Diving in The Galapagos – North Seymour – Mosqueras – Daphne Minor
SANTA CRUZ DIVING
North Seymour: Eagle Rays, Manta Rays, Hammerheads, White-Tipped Reef Sharks, Galapagos Shark, Stingrays, Marbled Rays, Tiger Snake Eels, Moray Eels, Garden Eels, Sea Stars, Sea Turtles, Jacks, Blue and Gold Snappers, Flag Cabrilla, Creolefish, King Angelfish, Barracuda, Heiroglyphic Hawkfish, Frogfish, Yellowtail Surgeonfish, Spotfin Burrfish, Scorpionfish, Cardinalfish, Nudibranch and more.
The morning began with everyone truly happy and excited to be participating in this, the first ever Galapagos Island Hopping Dive Charter. I must admit it’s a wonderful thing to have an idea and turn into reality. We were up early and out by 7:20 for the 45 minute drive to Itabaca Canal…another 30 minutes and our bottom time was quite disappointing to the experienced diver…calm currents at N. Seymour equaled not as much life and very murky water with not much visibility. Other than sea lions, scorpion fish, white-tipped reef sharks, schools of fish, rays and sea turtles, not much there. LOL. Now there’s a statement you can probably only make in the Galapagos. One of our group so wanted to see a blue-footed booby. There are so many, you quickly begin to take them for granted…and Javier was no exception to that rule.
Such is the Galapagos…these incredibly special treats elsewhere are not uncommon here. Giant sea turtles a meter, or less, away. 6 two meter white-tipped reef sharks a meter away. A school of hammerheads maybe 5 meters away. Swimming beside a whale shark. Schools of grunts, creoles, barracuda, sergeant fish…large bumphead parrots and Mexican hogfish. Walls of Selemas. Watching sea horses awkwardly move from one place to another rather than remain steady with their tail wrapped around something or watching them mate. Tiny saber tooth blennies that will attack any fin you hold out to them. Brightly colored, yellow lipped damsel fish smaller than your hand who will take you on if you encroach on their territory. Tiger Snake eels. Garden Eels. Bright blue nudibranches. Marbled rays, sting rays, eagle rays, garden eels and everywhere the large sea stars in the Galapagos. I will never forget a safety stop where in 3 D below were large schools of fish in circles below me with quite a number of white-tipped reef sharks trolling below them but above a white sandy bottom covered in hundreds of sea stars. And that was a safety stop!
Post Note: Last week when I was diving North Seymour, we had a nice school of eagle rays and 5 mantas!
Our first surface interval was in calm, crystal clear water next to a stunning white beach on the tiny islet, Mosqueras, where sea lions breed, grow and learn through very active play with each other…and snorkelers…in the water. One of our group members was filming the whole time and to say this was perfect for sea lion footage is an understatement.
Mosqueras: Sea Lions, Eagle Rays, Hammerheads, White-Tipped Reef Shark, Mantas, Garden Eels, Snake Eels, Bonitos, Jack, Mackerel, Threebanded Butterflyfish, Sea Turtles, Yellowtail Surgeonfish, Yellow and Blue Striped Snappers, King Angelfish, Parrotfish, Yellowtail Grunt, Peruvian Grunt, Cardinalfish, Galapagos Grunt, Sea Stars and more.
Next we headed around to the non-protected side of Moqueras for Dive 2. Again, really diminished visibility and ‘not much there’, though one highlight for me was a group of 2 eagle rays keeping company with a young manta about the same size. At first, I thought it was coincidence, but no. As I watched them turn and disappear into the blue, they were clearly traveling together. Last time I was at Mosqueras, I watched a school of about 18 hammerheads at eye level from about 15 feet away…luck of the draw.
Post Note: I was diving Mosqueras this month and WOW…in 2 back to back dives over 100 hammerheads. On the first dive, as I’m descending, I’m trying to get the other divers’ attention because immediately under us were about a dozen hammerheads that it appeared we might descend right through. Great dive and when we were back up at the surface, the marinero (sailor) yells at me to say that there are all sorts of fins ‘circling’ me in the water. My response was “Where? I want to see!” I thought he was kidding, but after I had handed my gear up and climbed back into the boat, indeed there were fins everywhere! I grabbed my snorkel and jumped back in the water. The divemaster and one other…out of 8…decided to join me. I must have stayed in about 15-20 minutes and, though I could lift my head out of the water and see all the fins nearby, I was seeing nothing with my face in the water…until a hammerhead swam about 3 feet beside me. How amazing to see him/her that close, that clearly.
First, I have always said and still say that I feel like prey at the surface. Granted, by now I’ve grown so accustomed to being in the water with hammerheads that I no longer have even a twinge of hesitation, but after seeing the one fellow so close, I decided maybe I shouldn’t push my luck and headed back to the boat. I even decided it could be prudent to head over to the divemaster as I had been solo and at least 50 feet away from anyone else…all 3 of us that is. Still, I have to say that I LOVED that I went snorkeling with hammerheads.
The next day I had hired a private boat and only two of us were diving together. He says the standard…let’s do Mosqueras first, then N. Seymour. I’m like…NO. Let’s do N. Seymour first, Mosqueras second. I was hoping against hope to essentially follow in my ‘footsteps’ of the day before so I could increase the odds of seeing the same thing. It was better!
We went down to the sandy spot where the schools of snappers always are at about 45 feet and there beside us were a group of at least 35 hammerheads, sometimes about 15-20 feet away. They passed by and back again from a different angle…same once more. So we got to see this group from eye level, above and below us. There were also groups of 6-8 and 2. All in all, over 100 hammerheads back to back at Mosqueras! Ask anyone and they say seeing hammerheads is pretty rare in Mosqueras. It’s a fairly simple dive where I’ve even seen boats take discovery divers for their first ever immersion.
Daphne Minor: Sea Turtles, Hammerheads, White-Tipped Reef Sharks, Galapagos Sharks, Silky Sharks, Golden Cowrays, Eagle Rays, Galapagos Grunts, Yellowtail Grunts, Creolefish, King Angelfish, Galapagos Ringtail Damselfish, Chamelion Wrasse, Rainbow Wrasse, Barracuda, Streamer Hogfish, Tuna, Parrotfish, Wrasse, Razor Surgeonfish, Panamic Graysby Cabrilla, Cardinalfish, Yellowtail Snapper, Nudibranch, Octopus, Slipper Lobster and Black Coral.
Again, until I have my Pro Ear mask down here, after all my ear problems, I sat out the 3rd dive having limited myself to 2 per day. I have really enjoyed Daphne before. I love the walls with all the crags and coral. I love that if you hold onto a rock with a crevasse, the small territorial damselfish will constantly ‘attack’ you in order to drive you off his/her property. It just amazes me that a fish that small is so willing to take on something 100 times its size. It never hurts even without gloves, so it merely serves to remind you of common courtesy by yelling, “Get away from my home!” The other thing I really love about Daphne is how the current can whip by the wall and provide you with a very nice ride indeed. It’s also nice to sit inside a cave (once you drive the white-tipped reef sharks out) and just watch the blue screen the ocean becomes. Small medusas raining down. Lots of schools of fish. White-tipped reef sharks passing by. Nice living TV.
Update July 2009: I felt like I had my own private hammerhead heaven for 2 days. Only one friend and I were out diving. I had seen so many hammerheads the day before at both N. Seymour and Mosqueras, that we recreated the schedule in hopes of them still being there. They were. At Mosqueras, we were treated to a school of at least 35 hammerheads within 25 feet from 3 different angles. It was great!