When #scuba guides put your life at risk

floetcSo how did I end up alone, in choppy seas struggling to catch my breath?

The three people in this photo, plus Jose the dive guide, the mastermind behind the dive plan. That’s how.

When Ivan proved to be a dangerous and disastrous dive partner/buddy, I became Jose’s buddy.

Only Jose was busy shooting video. He wasn’t paying attention to me OR the other seven divers in our group, IMHO.

Now, Jose has a ton of experience in the tricky Galapagos waters – he works there. I don’t. Which meant I sucked down the air in my tank a lot quicker than him. Buddies are supposed to surface together, but there was NO WAY Jose was coming up with me.

So, he pointed out Flo and Eduardo (remember he was her private guide) and indicated via hand signals that I should surface with them.


Jose and his GoPro

Only, Flo and Eduardo didn’t know about Jose’s plan, and when I joined them at a depth of about 15 feet, they completely ignored me. Eduardo couldn’t have cared less about me because he was working for Flo and ONLY Flo.

When it was time for me to go to the surface (I couldn’t stay down any longer because I was low on air) Eduardo and Flo didn’t come with me.


Panga (aka zodiac)

So, that’s how I ended up alone on the choppy surface. In a current. My panga boat ignoring my calls for help and moving further and further away to pick up other divers.

Buddy separation is how divers die. Perhaps I shouldn’t have gone along with Jose’s plan. That would have meant NOT diving. After I’d paid roughly $10,000 CDN for this bucket list trip, all in.

The dive operator didn’t indicate, when I made my reservation, that a safe and suitable buddy system wouldn’t be provided.

Remember, AT LEAST two women divers on this vessel have drowned since 2009. One was an unaccompanied diver like me. The other, a Chinese national, was travelling with a dive club and buddied up with a useless Ivan-like character, I’ve been told.

Oh, did I mention the operator was expecting a minimum $500USD tip at the end of the week for this crew?

To be continued…..

Galapagos trip – what the hell happened?


A hammerhead shark in Galapagos. A star attraction.

The great expectations bucket list trip. The take-money-out-of-the savings-account trip. The trip of a lifetime. Or maybe not.

My excitement turned to jitters a few months before my December 2016 departure. During a visit with my orthodontist. A wonderful friend and highly trained scuba diver who’d just returned from the identical Galapagos scuba trip. Same liveaboard yacht – same trip on which I was about to embark.

Our conversation left me feeling uneasy. He’s level headed and not one to exaggerate. He calmly described crazy strong Galapagos currents – so strong a diver needed to hold onto the rocks for dear life or risk being swept away. He described the challenges his dive buddy – a small woman like me – had in the currents. As well, he spoke of rocks so sharp they could rip a hole and flood your drysuit (a drowning hazard). Don’t take an elaborate camera set up, he said. You could lose it and besides you need free hands to hold onto the rocks.20161219-thumb_img_8684_1024

The most worrying bit of info: that a woman diver on the yacht had drowned about a year earlier in November 2015.

What had I gotten myself into?

The Galapagos is known for its tough diving conditions – among the toughest in the world. Cold water and strong currents. I trained in cold water and dive in a drysuit. Wasn’t concerned about that so much.

As for the currents, what exactly is a ‘strong current’?  Surely, I was experienced enough. I’d done dives in extremely strong currents in the Sea of Cortez, Cozumel, Bali, and in Palau at the Blue Corner dive site. Where we had to hook ourselves onto the rocks. I handled all of it like a champ.

Of course, I’d be okay in the Galapagos. I met the experience criteria outlined by the liveaboard operator and then some. As well, I planned to carry ALL the recommended safety gear, which I’d also practiced using. I’d been running and weight training. What possibly could go wrong?

Quite a few things, it turned out.

To be continued…



No bitching when dream trip a bust


So, my long anticipated trip to the Galapagos in Ecuador didn’t go exactly as, well, anticipated.

What I didn’t expect turned out to be the highlight. What I had expected didn’t pan out.

To be clear, I’m grateful to be able to travel. Lucky too. Travel has enriched my life. I’m fortunate beyond belief.

I started planning my December 2016 trip in October 2015, when I put down a deposit on a seven night scuba dive trip aboard a yacht. A bucket-lister, take-money-out-of-savings kind of trip.

Long story short (for now – I’ll cover in more detail in the coming weeks), the diving was disappointing. I expected schools of hammerheads, sun fish, and marine iguanas. The Galapagos bills itself as the best diving in the world.

What I got was poor visibility (so not much to see) crazy strong currents (strong beyond what I’ve seen described in the marketing material) and laxity, in my opinion, in safe diving best practices.

I also could have done without Avianca failing to put my luggage on the plane on which I was travelling and having to wait two days for it to arrive. Note to self: pack a change of clothes in carry-on.

Still, the trip was marvellous for reasons I didn’t expect. San Cristobal, where I spent a few days before and after boarding the ship, was alive with critters. Sea lions everywhere, barking and being cute, marine iguanas, and grapsus crabs. Finches joined me for breakfast each day – enjoying as much of my meal as I did.

The people of San Cristobal were helpful and wonderful and I loved the food.

There were two other highlights: a shore visit to a tortoise reserve and our zodiac boat (aka panga) being surrounded by dolphins.

I won’t return to the Galapagos as a diver. Perhaps a land-based excursion next time. Because this really is an amazing place.