The Galapagos Islands: The Greatest Show on Earth


It’s 3 PM, the hot, sparkling equatorial solar silent stays excessive in its descending arch to the western horizon.  The wind is silent and the sea cushy as our inflexible bottom inflatable (aka RBI or panga) driver Alex, idles the short distance from the Galapagos Aggressor II (GAII) to our entry level, a cove draw Punta Vicente Roca, on the northeast corner of Isla Isabela.

Armed in seven mils of black neoprene from head to toe, the 5 divers in our panga are initiating to sweat uncomfortably beneath the blazing solar.  Richard, our divemaster, can be fully lined in black rubber and senses our discomfort.

Galapagos Aggressor II and Guests at Isla Fernandina. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Galapagos Aggressor II and Company at Isla Fernandina. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

“Divers’ gain ready!” he hurries, and we don our masks, insert our regulator mouthpieces and take a look at our characterize kits one final time.

It’s an oxymoron indubitably, having to apply thick rubber fits for a dive at latitude 0.0536 south; fine, one-half of-of-a-stage south of the equator!  Nonetheless we’re diving the Galapagos Islands, a climate paradox as a consequence of geography, which straddles the earth’s latitudinal centerline within the eastern Pacific Ocean, 1000Km from South The United States.

Wolf Island Scalloped hammerhead Drive-By. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Wolf Island Scalloped hammerhead Drive-By. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

Logically, it’s swish to cause that waters bathing the Galapagos archipelago ought to be bathtub-warm. Yet, as a consequence of its distinctive world placement, the Galapagos Islands are washed by three major and four minor oceanic currents, which at cases converge, diverge, combine, and layer, ensuing in accurate water temperature contradictions. And this occurs for the length of the islands; which is why we were ensconced in holding apparel at Punta Vicente Roca.

“On the rely of three!” Richard signals, and, in unison, we roll into a warm, murky brine at the tip of his rely.

Galapagos Aggressor II Seen from Overlook at Isla Bartolome. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Galapagos Aggressor II Seen from Fail to see at Isla Bartolome. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

The oxymoron continues; at the bottom, this yell has diminutive unusual.  Seawater pools around the cove and warms seriously within the tropical solar.  The final consequence is a neighborhood micro-bloom of plankton within the nutrient-rich floor water, which contrasts with the wintry water below an ever-unusual thermocline by as necessary as 12C.

Collectively we resolve, piercing the murky soup at 15m, to a deep inexperienced, very decided, ethereal world.  On the sparkling transition between warm and wintry, the temperature at once drops from 26C to 20C, with the visibility going from one to +33m!

Sea Lion Juvinile at Landslide,Reef, Wolf Island. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Sea Lion Juvinile at Landslide,Reef, Wolf Island. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

We flee the slope downward, adjusting buoyancy, past spectacularly colored tapestries of sea fans, toward the white sandy bottom at virtually 35m.  In the gloaming, a pair of youth Galapagos sea lions, ubiquitous on most dives within the Galapagos, rocket past us from slack.  Then, taking pictures upward, they barrel-roll thru our utilize trails to the bottom, their playful power-by it appears full.  Now, three meters above the sandy floor, the water temperature has cooled to 17C, grand our 7mm’s, within the otherworldly twilight.

Unexpectedly, Richard bangs his tank with a steel clapper, snapping me from whiney tips in regards to the wintry.  He indicators our community to gaze toward the deep.  In the distance, a pair of mola mola materialize, sliding slowly toward our gob-smacked band of observers.  It’s a immense-uncommon appearance, especially after Richard had proclaimed sooner than the dive that we’d likely no longer respect mola mola, on memoir of it changed into once “too warm.”

Isabela Punta Roca Vicente Mola Mola. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Isabela Punta Roca Vicente Mola Mola. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

No longer fervent in regards to the nippiness, I take a look at my digicam, succor my bubble utilize and push with a single thrust toward the lead fish, attempting to gaze diminutive and innocuous.  While no longer a stout-sized adult, this fish appears to span no longer much less than two meters between fin pointers.  I flee closer and the mola mola follows me with a expansive, unfamiliar detect.  I’m, it appears, no longer a threat, but to boot nothing of passion.  The mola mola turns to the deep and slowly disappears with a snug flutter of its massive dorsal and ventral fins.  Nonetheless most productive after I changed into once ready to click on a single image!

I flip succor to the community where the wall meets the sandy airplane and glance my fellow divers have an even time the uber-phenomenal sighting with excited head bobs and fist pumps.  In spite of Richard’s prediction, or, possibly as a consequence of Richard’s prediction, we had a shut bump into with an animal I’ve by no plot sooner than witnessed in 40 years of diving!

