Freezing for Galapagos Wildlife

Freezing for Galapagos Wildlife

Island Wolf. Aerial view with the Anchorage dive site to the right.
Photograph © 2016 Kevin Hanson

Varied underwater environments in different parts of the archipelago offer stunning encounters with Galapagos wildlife in both, warm and cold waters.

The night settled on Wolf Island in the Galapagos. My teeth chatter, and there is nothing I can do with my whole body shivering in the pitch-black underwater darkness. The sandy bottom, thirty meters under the surface, is as empty as beach chairs in Greenland. You can pretend you are a fur seal. But it will not help you in 13°C degrees water which in my numb mind is just above freezing point. I would love to sit in the boat lounge with hot tea in my hand. But I am down here as cold as a frozen herring, and my lamp flickers in search of the elusive red-lipped batfish, Ogcocephalus darwini, a quirky representative of peculiar Galapagos wildlife.

The book I am writing about the Galapagos would utterly fail without a photograph of the batfish. And, I will run out of the air in the next fifteen minutes. Ah, but wait! Something just moved on the sand in front of me!

Red-lipped batfish. There was only a little exaggeration when I compared the batfish to my grandma.
Photograph © 2016 Josef Litt
Fishing boat at Wolf Island.
This image was taken in 2011 when local fishermen could visit Darwin and Wolf island. Ecuador pronounced the northern expanse of the Galapagos Marine Reserve a sanctuary in 2015, where no fishing is allowed.

Photograph © 2011 Josef Litt

What do you see looking at the batfish? I imagine my grandma after a heavy night. The night when she did her makeup by herself – without a mirror and while thinking about mass extinction. She was not a conservationist, but her gentle hand helped many unlucky farm animals back on feet. When her hand did not help, her colourful swearing certainly did.

The bottom-dwelling batfish spend their life crawling more than swimming, using their modified pectoral fins to walk. When disturbed, they swim in a comical waddling movement. Although it is strange-looking, this species is harmless to humans – unlike my grandma. Batfish are anglers, using a particular body part called an illicium, which extends outward above their head to lure prey. I believe this species is also proof that water absorbs the colour red first. Otherwise, this example of Galapagos wildlife would starve to death, because no self-appreciating fish would come close to that hungry, bright red mouth.

“I imagine my grandma after a heavy night. The night when she did her makeup by herself – without a mirror and while thinking about mass extinction.”

Panorama of Punta Vicente Roca. The penguins and the cormorants inhabit the small beach to the right. The tip of the rocky outcrop to the left marks the dive site to spot the sunfish.

Photograph © 2016 Josef Litt

5 AM, two days later

Still dark, only small waves splashing against the volcanic rock of Punta Vicente Roca on Isabela. We repeat in low voices the rules for an encounter with Mola alexandrini, the Southern Ocean sunfish: Wait until the sunfish comes to the cleaning station near a platform at 30 m depth. Do not use strobes until the cleaning starts.

The cold oceanic Cromwell Current upwells on the western side of Isabela, bringing from the depths nutrition to a whole food web of fish and marine animals. As a result, Punta Vicente Roca brims with life and even hosts a colony of Galapagos penguins, Spheniscus mendiculus. Did I mention the Cromwell Current is cold? Well, it is penguin-cold!

Harlequin Wrasse. These spectacular wrasses are frequently seen at Punta Vicente Roca.

Photograph © 2016 Josef Litt

We descend to 30 m and wait for the sunfish to appear from the depths. The visibility is poor, maybe five or six meters. The dawn is rising, and there is no sun to speak of. Depth and cold quickly kill our determination. After twenty minutes of idle waiting, my buddies start leaving one by one, either because of hypothermia or running out of the air. But I stay put.

Suddenly two flecks below us take on a darker shade of blueish-green. Two sunfish rise to the cleaning station and let the Mexican hogfish perform their cleaning duty, picking parasites from their skin.

No, we did not stick to the rules. Being excited, cold, and intoxicated with nitrogen, we did not wait for the sunfish to settle and we fired our strobes too early. Both animals disappeared in a few seconds. Only a single viable image remained from this encounter with this elusive specimen of Galapagos wildlife.

Southern Ocean sunfish. It is a challenge to differentiate between the oceanic and the southern sunfish species without an x-ray or a dissection. I believe that it was the Southern Ocean sunfish, Mola alexandrini, we encountered at a small platform at 30 metres (100 feet) depth at Punta Vicente Roca early in the morning.

Photograph © 2016 Josef Litt

Writing a well-illustrated book about Galapagos took me to the islands multiple times. I travelled twice to photograph the underwater scenery and fauna of the northern islands, Darwin and Wolf. On another occasion, I visited thirteen islands during a two-weeks trip. I would recommend extending each trip with a stay on one of the main islands, Santa Cruz or San Cristóbal. Both offer a plethora of snorkelling and Galapagos wildlife spotting opportunities.

