With a boat back to Puerto Ayora booked for 2:30 we had enough time for a tour of Las Tintoreras that morning. This is a small island group off the southern coast of Isabela – almost more like a small collection of rocks really – that’s teaming with wildlife including a water channel filled with resting white-tip reef sharks. There must have been almost a hundred of the 1 to 1.5 meter sharks just resting prone or idly gliding up and down the shallow channel – quite a site but a no-go area for snorkelling. Added to this were literally thousands of Marine Iguanas, from the tiny to the huge, all scattered about the lava rocks ready to get involved in the imminent mating season.
The odd heron stood about, blue-footed boobies perched and as we drifted to our snorkelling spot we were delighted to spy a few Penguins finally, just sat around up to very little except for being awesome. After suiting up in our wisely hired wetsuits we were in the water and in moments amongst a host of huge sea turtles. We watched them glide around unperturbed by human presence before taking an interesting route through some very shallow rocky channels on the hunt for Marine Iguanas in the water.
Just as all hope seemed lost a signal from our guide had my head turn to the amazing sight above water of a big iguana on the move directly toward my mask. I ducked as late as I could to see it glide over before popping back up as it made its way toward the shoreline. Damn cool.
It was then back out and on the boat back to town. We were dropped at our hotel where they’d kindly let us keep the room and we cleaned up and set out toward the port for our departure back. We took a quick side trip to Concha Y Perla, a little lagoon, and met David there again. He leant me his snorkel so I could take a quick swim out and see the ray he’d spied over the other side. I took the water proof camera and snapped a few shots before a sea lion swam up to say hello, swirling and spinning and playing as I filmed his antics. I hopped out and we said our goodbyes before getting on our return boat (after some confusion and some serious overcrowding thanks to unscrupulous over-selling of tickets) and taking a rough ride back to Puerto Ayora.
We returned to Galapagos Best Homestay and met Dennis, a long-term traveller from Germany and Suree from Thailand who’d moved into the other two dorm beds. Some Tacos sorted us out for tea and we hit the sack early in preparation for our stupid o’clock start for diving the next day.
With diving comes early starts and this was no exception. We were down at the port in time for a quick breakfast and terrible coffee before popping to the dive shop and leaping in the back of a taxi up the island to the northern port near Baltra. Before long we were on the Nautilus, an aging sail boat that did precious little sailing these days’ thanks to the motor. We’d somehow managed to get the early taxi and arrived before any other divers but soon enough we were joined by 7 others, amongst them Raul & Cat, dive shop owners themselves, Erica a Dutch girl with the same obsession as me for hammerhead viewing, and Jonathan from Quebec.
We had about an hour and a half to get out to our first dive spot – Plaza – so set about getting to know each other. As we got closer we were briefed on the dive plan and then told to head over to get kitted out. At this point it all became rather haphazard which is never a good thing. Eventually despite their best lack-of-efforts we managed to sort ourselves out and hop into the dingy for transfer to the drop point.
Now dear readers as you all well know diving and I have a so-so relationship; it has to be pretty impressive to piqué my interest. I was here for the hammerheads and an unlikely whale rendezvous and no amount of other sea life was going to cut it.
Underwater, the dive company Nauti Diving’s problems continued; as a group we were all fairly poorly taken care of. Towards the back end of the dive we gave up on trying follow the company and instead Raul took Fi back up while Cat paired up with me and we set out for a wander on our own.
Over the course of the dive we saw White Tip reef sharks, Eagle Rays, Stingrays and other sea life but in fairness I spent the majority of it – save for the wander with Cat – remembering why I’ll never be a dive master. It’s just not that interesting to me – the divers I meet are almost all incredible fun bright people and those working in the industry often have that glint in their eye that they’ve found their calling. I wish I felt the same way but I just don’t.
If the first dive was a disappointment the second was a disaster. We were lined up for Gordon Rocks, a spot known for difficult conditions and reserved only for experienced divers. To cut a long story short the current was insane, one diver was forced to buddy breath, we spent the majority of the dive hanging on to rocks for dear life and Fi chewed through her own air in record time. At one point I was literally being stretched during my best possible attempts at something akin to a safety stop – one outstretched hand on a rock and the other fully extended in the opposite direction holding onto Fi as the current ripped over both of us. When I eventually let go we were simply whipped up to the surface; far from safe.
I had a stonking headache for my troubles and I couldn’t wait to get out of the water. The boat ride back took forever but it gave us an opportunity for a good lunch and to vent our collective frustrations between ourselves.
That evening we hit Cafe Hernan along with Dennis & Suree from our hostel and Miro & Sarah from our earlier time in Puerto Ayora and had a cool evening over beers and pizza.
This late in our trip we were not used to being constantly ‘on it’ anymore so when the opportunity for a rest day presented itself it was met with glee. The chance to sleep in past 6:30 was the first hit of the day and I spent most of the morning preparing and eventually publishing a blog post. We took a wander toward town via the Lavanderia where the kind lady agreed it would be no problem to turn our washing around in just a few hours.
After a simple Ecuadorian lunch and some errands we were back to the Homestay where we spied Suzanne – one of our friends from Rio – who’d just checked in! A chance rendezvous indeed and much catching up followed before Suzanne left for her intro tour with Kevin and Marleen from Holland who’d also just arrived.
We sorted this and that for our imminent tour and caught up with Dennis when he returned from his dives (he typically saw loads of Hammerhead sharks and we were happy for him but gutted we’d missed out). While we’d hoped to see Suzanne for a beer we were destined not to cross paths and we had to head over to the tour agency sort our snorkel gear in advance of next morning’s departure. You can imagine my delight at the opportunity to slip on a soaking wetsuit just prior to a meal out and I was left without fins, with the promise that they’d be provided on arrival in San Cristobal.
Gear sorted as well as could be we rendezvoused with Miro & Sarah for the last time and enjoyed good food and good company.