So after a fantastic first half on the islands with incredible animal and nature sightings, we had 5 days left. First we decided to do one more thing that we wanted to try on our trip: go diving for the first time. It was the perfect spot and many agencies offered so-called ¨discovery dives¨. We had made a reservation for it before we went on the cruise. Unfortunately Mathias had caught a cold on the boat somehow and it was too risky for him to go diving. If you go diving with a cold and cannot equalize your ears properly while going down, you can do serious damage to your eardrums. So as hard as it was, I went on my own, as we had already paid some money for the reservation and would not get it back. The agency had told me the diving spot is just a 30 minutes speed boat ride away, so I did not take any seasickness pills. On the speedboats I was usually fine, as they are quite steady due to the speed. I went with 7 more people, a mix of beginners and experienced divers. I was the only one that had never done it before, which was very good as it turned out in the end. I would have the dive instructor to myself for my dive :).
We left and took the speed boat to North Seymour Island, which is famous for having many sharks and especially hammerhead sharks around. I was as hoped totally fine on the trip there, just a bit nervous. When we arrived, the dive instructor first stopped at a spot on the open water where the experienced divers could go down to 30 meters. As it turned out, we would take our turns, as the instructor would go diving with each group for safety reasons. So me and 2 others, who were still beginners, had to wait in the boat for 40 minutes. And this is when the ordeal began. While I was fine during the boat ride, I became incredibly seasick as the boat was being shaken around by the strong waves on this open water spot. I felt terrible and after about 20 minutes I could not hold it anymore. I had to throw up badly. Luckily there was lots of water around and I did not make such a mess. I threw up twice during these 40 minutes, while we were waiting. The couple who were waiting with me in the boat where really sweet as well and cared for me. They gave me water and sweet and asked every few minutes if they can do anything. Of course they could not, I just had to go through this now until the trip was over. My only concern was if I could still go diving in this state.
After 40 minutes the first group came up and was totally impressed. They had not only seen many, many fishes and white-tip sharks, but also hammerhead sharks. This was the highlight for any diver here on the Galapagos. We had actually seen two from the boat shortly as they came up for a few seconds, but I would not see them on my dive in the water, as I would not go deep enough on my first dive. Next, we drove a bit further to a more shallower spot, so the couple who were beginners could go diving. The woman had however an incredible fear of sharks and while her man was really sweet and tried to calm her down as much as he could it did not help much. After 2 minutes under water, she had to come up again and wanted to go into the boat. She was too afraid and could not relax and breath properly. Now, you have to know that white-tip sharks are totally harmless to humans, but she could not overcome the fear in her head.
That meant I was next! I felt a bit better now, as in the shallower water the boat was not shaking as bad. So I put all the gear on and was impressed by how heavy it all is. They sat me on the rim of the boat and while I was expecting to get a short lesson of what to do now, my lovely instructor just said to me: ¨All you have to do is breathe, I do the rest.¨ And with that he literally threw me backwards into the cold water! I have to admit I shortly panicked. The equipment was so heavy and I tried to breathe through the mask, but it felt like I could not breathe properly. It took me a few minutes to realize that you have to breathe out properly in order to breathe in without effort. Would have been nice, if he had told me that before Once I knew how to do it, I practiced breathing under water for a few minutes and then we already went down. He knew that I was seasick before and did not feel to well, so we went down very slowly.
What was sweet was that he actually hold my hand the whole time and did not let go. I actually felt quite safe like this and really enjoyed diving very much! It is so, so different to just snorkelling. You really feel like you are on the same level as the sharks and fishes and not just looking down on them. And I was, I was actually swimming with sharks and rays on the same level and was just an arm length away. It felt much more intense than the experiences we had snorkelling with them. The first dive was about 25 minutes. Then I could feel my throat getting very dry which must have been from all the throwing up before.
We went up and I just took a few minutes floating in the water breathing without the mask. In the meantime I saw that the couple had come into the water as well, but just with snorkelling equipment and that the man had a surprise ready. He had a banner with him and proposed to his love under water. It was so sweet! As I later learned, he is actually a very famous TV star and producer in Ecuador (Richard Barker) and if Wikipedia tells the truth, this will be his third wife :). They were so sweet together though and so kind to me. He did not behave very much like a snobby star, even though I later realized how all the local people on the peer greeted and looked at him excited.
After that I went diving again with my instructor for another 20 minutes, before going back to the boat. I think we went up to 5-6 meters for these dives. Next, it was the turn for the other group again and we drove back to deeper water again. Another 40 minutes of waiting and another 3 times of me throwing up. The boat was shaking even more than before and I could just not control it. By the time they came up again, I had already changed into my normal clothes. I did not feel like diving anymore and just wanted to get back onto land. I had a fantastic first experience and was very happy with it.
Now I know I will do it again together with Mathias this time and we will find a place where we will actually get a bit more instructions. 😉 When we got back to the agency, Mathias was already waiting for me. He had spent the morning at Tortuga Bay again, enjoying this beautiful peaceful beach. We went home for a short recovery nap for us both and then treated ourselves to a lovely dinner with grilled fish to finish our time on Santa Cruz. In the morning, we would leave for Isabella Island.
