Darwin Arch – Galapagos 

Still at Wolf for the morning. And feeling much better. 
And back around to the very choppy dive site – landslide. 
The eagle rays (with cowray) were still hanging out. Super cute. The odd hammerhead and Galapagos shark. And again a super strong current. 
It was so wavy. The second I reached the surface, I was throwing up. 
Luckily we didn’t have to wait for the panga to arrive – it is always right above us waiting for us. The drivers are so clever – following the bubbles. So reassuring to know that we don’t have to wait in such huge waves. They achieved this every single dive without fail, amazing. First place I’ve ever been where the drivers have been that skilled. 
Lunch – just some vegetables, didn’t want to overdo things! But lots and lots of water. 
Then after lunch, we began the crossing, 20km north to Darwin island. Whist spotting spinner dolphins jumping alongside us. 
Here the dive is a bit different. Negative entry means negative entry. The style of diving can only be described as rock climbing. You sink as fast as possible (i.e. wearing too many weights) to the rocky bottom at around 12m. Then literally pull yourself – with your arms – along the rocks in roaring current until you reach an edge at 18m. Here it drops off to 24m, which is is possible to drop down to. But largely you spend your time holding onto the sharp barnacle covered rocks for dear life. Sometimes with your whole body. Good buoyancy is a thing of the past. 
The current is so strong your mask and regulator are vibrating. Your mask feels like it’s going to fall off any second. 
Once you’ve spent long enough clinging on, you let go, to be swept along by the current. Banging into rocks as you go and hoping you don’t get hurt. Or crash into a passing turtle. 
Every dive at Darwin arch was like this. And wolf pretty similar, but not with quite so much current. 

It was kind of funny. All of us holding on, unable to move. So many five spot fish around us – thousands. The fish life was crazy here. 
And just past them, some moving white dots. To begin with I thought a school of fish. But no, too consistent. Spots of a whaleshark! 
I couldn’t swim off into the blue by myself, I would have been swept away from the group – and we had to stick together. I looked around and couldn’t see the guide to tell him. And no one else had spotted it. Never mind. 
A short while later, it passed by again – in the opposite direction. And this time I caught the attention of the guide. But too late, it had swam away too fast. But it was huge. A massive 12m one. 
The boat was moored up next to Darwin island (a short distance away from Darwin Arch), but there was no shelter. It was just open ocean. And the red footed boobies from the Darwin island colony were loving the boat. We had so many riding the wing infront of the boat, and standing on the railings at the front of the boat. Mostly juveniles – which were brown and didn’t yet have their red feet. Red footed boobies are the smallest boobie found in the Galapagos and they were so cute! And totally fearless. Made for an awesome surface interval. 
And around the back of the boat, silky sharks. Literally hundreds. Swimming shallow behind and under the boat. Some people stuck some go pros into the water – the sharks were biting them! But only watching the footage could you see just how many there were. They were stacked, swimming along in the strong current. And they were huge – around 2m long each. Amazing.
Last dive of the day was at Darwin rock again. But this time the current was crazy. It was so strong that bubbles were going only horizontally. My regulator was shaking, sometimes letting in water. Some people had freeflows (leaking air due to pushing pressure on the outside of their regulator). My mask felt like it was going to fall off. And it took all my strength to hold onto the sharp, barnacle covered rocks. I wasn’t scared by the current, but it was crazy. The strongest current I’ve ever experienced. 
Towards the end of the dive, there was a small school of hammerheads in the shallows. Awesome. It was just incredible. 
Quite a few members of the boat were struggling with the diving here. They just aren’t comfortable in the water because they aren’t that experienced. I loved it. And have no idea why I was doubting myself. 

Friday 30 June 2017
Still at Darwin. The night had been choppy. We are moored up in the ocean ocean, next to Darwin island, but with no shelter. I slept ok, but did wake up a few times with large waves. 
Today is four dives at Darwin rock. 
Every dive was amazing. Full of hammerheads, Galapagos sharks and turtles, but no more whalesharks. 6 dives at the same site and it didn’t get boring at all. Just in absolute awe at the abundance of life here. 
On the last dive, we did it a bit differently – rather than spending time at the ledges at the beginning, we spent longer in the shallower ‘garden area’ and across a sandy patch, full of garden eels. As soon as we starting ascending from the 20m sandy bottom, a whole school of hammerheads came along. Amazing!! And some tiny little baby ones. 
We ascended back into the garden and into a school of big eye jacks. I love jack fish. But I’ve never seen them like this – they were in a school, but all coupled up. One silver and one a darker grey/black. It looked like the silver one had a shadow. This behaviour is apparently around mating time. Really cool. 
We were trying to swim into the school of jacks, but the current was pushing us away from the reef and out into the blue. It was the end of the dive, so we shallowed to begin the safety stop and we were caught in the strangest current. 
I was breathing as normal. But my bubbles were all gathering in front of my face. That isn’t right. I was confused. And saw bubbles all around me. Everywhere in the water. I was watching another girl, paranoid that I was doing something wrong as it was confusing. But then suddenly she wasn’t there anymore. We were all spinning around. At 5m, then suddenly at 8m. Bubbles everywhere. It took us a while to work out what was going on. It was so disorientating. We were caught in a strange whirlpool of current, spinning round and round. 

When we ascended, we were so far from the arch. On all the dives at Darwin, we’ve been dropping right at the arch, but then being carried far by the current. But this time, we were half way back to the boat! Crazy! 
Most of the group had come up earlier and were already on the panga. They said that the panga driver was starting to stress because he had lost our bubbles and were nowhere near the rest of the group. We knew nothing of this, because when we came up, the panga driver had already located our bubbles. So clever. 
Once back on the main boat, we sadly left Darwin island and headed back down to Wolf island, as we make our way back south. The sunset was beautiful, with the arch in the background. 
What I was hoping to see at Darwin – a wall of hammerheads. So I was sad that we were leaving without seeing that. 
The crossing was choppy, many people were feeling sick. But I was ok. I didn’t eat too much dinner. 
We arrived about 8.30pm and there was thick cloud cover, so no stars. But back in the sheltered bay. 


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