Kids Sea Camp, Galapagos: A very special trip

Galapagos 2013: A trip and dive log


Lloyd Kaufman is a Padi Advanced Open Water Diver.  He has been diving with his wife Brenna for 10 years.   They recently spent a week with Kids Sea Camp aboard the Wolf Buddy liveaboard in the Galapagos celebrating their upcoming 20th wedding anniversary.  This was the Kaufman’s second Kids Sea Camp experience.  Their first KSC was last year for Thanksgiving Week in St. Vincent with the entire family.  They have two children – Haden (12 yr old) Jr. Open Water certified and Alec (8 yr old) Sassy graduate.   This Thanksgiving the Kaufman’s are spending another week in St. Vincent with KSC.   Haden plans to get Jr. Advanced Open Water certified while Alec gets to join the Seal Team.

By Lloyd Kaufman

The following are my journal entries for the days we were diving in the Galapagos Islands. This is the first time I have done this, but I felt the need seeing this was a very special trip for our 20th Wedding Anniversary and also proved to be a very magical adventure. I will remember this trip forever, as I’m sure Bre will too. As a prologue, we stayed and dove on a Live-aboard yacht operated by Buddy Dive out of Bonaire. We caught up with the boat on San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos on Saturday July 20th. The trip was booked through our friends at Kids Sea Camp (PADI). Although it was a Kids Sea Camp Booking, the kids were not with us. There were 15 total passengers on this boat and 10 crew members and have no reservations to do it again. The sea life was absolutely fantastic and abundant.

Day 1 and 2: Awoke to Santiago island in the south heading west toward Isabella Island for the morning dives. Breakfast scheduled at 7am. Last night went to sleep early. We had checkout dive at Isla Lobos at about twenty five feet for 35 minutes. There were a couple of sea lions playing with us the whole dive. Really cute but started to get annoying. First night of sleep was interesting while we travelled. Rock and rolling but slept pretty good as it was first night of over four hours rest in three days. Today have three dives scheduled around Isabella Island and will report back. Water a little on the chilly side at 66 to 70 degrees with a thermocline.

First dive this morning at Puerto Coca named for the cocaine bags that landed here 12 years ago. Dive profile was 68 feet 55 minutes. Eagle rays, 2 reef sharks loggerhead turtle, big barracuda school. Playing with camera settings so see what works best for different situations. Had 1 hour surface interval than moved north up coast of Isabella to cape Marshall. Dive profile was 58 feet for 48 minutes. Saw another big green turtle, lots of creole wrasse schools, nesting puffer, scorpion fish. Took photos of sea stars, puffer, angels and parrots. Had lunch of a nice Italian buffet and relaxing writing this before 3 pm dive. Oh yeah water temperature was 68 for these dives. I donned a t-shirt under 5mm for core comfort, seemed to work well.

Afternoon dive was back at Puerto Coca. The visibility was poor due to afternoon plankton blooms. Dive profile was 67 feet for 52 minutes. Saw and photographed a seahorse, another scorpion fish, tons of barracuda schooling as well as wrasse. Saw some nice large parrot fish as well. Video of a couple of large eagle rays napping and one of those little caterpillar thingies we see all over the Caribbean. Spent the after dive hanging around the hot tub with Brenna, Lucy (substitute Margo from Kids Sea Camp), Bruce (oh I am sure there will be more stories about Bruce…he is classic New Jersey), and a few other names that I will add as I learn and retain them. We are having a lecture tonight on the Isabela volcanos geography before dinner as we make the crossing to Wolf Island. This will be more open sea so we will see how rough we get again tonight.

Day 3: We awoke at around 5:30 to darkness in a sheltered bay on the west side of Wolf Island. The boat backed to the cliffs of Wolf Island and there was a very pretty sunrise as we geared for the first dive.  So no breakfast until after first dive. The crossing was very bumpy towards about 1am, but still got good sleep (went to sleep at 9:30pm. The first dive was a negative buoyancy entry and we were immediately greeted by tons of hammerhead sharks, large turtles, large eels, scorpion fish (Bre almost put her hand on one while holding on to a lava bedrock). Then, the grand finale of a whale shark in the blue. I met up with him about half way through his passing and chased him down to about 80 feet where I had to give up. The dive profile was 79 feet for 52 minutes. Water temp was 72 and visibility was pretty good. We surfaced to a lot of stories of great pictures and ditched the gear for some warmth before an eight o clock breakfast. Starting to gear up now for a 9:30 second dive in Sharks Bay.