Galapagos offer one lesson. Despite being on the equator, their unique climate means that one is cold more often than desired.

Excuse me for now, please. Defrosted, I got to go and apologise to my grandma.

Galapagos Cruise aboard Majestic Explorer

17–25 January 2020

Explore eight islands with Josef Litt to see their volcanic vistas, giant tortoises, marine iguanas and bird colonies. Snorkel with turtles, rays and perhaps even sharks. Seven nights aboard the luxury-class yacht Majestic Explorer.

Combine with the Diving Expedition into a two-week trip of a lifetime!

Price: £4,500 (flights excluded)

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Opening for Two: Palau Diving Expedition aboard Ocean Hunter III

Opening for Two: Palau Diving Expedition aboard Ocean Hunter III

Two spaces opened on a fully booked Palau diving trip aboard Ocean Hunter III in November 2018. Escape cold and wet autumn weather and spend a week diving the spectacular reefs and wrecks of West Micronesia with Josef Litt, author and photographer! 

9–17 November 2018

 Price: 98,900 Kč (approx. £3,550)

The price includes:

  • Return flight from Prague, Munich or Vienna. The operator will book your flights from anywhere in the world.
  • 7-day trip aboard M/Y Ocean Hunter III with Palau diving according to the itinerary
  • Price is based on two people sharing the Standard cabin
  • Gourmet full-board with snacks, hot and cold drinks
  • Weights, weight-belts and tanks with air

The price does not include:

  • Additional hotel accommodation if required due to flight schedules
  • Travel and compulsory diving insurance (we recommend DAN)
  • Rental of diving equipment
  • Discretionary visits to the islands
  • Compulsory Palau entrance fees and National Park entrance fees
  • Tips for the crew and guides
  • Other not listed services

Palau Diving Expedition is organised by SPARK AIRTICKETS, s.r.o., Prague, Czech Republic.

Destination Details

Palau Diving Expedition

Seen from above, the islands of Palau look like green calligraphy on an empty corner of the sea. Over 470 miles east of the Philippines and locked in by the stretching Pacific Ocean, Palau is a rare oasis, a self-contained, isolated archipelago thriving with biodiversity and abundance. Palau is the westernmost island group of a region called the West Caroline Islands, which is part of a larger region called Micronesia. Nations in the Micronesia region include the U.S. Territory of Guam, The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (of which Yap is a state), and the Republic of Palau.

Koror

Koror is a charming, quirky small town. Of Palau’s approximately 17,500 inhabitants, including approximately 4,500 foreign workers mostly from the Philippines, half the population lives on Koror, a 3.5-mile long town stretching over four islands connected by bridge and causeway. There are paved roads, cars, shopping centres (though not more than four stories high) and more than 25 restaurants for any taste bud. One main two-lane road runs through the town. All the shops and neighbourhoods are built on either side of this mini-highway, similar to the layout of the Florida Keys in the US.

Koror is safe to walk about at night, though nightlife remains limited to a few bars, including Barracuda, which overlooks the Rock Islands on the Fish’n Fins dock. Other nightspots include the dockside Kramer’s, favoured by ex-pats, Riptide, with a dance floor and occasional live music located on Palau’s small public beach, and Peleliu Club, a local favourite that gets quite rowdy with Palauan cha-cha. 

Although the best action is on the water, for activities around the town of Koror, you will find they are very tourist friendly. A smile goes a long way here. There are two museums to visit (Etpison Museum and Belau National Museum), the Palau International Coral Reef Center (next door to us!) that houses an aquarium, a mariculture project where you can see a nursery of giant clams, a crocodile farm, an old Japanese shrine with a majestic view, WWII relics and monuments, traditional Bai meeting houses, a shop for traditional arts and crafts at the Senior Citizens Center, a public library with a rare collection on Palau, a center to swim with dolphins, and a movie theater.

You can take a dip in the water right off the rocky shore from underneath the KB Bridge, or on Long Island, a public cement dock and swimming area in the middle of town. To get around Koror you can rent a car, take taxis (2-4 dollars anywhere), bike or walk. Koror acts as a gateway to the other islands of Palau which you can visit by boat, plane or 4×4 vehicle.

Lifestyle

The lifestyle on Palau is very easy-going and laid-back for all. No one goes hungry here, as they can rely on family members or friends if they’re unemployed. Palauans are very family-centred, it seems almost everybody is related here, and clan ties still run strong. Though appearing Americanized, Palauans preserve much of their traditional culture – ceremonies, exchanges and councils – on land and in the sea.

