Whale Sharks, Seals, Hammerheads and More!
Imagine diving with whale sharks, seal lions and penguins! If that doesn’t get your heart pumping then consider adding schooling hammerhead sharks, mantas and mola mola. This is what diving in the Galapagos is all about and Sub-Aquatic Sports wants to take you there! This trip is going to the absolute best dive sites in the island chain, on a beautiful liveaboard dive ship, the Galapagos Sky.
Trip Dates: This is confusing so please read carefully.
August 9-16, 2015: Live-aboard Dive Boat (Sunday-Sunday)
August 7, 2015: International Departure Flight to Quito (Friday)
August 16: Departure home if no land extensions (Sunday departure arrives home on Monday)
August 19: Departure home if doing 4-night Galapagos extension (Wednesday departure arrives home on Thursday)
August 22: Departure home if doing 7-night Galapagos extension (Saturday departure arrives home on Sunday)
The Perfect Itinerary:
Arrive into Quito, Ecuador early: Typically, the international flight into Quito arrives late in the evening and the flights to the Galapagos Islands leave early in the morning. I strongly recommend that you do not come in the night before your island flight. Please allow an extra day in Quito on the off chance that you or your luggage does not arrive as planned. It would be very sad to set sail on this trip of a lifetime without you! On our last trip, we had both lost luggage and late arrivals but everyone made it to the boat on time. If you take my suggestion, then arrive on August 7th. As of Oct 21, there was a Delta flight out of Detroit for $1078. Quito Airport Code is UIO
Cost: $249 based on double occupancy.
Add $105 for single supplement
You are more than welcome to book your own hotel but we have arranged this package for anyone interested in a little city exploration. It includes airport transfers, two nights accommodations based on double occupancy, breakfast daily, day tour, 22% taxes and service charges.
Friday, August 7: Travel Day
You will have just spent 14+ hours getting to Quito and inevitably will be tired. We have arranged a guide to meet us at the airport and drive the group to Hotel Sierra Madre. This mid-priced, family run hotel is in a quiet neighborhood in the heart of Quito. This was my first draw to the property. My experience of Quito is the town never sleeps, meaning it can get loud and crazy into the wee hours of the morning. The hotel was once a privately owned Spanish villa, now renovated and restored to a small boutique hotel with local art.
Saturday, August 8: Quito City and Equator Tour
After breakfast, our city tour begins. We starts with a visit to the Itchimbia neighborhood, which is a place that offers a spectacular view of the old and new city. There you will visit old colonial Quito starting in Santo Domingo Plaza. Walk through one of the oldest streets in the town “la Rhonda Street’ where you will see how the colonial houses were built and how the Quitenos lived in the 17th century. Your walk takes you through the city museum to San Francisco Plaza, making a quick stop to try the typical sweets of Quito. San Francisco is the oldest church in Quito and it is full of history and legends. Finally, you will tour the main square where the presidential palace, the main cathedral and various impressive buildings can be appreciated. La Compania de Jesus church is one of the most beautiful churches in South America, or perhaps the world. Final stop is extremely tourist, however I failed to build it into the tour last time and crowd got little ugly so we are stopping at the INTI NAN equator line/museum. Get your cameras ready.
Sunday, August 9: Flight to Galapagos-Board Boat-Check Out Dive
Flight (subject to change) Depart Quito 9am - Arrive into Galapagos at 2:45pm
After breakfast, the group will be taken back to the airport for the island flight to the Galapagos. The guide will assists us with airport check-in. Our flight will depart Quito around 9am and arrive into San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos around 2:45pm. There is one stop in Guayaquil.
Welcome the Galapagos: When you arrive at the airport in San Cristobal, the crew of the Galapagos Sky will personally meet you, collect your luggage, and escort you to the ship. Your luggage will be delivered to the dive deck. After everyone is on board, there is an introduce of the crew and a mandatory safety drill. Then, we cruise to the area of Los Lobos for your check-out dive. This is the best check-out dive ever! Meet the Galapagos sea lions and fur seals! Watch them zoom in and out and dance playfully! The babies are the most friendly. Have your underwater camera ready. Video is even better.
