Saturday, December 16, 2006

Galapagos: About my trip

⊗ The M/Y Reina Silvia is a great ship, but it is not build for divers. The cabins are decent enough and there's plenty of living space, but except for a scuba tanks storage rack, there's no dive deck to speak of. Meaning everything (wetsuit, booties, fins, mask, etc) is hung or stowed in crates on the rather cramped sundeck. And your UW camera equipment... well, that's your problem.

⊗ Surprisingly for a live-aboard of this class, the M/Y Reina Silvia does not offer Nitrox.

⊗ While the organization and service on board were impeccable, the diving was always done in one big frustrating clump of fifteen divers plus two guides. This by itself is totally unacceptable when paying top dollars for a first class dive trip - and I would not have booked this cruise had I known this. Even though we always rode out in three zodiacs and officially three teams, we all went to the same spot at the same time. Maybe because there was only one senior dive-master and one junior dive-guide?

With that many divers together in the water, it's impossible to enjoy a dive, no matter what there is to be seen. Macro dives are total chaos as everybody of course clambers to see the shy little seahorse the guide has found. Action dives are inevitably fiascos, as that many divers clinging side-by-side onto a current swept rocky edge, create a veritable wall of bubbles that scares or at least keeps away, the already wary hammerheads. Not surprisingly, the best part of any dive was when we let go and were spread out by the current. Only then would they appear out of the blue and come nearer for a closer look.

⊗ The M/Y Reina Silvia was never anchored far off the dive sites, but still, the zodiacs should have had radios on board, as well as first-aid-kit & oxygen, not to mention more powerful twin outboards (instead of a weak single one).

⊗ Personally, I did not appreciate being left alone at the surface by two of the zodiacs, given the conditions the day I lost my team (see: Española: Gardner seamount).

⊗ The two weeks route around the islands wasn't very travel efficient, with many long overnight sails. Not that big a thing -thanks to the calm weather- but why sail back and forth so much? Also, Tauchreisen Roscher sells its Galapagos package advertising four to five days around Wolf & Darwin, where some of the best diving is to be done. We only stayed three - even though weather conditions were fine.

⊕ That said, I did get to experience quite a few amazing things, as you can probably tell from my account. Both below the waves and during the many wonderful land excursions, knowledgeably led by the main guide.

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