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Diving with Darwin: Day Two

Imi Diving

Diving at Santa Fé, Santa Cruz:

We slept soundly. Up at 5.30am for coffee and a 60-minute boat ride. Then I backward rolled into the cool water for a buoyancy test with our great Divemasters Luís and Simon. We were told to expect a pretty cave, swim-through, at Santa Fé, and perhaps some bottom feeders such as rays. It was also a chance for me to get back into diving after a six-month break. We swam through a very pretty and wide cave where the sunlight twinkled at the edges. During the first dive I felt freezing so on our second, at La Loberia, I layered up, adding a shortie over my 7mm wetsuit – much more snug.

Our second dive saught out a shoal of sardine-sized fish, called black-striped salema. Once we found the salema the sea turned black. It was like dreaming. Incredible quantities of salema meant it became difficult to judge your depth. There was no fixed point to focus on (hence the value of a dive computer). Fish swarmed like bees in summer, and the independent French Canadian girl, diving with us, clearly loved every second. She and I excitedly pointed out yet more fish including some well fed-looking Galápagos Barracuda who drifted lazily around the outskirts of their densely packed larder.

Sealions rose up surprisingly and pirouetted amongst the fish. The dream continued. Darkness all around for a moment then lighter water as the fish spiraled off in their thousands. At times I saw diver’s enter and become absorbed into the fishy morass before a diver’s yellow fin or a bright regulator flashed into view. Like swimming in living ink, the sensation was deeply relaxing, but, despite my relaxation, my buoyancy was still negative. Practice makes perfect, and I was out of practice today.

On our return we greedily ticked in to lunch, squid, plantain, tropical fruit….all exquisite. We then transferred, via a two-hour local water taxi trip, to Isabela Island on the next leg of our multi-lodge itinerary. Our luggage was dealt with, and in we hopped to a little boat to look at the world’s smallest and only tropical penguins. Afterwards, donning our wet kit, still shivering, we went snorkeling for whitetip reef sharks and rays. In the low visibility we saw a few small rays then slipped the lithe form of a juvenile whitetip reef shark (I saw my first shark today!). My partner smiled and told me later that 27 shark species dwell in the Galápagos Marine Reserve, which is also a World Natural Heritage Site, so many lucky divers and snorkelers get a glimpse of sharks.

At our new lodge, we were given a huge room overlooking the sea and met our thorough, friendly Divemaster, Paco, during supper in Red Mangrove’s intimate restaurant. He told us, over a hearty dish of crab and potato soup and a main dish of prawns, that we would be the only divers in the morning and would head to Tortuga Island, known for hammerheads.

I am off to sleep now happy after encountering my first shark, full of seafood, lying in a bed the size of a dinghy, listening to the Galápagos sea lap once more outside the balcony.

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