Even on the first day of your live-aboard cruise – you begin to see the myriad and diverse land formations which comprise the Galapagos Islands topside. It is then you realize you will see nothing like it in your lifetime.
Monday, August 10: Bartolome Land Tour & 2 Dives at Cousins Rock
Unlike our previous Galapagos trip, the government is now allowing dive live-aboard boats to do one extra walking tour and its to the volcanic islet of Bartolome. It was named after naturalist and lifelong friend of Charles Darwin, Sir Bartholomew James Sullivan, who was a Lieutenant aboard HMS Beagle. After a series of many steps, you have a scenic view of an extinct volcano and the famous Pinnacle Rock. Pinnacle Rock is one of the most popular landmarks of the Galapagos Islands and ironically was used as target practice in WWII by the U.S. Air Force.
Galápagos penguins are frequently seen, and a small cave behind Pinnacle Rock houses a breeding colony. Seasonally, Bartolomé is the mating and nesting site for the green turtles.
Cousins Rocks- this dive is a boat favorite and is done along a beautiful wall with coral, frog fish, sea horses, scorpion fish and octopus. It is also a great dive for large schools of Barracuda and Hammerhead sharks. Sea lions will be your companions upon entry and on the safety stops.
By definition, the entire Galapagos Archipelago is geographically remote. But after this day, you are heading to the most isolated, northernmost part of the Galapagos Islands – the uninhabited, untouched, twin cathedrals of world class diving – Wolf and Darwin Islands.
Tuesday, August 11-Thursday, August 13- 11 Dives at Wolf & Darwin
• Tues-4 Dives a day at Wolf plus a night dive
• Wed- 4 dives at Darwin
• Thurs-3 Dives total, 2 at Darwin and 1 afternoon dive at Wolf
Diving Wolf and Darwin: The reason you signed up for this Galapagos dive adventure is probably based upon what you’ve heard and read about these two islands. You’ll spend the next three days diving up to four dives per day plus a night dive on Wolf and Darwin. Most experienced divers will agree, Wolf and Darwin can provide some of the best diving encounters in the world! Whale sharks are common here from Mid May through November. At The Arch at Darwin, you will see hammerhead sharks either individually, in small groups, or large schools. Bottlenose dolphins are common and we saw them by the hundreds last time. The reef contains many warm water varieties of fish found nowhere else in the Islands.
Once you see Wolf and Darwin – you’ll immediately understand why there are no shore excursions on this part of the cruise – there is no way up the vertical cliffs!
Darwin Island: Considered by many experienced divers as the very best dive site in the world, The Arch at Darwin island (actually several dive sites depending on where you enter, currents, etc.) honors its reputation. It is warmer by a few degrees (mid 70’s) than the central islands. In one single dive, you can find schooling hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, large pods of dolphins, thick schools of skipjack and yellow fin tuna, big eye jacks, mobula rays, and silky sharks. Our trip is scheduled around whale sharks migration and with any luck, you will get amazingly close to these gentle giants. The presence of occasional tiger sharks, black and blue marlin, and killer whales adds on to this amazing diving experience. If you still have time to look for smaller stuff, you’ll find octopus, flounders, and an enormous variety and abundance of tropical fish. Darwin Island is the biggest jewel on the Galapagos Crown.
Wolf Island: It is one of those magical islands, with several dive sites to choose from. If you want to see sharks, you are at the right spot. This is a place for schooling hammerhead sharks, large aggregations of Galapagos sharks, and occasionally whale sharks. Seeing dolphins, large schools of tuna, spotted eagle rays, barracudas, sea lions and sea turtles is common. The bottom is littered with hundreds of moray eels, many of them free swimming. Being several degrees warmer than the central islands, you can look for many representatives of the Indo-Pacific underwater fauna. On a night dive here you will also enjoy spotting and watching the Red Lipped bat fish walking along the bottom of the sea!