Isabela Punta Roca Vicente Seafans, Softies and Diver. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Isabela Punta Roca Vicente Seafans, Softies and Diver. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

Time is short and we scamper to a valley of cushy corals, past the sandy airplane, looking out elusive seahorses.  Our factual juju continues, Richard and one among our divers each obtain a cleverly camouflaged seahorse among the many softies.

Excitement abounds within the now refreshingly wintry deep-sea as we shoot our footage and watch other exotics sooner than our dive computers tick toward finality.

Isabela, Punta Roca Vicente Seahorse. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Isabela, Punta Roca Vicente Seahorse. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

So it would possibly possibly maybe maybe scamper within the Galapagos Islands.  A carnival of animal oddities and rarities, each on land and sea, which attracts divers from around the enviornment.  So distinctive is the fauna, that one would possibly possibly additionally nearly envision an early, 20th-century carney barker loquaciously extolling the exotica.

“Ladies folk and Gentlemen…Step moral Up!  Attain inner and be incredulous!  Feast your eyes on a one-ton fish and not using a fins and no tail!  Or wonder at the training sharks whose heads are formed worship a coat hanger!  No longer impressed? How a number of tortoise as sizable as a clown vehicle or a lizard that eats within the sea?”

Isla Fernandina Marine Iguanas. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Isla Fernandina Marine Iguanas. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

Certainly, the Galapagos Islands would possibly possibly additionally simply neatly be the “perfect expose on earth.”  For the reason that tumble of 1825 when Charles Darwin, aboard the British brig HMS Beagle, build foot within the Galapagos, explorers have acclaimed the wonders of these aesthetic islands.  Having been known as “a diversified residing museum and a showcase of evolution” and, “a melting pot of marine species” by visiting naturalists, the Galapagos are a bucket list vacation effect for a entire lot of.  In fact, it is that this, which has introduced me succor to those outstanding islands for the fifth time within the final 15 years.

The Galapagos archipelago is made out of 127 islands, islets, and rocks build between latitudes 1.40 degrees North and 1.36 degrees South.  Volcanic in origin, the islands are slightly young geologically, most productive some 5 million years traditional, and, within the case of Isla Isabela and Isla Fernandina, are silent actively forming.  Certainly, as the GAII steamed toward Darwin Island on the 2d evening of our voyage, Wolf Volcano on Isabela changed into once clearly viewed spewing smoke, ash, and lava on its northern flank.

Blue Footed Booby. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Blue Footed Booby. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

It’s the geographic yell, isolation, and confluence of ocean currents, taking the Galapagos’ metaphorical “petri-dish of black volcanic rock,” which has resulted within the speciation of 14 diversified land animals figured out nowhere else within the enviornment.  These animals consist of the Galapagos penguin, the Galapagos tortoise, the marine iguana, the blue-footed booby, the Galapagos flightless cormorant, and the Galapagos hawk.

Oceanwise, speciation is no longer pretty as distinctive.  Many resident species, akin to the scalloped hammerhead shark, Galapagos shark, eagle ray, and inexperienced sea turtle are figured out in other places as ocean currents have introduced circum-tropical and circum-temperate marine existence to the islands more without trouble.  As such, the top doubtless apparent endemic species I could possibly additionally obtain in review is the inexperienced sea urchin, which were wonderfully plentiful at Roca Blanca.

Wolf Island Scalloped hammerhead Drive-By. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Wolf Island Scalloped hammerhead Drive-By. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

The ruin up persona of water temperatures, coupled with distinctive land creatures, and side-expose-worship marine animals, all on the same voyage, invites an circulation-packed week for divers and underwater photographers.  Where else can a diver obtain tropical long-nostril butterflyfish in some unspecified time in the future and temperate-loving mola mola on the following?

The northern islands of Wolf and Darwin were our first major vacation effect on our week’s long voyage on the GAII.  Positioned above the equator and washed by a slightly warm equatorial unusual (warm ample to pork up stony corals), these islands are noteworthy for training scalloped hammerhead sharks, eagle rays, and the uncommon whale shark when currents are robust and unidirectional.

Wolf Island Galapagos Shark Drive-By. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Wolf Island Galapagos Shark Drive-By. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

Oddly, all over our consult with, which coincided with the succor of the stout moon, when tides would possibly possibly additionally simply silent were the strongest, the unusual(s) gave the influence puzzled, progressively pushing a technique on the bottom and the incorrect plot down deep.  For this reason, the training sharks were a no-expose.  We did, nonetheless, respect many single shark power-bys all over our dives and were ready to absolutely explore the reef surrounding Darwin’s Columns (previously Darwin’s Arch) and Landslide Reef at Wolf.

The cozy, conflicted currents also gave us an opportunity to shoot other areas (the Cave at Wolf Island) and lesser-acknowledged “side-expose circus performers” on the reefs, including unfamiliar colleges of barber fish and sedate inexperienced sea turtles when our heart of attention would were otherwise directed (literally and figuratively) to the sharks.

