Galapagos Trip and My 30th Birthday!!

The Galapagos have been on me and Kev’s travel list for a while. I bumped it to the top of my list after seeing beautiful pictures and reading more about the island in National Geographic. They did an article about the declining populations of iguanas unique to the Galapagos due to the rising sea temperature which is starting to kill the algae, their food source. I also heard about Lonely George the tortoise, so I wanted to see a giant tortoise in person.  The fact that Kevin’s birthday is the end of March, our anniversary is the beginning of April, and my birthday is the end of April, were just extra reasons to go to Galapagos. We were not disappointed. Even though diving visibility wasn’t great, I got to see all the main critters I’d hoped to see including hammerheads, marine iguanas, tortoises and two critters I didn’t even know about but were happy to have seen including mola molas/sunfish and a red-lipped batfish, which can only be found around the Galapagos Islands and off Peru. It was a trip of a lifetime. Below are my daily diary entries from the trip.

Red-lipped batfish

We headed to the airport on Friday night on April 13, 2018 to begin our journey to the Galapagos. We flew all night and arrived in Guayaquil on Saturday morning. We stayed at the Oro Verde hotel which was in the heart of the city and within walking distance of the main strip in town. We had one day to kill in Guayaquil before boarding our live aboard dive boat for a week, so we took it easy, walked around for about two hours through the city to the boardwalk and Ferris wheel, and went to bed early.

Octopus

April 15

On Sunday morning we headed to the airport for our flight to San Cristobal (Galapagos Islands). It was a short flight and then we got picked up at the airport by our dive company. When we got to the marina I could already tell it was going to be a good trip because there were a lot of sea lions swimming and laying out sunbathing and napping by/on the pier. We were tendered to our boat, the Galapagos Sky. After resting for a bit we had one late afternoon easy dive. We didn’t see much because it was a safety check dive but we did have some curious seals come to check us out.

Green sea turtle

April 16

Monday morning after breakfast we had a land excursion. It was scenic and pretty cool walking on volcanic rock. We learned about the vegetation and saw lots of lizards. We also saw a lava heron scouting for food. We also saw some blue-footed boobies but unfortunately no penguins.

After the land excursion, we suited up for an afternoon dive. We dove three times. My highlights of the day were the seals. They were very playful and curious and came to check us out. They are very fast and they glide through the water elegantly while also playfully doing somersaults.

April 17

Tuesday was our first day doing four dives and we dove at Wolf Island. We saw a ton of hammerhead sharks and sea turtles. We even saw dolphins swim above us and we had one seal friend that was swimming around us up close and personal. One of the coolest parts of the dives is diving “into the blue.” We start close to the island and towards the second half go “into the blue” –we swim out further from the island and float in a depth of 40-60 feet which provides another opportunity to see sharks and sea turtles. It’s also a little trippy and disorienting because the only thing you can see all around you is blue water and you forget which way is up.

I’ve also never dove in such strong currents other than on two dives in Fiji last year which were incredible. At first the current made me nervous but now I think it’s fun because I’m more confident in my abilities and we went over safety procedures in more depth beforehand. It was my first time receiving a dive alert to activate if we lost the group and couldn’t find the boat too. They later told us it’s called a surge and it’s not ideal to dive in. Because the current is coming from more than one direction, it tosses you around (that explains why we had to cling onto the rocks for dear life in the beginning to avoid being swept away).

Spotted Burrfish

Tuesday was also our one and only night dive. The majority of the dive sites have strong currents and are chosen due to being cleaning stations for the animals. The night dive was in a cove so the current was not strong. Unfortunately, we didn’t see much though. I saw a lot of shrimp and the coolest things were decorated crabs that looked exactly like the rocks covered in barnacles. It was also pretty cold (even though we dove in 7mm wet suits and hoods). I was shivering by the end of the dive.

Marine iguana

April 18

We had another day of 4 dives in one day, but this time at Darwin Island which has Darwin’s Arch — One of the most iconic arches in the world and a key destination of any trip to the Galapagos. Some of the highlights included seeing more hammerhead sharks and an eagle ray up close. The black and white-spotted eagle ray was large and beautiful and did not care that we were there. It swam right next to us munching on huge chunks of barnacles on the rocks in order to get to whatever goodies were inside.

April 19

It was a 3-day dive. We did one morning dive at Darwin but because we enjoyed Wolf so much the day before, we went back for our other dives. I saw a school of hammerheads with a juvenile which was awesome (and rare). We also swam with more sea lions.

