GALAPAGOS Day 7… If I had a hammer: Diving with sharks off Gordon Rocks

Gordon Rocks is a rather famous dive site here in the Galapagos, North of Baltra Island near Santa Cruz. It’s famous for being a great place to see the islands’ most notorious shark the Hammerhead, but also for its strong current. For this second reason most reputable companies won’t take any diver with fewer than 20 dives on their log, but after seeing we could handle ourselves during the Seymour dive, our legend of a dive master Oscar agreed to let us join them in the days adventure.

The day started bright and early at the Academy Bay Dive shop where we met up with the other 9 divers, enjoyed our complimentary breakfast and logged our details from Seymour and Daphne. We were 11 in total today, usually Academy bay limit groups to 10 but because we were 7 from the day before and only 3 newbies (who had all pre-booked) Oscar and Carlos made an exception.

We took 3 taxis out to Baltra which is near Seymour airport and is about 40 minutes from town. Through green farmland scattered with the odd giant tortoise the landscape turns into sparse Galapagos desert the closer you get to Baltra. Once we were settled on the boat we headed to a very calm spot called Plazas just near Gordon Rocks. A thriving spot for snorkelling and sea life it was a good place for our newbies to have their weight checked and go through the primary briefing.

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The secondary briefing, you can see the rocks are shaped like the top of a cone with one large rock, one medium and one small

Those of us who’d heard it all yesterday were free to snorkel and enjoy the wildlife here at Plazas, which happens to be a breeding ground for sea lions so the day got off to a pretty wild start! Snorkelling around with a pack of 20 or so sea lions of varying sizes, some with huge battle scars, just playing and enjoying their natural habitat. They are such a curious and happy creature, so fast and nimble under the water but so awkward and lumbering on the rocks. Unfortunately a couple of the guys were getting a bit close to the rocks and because our crew didn’t want them feeling threatened we were called back to the boat. Even just snorkelling around the boat was nice with my favourite bright blue parrot fish with bulbous foreheads gliding around under us.

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Sea lions are always captivating and swimming with them will cure any blues

 

From here we headed to Gordon Rocks. I was feeling pretty stoked and my day had already been made, so everything from here was icing… And boy was that icing laid on thick! They say you have a 60% chance of seeing hammerheads  but the recent groups hadn’t been lucky and visibility had been quite bad, so although we were hopeful our expectations were realistic. So when we got to depth and vis was 20+ metres I was stoked! We were inside the cone near the largest rock just hanging about at 18 metres, it’s very deep here so having a further 20 metres in depth below was a new and exhilarating feeling for me. Being suspended in the blue abyss, watching millions of fish going about their daily business all around us.

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Gordon Rocks

When we hadn’t spotted the hammerheads after about half my air I had resigned to the fact that this was as good as it was gonna get, which was still pretty epic. Just then Oscar put his fists on the side of his head (which is the dive sign for hammerhead) I looked all around excitedly hoping to see one, then from the shadows i saw him… Then another. Then I realised it was a whole school of maybe 20! We watched in awe as they gracefully passed with a swish of the tail and my grin was so huge i was letting water in the side of my mask. As I was turning to high five Steve I saw they’d come back for a better look at us and were all around us! Best day ever. They hung about for a while passing in and out of our visibility, then during our safety stop we were greeted by a couple of very cool sea turtles!

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Hammerheads are such an awe inspiring creature to find under the ocean, and when they are in a school it’s beyond breathtaking!

 

Back on the boat the other group were very jealous of our lucky encounter but they’d seen a manta ray which I was personally envious of. Two minutes into our second dive the hammers were back! I couldn’t believe it! Oscar had made the great call of going straight back to the spot we had seen them last and by another giant stroke of luck they were there waiting for us. They are such placid and friendly looking creatures up close, if you’re a person with a fear of sharks I encourage you to dive with these amazing animals and you will see for yourself. Under the water they are peaceful and curious, much more fearful of us than menacing.

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Too cute! Their heads look like hammers!

During our second dive we were also treated to another spectacle that I will never forget. Swimming alongside the rock wall I suddenly noticed the fish were swimming downwards. Like an avalanche of pescado. It looked as though they were committing mass suicide like lemmings off a cliff. Then he came, like a bat out of hell, a big sea lion zooming down after them right in front of my very eyes! It was fantastic! Unfortunately one of the girls in our group was sucking through her oxygen at a rate of knots so we had to surface 10 minutes early both dives. But even with this factored in I saw more activity in the water near Gordon Rocks in two 35 minute dives than I could ever have hoped! And hey, at least it wasn’t me cutting the dive short this time (sorry Kel).

I think it’s safe to say that for both myself and my buddy that our love of diving has been reignited with great gusto and we are now headed straight to San Cristobal to dive Kicker Rock! Watch this space.

We went with Academy Bay dive centre and paid $160usd each
Ave Charles Darwin, Puerto Ayora
Phone: +593 5252 4164
academybaydiving.com

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