Friday, August 14: 1 Dives Cape Douglas and 2 Dives at Punta Vicente Roca
At Cape (Cabo) Douglas, on the western side of Isabela Island, we will do 1 dive Friday morning. Here you can expect to see Galapagos Penguins, Marine Iguanas, Flightless Cormorants, Sea Lions, Seahorse, Sea Turtles, Horn Sharks, Red Lipped Batfish, and occasional hammerhead sharks and white tip sharks. Also keep an eye out for chevron barracuda, snappers, yellow fin tuna, rainbow runners, and wahoo. There are also a lot of smaller fishes like creole fishes, parrot fishes, scrawled filefishes, pacific box fishes, and tiger snake eels.
This day we also visit Punta Vincente Roca for up to 2 dives. Our coldest yet rapidly increasing favorite dive – steep, deep vertical wall covered in soft coral, sponges, and endemic black coral. Regular sightings of mola mola (oceanic sun fish,) sea horses, bullhead sharks, red lipped bat fish, various shrimp and many other marine invertebrates. Keep your eyes open for fly bys from the flightless cormorants, penguins and maybe even a marine iguana. A after-dive panga ride offers great topside photo ops for penguins, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, sea lions, blue footed & nazca booby birds, magnificent frigates and noddy terns. The diving here is chilly (particularly below the thermocline – but not to be missed!).
Saturday, August 22: One Dive, One Tour and One Big Decision
One Dive: The dive portion of this trip will wind up today with a final morning dive at Isla Pinzon. This is your last chance to encounters sharks, sea lions, mantas, eagle rays, and moray eels. Many species of fish including yellow tailed surgeonfish, king angelfish, moorish idols, steel pompanos, snappers, grunts, creole fish, and barracuda populate the water.
One Tour: After the dive and lunch, we go to Itabaca Channel and are bussed 45 minutes to the Highlands of Santa Cruz to see the Galapagos Tortoises. I love this tour! Tortoises roam the open fields and your are welcome to walk right up to them. After many photo ops, we head to the town of Puerto Ayora, where you have …..
One Big Decision: Do you want to spend a few hours buying a t-shirt and visiting the Darwin Research Station... OR... do you want to jump ship here and spend a few more days doing day tours? You really need to think about this now so that air tickets (both island and international flights) can be purchased.
Heading Home? If you choose to head home, you will be driven back to Itabaca Channel to board the Galapagos Sky around 7pm for dinner. The Sky will then return to San Cristobal for Sunday morning cruise completion.
Staying on For More Adventure? After the Highland/Tortoise tour, you and your luggage will be dropped off at the Villa Laguna hotel. See Land Tour Extensions for the rest of the itinerary.
Sunday, August 23: For those heading home
The boat will complete an overnight crossing to San Cristobal. In the morning, there is time to visit the Interpretation Center where the human history of Galapagos is presented. Then walk the town and take advantage of your last chance to buy souvenirs.
Flight (subject to change) Depart Galapagos at 12:30pm - Arrive Quito at 5pm
Quito’s Airport: If you booked the recommended flight that leaves at 11:30pm, you’ll be stuck in an overly crowded airport for 5 1/2 hours. Unfortunately, you cannot immediately check in your luggage for the international flight home so you’re stuck sitting at the airport with a mountain of smelly dive gear. Here’s my suggestion. Pay to have your luggage stored. There is a small, questionably secure room run by a small, elderly woman. Keep all valuables in your carry-on and check the rest of your luggage. We had no problem using this service but certainly questioned our logic when handing over our bags. Once you’re free from suitcases, it is much easier to leave the airport premise and find dinner. There are several restaurants within walking distance. If you’re more adventurous, research a scenic dinner location, grab a taxi and head out for a celebratory last night dinner in Ecuador. For us, something simple sufficed within walking distance.
M/V Galapagos Sky: This beautiful ship is fast enough to get us to prime dive sites and comfort. There are two choice of room categories, Master Stateroom and Deluxe.
Master Stateroom cabins 1-4 are located on the Dolphin deck and have two twin beds (that can be joined together), private facilities, window view, mirrored cabinet, wardrobe, bathrobes, hairdryer, biodegradable toiletries, fresh towels daily, air conditioning and volume controls. Cost $5495
Deluxe Stateroom cabins 5-8 are located on the Iguana deck and have two twin beds, private facilities, Port light view, mirrored cabinet, wardrobe, bathrobes, hairdryer, biodegradable toiletries, fresh towels daily, air conditioning and volume controls. Cost: $5295.