Wolf Island, Long-nose Butterflyfish. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Wolf Island, Lengthy-nostril Butterflyfish. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

While the Galapagos’ circus-heart-ring performers were on hiatus within the north, the Islands’ side-expose performers of the south picked up the slack.  At Cape Douglas on Isla Fernandina, the marine iguanas were solar-fueled early and entered the water at 10 AM to feed, giving our divers on the GAII a diversified opportunity to explore yet some other oxymoron of the archipelago; the lizard that eats within the sea.

By the a total bunch, if no longer hundreds, the charcoal-colored reptiles perch on the succor volcanic rocks, if no longer one some other, at Cape Douglas draw oceans’ edge.  There, they warm themselves sufficiently sooner than venturing into the wintry Pacific to rapidly feed on marine algae.  Our carnival barker would were delighted, as we certainly marveled, incredulous, at this behavioral oddity.

Galapagos Lava Lizard, Isla Bartolome. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Galapagos Lava Lizard, Isla Bartolome. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

Extra alongside our voyage within the south, we encountered the omnipresent Galapagos Sea Lions, whose playful antics power a photographer wrathful.  Like Whirling Dervish, the endemic pinnipeds’ fluidity challenged my taking pictures on every stage.  While the juveniles are basically the most unfamiliar, young females will progressively join in, at final eliciting a response from the harem’s dominant male.

As if to utter, “alright, ample is ample!” the expansive male will flee interference between the divers and the females blowing a “warning” utilize path of bubbles from his nostrils.

Cowley, Black Striped Salema and Diver. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Cowley, Unlit Striped Salema and Diver. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

One afternoon at a slightly innocuous rock named Cowley, we encountered “the mom of all” fish colleges.  The placement is noteworthy for its massive faculty of black-striped Salema.  Hundreds, if no longer hundreds and hundreds of Salema shift form forever from the bottom to seafloor at Cowley.  If it were no longer for the torch of our divemaster or the glint of a strobe flash from my diving mates, I absolutely would have misplaced my plot as the Salema grew to change into day to night at 20m.

No outing to the Galapagos would possibly possibly additionally simply additionally be regarded as full and not using a land safari or two to explore more of Charles Darwin’s natural choice superstars.  The GAII gave us two land excursions, plus a coastline cruise to search out more animals endemic to Galapagos.  At Isla Bartolome, we climb the peak (made noteworthy within the Russell Crowe movie, Grasp and Commander: The Far Aspect Of The World) where a Galapagos hawk, perched on a excessive rock, and a lava lizard, cooling its toes on a low rock, showcased a majestic disregard of the GAII within the passage below.  At Pinnacle Rock we figured out blue-footed booby, Galapagos penguin, and the Galapagos flightless cormorant, allowing image hang of yet more Galapagos “A-listers.”

Galapagos Flightless Cormorant. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Galapagos Flightless Cormorant. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

On our final afternoon, after the attentive GAII crew had washed our dive kits, we traveled up-country to a farm on Isla Santa Cruz where we seen the final act of the circus, the enviornment’s greatest tortoise, within the wild.  Our imaginary carnival barker must not were exaggerating for the estimated 80-year-traditional tortoise would have rivaled the scale of a diminutive clown vehicle!

As I gaze succor on the destinations I’ve explored over the years, I’m no longer surprised that the Galapagos has captured my time and fervour several cases over.  The Galapagos Islands are certainly a circus of the habitual, ridiculous and grandiose.  And worship the circus with requisite sideshows, it draws the unfamiliar, worship a moth to a flame. This is why I’m already planning my sixth outing succor to gaze, the perfect expose on earth.

Isla Santa Curz Giant Tortois. Photo By Mark B. Hatter
Isla Santa Curz Big Tortois. Photograph By Impress B. Hatter

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When to head

The Galapagos Islands would possibly possibly additionally simply additionally be visited year round as the alternate between summer time and wintry weather months is minimal on the equator.  Take a look at alongside side your Aggressor outing planner while assessing the top doubtless time to gaze fine species with an even bigger stage of regularity essentially based mostly on the month of the year.

Getting there

All flights to the Galapagos Islands create from both Quito or Guayaquil in Ecuador.  Understanding on arriving in Ecuador the day sooner than outing departure.  Tell flights to the Islands from both Quito or Guayaquil can be found in from two airways, several time each day.

Selecting an adventure itinerary

Consult with

Thoroughly different info

The stride planners at Aggressor will apprise you of the latest stride requirements/restrictions essentially based mostly on basically the most exhibit COVID-19 stipulations.

Article By Impress B. Hatter – Impress is a protracted-time outside photojournalist specializing in scuba diving photos and soar fishing essays and characteristic articles.  Over time Impress’s footage, quilt shots, and stories, from every continent, have seemed in over two dozen diversified e-newsletter titles, including magazines, books, and industry advertising. 

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