Environment

The excitement of Palau diving sites is as amazing as the boat ride to get there. On our speedboats you will glide over glassy water, wind in your hair, through the labyrinth of our Rock Islands – jungled islands sprinkled over the cobalt sea like emeralds.

The Rock Islands are composed of porous limestone, jagged and primal as they cut out of the water and towards the sky, yet overgrown in rich vegetation due to the collection of minerals in the limestone crevices. The water and bacteria have undercut the islands to form a precarious, skinny base rising out of the water, giving the islands their mushroom-shape or green muffin-top look. The limestone, once the structure of an ancient coral reef, raised out of the water, leaving a skeleton of what this ancient underwater landscape might look like, with caves, marine lakes and waterways enfolded in the islands like a complex circulatory system.

No buildings are allowed on the Rock Islands by law, to keep them so purely startling to both Palauans and visitors. Further strict conservation laws are in place around this oasis, restricting fishing, travel over the reef, and travel to certain Rock Islands in order to leave undisturbed sites for birds and turtles. The most famous conservation area, no humans allowed, is the 70 Islands Wildlife Preserve – the part of Palau you see in all the aerial photographs.

A large barrier reef encloses the Rock Islands as well as most islands of Palau. Koror is the capital region, composed of four small islands connected together by a bridge. To the south of Koror lies Peleliu and Anguar, two other limestone islands, with mid-height profiles like Koror. All islands are strewn with WWII artefacts such as a rusting tank covered with the tropical grasses and flowers so robust they spring from any crack in the sidewalk.

North of Koror, Babeldaob is the largest island, totalling 153 square miles while the others together total a mere 37. The oldest island as well, Babeldaob is volcanic and holds the highest peaks and waterfalls, with the tall Mt. Ngerchelchuus at 713 feet above sea level. Babeldaob holds trails for hiking and mountain biking, with hints of Palau’s rich history nestled into the hillside in the form of a Yapese stone money quarry, sculpted terraces possibly used for agriculture in the BC era, and the oldest standing traditional Bai or Palauan meeting house used by the chiefs. Plans to move the current capital to Melekeok State on Babeldaob instigated construction of a new, all-island paved road, locally known as the Compact Road, which has made travel on the island much easier.

Kayangel island, the farthest north, is a raised coral atoll, surrounding a marine lagoon with its low sloping beaches. From Kayangel to Peleliu, the Palauan islands sprawl about 125 miles. However, 300 miles southwest lie more members of the Palau nation: 6 sparsely inhabited islands called the Southwest Islands.

Named one of the last “Living Edens” by PBS, and number one of seven “Underwater Wonders of the World,” by CEDAM International, Palau is etching its consciousness onto the world for its spectacular physical offerings, above and below the sea.

Biodiversity

With over 1,500 species of fish and 700 corals and anemones, Palau acts as a heart of biodiversity, pumping life outwards from the blood-warm waters of the Pacific to farther regions like Hawaii which only has 1/3rd as many underwater species as Palau. It is impossible to get bored on dives here when everywhere you look you see something new and different.

On almost every dive you see sharks (grey reef, black tip, white tip, and the occasional bull shark, leopard shark and hammerhead) and turtles (hawksbill, green, olive ridley, leatherback, and loggerhead), often so many sightings that you lose count. We have bumphead parrotfish and huge resident Napoleon wrasses that swim extremely close to divers. Experience close encounters with Palau’s abundant population of manta rays, lionfish and the usually rare, shy and wildly coloured mandarin fish. Other underwater highlights include cuttlefish, moray eels, lobsters, eagle rays, and dolphins, plus schools of barracudas, big-eye trevally (jacks), neon fusiliers, black snapper, and colourful anthias. Brightly coloured clown fish in pulsating anemones and large fish such as big-eye tuna and marlins are also common on dives. Palau is one of the last places in the world to spot a legendary and nearly extinct dugong (sea cow), a sea mammal, and seven of the nine species of endangered tridacna giant clams – larger than yourself and up to 100 years old! You can also find here saltwater crocodiles and sea snakes (non-aggressive). And of course, the biological wonder of Palau is Jellyfish Lake filled with millions of Mastigias species of jellyfish that have no sting, pulsing in a cloud-like hearts reflecting the sun’s rays through their pink bodies. The dives are truly a sensual feast.

As for life above the water, there are 142 bird species. The Palau Owl, endangered Palau Ground Dove, and beautiful Palau Fantail are some of the 16 endemic bird species in Palau. 1260 plant species include 109 endemic plants, with such highlights as the rare wild orchid and ancient cicada palm. There are 2 endemic bat species including the Palauan Fruit Bat.

