Mini Trip Report for 4 Hermanos and La Viuda:
4 Hermanos: Manta Rays, Sea Horses, Lobster, Nudibranch, Sea Cucumber, Octopus, Sea Horse, White-Tipped Reef Shark, Yellowtail Surgeonfish, Peruvian Surgeonfish, Wrasse, Sea Turtles, Tuna, Panamic Horse Conch, Tiger Snake Eel, Sea Stars and so much more.
I had always heard the currents at 4 Hermanos were a nightmare which did not add up to 'being worth it' as challenging current does elsewhere in the Galapagos, so my concern was enough to give me pause. I’m happy to report that the marine life far exceeded my expectations and the currents were certainly nothing to be concerned about on our outing anyway.
We entered at the entrance to the cave and yes, there was a bit of surge to battle against as we exited and made our way back out to the reef, but nothing insurmountable. I don’t know if it’s because it was new for me, but what unfolded next made for quite a memorable dive. I got to see my first seahorse for one thing. And not just one, but several. You gotta love these magical creatures, so rare as to be quite endangered anymore. And we women have to appreciate that it is the male of the species who carries the babies. The female lays her eggs in the pouch of a male who then becomes pregnant. The male of the species goes through about 72 hours of exhausting labor to give birth to as many as 200 babies. And ps...check out the map of Isabela. The island is shaped uncannily like a sea horse.
We even interrupted two mating (or fighting, always hard to tell) and one took off as quickly as it is possible for those creatures to move…not very. He very awkwardly made his way about a foot to the left of where his now sole mate was. He almost did appear as a one-legged man slowly making his way elsewhere.
At one point, our Dive Guide picked up a sea cucumber and showed me how it could stretch. He then grabbed my hand and put it on me. It had centipede type tiny little crawlers on the bottom which made it stick to his hand, even upside down, but astonishingly, against my skin it felt a soft akin to the inside of your cheek when you touch it from inside your mouth. I am not in the habit of touching things in the ocean (apart from the sea anemones that so used to remind me of gummy worms that I couldn’t help myself…), so I looked at him like “Where do I put it?” And then I just put him down.
On this entire trip, I had watched our Dive Guide always doing two things that I thought were certainly a fine example to follow: 1) He always picked up any trash he encountered. Fortunately, that does not equal much in the Galapagos, another amazing thing about diving here. The entire week, I think he removed 1 snorkel and 1 weight belt. So when I came across a pair of pants (seemingly heavy wool), I lifted them up and he willingly took them off my hands. As much as I appreciate the practice, I also appreciated him being willing to tote them around for the rest of the dive. 2) Whenever he found a sea star, a sea cucumber or the like turned upside down, he flipped them right side over again. I can’t say I went that far given my aversion to touching anything underwater, but I appreciated his compassion for creatures. Once I find a pair of proper fitting gloves, it’s a practice I may take up.
We also saw large quantities of colorful fish, cleaning stations, octopus, lobster, stingrays and towards the end of the dive, the giant manta we had glimpsed earlier returned. I don’t know if it was a nutrient rich spot or the fellow was indeed curious about us, but just above, he circled 3 times over our heads. Amazing! When you can get close enough to see his eyes with a point and shoot, you are close!
La Viuda: Galapagos Grunts, Parrotfish, Creole, Puffers, Bacalao, Snappers, Sea horse, Turtles, Panamic Soldierfish, Wrasse, Stingrays, Marbled Rays, Galapagos Blenny, Panamic Fanged Blenny, Trumpetfish, Cornetfish, Moray eels, Barberfish, Yellowtail Surgeonfish, Moorish Idol, Sea Stars and so very, very much more.
Now this was the dive I knew I would never, ever make in the Galapagos. I had been warned by everyone that this is a rapid, vertical descent in a fast current that will pull you away and cause you to completely miss the dive if you don’t get down fast and accurate. So, for anyone with ear trouble (like me), this was a no-no. By now, I had been diving for 7 straight days (I got in 2 days before anyone else arrived.) and my ears were not too terrible, so I was ready to meet the challenge. More accurately, I couldn’t stand the thought of not at least trying.
Off we go with one Dive Master unable to find the proper route to descend, so we abandoned him and followed our Dive Guide who seemed better to know where he was heading though this was not his normal dive territory, thus someone else along. Bringing someone else turned out to be really unnecessary. Our Dive Guide had trained this guy and the difference in experience was glaring. I felt sort of sorry for him as our Dive Guide knew better, spotted better and had a relaxed pace the younger man had not yet found for himself (or others) apparently. To follow him, you almost felt like you were in some race. Following our Dive Guide is more like time in a hammock. Indeed, our guy knew where to go, so the other Dive Master turned around and joined us.
What current? What rapid vertical ascent? It was mellow, no ear trouble, just another Galapagos descent. Gordon Rocks was certainly much more challenging in terms of current. Perhaps it was a fluke, but I’m glad I was up for the challenge. By now, I was afraid of what I might miss as any dive I opted to sit out was inevitably the best dive of the day.
It was yet another great Galapagos dive and for me, truly surprising in that it was the largest concentration of tropical fish I had ever seen anywhere... lots of great fish, more seahorses and in several sandy ledges were groups of 6-12 stingrays almost resting on top of each other. For me, the stand-out from La Viuda was what I could only call "the fish highway".
Side by side currents would be the most logical explanation if only that had been the case. Towards the very end of the dive, we were in a place that was truly like being in the most amazing aquarium I had ever seen. Fish of all sorts…everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. Along the wall, there was what I called a ‘fish highway’. Think LA freeway…rush hour…six lanes in both directions bumper to bumper. That is what was going on with this wall. There was an area chocked full of fish streaming upwards while to the left, the other six lanes of bumper to bumper fish were streaming downwards. It was such an incredible moment to me. Even in Cozumel back in the mid-90’s, I do not remember anything approaching this level of abundance in colorful fish. I loved that dive. In fact, I was so pleasantly surprised by Isabela diving that I can’t wait to get back out there….WITH A CAMERA!
And that was the end of diving on this, first ever "Galapagos Dive Triangle". From an idea of something I wanted to experience to this amazing trip we all shared together, this first Galapagos Island Hopping Dive Trip was a perfect bubble (pun intended) away from the rest of the world where we had great dives, relaxed, laughed, learned and had complete freedom to responsibly roam the Galapagos, on our own, discovering and witnessing things, above and below the sea, that we are bound to carry with us forever.