Galapagos Trip Report, June 24th - July 1, 2004
The Galapagos Islands are a legendary Tourist destination, visited by nearly 70,000 visitors each year. Lying 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the isolation of these magnificent islands has created a unique environment where species of animals evolve differently from island to island. This has lured visitors and researchers to these islands since Charles Darwin first published the Journal of the Beagle (1845) and On the Origin of Species (1859).
What most of the tourists miss, are the hidden jewels among the Archipelago, effectively hiding about 250 miles North of Puerto Ayora. The small islands of Darwin and Wolf are off limits to humans on shore, but to divers, have become akin to Mecca, with excellent justification. The diving along the current-swept walls of Darwin’s Arch is stunning and electrifying; arguably the best the world has to offer. An endless parade of huge pelagic marine creatures stream by, mere feet from divers, including the world’s largest fish, Mrs. Big, the whale shark.
Fourteen intrepid cold-water divers from Olympia made the pilgrimage to the Galapagos Islands in June of 2004. This is their story:
We left Seattle a bit after midnight, and arrived in Ecuador late in the evening. This made for a very long day, with lots of delayed flights (see Travel Lunacy), but we were here, and all our bags made it, so vacation time was finally kicking in. The staff from the Oro Verde (along with an armed guard) met us at the airport and whisked us off to the hotel.
We spent a total of three days at the Oro Verde hotel, in downtown Guyaquil. This is a very nice 5 star hotel that took excellent care of us, catering to our every need. They immediately brought us cold fruit juice and damp towels to refresh us even before we checked in. The hotel is just finishing up a major renovation, and the results are quite beautiful. There are several nice restaurants at the Hotel, and a great Deli just off the lobby. There were armed guards in front of the hotels and banks throughout the city, which has a shady history as a pretty wild and dangerous seaport.
We were up bright and early Thursday morning, and the hotel shuttle dropped us off at the Domestic Terminal. The local Aggressor Fleet representatives were there to meet us. They efficiently took care of our bags, had them inspected and secured them with tie-wraps, and checked us in for our flight, then negotiated with the airline for our mass quantities of excess baggage. In theory, you’re only allowed one bag each of checked luggage, 44 lbs maximum. In reality, my camera case alone exceeds that, as well as my dive gear. Everyone in our group was seriously over the baggage allotment, and the flight was full, but it only cost $5/person in excess luggage. I can handle that!