The biodiversity of Palau is reflected in Palauan legends, which show a close relationship between the Palauans and the many creatures that inhabit their land. In the legends, often humans transform into animals, such as when a Palauan mother clutching her child turned into a dugong to explain the start of this marine mammal, and the theme of transformation is very strong. Visitors here will see how in Palau, the close relationship with such a thriving natural world opens up the interconnectedness of life and will not leave you untransformed.

Maximising your dives 

The Ocean Hunter III crew will use their knowledge and experience to bring you to the right dive site at the right moment. Diving off the Ocean Hunter means you get personal attention, reefs without a crowd, easy entry into the water and a maximum bottom time! Instead of waiting for 25 other divers to surface or have them wait for you, you and your buddy can stay underwater as long as you like, without any pressure. 

After giving you a briefing at least one divemaster will enter the water with you on every dive to guide, guard and assist.

Night dives are offered every night.

Our chaseboat is a purpose-built 35ft rigid hull boat designed specifically for divers, with ample room and dry storage areas. It is always prepared to bring you to the dive sites when weather conditions require it. It is a rigid hull, semi-covered chaseboat, 35 feet long, with VHF marine radio and equipped with twin 225 HP Yamaha four stroke engines.

Level of diving experience

Palau diving is for all levels of divers, from experienced to beginner. Our experienced instructors and divemasters will give you all the assistance and guidance you need. When your dive is over, you can climb back onboard and take a warm, freshwater shower right on the spacious dive deck before being offered a delicious snack such as cake or a fresh fruit smoothie. Where you live and where you dive is only a jump away.

Nitrox

Ocean Hunter III has two separate filling stations enabling both silver air tanks and yellow NITROX tanks to be filled at the same time. Our IANTD certified gas-blender crew will pump your tank to the required O2 content and then analyze it. Before the dive, you’ll analyze your own tank with a second analyzer and sign a sheet stating the O2% in your tank and your maximum depth. Then you’ll slip into the water with all the benefits of NITROX.

Pricing for Nitrox onboard Ocean Hunter depends on your requirements.:

Full Nitrox 32% for 7 day trip : …$199
Full Nitrox 32% for 10 day trip : …$285
Full Nitrox 32% for 12 day trip : …$340
Nitrox 32% per tank : …$10.50 per tank

Diving safety

The nearest hyperbaric chamber is in Koror, the main town of Palau. However, we maintain safe diving practices aboard the Ocean Hunter at all times. A divemaster will give a thorough briefing and get in the water with you on every dive. Our crew is highly trained and experienced in maintaining dive safety and handling diving emergencies. An Emergency Oxygen Kit is onboard the boat. We do require all guests to dive with a safety sausage, which can be purchased from our shop before boarding the boat. NITROX diving, available onboard, greatly enhances safety, increasing the bottom time as well.

Boat Details

Ocean Hunter III

Welcome to Ocean Hunter III, the latest and most luxurious addition to the Ocean Hunter Fleet dedicated to Palau diving. The boat represents 25 years of knowledge in the liveaboard industry and like all of our liveaboards was designed by divers, for divers. As usual with our fleet, you also have the knowledge and hospitality of our very experienced local crew.

Ocean Hunter III has 3 standard cabins, 3 deluxe cabins and 2 master staterooms all with private bath and a/c, and accommodates up to 16 guests with personal attention and plenty of space. There are a large dining room and a comfortable salon with sofas and an entertainment system. The salon also contains a high-quality espresso machine. Alternatively, you can relax in the jacuzzis on the spacious sun deck. Furthermore, Ocean Hunter III is designed for professional underwater photography, TV and Film production, with a sizeable working area, 110, 220 and 415-volt electrical outlets and extra storage space. Ocean Hunter III offers powerful PC’s for movie and video editing with download, email and cd burning services.

Technical diving support

  • Nitrox, TRIMIX and Rebreather support
  • Nitrox certification available onboard
  • Twin Bauer compressors, Nitrox membrane

Media production support

  • Twin generators for high voltage equipment demand.
  • 1.6 tons hydraulic crane offers lifting capacity for most ROV’s, underwater cameras and Mini-subs.
  • Enclosed and Air conditioned lab for scientific research and film productions.
  • Underwater Scooter
  • 1200 Watt HMI lights to back-light corals, UV Filters, caves and wrecks.

Ocean Hunter III offers the very latest of high-quality liveaboard experiences.

Our chefs serve fresh, low-fat gourmet cuisine.

