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Wonders of the Galapagos !!

by Carl Roessler

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The Galapagos Islands lie six hundred miles west of the Pacific coast of Ecuador. They have been famous since Charles Darwin’s Beagle voyages led to important observations crucial to developing the evolution theories in his Origin of Species.

As more tourists visited over the past four decades, these widely-scattered volcanic outposts have become a popular destination for both theirlong-famed terrestrial species and the rich marine fauna off their coasts.

My first cruise among the Galapagos was in 1972, and I have made several visits since because the life on the rocky undersea flanks of these black basalt islands is so vivid, varied and plentiful.

The biggest problem in designing a diving vacation in the Galapagos is that there are so many superb sites scattered over such a vast expanse of ocean. Cruises of ten to twenty hours are required to reach some of the more distant sites; while these can of course be made as overnight voyages they quickly consume a short vacation.

In our early days, we offered cruises of ten to fourteen days. Cruises of that length enabled us to visit Darwin and Wolf Islands in the far North for the schooling hammerheads, as well as visiting the prime sites in the central and southern regions.

I have to confess that I never miss the big-animal diving in the northern islands; I have an incandescent memory of the first time we took a Zodiac full of divers from the anchorage to the dive site at Darwin.

As we motored slowly along, more and more gray creatures began swimming along at the surface around us. On first glance we instinctively thought they were porpoises, but immediately we realized that hundreds of hammerhead sharks were swarming around our boat.

While the big-animal diving at Wolf and Darwin is sensational, I hate to have divers miss places such as Hood, the Devil’s Crown, Cousins, Fernandina and Punta Roca Vicente on Isabella. Each of these has provided encounters with amazing species, from Juvenile stonefish to wrasse-assed bass (yes, that’s what they’re called) to Mola mola, the ocean sunfish. We’ve had passing whales, Sea lions beyond counting, enormous shoals of palometa and schools of barracuda so immense that diving beneath them was almost like doing a night dive.

There were green sea turtles everywhere, spotted morays with glowing yellow eyes, black coral trees with bright yellow ‘foliage’—not to mention diving with two distinct species of marine iguanas at Hood and Fernandina islands.

In addition to at least three dives each day, we climbed the Alcedo Volcano, 4,000 feet ,of steep (sometimes it seemed vertical!) hiking to look out across a vast forested caldera with giant tortoises everywhere.

The Galapagos are perhaps the most different of all diving destinations. Because the Humboldt Current flows North from the Antarctic and washes through the Galapagos, the waters are colder than most of our tropical haunts despite sitting astride the Equator. The land walks should never be skipped to squeeze in another dive, for the terrestrial animals are a crucial part of the Enchanted Islands story. Even the night dives in places like the bottom at Bartholomew (with yellow-bellied batfish) and Tagus Cove (with practically anything!) can be the outstanding event of any day.

On my most recent trip my daughter joined me. After ten days in the islands, she learned Spanish and applied to become a Galapagos guide.

That should be just a hint of the power of this experience!

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