April 20

Today’s dives were amazing! We dove the seahorse-shaped island, Isabela. First, we dove in Ferndaninda and then we had two more dives near the mouth of the sea horse. They were our coldest dives (62 degrees Fahrenheit compared to 68 degrees the previous days’ dives) but some of the best. Fernandina was our iguana dive. The iguanas were awesome and bigger than I thought they’d be. They only go diving once a day for food so the area is protected and apparently only one dive boat is allowed there each day so that the iguanas aren’t too disturbed and can eat. They lay out in the sun all day building up body heat in order to dive for algae in the cold water. It’s something they’ve adapted to in order to survive in that environment.

Diving with sea turtles and eagle rays-nothing better!

At Isabel we saw HUGE sun fish/mola mola! I had never seen a mola mola until this trip and they are SO cool. They have a large top and bottom fin and small side ones. They can surprisingly move pretty fast too when they need to. According to our dive master, we were really lucky because we saw about 10 mola mola which is rare. On our ascent, we had fun playing with more sea lions. It was my favorite dive site because we saw cool things, the current wasn’t too strong, and it was absolutely beautiful. We went on a little boat ride on the penga (inflatable speedboat) after our last night and we went into a cave thing and a cove where we saw a ton more sea turtles, sea lions, iguanas, and blue-footed boobies. It was pretty magical.

Later that day we watched a TED Talk on Mola Mola/sun fish and we learned that they can grow up to 5,000 lbs and only eat jellyfish — keeping the ocean safe for other critters. They fan out on the top of the water to absorb the sun (hence the name sun fish) but throughout the day they go from the surface all the way to the ocean’s bottom to eat.

mola mola/sunfish

April 21

It’s my birthday! The big 3-0! It’s also our last dive of the trip.  We dove at Pinto and had a very pleasant dive. We saw a red-lipped batfish (which I didn’t even know existed until this trip), little fish that live in the barnacles and poke their heads out to eat passing particles, one giant manta, and a flock of spotted eagle rays. There was also a school of selimas fish that a sea lions was playing with/eating. We got some good video of that (starting 11:27 in the video above).

The Galapagos Islands were named after the giant tortoises found there

After our last dive we went to San Cristobal. We went to a ranchero de tortises to see the famous Galapagos tortoises. Fun Fact: Galapagos actually means “tortoise” in Spanish. We saw a ton of tortoises–we even saw two ‘running’ as a male chased a female to mate. The males are about 3x the size of the females and the males also make very loud grunting noises while mating, so you can imagine our astonishment watching a huge male chase and mount a female and seeing everything play out in front of us while paying a casual visit to the ranch. LOL.

After observing the tortoises for a while we went into town to shop around. When we got back to the boat we had dinner and Kevin surprised me with a cake. I can’t think of a better way to have celebrated my 30th.

We did 19 dives total and I got to see everything I had hoped to see. The Galapagos Islands are so wonderful and I hope it remains protected and that people start taking better care of the world so that future generations can see what we did. I definitely plan on going back to the Galapagos sometime. They were the best dives of my life.

Darwin’s Arch

Christmas 2017 in Honduras

Kev planned an amazing Christmas for us this year in Roatán, Honduras. He was specifically looking for dive resorts and came across Anthony’s Key Resort which had good reviews. At first we were nervous because there is political unrest in Honduras and we weren’t sure how safe it would be but then we figured we would stick near the resort which would be fine. We stayed in Roatán which is one of Honduras’s Caribbean Bay Islands and we definitely felt safe there.

The resort was really nice but the diving was even better. We did three dives a day, usually at 8am, 10:30am, and 2:30pm. One of the days we did a 7am shark dive instead and a 5:30pm night dive. We saw so many incredible things: tons of fish (including my favorite pufferfish and box fish), crabs, lobster, octopus (on the night dive),  sharks (on the morning shark dive), spinner dolphins, and many sea turtles. December is Honduras’s Winter so while it was in the 70’s the whole trip it rained almost every day with intermittent bouts of sunshine. It didn’t really matter that much though since we were on the boat and under water for a good portion of each day.

We were pretty exhausted each day after three dives even diving with Nitrox the entire trip but it was also fine because we were able to go to bed by like 8pm every night. I quickly established a routine and after our last dive of every day we would head poolside to read and drink cocktails during happy hour.

