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Thread: Galapagos on HammerHead CCR Dec 2011

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    RBW Member jilp is an unknown quantity at this point jilp's Avatar
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    Galapagos on HammerHead CCR Dec 2011

    Hi all,

    I thought that I will say few words about my Galapagos trip I returned from couple of days ago. I will try to keep it short and in case you need more details just let me know.


    Before the trip
    • This was my second trip to Galapagos, I did last one on OC in 2007/2008 and at that time I did both land based and live aboard and I felt that I have seen more varied life during the land based.
    • I am fairly new HH CCR diver, before this trip I have done only the cross over and 7 dives in Tenerife. Not only because of that this trip was 100% recreational and the dives were fairly easy... I really want to build some hours on the unite before doing anything else.
    • I have booked my diving with Scuba Iguana (http://www.scubaiguana.com/) which I used last time and had a very good experience with (better guides than LB). It is necessary to do the booking well in advance (few months) as they are almost always full and busy. Some other centres had spaces even during my stay one or two days before the day but the reviews I have heard varied.
    • Scuba Iguana can not as at now support CCR divers other than allowing them on a boat so I needed to get my tanks, sorb and bailout bottle from somewhere, after short time I found a link of Galapagos Rebreathers (http://www.galapagosccr.com/) owned by Jorge A. Mahauad. As it was mentioned in some other posts, the dealing with Jorge was very professional and smooth. I let him know that I will be coming some 2 months before the arrival and agreed that we will meet the day of my arrival to sort out all bits and pieces
    • I flew from London to Miami and then to Guayaquil in Ecuador with American Airlines and from G to Baltra in Galapagos with LAN which is part of the One World alliance which gives you a massive advantage in baggage allowance in my view. To be more precise it means that whatever AA allows you to carry with you LAN automatically agree as well. This may not be always true when travelling with the other two Galapagos airlines (Aerogal and Tame). In total I paid some 900 GBP for all flights, all booked via AA website.
    • I also booked B&B accommodation in Galapagos, same place as I last stayed - Hostal La Peregrina (www.laperegrinagalapagos.com.ec) and paid 40 USD / night including breakfast. They didn’t have a single room which will be some 10 USD cheaper


    Travelling to Galapagos
    • The day before I packed by bags and ended with the following: 23kg bag, 15kg carryon bag (much smaller than officially allowed - I like it that way as nobody really checks those "small bags") and a small 10kg laptop backpack. All was within the dimensions AA allowed and as there was no official weight limit a decided to use it.
    • All fragile stuff went into the carry on or the laptop backpack. That means the HH head with controllers, regulators, hoses, CL, BOV, T pieces, my normal computer, spare parts, O2 analyser, DIVA (HUD), batteries, all other electronics (last time these got stolen from my check in bag) etc.
    • All rest including the canister, fins, wetsuit, wing, back plate went into my check in bag.
    • At the airport in London all went smooth, so did in Miami (leave good amount of time for transfer and look for short visitors queues on the left side - they really are much shorter) and so I arrived to Guayaquil where I needed to stay one night. I called this hotel (http://guayaquilairporthotel.com/) and paid some 40 USD / night negotiating it down from 45 - I am sure you will be able to go down even more. They did pick me up from the airport very promptly for "free".
    • Next day took a taxi to the airport, paid some 10 USD Galapagos tax and left to Galapagos. Had no issues with bags, nobody weighted it and even if they did, I had my argument prepared.
    • When arriving to Galapagos you need to pay 100 USD National Park entry fee and after collecting bags (they do check if it is yours or not) left by free bus to the Itabaca channel for a short (0.80 USD) ride to take another 1.80 USD bus ride to Puerto Ayoras - the main city on the Santa Cruz island.
    • After I arrived I went to my hotel, left some stuff there and walked to Jorge's place where after I met with him we went to his almost finished very nice and clean looking dive centre (including in my view already the best stocked dive shop) to sort out all stuff for my HH. I put it together, get all bits and pieces from him, tested the unit, filled in all necessary paperwork, showed my proof of training and called a taxi to take all stuff to Scuba Iguana.
    • When I arrived there the manager on duty was a bit shocked what I want to do with all the stuff but then she became quite interested in it. I explained how it works, talked about bailout etc. so I think she was quite happy with it. I packed the scrubber (Oh, how I love this activity) and put all in a bag for the next day’s dive.


