Galapagos, Day 5
We’re cruising south now toward Wolf Island, having spent 1.5 days at Darwin and only five dives — clearly, after this morning’s two dives, not enough time. (Those lucky SOBs who do the two-week trip get five to six consecutive days at Wolf and Darwin.)
For the first dive, we dropped in to perfect conditions — good visibility, a very slight current, and the sun at an excellent angle for photography. Almost couldn’t see the sun for the competing schools of horseye jacks, which would come together and separate, then join again to form one massive wall that blotted out the light.
We took our places a bit deeper on the reef today, among some rocks that were below the ridge we were on yesterday. I soon discovered that I’d need to keep my head on a swivel, as hammers came closer than on any previous dives. Groups of five, 10 would swim by in the blue, then one or two would break off to swim in onto the cleaning stations, which we were arranged around. I enjoyed the hammer action for about 30 minutes, taking brief respites to shoot Galapagos sharks that would wander in, turtles, the school of jacks, oceanic trevally, creole wrasse, and butterfly fish that were out and about in the current.
When our bottom time was nearing an end (remember, most of us were around 80 feet), we swam along with the reef on our left. The reef soon ended in a wide sandy channel,where a field of garden eels bobbed their tiny heads.
We entered the channel and drifted along. It was pleasant because it was so shallow, andI had accumulated quite a decompression obligation. (I’m on EAN32 but I’ve set my computer to EAN28.)
A few minutes before we would hit the safety stop, as I was filming a small group of juvenile hammers circling above the sand I saw another shark that looked different fromthe silkies and Galapagos sharks that are also here. I got closer and saw dark stripes along its body near the dorsal fin — a tiger shark! Followed it for a minute. Got terrible video, but I was stoked to have my first tiger-shark encounter. (I’ll have another one in three weeks at Tiger Beach with Stuart Cove’s!)
Second dive was much the same, as we jumped into the same spot as the first dive, righton top of the jacks, which by now had formed one megaschool. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a dolphin, which they’d told us about in the briefing yesterday. Apparently he’s sometimes there, feeding, and will pop in to say hi.
Knowing how quick dolphins can get bored of divers — and really, because I’m one of those ornery old divers who doesn’t love dolphins! — I ignored him and focused on the jacks instead. Then the dolphin came to me, swimming below the school as I descended onto a small sandy patch. He posed for a few seconds, then swam off to play with the jacks.
There was some minor hammerhead action, but not as good as before, so we took off again toward the sand channel. I was at the back of the group of divers and spied several handfuls of hammerheads swimming to a spot where the sand meets the reef. I kept swimming closer and closer until I saw what I’d been dreaming of: around 250-300 hammerheads that formed a wall from the sandy bottom at 125 feet to a few feet within the surface. This school of sharks really did blot out the sun…so much so that I got terrible video.
Swam back to the group, then drifted off into along the sand channel to search out the juvenile hammerheads and a few more Galapagos sharks.
[Later that day.] Good last dive to end our time in Wolf Island. The reef was alive with fish and I saw several dozen hammers, a few Galapagos sharks, a shy silky and an eagle ray that was tucking in to a reef meal. The crowning glory was an encounter with a pair of eagle rays seconds before Steve and I were getting ready to hit our safety stop. We swam back down to the reef at 35 feet, at which point the larger ray circled us several times. Good video.