A DIVERS DREAM
A DIVERS DREAM
A finch jumps across the ground in front of us, almost as happy as we are. The shape of its beak is a little bit different than the beak of the finches we know otherwise. Charles Darwin noticed this many year ago and therefore this sparrow is also called Darwin Finch. You probably guessed it, we are still in Ecuador and visit the Galapagos Islands.
However, we are not only happy that we are on the Galapagos, but especially about the “Aggressor III” sign at the airport with our names on it. For those who don’t know, the “Aggressor” is a top class liveaboard dive ship that will take us to the island of Wolf and Darwin during the next week. These two rocks far out in the Pacific apparently make divers dreams of superlatives come true. Especially big fish can be seen there. Schools of hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks and the up to 12 meters long whale sharks are virtually the order of the day.
But first things first! We just arrived at Galapagos airport and now drive with the bus across the island Baltra to the Itabaca Channel where we are welcomed on board by the crew. We get a welcome drink, are led into our cabin and receive our diving equipment. After a test dive we hop with a glass of champagne into the ship’s own jacuzzi on the upper deck at the bow and watch as the “Aggressor” sets sail. That’s a nice way of ending the day we think and, accompanied by frigate birds and boobies, we watch the sun sink into the sea.
Later, at the very delicious dinner we get to know the whole group. We are a total of 16 guests and all speak German. Most of them already booked this cruise two years (!) ago according to the moon (!). We visit the islands of Wolf and Darwin just after the full moon and these are the days with the most fish we are told. Oops, lucky us that we got hold of two vacant places just before short ? We all go to bed early because exhausting days with 3 to 4 dives expect us and of course we want to be well rested.
DIVES OF EXTRA CLASS
The next morning, we find ourselves clinging to some rocks at a depth of 25 meters before breakfast even and we observe the life around us. We are in the middle of a school of hammerhead sharks. It’s almost unreal how hundreds of these 4-meter sized fish slowly pass by in front of and above us. Sometimes one of those animals with the bizarre head shape curiously comes closer and then turns around again and disappears into the blue. The diving conditions here are definitely not suitable for beginners. One still feels the swell at a depth of 30 meters and we are torn back and forth. It’s not always easy to find a good place in a crevice where you can get stuck. If you give up this safe place between the rocks, you will be caught by the strong current and drift into the open sea. Then it’s time for us to surface right through the school of hammerheads and set the buoy so that the ship can quickly collect us on the surface.
On some of the dives, our guide suddenly breaks away from the rocks, we follow him and let ourselves drift a bit until suddenly one of the huge, twelve-meter-long whale sharks emerges from the blue. Majestically and with calm movements the biggest fish of the oceans swims past us – what a magical moment in our diving career!
The dives with strong currents so far out in the sea are exhausting and require our full attention, but we are rewarded with a view of superlatives beneath the surface of our blue planet. It’s the cold but oxygen-rich Humboldt Current that mixes with the warmer Panama Stream, creating a nutrient-rich habitat that causes life underwater to explode.
But let the pictures speak at this point… During the week on the dive cruise we collected enough footage for a short movie. It describes better than words how incredible the underwater world of the Galapagos Islands is.
BACK ON THE MAINLAND
Unfortunately, the week on the liveaboard is over much too fast. In addition to the amazing dives we also enjoy the short trips on land. We observe sea lions, penguins, iguanas and birds up close. Of course, we don’t miss to visit the famous giant tortoises neither.
Back in our home-on-wheels, we decide not to leave the ocean immediately, but to explore the coast a little further. It’s whale season and so we take a tour to the “Isla de la Plata” in Puerto Lopez. The name “silver island” comes from a silver treasure allegedly hidden by the pirate Francis Drake, which was never found… The real treasure though is the variety of wildlife which also gave the island the name “Galapagos for the poor”. On our hike across the island we meet blue-footed boobies in mating mood. The males dance and present their little blue feet to attract a willing female partner. In addition, we observe many frigate birds nesting. Again, it’s the males who inflate their big, bright red air bags to impress the females. On the way back to the mainland we then meet the giants of the oceans. A whale mom with its calve swims next to our boat making it look like a nutshell in comparison. And a short time later we can watch two bulls jumping at close range. What an incredible experience!
A LAST WALK AT THE BEACH
But also, the coast offers a lot for the eye: there are stunning beaches in this area and so we stroll barefoot on sand along the beach and enjoy the salty sea breeze, probably the last time for a long time. We really like the many bays of the national park “Machalilla” very much and we almost feel transported back to Southeast Asia. But as a wave washes around our feet, we immediately realize that this is the cold Pacific Ocean and that we travel through South America ? So we set off for Peru and head back to the airy heights of the Andes.