destination.

    Our itinerary was as follows:

    Day 1: Arrive in San Cristobal, get on boat, get assigned rooms etc... I lucked out and got a cabin to myself as the boat wasn't booked to capacity but I have to say the boat in general was fantastic. Cabins are of nice size, comfy beds, private bathroom and everything was very clean. Top deck had a nice amount of both shaded and open area and the common areas inside were of ample size as well. Rental gear was sorted quickly (all fairly recent and in good shape, though regulators were basic unbalanced SP R095s) We had one very short check dive to sort out weighting but not much to see, a few parrot fish, some small rays, really this day was just about settling in.

    Day 2: This day was really about double checking weights, there were two dives at North Seymour but they were also pretty underwhelming. After those two morning dives we started a long sail to Wolf Island which took over 12 hours. We got to hang out on the sun deck, had some great food and relaxed for the diving ahead.

    Day 3: This is when things started getting fun. Wolf is a whole different world compared to the usual day trip diving in Galapagos. Tons of life and tons of hammerheads. On our second dive we hung out and watched hundreds drift by, scatterings of turtles and spotted eagle rays and our dive ended with dolphins spinning around us at our safety spot. (our panga driver bringing them in by going in circles above us) This was bar none one of the most magical dives I've had.

    Brief intermission here to talk about the boat staff and schedule. Most days consisted of four dives, starting at 6:00am sharp. There was coffee and toast available before the first dive but really its mostly about just getting up and getting in the water. As soon as you are back you are greeted by a giant breakfast. The food the entire trip was exceptional. I didn't come expecting that much, but the variety and quality of dishes really impressed me and we left every meal stuffed. After breakfast you have 45 minutes to chill out before a 9:00am dive, which is then followed by lunch at noon. Another hour of downtime and you dive at 1pm, another break then final dive around 3:30pm or so. It is a lot of diving, but everybody was on nitrox and the amazing staff and facilities made it as relaxing as it could be.

    Day 4: Two more dives at Wolf, similarly filled with hammerheads, then we sailed to Darwin's Arch during lunch and did two more dives there to end the day. Diving at Darwin is a bit different than Wolf, still lots of hammerheads, but not in as big of schools for us, but so much other smaller life and just endless turtles.

    Day 5: Four more dives at Darwin, sharks sharks sharks. After the fourth dive we started sailing back to Wolf.

    Day 6: We squeeze in three dives at Wolf and are reminded just how many hammerheads there are here. A few dives had veritable walls of them, essentially blocking our entire view into the ocean, more than you could count, just incredible. After our third dive we start cruising back towards Santa Cruz.

    Day 7: We do our last two dives at Cousin's Rock. While some on the boat skipped the second dive, I actually found these a nice change for once. No hammerheads (lots of reef sharks though) but sea lions and on our last dive we saw a giant manta above us as well. After the second dive we started the off gassing for the next day's flights and spend an afternoon and evening poking around Santa Cruz.

    Day 8: Back in San Cristobal and flight out.

    In any case, was a great trip. Can't thank the staff and guides enough. Everything was tip top, from the condition of the boat, their attention to detail, quality of the dives, variety of food, really incredible. While I don't have experience with other Galapagos liveaboards to compare it to, I would definitely make sure that whichever you pick spends most of its time at Wolf and Darwin because that's where the fun is at.

    Happy to answer any questions anybody has, hopefully that wasn't too rambly!
     
  2. Tippytoes12

    Tippytoes12 Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: UK
    939
    369
    63
    Thanks so much for a great report. What were the water temperatures like and what exposure suits did you , and if you remember, the other guests wear ?
     
  3. Nicolas Pottier

    Nicolas Pottier Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Ecuador
    41
    18
    8
    Most everybody was using a 5mm wetsuit without a hood. A few were layering two suits to a similar total thickness. I was plenty warm, perhaps once or twice we found ourselves in a colder current and that got chilly but otherwise no problems. Hot showers and towels available right as you get out didn't hurt either.

    The day trips I had done previously were in September and it was much much colder then. I had a 5mm wetsuit plus a 2mm hooded vest and it was still shockingly cold on entry.

    I don't have exact numbers that I trust for temps though.

    Note we did not see any whale sharks, which I think are much more common during the June-December cold season, so that's one downside to the warmer days.
     
    BAMA6977 and Tippytoes12 like this.
  4. Dom@DiveAdvice

    Dom@DiveAdvice Dive Travel Professional

    # of Dives:
    Location: South of France
    409
    53
    28
    Thanks Nic - great report and delighted it was a successful trip.
     