    Diving and when in Galapagos
    • Every legal dive centre in Galapagos has a fixed schedule of places where they go every day so that you don’t see any other dive boat at your place - this was ALWAYS the case and we really never saw any other boat.
    • Scuba Iguana - guys from Scuba Iguana didn’t know a lot about rebreathers (but they were interested and made some pictures with it), neither most of the divers diving with me, but they were extremely helpful with setting me up and also not messing with my valves etc. In general Scuba Iguana is a very well setup dive operation, very professional and with passionate dive guides making sure that you make most of the dives you paid for. The boats (they have 2) are nice and clean, with toilets and space to store your stuff. The guys are very well organised and helping you in and out of stuff. After a day of diving they bring all your gear back to the centre and do the washing. I washed by HH myself to be sure.
    • In terms of buddies, I had some 3 buddies over the period of 7 diving days, with one being capable staying with me over 60min which is the official max dive time for Scuba Iguana. Even after new buddy came and needed to go up after some 50min, the dive guides sometimes (depending on their air and state of cold) stayed with me over the 60min mark. In total I have done 14 dives (2 per day) totalling almost 14hours, the longest dive was 68min, the shortest some 50min. Don't expect to meet lots of experienced divers when doing land based diving, diving is more of an additional activity for most visiting divers with most having < 50 logged dives.
    • The max. Depth limit set by Scuba Iguana is 25m which we kept on almost all dives and if not we went maybe 1-2m deeper. You really don’t need to go deeper too often as the visibility isn't great (some 15 - 20m max, most around 12 - 15m I would say)
    • I had no issues with my HH except on my second dive (out of 14) I didn't tighten the O2 addition finger-tight fixing and got a leak. It was quite a lot of bubbles and not really thinking that much I closed by O2 tank and went to bailout. That however meant that water went into my solenoid and got stuck next day in the morning. Speaking with Jorge the day after I should have probably leave small bubbles coming out, but that is what I have done. Not having a working solenoid and being originally trained on Pelagian DCCR I decided that flying the unit manually shouldn’t be a big problem. And it wasn't, I turned rather easy and I was maintaining either 1.1 or 1.3 most of the dives. I tried how long it takes for the PO2 to drop down to 0.4 or so and I took quite long time... long enough for me to look at the handset many times even I got distracted by massive schools of fish!
    • That said I will get the solenoid fixed ASAP and will probably use it as a parachute unless I find a good reason to do it differently, maybe some deep dives etc.
    • I have disinfected the HH only after the end of my 7 dives of diving, probably needed to do it more often.
    • Every time before diving I have followed the survival / full checklist to make sure I will see my family again. Thanks to Pawel S. and Joe R. for sending me those - I forgot to take them.
    • Other than this I had no issues with the HH, it was all working as it should.
    • I used both of my HH handsets mounted on my forearm really looking only on the secondary for PO2 readings, for all other stuff I used my H&W OSTC Mk2 computer which has just so much nicer display. I had it in CC mode set to 1.3 or 1.1 knowing I will never hit any decompression really. I am thinking how to change the setup in the future, maybe putting the primary on a clip or getting the RevD to use the full capabilities of the HH controllers. It would be really cool to have them smaller / with more information and with colours. Maybe wireless will also be an option, but maybe that will be just too complex and cable is a cable, like with a computer mouse (mine still has a cable...)
    • I was changing sorb after 6h of diving (in total had 3 fills), got the 3l (Jorge has also 2l) O2 cylinders filled by Jorge every second day (used some 20bar per dive) and the diluent every day decanting from Scuba Iguana's yoke cylinders.
    • Diving - as expected diving was superb! We saw lots of hammerheads, blacktips, whitetips, mantas, turtles, schooling fish, sea lions, smaller & hairy seals, red-lip batfish (my favourite), penguins etc. That's why I have chosen Galapagos over for example Cocos or Malpelo as these don't have mammals. It’s true that they have more HHs but I like variation. Some places not known for HHs brought good schools of them, but also places such as Gordon rocks. The day I was leaving they saw orcas... at least I have a reason to come back one day!
    • Puerto Ayoras - is a typical tourist destination city which is more expensive than normally (500ml coke 2USD, two flavour ice-cream 2USD, dinner 10 - 15USD + 22% tax and tip). But it’s nice to walk around and look at the fish market, "ugly" sea iguanas etc. They also have quite good juices which they make mostly from frozen fruit puree and sugar.
    • My accommodation - was good with also good breakfast. It has A/C but I didn't use it a lot, only when I first entered and it was really hot. They prepared the breakfast earlier than normally which means 6:45 as the diving started at 7:20 by briefing at the Scuba Iguana centre.