Second dive in Sharks Bay again. Entered negative buoyancy again. Again a lot of sharks including hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, reef sharks and white tips. Lots of turtles and video shot (ran out of batteries shooting so much video). One turtle was very friendly with Brenna and wouldn’t leave her alone. Also got a few large moray eels, garibaldi, lobster, and finished up with a few spotted eagle rays swimming in the blue before safety stop. Dive profile was again 79 feet for 52 minutes. Water temp was 73. Upon exit we are off to Darwin Island a few hours away for the afternoon dives. Lunch will be at noon before the afternoon dives. Little rainy this morning but seems to be letting up and possibly burn off for the afternoon.

Afternoon dives at Darwin’s Arch. Negative buoyancy entry down to 40 feet. Slow drift along to outer wall to the pinnacles where we hung out waiting for the monster. Our guide thought something was brewing so made our way out to the blue where a nice 10 meter whale shark was spotted from underneath. Bingo, two in one day. Also got some more great turtle video and a giant spotted eagle ray. I also climbed down the wall to shoot an eel swimming in the open as well as a turtle hanging next to him. Dive profile was 78 feet for 52 minutes. Second dive at 4:15 at the same spot. Not as eventful and didn’t catch a whale shark but lots of turtles and sharks and tons of game fish. Got good video of a tuna school. Had to shallow up early as I went into decompression dive at about 40 minutes. Dive profile was 66 feet for 48 minutes. Oh yeah a dolphin cruised under us at the wall edge too. Too quick for video. Plan for the evening is to offload pictures, a couple of cervezas and hit dinner and tomorrow briefing at 7:00. I think we are anchored at Darwin Island for the night.

Day 4: Diving today starts again at 6:30. Good night sleeps in a protected area on west coast of Darwin Island. In the water at six thirty (Bruce lost his mask on way over). Dive site was same as yesterday afternoon as will be all four dives today at Darwin arch. Schedule switched up a little though with two dives after breakfast and then lunch and then one early afternoon dive before we head back to Wolf Island for dinner. Morning dive was a lot of the same stuff (which is spectacular at any other place but we’ve gotten spoiled here). We spent a lot of time sitting in a couple locations whale shark hunting. Just patiently hanging onto a lava rock outcropping and waiting for the beast to show. No dice this time but we will have three more tries today. Dive profile for the morning was 73 feet for 54 minutes. Water temperature is 74 degrees. Will check in again after the next two dives.

Good second two dives. First of the second paid off for the whale shark hunters as we got three on this dive. Two were spotted from the side but the third came right for us. Got great video of that…but chasing down whale sharks meant shorter dive, so profile was 74 feet for 45 minutes. After a short surface interval we went for the third dive of the day. Again we positioned for whale shark hunting, but as we perched, I spotted a nice big spotted eagle below which I chased to 75 feet. After which we headed to the blue but I was getting close to decompression time. As swimming in the blue I went into a decompression dive which meant I couldn’t chase the big manta spotted below, but I observed from above and snapped a couple of pictures. Profile for this dive was 75 feet for 55 minutes. Now breaking for lunch and prepping for last dive of the day at 2:30.

Last dive was another whale shark hunt. We sat at the pinnacle edge for about 20 minutes but didn’t pick one up so we set out to the blue. Visibility was starting to get poor and even more so by all the fish. We did however pick up a school of playful dolphins and a whole bunch of close by sharks that were being very photogenic as well as the turtles. Dive profile here was 83 feet for 55 minutes. Water temperature 74 degrees. Came in for a cleanup and last photo opportunities of Darwin’s Arch on our way back to Wolf Island. Should be in there about 6:30 for dinner…so chillin in the mean time with a couple of cervezas and story telling. Dive schedule tomorrow is pretty much same as today except at Wolf Island. Remember we did a whale shark at Wolf Island before too.

I have to add that the six dives at Darwin’s arch are going to be hard to top for shear flux of big creatures on this trip or possibly in my lifetime. We witnessed hundreds of hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, reef sharks, white tip sharks, as well as four whale sharks…this place is magical and is even bringing some of our well-seasoned divers to tears…and the week is still young.

Day 5: Good night sleep after an evening political discussion with our German friend Owe…awoke in a sheltered bay at Wolf Island for the 6:30 morning dive in Sharks Bay. Negative buoyancy entry immediately to a wall where we were immediately greeted by a pair of photogenic spotted eagle rays and a turtle. Sat on the wall for a bit and enjoyed the hammerheads and Galapagos sharks trolling for bait piles. We also caught another turtle or two along with another large lone spotted eagle. I chased some damsels down to 90 feet so the dive profile was 90 feet for 51 minutes. Water temperature was a balmy 70 degrees. Having some breakfast and heading on a shoreline panga photo op before the 9:30 dive.