Sample schedule of a day

06:30 – Gourmet coffee/tea and sweet rolls. Coffee is available throughout the day from our espresso machine.
07:00 – First morning dive
08:30 – Full Breakfast
10:00 – Second morning dive
11:30 – Snacks
11:45 – Third dive
13:00 – Lunch, 
14:30 – Fourth dive
16:00 – Fruit smoothies and cake
17:00 – Dusk dive
19:00 – Night dive
20:15 – Dinner (can be served before night dive if requested)

The Ocean Hunter liveaboard fleet is one big family. Unlike the larger liveaboards who change crews and captains every season, our family-run business gives you the same famous service presented by the same friendly faces since 1993. We add new discoveries year after year and are here waiting to share it with you! We are also fortunate to count among our family several local, experienced Palauan guides who have grown up on the reefs and act as ambassadors of goodwill between the visitors and Palauan culture and environment. Many of the crew members aboard Ocean Hunter III have families and children and we chose them because they are very responsible and have a broad view of life.

Safety remains a top priority at all times aboard the Ocean Hunter III. She has full safety equipment for all US Coast Guard requirements as well as an Emergency Oxygen Kit. A VHF marine radio and a cell phone maintain constant contact with land. Upon arrival, the crew will thoroughly brief you on safety aboard Ocean Hunter III, including the use of life jackets, fire extinguishers and emergency exits. The crew has been specially trained in Emergency First Response, and all boating and diving emergencies.

Boat specification

Length: 96 feet (29m)
Beam: 26.25 feet (8m)
Draft: 9ft (2.75m)
Speed: 11 knots
Displacement: 226 tons
Construction: Steel
Engines: Twin 375 hp each
Guest Accommodations: For 16 guests. 2 Standard cabins (Cabins 2 & 5: one queen size bed, one single), 4 Deluxe cabins (Cabins 3, 4, 6 & 9: one king size bed, one single) and 2 upper deck Master Staterooms (one king size bed, one single), all with private head, shower and a/c.
Crew Accommodations: 2 double cabins, private heads.
Leisure areas: Dining room seats 18. Cozy salon with couches, entertainment systems, Espresso machine, Icemaker, Mini-bar. Computer room with email and photo / video editing services. Washing machine / dryer facility.
Fun in the Sun:2 Jacuzzis on top deck.
Generators: 2 by 60 KW
Available Voltage: 110/240/415 VAC 12/24 VDC
Water Tanks: 4000 gals (16000 liters)
Twin 1200 gals/day water makers
Fuel Tanks: 6000 gals (24000 liters)
Electronics: GPS x 3, Satellite Phone, Cellular Phone, 72 mile radar, Depth sounder x 2, Fish finder, VHF, HF Radio, CD, DVD, VCD. TV and VCR with support for European PAL, SECAM and American NTSC.
Chase boat: 35 ft Rigid Hull with 2 x 225 HP Yamaha 4 stroke.
Dive compressors: 2 X Bauer Compressors. NITROX and TRIMIX onboard. Rebreather support available. 
Safety: Full safety equipment for USCG requirements, Emergency O2 Kit.

Typical Itinerary

Palau Diving Itinerary

Below is a typical schedule for your trip onboard Ocean Hunter III. Your actual schedule may vary as all our trips are based around sea conditions, tides, currents and moon cycles. We want to dive the right site at the 7-day time!

Typical day

Day 1

We will pick you up from your flight or hotel at 12:30 PM. You can get your gear ready and have lunch on board. 
2:30 PM: First dive on Helmet Wreck (WWII Japanese ship which is easy to dive and you can check your gear and weights) 
4:00-4: 30 PM- Ocean Hunter III will cross the lagoon to German Channel 
4:30 PM- Second dive at German Channel or Big Drop Off.
7 PM Night dive 
Dinner (can be moved before night dive at customer request on any day)

Days 2, 3, 4

Wake up at 6:00-6: 30 AM with coffee, tea and sweet rolls
The diving on these days will be at some of the following dive sites: German Channel, Big Drop Off, New Drop Off, Blue Holes, German wall, Barnum wall, Blue Corner, Virgin blue hole, Turtle Cove, Ngedebus coral gardens, Ngedebus wall, Fairyland, etc..
7 AM First dive
8:30 AM- Full breakfast
10:00 AM- Second dive
12 noon- Lunch
1:00 PM- Third dive
4:00 PM- Fourth dive
7 PM – Night dive
Dinner

Day 5

Ocean Hunter III moves to the Peleliu area and we dive at the following dive sites:
Peleliu Wall, Peleliu Corner, Peleliu Coral Garden, Orange Wall, Peleliu Expressway, White Beach, Yellow Wall, Peleliu Cut, etc
For those who are interested, we can offer a land tour on the island of Peleliu which was a major battlefield during WWII.
7 AM First dive
8:30 AM- Full breakfast
10:00 AM- Second dive
12 noon- Lunch
1:00 PM- Third dive
4:00 PM- Fourth dive
7 PM – Night dive
Dinner

