Galapagos diving nightmare – epilogue


Me, practicing deploying an SMB. At Whytecliff Park, West Vancouver, B.C. Photo taken by Greg McCracken, Ocean Quest Dive Centre (February 2017)

By now, you know I lived to tell the tale.

The experience spooked me. Even more so after I’d returned home and had a chance to really think about what had occurred. Learning about the deaths of Donna Newton and Eloise Gale frightened me.

Wanna read the entire story, in order of blog postings?
Download the pdf here: tankard-galapagos

I was lucky. I survived. And, I learned a lot:

  • I will never again expect a diving excursion operator to respect the diver buddy system. If I have concerns about the complexity of the dive, I’ll hire my own guide or just not go.
  • I’ve learned the liability waiver a diver signs lets operators off the hook for everything. Even when they’re at fault. You dive at your own risk.
  • I’ve learned that few Galapagos diving mishaps are ever reported. It’s in the industry’s interest to keep these stories out of the media so that divers keep coming. Even if they’re unqualified.
  • Unaccompanied divers — travelling without a friend or loved one who cares if they live or die — are most vulnerable. Both the dead divers, Donna Newton and Eloise Gale, travelled to Galapagos unaccompanied, like me.

Changes I’ve made. None of these would have improved my situation in Galapagos, however:

  • Took additional dive training in February to fine tune things, like kicks, buoyancy, removing mask underwater and emergency situations. I thank Ocean Quest Dive Centre in Burnaby, Canada. Excellent dive shop and training facility.
  • Purchased a space air tank (aka a pony bottle) for warm water travels. A tank I can pack in my suitcase. I already own a larger spare air tank for B.C. waters —its’s too big to pack in a suitcase. Means I don’t have to rely on another diver for air. However, air isn’t the only problem one can have at depth. Nothing replaces a good buddy.
  • Sold some of my equipment and replaced it for better fit and comfort.
  • Will take additional training to become a more self-reliant diver.


  • None. Pay your money and take your chances. Did I complain to the company? No point.

I’ve not named the vessel publicly, but I’m happy to do so privately, if you contact me through WordPress. I’ll never patronize this operator again on any of its diving tours worldwide.


Videography or #scuba diver safety?


Dive guide Jose and his GoPro video camera

Of three dive guides on the Galapagos yacht, Jose was the most arrogant. Thirty-something guy with a swagger.

Jose led the majority of the safety and dive site briefings. He was easy to dislike. As an ‘older’ woman, I got an inkling early on the feeling was mutual. (He was very fond, however, of the 25-year-old skinny girl – more on this in a future post.)

I recall a particular briefing on the third day. Jose forcefully lectured us on not being annoying to the turtle mamas-to-be who needed to surface from time to time during the mating season. “Stay out of their way”, he said. “Don’t swarm them to take photos.”


Dive guide Reuben and his GoPro on a stick

So, what does Jose do as soon as we drop in the water? Shoves his GoPro in the face of a turtle. Other divers followed his lead. WTF?

Turtle-abuse aside, I was astounded the dive guides were shooting videos during our dives. A revenue stream, I guess, if they can sell their videos to the divers onboard.

I thought priority one for a dive guide was to keep an eye on the divers. Especially in the dangerous, strong currents of the Galapagos. Video shooting is a distraction.

Remember, AT LEAST two women divers have drowned during dives from this ship –  in 2009 and 2015.

Enough. A wonderful diver on the ship (kind, caring, animal lover) was equally annoyed about the dive guide’s video-shooting and turtle harassment. Together, we decided to have a chat with the captain.

Long story short. The captain reiterated that ‘divers dive at their own risk’ (yeah, we know – the ship isn’t responsible if we die), but agreed to curtail dive guide videography for the duration of this trip.

What was most remarkable – the other diver is my witness – was a comment the captain made. That in his opinion, the dive guide to diver ratio of eight to one (8 divers looked after by 1 guide) was a source of concern considering the challenging diving conditions in the Galapagos.

I was already getting a taste of dive guide inattention and there was more to come, courtesy of swaggering Jose.

To be continued…

Ivan the terrible – worst ever #scuba #dive buddy


The worst dive buddy ever – enabled by a unsafe dive crew

Imagine paying thousands of dollars for a bucket list scuba trip to one of the most challenging dive sites in the world (the Galapagos). You get there and discover the crew is lax about safety.

On a yacht where AT LEAST two divers have drowned since 2009 after they were abandoned by their dive ‘buddies’.

You’d think the operator would be a wee bit more safety oriented. But no, because when you question safety practices, the operator tells you “divers dive at their own risk”.

Translation: we’ll take your money. We’ll let you dive. Our dive guide may even point out a turtle or two. But you’re responsible for EVERYTHING. Don’t expect any help from us if things go wrong underwater or on the choppy surface.

Diving without safety briefings is NO problem

My assigned dive buddy, Ivan, arrived on the vessel one day late. He missed ALL the key safety briefings pertaining to the way dives are to be conducted on the vessel. The dive crew let him dive anyway and partnered me up with him.

Divers are supposed to stay behind the dive guide and NOT dive any deeper. On our first and only dive together, Ivan was all over the place – but mostly below – at least 15 feet deeper at times. I stayed close to him. He didn’t care where I was.

At one point, I became winded in the strong current. I tried to signal to Ivan that I needed to stop on the rock for a minute, to rest and catch my breath. I was beginning to panic. What did Ivan do? He swam off with another diver who had a fancy camera.

Overexertion kills divers. More than 400 dives under my belt and I’d never been so scared.

Alone, I had no choice but to follow Ivan. The rest of the divers had disappeared. Ivan finally took notice of me and I signalled to abort the dive. To go to the surface. That he agreed to follow me was astounding.

Back on the boat, I reported Ivan to the dive crew. I informed them he wasn’t a safe buddy. I also reminded them Ivan hadn’t been present for ANY of the safety briefings. They scowled.

The remedy they came up was even worse than being buddied with Ivan.

To be continued…..