In 1942, the United States Navy built a base on Baltra Island to guard the entrance to the Panama Canal during World War II. The airstrip that our Aerogal flight landed at, and the dock that we used to get to the boat, are both left-over from that Base. Aerogal has just started flying out to the Islands, and is providing much needed competition to Tame. The prices for the short flights to the islands are still exorbitant (especially when you find out that locals pay less than half what we do for the same seat). Our flight left an hour earlier than the Tame flight, but stopped in San Cristobal, so arrived in Baltra just after the Tame flight.
The line to get into the terminal building was long, (two flights worth of tourists), but the boat wasn’t going anywhere so we just hung out. Eventually, they check your documents, your bags, and your $100 bills (one each please), and you pass into the terminal, where we found the divemasters and crews from both the Aggressors waiting for us. Once our luggage showed up, and we identified it for the crew (which boat it was going to), they took care of the luggage, and we boarded a bus for the short trip to the dock.
There isn’t much to see in Baltra, mainly the airport and the dock. We quickly arrived at the dock, and found a resident sea lion snoozing under the bench (yes, he was very cute). Once on board the Aggressor II, we all went into the Salon for an orientation, room assignments, etc. As soon as we sat down in the Salon, the “spoiling” began. Winter (the Steward) passed out snacks and cold drinks while we listened to the orientation and the crew loaded the rest of our bags on to the Dive deck.
The Galapagos Aggressor II is a beautiful Yacht, 100’ long, and is in near perfect condition. It has been recently refitted, and the upkeep was outstanding. Having spent 14 years of my life at sea as a Captain, I tend to notice corrosion, poor maintenance and lax safety, but found this vessel to be faultless. All of the Aggressor equipment worked flawlessly throughout the trip. This was our first trip on an Aggressor live-aboard, and when comparing this with our previous experience on a Peter Hughes vessel, we found that although the Aggressor program lacks a few of creature comforts (like coffee in bed, bath robes), they more than made up for it in service and safety. We'll certainly be back.
After the briefing, we ferried our really small bag of clothing (a pair of shorts and a t-shirt for me) to the room, and then gleefully assembled our dive gear on the dive deck as the boat pulled its anchor. We motored south a short ways to the Canal de Itabaca between Baltra and Santa Cruz islands for our check out dive. Yee Haw!