Day 6

Return to Ngemelis area for another dive and then make our way to Jellyfish Lake (snorkelling and hiking) and then to on Ulong.
Places that we dive there are Ulong Channel, Siaes Tunnel, Siaes Corner and Shark City.
7 AM First dive
8:30 AM- Full breakfast
10:00 AM- Second dive
12 noon- Lunch
1:00-1: 30 PM- Third dive
4:00 PM- Fourth dive
7 PM – Night dive
Dinner

Day 7

A dive in the Ulong area and then as we approach Koror, a shipwreck dive (Iro or Chuyo Maru) and then Chandelier Cave. If time permits we can also offer a trip to Mandarinfish Lake. Arrive at the dock in the late afternoon. Guests can rinse their gear and start packing.
7 AM – First dive
8:30 AM – Full breakfast
10:00 AM – Second dive
12 noon – Lunch
1:00 PM – Third dive
4:00 PM – Fourth dive
7 PM – Night dive
Dinner

Day 8

Guests have breakfast at 7:00 AM and disembark Ocean Hunter III at 8:00 AM. We provide the transportation to the hotel or the airport.

There is hardly a better publication to learn about the sea surrounding Palau than the book “Marine Environments of Palau” by Patrick L. Colin. You can download it for free from the website of the Coral Reef Research Foundation.

Request Booking

Galapagos Diving Expedition aboard Majestic Explorer

Galapagos Diving Expedition aboard Majestic Explorer

World-class Galapagos diving with hammerheads and sharks at Wolf and Darwin Island, and also with marine iguanas at Fernandina. Seven nights aboard the luxury-class yacht Majestic Explorer.

24 January – 01 February 2020

Combine with the Island Cruise into a two-week trip of a lifetime!

Contact Scuba Travel in the UK for info and booking.

Price: £4,500 (flights excluded)

Destination Details

Galapagos Diving

The Galapagos have earned a strong reputation as one of the ultimate liveaboard diving destinations and not without reason. This low-lying volcanic chain was not only Darwin’s inspiration. It is home to diving the like of which you cannot find elsewhere on the planet. The marine life is unique with sharks, rays, sea lions, iguanas, penguins. Watch tuna, salema, snapper, rainbow runners and sail fins dart around the reef – if you can tear your eyes off the ocean’s larger inhabitants. This is every diver’s wish list come true before your eyes. Set your sights on some of the best liveaboard diving you will ever encounter and sail into the intoxicating world of diving in the Galapagos.

There are three distinctive types of underwater environment in the Galapagos Islands. It’s almost as if you were in three different dive destinations.

The Humboldt Current from the South washes the southern and central islands with pretty cold but reasonably clear and blue water (23–24 °C). Expect stunning dive sites such as Cousin Rock and Cabo Marshall, with eagle rays, mobulas and huge mantas, as well as endless large schools of brightly coloured surgeon fish and snappers, and of course the ever-present playful sea lions.

The cold Cromwell Current upwells at the western side of Isabela. Here the water is quite chilly (18–22 °C) and green. Explore the fumaroles (thermal vents) at Roca Redonda. Punta Vicente Roca is another fantastic dive site in that area with a sunfish cleaning station in 30 m depths. Dive with feeding marine iguanas at Cabo Douglas on Fernandina.

But the massive Galapagos diving action is in the north at Darwin and Wolf. Here the water can be 26-27 °C as these islands are warmed by the equatorial Panama current. Before you even get in the water, there is a chance of encountering dolphins and orcas from your liveaboard. Diving under the iconic Darwin Arch is thrilling. Rocky and unwelcoming above the water line, beneath awaits a truly inspiring scene. Three full days are spent at these two islands, getting to grips with every nook and cranny. Hammerheads are the first and foremost attraction, schooling in vast numbers around the submerged pinnacles of Wolf and Darwin. Galapagos sharks are common too, slinky and svelte nipping in and out of the reef life. White-tips hide in the reef from the larger predators. If you like your fish even bigger, whale sharks are seasonally seen in the blue, munching on plankton along with manta, mobula and eagle rays. Look out for a tiger shark in the shallows!

The itineraries may be subject to minor changes at short notice by the Marine Park Authorities. However, a substantial part of every trip is spent at Wolf and Darwin and some dives in the other areas. The current permission covers Isla Lobos, Cousin Rock, Bartolome, Cabo Douglas, Punta Vicente Roca, Pinzon, Wolf and Darwin.

Every diver should certainly experience the Galapagos diving for themselves, but the diving is not suited to novice divers. Wolf and Darwin are the furthest points on the itinerary and divers need to be comfortable in currents and zodiac diving. Thermoclines are common, but these are what draw the overwhelming numbers of big fish closer. Dive guides are experts in their fields – not only do they know how to make sure you have a safe and excellent dive trip, but they are also hugely knowledgeable about the marine life and eager to share! Please check with your travel consultant about the required safety equipment.