Rates include: Cabin accommodation, all meals, snacks, beverages (including Beer and Wine with Dinner), air or nitrox filled tanks, weights, weight belt, up to 4 dives per day on 5.5 days for 7-night cruises, 3 land excursions, service of naturalist guides/ dive masters, transfers in the Islands between airport and dock (on cruise dates), all other Galapagos Sky services and amenities.
Rates do not include: Trip interruption or Cancellation Insurance, International airfare to Ecuador, Domestic Airfare to the Galapagos Islands, Galapagos National Park entrance fee ($100), Transit card ($10) hyperbaric chamber fee ($35), gratuities to guides and crew.
Boat Payment Schedule:
$600 November 1, 2014
$1650 Feb 1, 2015
Balance Due May 1, 2015
Please note that all payments are non-refundable unless that space can be refilled. Even if so, the original deposit and some service fees may incur.
Cruise Interruption and Cancellation Insurance: DivEncounters & Galapagos Sky will NOT provide refund or cruise credit in the event you miss your cruise for circumstances beyond our control that might require us not to fulfill your full cruise itinerary. We strongly recommend that all passengers traveling to Galapagos Sky invest in COMPREHENSIVE medical, accident, trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance at the time of your reservation. This investment will protect you and your financial commitment in the event of unforeseen travel delays/ airline cancellations, personal or family illness or injury, etc. which may not allow for you to attend your scheduled cruise. We also strongly recommend diving accident insurance such as coverage provided by Divers Alert Network.
Galapagos Park Tax: The entrance fee to the National Park is $100 for adults is not included in the cruise rate, however, this charge will be added to your CRUISE INVOICE and prepaid by DIVENCOUNTERS for your convenience.
Gratuities to guides and crew: Aboard the vessels, gratuities are not included. We prefer that our guests reward the crew based on their performance. If the crew performs to your expectations, the suggested gratuity of approximately 10% of your cruise rate be considered normal aboard a live aboard dive boat. However, ultimately the amount to tip is entirely at the discretion of the guest. Gratuities are divided up among all crew members including naturalist guides.
Dive Experience: Please note that diving in the Galapagos is advanced due to strong currents, varying visibility and cold water. Temperatures range from low 60′s to upper 70′s in different areas of the itinerary and seasons. Divers must be comfortable in these conditions, as well as have very good buoyancy and be able to do negative (sometimes rapid) back-roll entries/descents from small boats. Recommended requirements include 50-100 open water dives, experience in currents, ability in removing gear in water and ability in getting into small boats in choppy seas. SASS has found that cold water Michigan divers rarely have a problem with this environment. As on any live-aboard or diving adventure – Itineraries may be changed due to current or pending weather conditions or at the Captain’s discretion for your safety. Itineraries can also be changed at the discretion of the Galapagos National Park who administer cruise itineraries.
Passport: You must have a valid passport, with at least six months remaining before expiration, is required to enter Ecuador. Visas are not currently required for visitors from any country including the United Sates and United Kingdom. It is the passenger’s responsibility to check with local immigration offices or the Ecuadorian consulate prior to traveling to determine if a visa is necessary.
Domestic Airfare Details: Cost: approximately $546/person.
We will be booking our island flights through the live aboard. Flights to Galapagos (San Cristobal) for M/V Galapagos Sky passengers are serviced by Avianca Airlines (formerly AeroGal) from Quito to San Cristobal. Flight reservations for confirmed passengers are made automatically through our allotment of seats. Passengers who purchase their tickets through M/V Galapagos Sky (DivEncounters) for the Avianca flights will receive assistance with the check in procedure and the option to pre-pay the transit card and park entrance fee.
BAGGAGE POLICY: The airline allows one checked suitcase (up to 50 lbs./ 23 kg and up to 62″/ 158 cm) and one carry-on bag (up to 22 lbs./ 10 kg and up to 45″/ 115 cm) per passenger. All overweight, over sized and excess baggage will be charged additional and are checked subject to space available.