Had breakfast and then hit a panga tour of east side of Wolf Island for some bird watching and cave exploring. Saw nasca and red footed boobies, frigates, swallow tail gulls and nestings. Second dive didn’t start until about 10:00 but it was worth the wait. After about 15 minutes on the whale shark perch we hit the blue and stumbled across two about five minutes apart. Great video and still footage. Dive profile was 83 feet for 51 minutes, after a very short surface interval, set out for the third dive and came up empty on the whale shark perch. Still a lot of hammerheads and Galapagos sharks. Dive profile was 70 feet for 48 minutes. Visibility started getting poor too. Water temperature was 70 degrees…and starting to feel the chill.

So after lunch went under to covers to warm and fell asleep until the last dive. Woke up, suited up and set out for the last dive around Sharks Bay. Negative entry and down to the whale shark hunting perch. No spotting so off into the blue again. Nice relaxing dive with the turtles and hammerheads…got a nice pic of a Galapagos shark passing by on the way up. Turns out Bruce was lost early in the dive and surfaced about 30 minutes into the dive. Put out his safety sausage and engaged the distress radio devices but neglected to talk into it (I don’t think he was paying attention during the briefing). Anyways we picked him up about a mile down current in between 8 foot seas…I think he needs a drink. Dive profile for the last dive was 66 feet for 55 minutes. Water temperature 70 degrees. We are immediately off for about a 10 hour journey for the west side of Isabella island…where we have two dives scheduled for tomorrow…which promises new Galapagos critters, however they are also 60 degree dives which means we will be donning a second suit if we can rent it…reminder to Margo that cold water diving was not in her itinerary…I have a nice 7mm at home that would be perfect for tomorrow. Peace out…cervezas time.

Day 6: Okay, so rise and shine again at 5:30 to get ready to dive Punta Vincente Roca on the west side of Isabella island. The ride over was bumpy about 1am until settling into the bay at about 2am. Rented a 7mm semi dry suit for the rest of the trip. Donated my 5mm to Bre to put over her suit for 10mm total. Had to add weight of course and Bre added too much and found herself having to remove weight at bottom. The dive was cold but beautiful with lots of sea horses, sea lions playing with us, red lipped bat fish, nudibranchs and a Galapagos bull head shark (these are small guys)…dive profile was 99 feet for 45 minutes. Water temperature was 61 degrees.

After getting out of the water we motored over to Fernandina Island for the second dive of the morning. Beautiful terrain and tons of feeding marine iguanas as well as torpedo rays, sting rays, more batfish, and we saw several Mola Mola sunfish at the surface coming back to the boat. Dive profile was 73 feet for 51 minutes. Water temperature was 63 degrees. Finished diving for the day by lunchtime and motoring back over to Isabella Island for a land excursion in the afternoon.

Went ashore at Punta Analisa on the north shore of Isabella Island. Walked around the tide pools and the abandoned US radar station. Saw a bunch more marine iguanas, lava lizards, flightless comarants, and Darwin finches and mockingbirds…nice to get some land legs for an hour. Back to the boat for relaxation and beverage before dinner. Already heading over to Santiago Island for the night and morning dive as well as another shore excursion before wrapping up. Looks like another cold water dive tomorrow…but it is the last of the trip.

Day 7: Bright and early for the last dive of the trip at Cousins Rock at Santiago Island. 6:30 in the water and got our token last dive whiteboard shot. Saw some sleeping white tip sharks, a couple of rays, some giant puffers, and a hawkish that I was able to shoot. Visibility was poor and dive profile was 75 feet for 51 minutes. Water temperature was 68. Now having breakfast and the drying off the gear ritual, while we head to Bartolome Island for a climb to the top of pinnacle rock and then on into Santa Cruz for the highlands excursion.

The shore excursion to Santiago was wonderful. Landed at the base of the lava fields and climbed to the top of Santiago and took photos of the entire island and the Calvera in the lagoon. Came back down the volcano and hit the panga for a tour around pinnacle rock and photographed blue footed boobies and Galápagos penguins. Headed back to the boat for lunch and motored over to Santa Cruz Island for a tour of the highlands and photos of the giant land tortoises. Then headed into the main town of Santa Cruz for a visit to the Darwin research station and shopping along the shoreline. At 6:00 headed back to the dock for the panga ride back to the boat for dinner, cocktails, and packing…and of course the kids sea camp poetry contest for which we came in second place to an eleven year old…reminiscing with our new friends now and up bright and early for breakfast and flight out of San Cristobal. Just got done filling out the survey card and couldn’t find anything to ding these guys on…this was an absolutely magical trip and will be recommended to anybody in the advanced diving realm.

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