The Galapagos is a once in a lifetime trip, and the best diving can only be accessed from liveaboards on either 7 or 10-night liveaboard options. This is the only way to travel and dive in comfort, visiting all the hot spots and highlights of this remarkable corner of the globe. Sail the oceans blue and prepare to be left breathless.

Boat Details

Launching in August 2018, Majestic Explorer builds on the Explorer Ventures Fleet and all their years operating in the Galapagos. We welcome this modern, elegant liveaboard to one of the top diving destinations in the world. Your Galapagos diving adventure will encompass everything from sharks to nudibranchs, as well as the unique marine life you can only find in this remote part of the globe. Stop day-dreaming – it is time to make your diving dreams come true.

Majestic Explorer is a spacious 36 m liveaboard, sleeping only 16 divers across two decks. There are eight air-conditioned rooms located on the main and lower decks, all with en-suite bathrooms, soap and shampoo. No matter which cabin you have, you will love the ocean view windows, letting the light flood into your cabin. Six of the eight cabins have twin beds, and all cabins can be converted to queen beds for couples. Please do let your Galapagos diving travel consultant know your preference at the time of booking.

The communal areas have been thoughtfully designed. She features a partially covered sun deck with a jacuzzi and ample seating, salon area with dining, bar and entertainment area. The all important dive deck in generous, and features a bathroom, large camera table with charging station, individual storage areas, rinse bins for cameras and another for gear. All dives are made from the two large pangas (tenders), which are easily boarded from the dive deck

Typical Itinerary

Galapagos Diving

Saturday: Baltra (1 Check Out Dive at Punta Carrion)
Guests fly to the Galapagos Islands from mainland Ecuador, arriving in the late morning. The dive guides will meet the guests at the airport and escort them to the Majestic Explorer. Guests will board the vessel, have lunch and listen to the briefings. After the briefings, the guests will do a check-out dive at Punta Carrion. After dinner, the ship will depart to the next scheduled destination.

Sunday: Baltra North (2 Dives)
6:30 and 9:30 dives
Sightings include rays and schools of fish.
Afternoon North Seymour land visit. Walk the path around North Seymour Island to see the vast colonies of blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds. Sighting of sea lions and marine iguanas are also common.
Depart for western islands. (long transit)

Monday: Cabo Douglas (2 Dives)
Sightings include marine iguanas.
Transit to Punta Vicente Roca
Punta Vicente Roca (2 Dives)
Sightings often include mola mola, turtles and macro life.
Depart for northern islands (long transit).

Tuesday: Wolf Island (4 Dives)
6:30, 10:30. 2:00 and 4:30 dives. Possible night dive.
Sightings often include hammerheads, whale sharks (in season), eagle rays, sea lions, Galapagos sharks and silky sharks.

Wednesday: Darwin Island (4 Dives)
6:30, 10:30, 2:00 and 4:30 dives
Sightings often include hammerheads, whale sharks (in season) eagle rays, Galapagos sharks and silky sharks.
Transit to Wolf Island

Thursday: Wolf Island (3 Dives)
6:30, 9:00 and 11:00 dives
Sightings often include hammerheads, whale sharks (in season), eagle rays, Galapagos sharks and silky sharks.
Long transit to Cousin’s Rock (20+ hours)

Friday: Cousin’s Rock (1-2 Dives)
6:30 and 9:30 dives (number of dives dependent on travel time from Wolf Island)
This is excellent macro diving with an excellent chance of seeing seahorses, sea lions and eagle rays. Lunch will be served while transiting to Santa Cruz (3 hours). Travel by bus to the Santa Cruz Highlands to visit the giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Transfer to the town of Puerto Ayora. Dinner on your own in Puerto Ayora. Return to the Majestic Explorer at 8:30 pm.

Saturday: Baltra
Depart the vessel by 9 am. Transfer to the airport.

Coming soon: Galapagos Diving Expedition aboard Pingüino Explorer

Coming soon: Galapagos Diving Expedition aboard Pingüino Explorer

World-class Galapagos diving with hammerheads and whale sharks at Wolf and Darwin Island, and also with marine iguanas at Fernandina. Seven nights aboard the economy-class yacht Pingüino Explorer. Includes flights from Prague or a nearby airport.

04–13 November 2019

Organised by SPARK AIRTICKETS, s.r.o., Prague, Czech Republic.

Price: c.130,000 Kč (approx. £4,400)

Destination Details

Galapagos diving

The Galapagos have earned a strong reputation as one of the ultimate liveaboard diving destinations and not without reason. This low-lying volcanic chain was not only Darwin’s inspiration. It is home to diving the like of which you cannot find elsewhere on the planet. The marine life is unique with sharks, rays, sea lions, iguanas, penguins. Watch tuna, salema, snapper, rainbow runners and sail fins dart around the reef – if you can tear your eyes off the ocean’s larger inhabitants. This is every diver’s wish list come true before your eyes. Set your sights on some of the best liveaboard diving you will ever encounter and sail into the intoxicating world of diving in the Galapagos.