The fees are: Excess Baggage fee: $20 + IVA for up to 50 lbs/ 23 kg; $30 + IVA 51-70 lbs/ 23-32 kg; $40 + IVA 70-99 lbs/ 32-45 kg. Overweight baggage fee: $10 + IVA 50-70 lbs/ 23-32 kg; $20 + IVA 70-99 lbs/ 32-45 kg. Oversize baggage fee: $50 + IVA for 63-85″/ 159-215 cm. IVA (tax) is 12% and is subject to change.
Cruise Application/Waiver: Closer to the travel date, I will be sending an application/waiver from the Galapagos Sky. They will need your name, passport number, expiration, nationality and date of birth. They will also request emergency contact, medical conditions, food allergies, etc. Again, we will address this closer to the cruise date.
Optional Galapagos Land Extensions
4-Night Extension: $TBD
7 Night Extension: $2199
Saturday, August 15: Just to recap this day, you will enjoy one last morning dive at Isla Pinzon, have lunch, say goodbye to the wonderful crew of the Galapagos Sky, take a 45 drive to the Highlands of Santa Cruz,, get face-to-face with giant tortoises and now you’re headed to the town of Puerto Ayora. Welcome to home-base. We are staying at Hotel Villa Laguna. Do not expect the Hilton here. I have booked a moderately priced hotel within walking distance to town, that comes highly recommended. Again, this is not a deluxe property. It does have a pool and breakfast is included in the package. Evening is at leisure.
Sunday, August 16: Isabella Full Day Tour with Tintorearas
This island is known for its flamingos, which gracefully traverse the lagoons and marshes at dusk. On this tour you may find yourself staring at Penguins or face-to-face with the most playful and delightful Galapagos native, the Sea Lion. The emerald waters of Las Tintoreras abound with marine life including the internationally renown Galapagos Penguins and Blue-Footed Boobies. Sea Turtles are also common residents of this area. A brief walking tour across A'A' lava flows provides additional up-close encounters with Marine Iguanas, resting White Tip Sharks, and new-born Sea Lions. An openwater snorkel in the bay completes this very popular marine adventure. Lunch is included in the tour. Dinner is on your own.
Monday, August 17: Santa Fe Islands Full Day Tour
Most of the islands in the Galapagos were formed by volcanic eruptions; Santa Fe was formed by an uplift caused by tectonic activity. This means that the island does not have the typical cone shape. Santa Fe has one of the most beautiful coves of all the visitor sites in the region - a turquoise lagoon protected by a peninsula of rocks and small islands that extends from the shore. Hike along the coastline and discover colorful flora and fauna. The well-known land iguanas here can grow over five feet long. The Santa Fe species of iguana are more bright yellow and have uncommonly large spikes on their spine. In true Galapagos style the opuntia cactus, a favorite food of the land iguana, has responded by growing tall and woody - up to 33 feet high and are the largest of their kind in Galapagos. Manta rays and sea turtles flit by as dark shadows against the sandy bottom of Santa Fe's beautiful anchorage. After a long hike, relax with a swim in the calm waters of the beautiful bay, or snorkel along in the company of sea lions at the base of the rocks. Lunch is included in the tour. Dinner is on your own.
Tuesday, August 18: Tortuga Bay Half Day Tour
To get to Tortuga Bay you must hike an improved trail of rock and boardwalk surrounded by cacti, palo santo trees, and matasarno trees. The walk in the sun is rewarded with a spectacular white sand beach stretching across the southern coast of Santa Cruz. Tortuga Bay beach is famous for its expansive and pristine shoreline that gradually descends into the sparkling Pacific Ocean. It is a great place to try your hand at surfing (be careful) or just relax and soak in the sun with the Marine Iguanas. A snorkel in the beautiful lagoons reveals the full richness of the Galapagos marine life. You can see colorful reef fish, white-tip sharks, rays and the beach's namesake, sea turtles. You should take time to walk through the Marine Iguana sanctuary where you might also catch a glimpse of Blue-Footed Boobies and Frigate birds along the shore.