  5. Caroline Jacobini

    Caroline Jacobini Garibaldi

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: San Francisco
    2
    0
    1
    Hi Nic - thanks for your post! I am going with Humboldt explorers in a few weeks on what looks to be the same itinerary that you went on and your most has made me more excited about going! I did have a few questions for you:
    1. How many divers per dive instructor were there?
    2. How difficult did you feel like the conditions were? I have done about 60 dives in the past including some with some reasonable currents. I'm trying to get a sense for how much more difficult the galapagos is from other areas?
    3. What were the composition of most of the dives - i.e. were they mostly drift dives, swimming in current, etc?
    4. Did you have a hook, gloves, or both? Did you find that you needed to use these often?

    Thank you for your help and your post!
     
  6. Dom@DiveAdvice

    Dom@DiveAdvice Dive Travel Professional

    # of Dives:
    Location: South of France
    409
    53
    28
    Hi Caroline, hopefully Nic can come back to you with some answers but maybe I can interject in the meantime as I know this boat well and charter her a lot. On all Galapagos liveaboards they have just 2 guides meaning 8 divers per guide for all boats taking 16 divers. Really the only place where the currents are strong is Darwin & Wolf and of course they are a variable according to when you enter the water. Strong currents can mean challenging dives as you need to backflip off the panga and make an immediate negative ascent to about 50-60ft while swimming hard and clearing your ears. Once on the bottom you can hide from the currents amongst the boulders and regain your breath and composure. There are times when the currents can be so swift that if you turn your head to one side, water may seep into your mask, so you may want to practice clearing your mask underwater. You rarely have to swim any distance against a current as it is more about pulling yourself over the rocks as you move forward to the ledge, where one waits beside the guide for his signal before swimming out into the blue. Of course, between tides there is little or no current but that may also mean less marine life action so one wants the current. It is not something to fear as you can always abort a dive at any time and surface where they will pick you up - there is always a tender above you and drivers have an amazing sense of where you are. As long as you are a reasonably strong swimmer and feel comfortable underwater, you should have no worries. All dives at Darwin & Wolf are what might be classified as drift dives, and although some other sites may have currents, they are usually fairly sublime. Hooks are good and gloves a necessity and I usually recommend a pair of gardening gloves as it is less about protection from temperature than about protection from cuts along the barnacle encrusted rocks. Fancy neoprene gloves maybe fine but they may also get torn to shreds so question is whether you throw away a $3 pair of gardening gloves or a $30 pair of neoprene gloves. Knew pads are a good idea also as the rocks can be hard on your wetsuit. Its a great boat and you'll have a ball. Hope you'll make a post after you get back. Cheers dom
     
  7. Caroline Jacobini

    Caroline Jacobini Garibaldi

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: San Francisco
    2
    0
    1
    Thank you so much Dom! This was extremely helpful!!
     
  8. Dianshan

    Dianshan Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Netherlands
    6
    1
    3
    We just came back from a trip with Humboldt end of May. It was 26-27C at wolf and darwin and colder (22C) at the other locations (cousin rock). Some sites like Vicente can get even colder (17C).
     
  9. Dianshan

    Dianshan Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Netherlands
    6
    1
    3
    Hi Caroline

    We just got back from the Humboldt trip as well and enjoyed the boat. If you got Xavier as one of the guides, say Hi to him and stay close to him - he is extremely knowledgeable and has a lot of stories and facts to share!

    When we dived there the current wasn’t that strong. Only the one dive we did at landslide (wolf) was strong current. We were holding on to the rocks to stay but once you swim into the blue it was not that bad. Then again, stronger current = more sharks. Other than that the other dives were very manageable. Most at W&D you go down and stay at a spot and wait for the sharks and move on to another spot if you don’t see them so it’s not too much drifting. More toward the end when you swim out, you might stay to drift a little or swim a little more. The dive is structured to go with the current and not against it.

    As Dom said, gloves are useful for holding on. I only used 1 glove (hand for camera is better without glove), some people also only used one. Humboldt has a few worn out gloves that will do the job. None of us in the group used hooks.

    Hope it helps!
     
  10. Shasta_man

    Shasta_man Loggerhead Turtle

    2,385
    530
    113
    <<You rarely have to swim any distance against a current as it is more about pulling yourself over the rocks>> Got a chuckle out of this. "Is swimming in the current hard?" "No problem at all! Because you don't so much swim as have to claw your way across the bottom!" :)
     

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