There are three distinctive types of underwater environment in the Galapagos Islands. It’s almost as if you were in three different dive destinations.

The Humboldt Current from the South washes the southern and central islands with pretty cold but reasonably clear and blue water (23–24 °C). Expect stunning dive sites such as Cousin Rock and Cabo Marshall, with eagle rays, mobulas and huge mantas, as well as endless large schools of brightly coloured surgeonfish and snappers, and of course the ever-present playful sea lions.

The cold Cromwell Current upwells at the western side of Isabela. Here the water is quite chilly (18–22 °C) and green. Explore the fumaroles (thermal vents) at Roca Redonda. Punta Vicente Roca is another fantastic dive site in that area with a sunfish cleaning station in 30 m depths. Dive with feeding marine iguanas at Cabo Douglas on Fernandina.

But the massive Galapagos diving action is in the north at Darwin and Wolf. Here the water can be 26-27 °C as these islands are warmed by the equatorial Panama current. Before you even get in the water, there is a chance of encountering dolphins and orcas from your liveaboard. Diving under the iconic Darwin Arch is thrilling. Rocky and unwelcoming above the water line, beneath awaits a truly inspiring scene. Three full days are spent at these two islands, getting to grips with every nook and cranny. Hammerheads are the first and foremost attraction, schooling in vast numbers around the submerged pinnacles of Wolf and Darwin. Galapagos sharks are common too, slinky and svelte nipping in and out of the reef life. White-tips hide in the reef from the larger predators. If you like your fish even bigger, whale sharks are seasonally seen in the blue, munching on plankton along with manta, mobula and eagle rays. Look out for a tiger shark in the shallows!

The itineraries may be subject to minor changes at short notice by the Marine Park Authorities. However, a substantial part of every trip is spent at Wolf and Darwin and some dives in the other areas.

Every diver should certainly experience the Galapagos diving for themselves, but the diving is not suited to novice divers. Wolf and Darwin are the furthest points on the itinerary and divers need to be comfortable in currents and zodiac diving. Thermoclines are common, but these are what draw the overwhelming numbers of big fish closer. Dive guides are experts in their fields – not only do they know how to make sure you have a safe and excellent dive trip, but they are also hugely knowledgeable about the marine life and eager to share! Please check with your Galapagos diving travel consultant about the required safety equipment.

The Galapagos is a once in a lifetime trip, and the best diving can only be accessed from liveaboards on either 7 or 10-night liveaboard options. This is the only way to travel and dive in comfort, visiting all the hot spots and highlights of this remarkable corner of the globe. Sail the oceans blue and prepare to be left breathless.

Boat Details

The Galapagos diving boat Pingüino Explorer owes its existence to the conservation initiative of the Galapagos National Park Directorate which encourages fishermen to switch from fishing to tourism. The owner of Pingüino Explorer is a former Galapagos fisherman. Nowadays he runs a boat with the support of his family and a professional team.

The 27-meter-long boat accommodates sixteen guests, eight crew members and two guides licensed by the Galapagos National Park. Divers use two zodiacs to reach the dive sites. Nitrox is available for a fee. The dive deck accommodates 34 twelve-liter aluminum tanks and features a camera table, fresh water tank and two showers with hot and cold water. After diving, snacks and cold or hot drinks are offered depending on the weather.

The four cabins inside the hull and on the main deck feature double beds with an additional bunk bed. The four cabins on the upper deck have bunk beds only.

Food is served buffet-style in a restaurant with four tables with a capacity for all the guests. The bar offers beer, red wine, white wine, and cocktails. The comfortable lounge features an audio/video equipment and a library. Guests can enjoy locally produced fragrant Galapagos coffee. There is also a hot and cold water dispenser, with tea and milk available.

Typical Itinerary

Galapagos Diving Itinerary

Day Early A.M. Late A.M. Early P.M. Late P.M.
Tuesday Arrival to Baltra Check-dive and dive near Baltra
Wednesday Bartolomé Island Cousin’s Rock Cousin’s Rock
Thursday Wolf Island Wolf Island Wolf Island Wolf Island
Friday Darwin Island Darwin Island Darwin Island Darwin Island
Saturday Wolf Island Wolf Island Wolf Island
Sunday Punta Vicente Roca Punta Vicente Roca Cabo Douglas
Monday Roca Blanca Pinzón Island Free afternoon Free afternoon
Tuesday Arrival to Santa Cruz Departure/flights

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