The rest of the day is free. I suggest going into town. On the waterfront, you’ll find blue tables where fisherman clean their catch. Watch the antics between sea lions and pelicans competing for scraps of fish; it’s great entertainment. Take you video camera. There’s plenty of places to buy souvenirs, banks to exchange money and a weirdly decorated kids train that cruises the gut at warp speed. A very odd sight really. Kim can point out the best place for gelato. You are within walking distance to the Darwin Research Station and entrance so explore at your leisure. Lunch and dinner are on your own today.
Wednesday, August 19: People doing 4-night extension will depart for home. People doing 7-night extension will tour Floriana.
Headed Home? After breakfast, you will check out of the hotel and be taken to Baltra, a small island off of Santa Cruz. It is a long bus ride, followed by a short boat ride, followed by short bus ride to get to this airport. Flight time is TBD. Please read about Quito’s Airport layover on page 5.
Floriana Full Day Tour: This island has the most interesting human history. It was one of the earliest islands to be inhabited. In 1793, a post office barrel was erected on Floreana to facilitate delivery to the United States and Europe. Today, this area of the island, is of course, called Post Office Bay. You will also find the remains of a Norwegian commercial fish drying and canning operation in this area and a lava tube that extends to the sea. At Punta Cormorant more than 50 volcanic cones rise in an 80-mile area. Pink flamingos, clear water and interesting coral growths make this a perfect spot for snorkeling. The Devil's Crown is a volcanic crater near Floreana that has been eroded by the waves. Here snorkelers are immersed in a world of color and movement filled with schools of fish that move as one: king angelfish, yellowtail surgeonfish, and needlefish. There are also parrotfish, Moorish idols, and damselfish, sea cucumbers, sea stars, sea urchins, sleeping sharks, turtles, rays and many more, making this one of the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos. Lunch is served during thour. Dinner is on your own.
Thursday, August 20: Punta Carron & Plazas Island Tour Full Day Tour
After breakfast, we will head to the docks for a boat ride to several beautiful islands. These were favorite sites on our last trip. Punta Carrión is located on the Northeast tip of Santa Cruz Island. You will have the opportunity to see various sea birds nesting on the rock cliffs. There is the possibility of snorkeling. Afterwards you will be navigating to Plazas Islands, this small island is full of fascinating wildlife, at sea side and along the cliffs: sea lions, land iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls, Opuntia cacti and vegetation that changes colors with the seasons. Lunch is included on this tour. Dinner is on your own.
Friday August 21: Half Day Tour of Highland of Santa Cruz
This day may be modified for those who have already done this tour thru the Galapagos Sky. However, for the non-diver/late arrivals, this is a must see. The Highlands of Santa Cruz offer a lush contrast to the beaches and arid lowlands found elsewhere on the island. With one of our Naturalist Guides as your escort you will visit some of the highlights of the 'Parte Alta'. A stop at the twin craters Los Gemelos is one of the first sites on your highlands tour. A visit to the Moreno family farm, Las Primicias, provides the opportunity to marvel at the celebrated Giant Galapagos Tortoise roaming in its natural habitat. You can also explore a cavernous underground Lava Tunnel where you can view one of the geological wonders of the volcanic islands. You will also be able to explore some of the "backroads" of Santa Cruz on the way to Puerto Ayora. Lunch is included with the tour. Dinner is on your own.
Saturday, August 22: Fly Home
It is time to say good-bye to Darwin’s cast of characters. After breakfast, you will check out of the hotel and be taken to Baltra, a small island off of Santa Cruz. It is a 45 bus ride, very short boat ride followed by another short bus ride to get to this airport. Flight time is TBD. Please read about Quito’s Airport layover on page 5.
Prices: Both packages include accommodations based on double occupancy, all taxes, breakfast daily, lunches as noted, all tour transportation (usually by long boat rides), entrance fees, and a Naturalist Tour Guide. Tips are extra and discretionary. Dinners are not included.
Payment: A non-refundable deposit of 20% is needed to book a land extension. Final payment is due June 1, 2015.
Disclaimers: Tours and prices are subject to change without notice because of situations beyond SASS control.