In the morning we took the local ferry boat to Isabella. It is basically a large speedboat with 3 massive Yamaha engines and space for up to 25 passengers. The ride is about 1,5 hours and depending on the sea quite bumpy and rough. This time I prepared myself with seasickness pills and did pretty well.
When we reached the small little habour on Isabella we were welcomed by a bunch of sealions, rays and penguins swimming the boats in the shallow turquise water. Blue-footed Boobies were diving into the water in big swarms to catch fishes. Unbelievable but true, the habour area was completely in the hands of the Galapagos animals, while we as humans were just tolerated by them as guests. No wonder some budget travellers skip snorkelling tours on Isabella and just do it right there. We took a taxi into town to our hostel, which turned out to be only a 5 minute ride. We instantly felt the good vibe of this cute little place. Tourism is only 10 years old on this island and the streets around the main plaza are still unpaved. There are just a handful of food places and tour agents around and the local folk is welcoming and chilled. There is a complete absence of hectic and stress, which we both loved.
I got the name of a local family owned hostel in town from our cruise guide Ruben and the place was just perfect for us. Mathilda and her husband rent out 5 cute little cabins in a wonderful green and flowered garden. A great place and acutally the best we had on Galapagos. After we had moved in we went to book our day tours. All went smoothly and quickly this time and within a few minutes we had arranged our tour for the afternoon, the next day and the day after. Money is always going quickly out of your hands on Galapagos, but so far it was worth every penny.
Our afternoon tour brought us to the close island of Tintoreras which is the best place to see a big marine iguana colony nesting there. We saw hundreds of them including small baby ones on the rough lava rocks and in the mangrooves when we walked the visitor path with our guide. We even could see them building their nests. The females dig a hole into the ground where they lay the eggs. After our walk we all were ready for some cooling down action, as it was quite a hot day.
Luckily the second half of the tour was reserved for snorkelling off the boat around the island. The water was full of massive turtles and we enjoyed snorkelling with them. Watch the turtle video to see for yourself. We filmed it right there. The guy in the background in the beginning is actually Mathias :).
When we came back from our tour a sealion group had conquered the mooring and chilled on the planks and benches. They are very social and love it to sleep next to each other. Sometimes they almost look like humans, especially when they put their paws on each other while sleeping
We slept like babies in our cabin and started totally recuperated into our day trip at 8:00 in the morning. We took a small speed boat again and our captain stopped on the way several times to show us Manta Rays feeding on the water surface. You can see them jumping out of the water a bit and at one point I even saw one jumping out completely!! It was one of the best sights I had seen on the Galapagos. Unfortunately it was while we were speeding along the water, so there was no chance to take a picture or video.
Our day trip brought us to the inofficial highlight of Isabella, the famous „Los Tuneles“. It is a lava field along the coastline. Thanks to erosion it is rugged and full of open old lava tunnels, which can be explored by swimming and snorkelling. The density of the sealife there is just outstanding. In the shallow water we snorkelled with giant sea turtles again, swarms of fishes were everywhere we looked and the water was full of uncounted colourful reef fishes.
We were lucky to see white-tip sharks resting under water caves and rays flying like birds through the water just an arm length away from us. You can see both of this as videos as well. Our captain supported our guide as he swam in front of our group and spotted all the special sealife. On our second snorkelling spot he even found us a Seahorse. We all would have missed that, but since he is a former fisherman, he knew where to look and did an amazing job during the day. On the same trip, we also got to see penguins again and this time they were right next to us on the rocks enjoying the sun, not moving a centimeter! When we swam over there, they did not care and we could take pictures and admire them without problems.
In the end we had a short walk on these unique lava tunnels and even there we saw turtles swimming in the water around us every few minutes. When we went back we both agreed that this was the most amazing snorkelling experience during our stay on Galapagos.
On our last day on Isabella we decided to do something else other than snorkelling and did a small hike up to the volcanoe Sierra Negra. It is actually the volcanoe on Galapagos with the most recent erruption, which happened only in 2005. It was a 5 hours hike back and forth, but luckily it was a bit cloudy that day and not so hot. The first stop brought us to a massive crater, which is actually 10km wide. We had the same feeling as in El Calafate, when we stood in front of the glacier. Our eyes were not really processing what we actually saw. We had needed a car or something similar on the crater grounds to really understand how wide the crater is.
We then continued walking and came to a lava field that reminded us a little bit of the Tongariro volcanoe field in New Zealand. It was completely deserted and dry and yet so full of colour shimmering in red, yellow, brown and black tones. It was a beautiful sight! We felt like being on a different planet again. It was a great change of scenery to our days before and rounded up the diverse picture we had by now from the Galapagos. In the evening we took the ferry boat back to Santa Cruz to catch our flight to Quito the next morning. We both feel blessed to have had the chance to come to this unique place and truly hope that the Ecuadorian government will continue protecting it properly in the future.
It is of course not perfect and they struggle with the same problem any place has once humans live there: what to do with all the waste? There are lots of things that can still be done to improve the situation and we do hope that it will be done and kept just as untouched when future generations go to visit.