    Going back home
    • All went relatively smoothly, my last day Jorge picked up all his stuff from Scuba Iguana's dive centre and agreed to meet in the morning to share a taxi to the airport as he was also going to mainland Ecuador.
    • At the airport I had to pay 3kgs for my overweight check-in bag (11USD in total only!!!) and then the LAN girl told me that my carryon bag can have only 8kgs. I told her my prepared sentence that AA have no limit on the webpage after which she said that it is OK.
    • Same as on the way there I had one night in G in Ecuador which is really nothing special. The best you can do is probably take a taxi to El Malacon 2000 (horrible shopping mall) and after having some meal going to "climb" Los Penos - nicely coloured colonial houses with a light house on the top. G is not a very safe city I was told so taking official yellow taxi is recommended. I don't know why, but local taxies don't turn the roof light off when they are taken so it can take some time to get one
    Final note

    • For me it was a perfect trip, relaxed and very good for diving
    • Taking and using my HH was a bit of bother (but much less than I expected) but the reward was great, it was just soon quiet and peaceful. I think there is no way back to OC for me. If I can I will bring my machine with me.
    • Travelling with the HH was easy and I basically fit in the weight limitations which really surprised me. I had the long alu scrubber can
    • Scuba Iguana were very supportive for my RB diving.
    • Jorge and his brother from Galapagos Rebreathers were very professional, supportive, friendly and gave me all I needed to dive my HH in Galapagos. Just be aware of one of their dogs "the Beast" when you ring a bell at Jorge's place...
    • I will definitely be coming back in the future, Jorge is organising some RB dedicated live aboard trips in the near future.
    • I will post a compiled video once done
    Adam
    Last edited by jilp; 26th December 2011 at 19:16. Reason: few additions

  2. #2
    Just another Meg diver trimix1965 is an unknown quantity at this point trimix1965's Avatar
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    Re: Galapagos on HammerHead CCR Dec 2011

    Thanks Dave for the nice read, sound like you had a blast.

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    Sorta New Member w ripley is a name known to all w ripley is a name known to all w ripley is a name known to all w ripley is a name known to all w ripley is a name known to all w ripley is a name known to all w ripley is a name known to all w ripley is a name known to all w ripley is a name known to all w ripley is a name known to all w ripley is a name known to all w ripley's Avatar
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    Re: Galapagos on HammerHead CCR Dec 2011

    Quote Originally Posted by trimix1965  View Original Post
    Thanks Dave for the nice read, sound like you had a blast.
    Same here.
    Bill Ripley

    Rebreathers are something that we have to go to in order to dive the way we want to dive. They are not something we go to for any other reason.

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    saveourseas has a brilliant future saveourseas has a brilliant future saveourseas has a brilliant future saveourseas has a brilliant future saveourseas has a brilliant future saveourseas has a brilliant future saveourseas has a brilliant future saveourseas has a brilliant future saveourseas has a brilliant future saveourseas has a brilliant future saveourseas has a brilliant future saveourseas's Avatar
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    Re: Galapagos on HammerHead CCR Dec 2011

    Great report. Thank you.
    "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." Winston Churchill
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