The resort was beautiful, the diving was great and the food was pretty good too (and vegetarian friendly!!). Overall we had a fantastic trip and Kev and I had a really nice time together. I would definitely recommend Anthony’s Key Resort to other fellow scuba divers. Below are some of my favorite video clips from the trip:







Honeymoon Part III: Fiji

After being really active hiking and traveling all over Boreno and then diving nonstop for about a week in Indonesia, Kev and I were looking forward to relaxing on the last leg of our honeymoon in Fiji. The first night we stayed at the Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa. We got there in the late afternoon so we weren’t able to hang in the pool, but we had a nice late lunch overlooking the ocean and then I went to the spa for a body scrub and manicure.

The next day we hopped on another plane to another Fijian Island, Savusavu to our final resort of the trip, Koro Sun. I chose Koro Sun because they were one of the few resorts in Indonesia and Malaysia that advertised an underwater ceremony.  The ceremony ended up being perfect. Our boat was decorated with a beautiful assortment of flowers and they made me a bouquet that probably would have cost hundreds of dollars in the US. I was obsessed with it, I didn’t even want to put it down it was so pretty. After a 20-30 minute boat ride, we got to a nice shallow area where we anchored down and jumped in with the minister. The ceremony was super quick with just a few laminated cards worth of writing and we got some fun pictures. Back on the boat we popped some champagne and enjoyed the cruise back to the marina.

Other than the ceremony we didn’t have anything else planned, but after lounging around for one day we were already a little bored, so the next day we went on another dive. It was supposed to be a morning trip–we left at 9:30am and they said we would be back by 3pm–but we didn’t end up getting back to the resort until around 5:30pm. I didn’t mind though because we didn’t have anything else planned. The water was pretty choppy that day which was partly why it took a bit longer to get to the dive sites. We went on two dives that afternoon where we saw more pretty coral and fish, and what was even more exciting–sharks! There were large pools of tuna and other fish and a few sharks circling around that were about my size. I knew they wouldn’t attack me, so I stayed calm and got some great pictures of them up close.  We also saw a pod of sperm whale while on the boat. They were huge yet so gentle and beautiful. It was really special seeing them.

Other than that, Kev and I just read and hung out by the pool and walked to the spa for massage a few times. While Fiji was nice, we were ready to head home by the end. Overall, we had an absolute blast on our honeymoon. It was a trip of a lifetime and we will never forget it.  I’m excited to continue spending my life with Kevin as the new Mrs. Weatherman!

Here is a link to all of the Fiji photos.


Honeymoon Part II: Wakatobi, Indonesia

My fav little fish I became obsessed with, the Orbicular Burrfish, whose eyes look like opals.

After an amazing time in Boreno, we flew to Bali for one day, two nights, before our flight to Wakatobi to board our dive yacht. Here is a link to all of the Indonesia photos.

In Bali we stayed at the Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali. Our room was spectacular. It was literally larger than our apartment with a huge room that served as a dining room with a flat screen TV (though of course we didn’t waste precious time in Bali watching TV) and a seated bench along the whole side of the far wall overlooking the resort and beach. The bathroom was also huge with a giant bathtub, a stream shower, and even a separate room with a massage table.  We arrived to the hotel fairly late in the evening, so we didn’t have time to enjoy the amenities that day, but the following day we woke up around 5:30am with the sunrise, ordered in breakfast at our large dining room with the spectacular view, and then spent the entire day reading and swimming in the pool. That evening I got to enjoy the bathtub I admired since I got there. Kev even ordered me champagne while I read and soaked in the tub (woot woot!).

The next morning we left early to catch our flight to Wakatobi, a luxury dive resort in southeastern Sulawesi, Indonesia. As their site describes, “In a tranquil island setting far from crowds and cities, with no other divers for at least 100 miles, Wakatobi seamlessly blends five-star amenities and civilized comforts with a pristine natural environment; a pairing that has secured its reputation as one of the world’s finest resorts.” Since Kev and I are certified Advanced Open Water scuba divers, we chose to stay aboard the luxury dive yacht Pelagian. Although it was a bit exhausting I’m so glad that we chose to stay on the dive yacht where we had exclusive diving access to remote and untouched sites. Additionally, the yacht itself was really nice. The Pelagian is almost 60 years old, but was recently re-done. She is 115 feet with only luxury cabins for the guests. Up to ten guests can stay on the Pelagian accompanied by a crew of 12. On our trip, Kev and I only shared the yacht with a family of four from Australia. Lucky for us, they were super cool and we all got along great which is important especially when you’re all with each other for the majority of the day between all the dives and meals for several days straight.

The next several days were a blur of dives. Kevin normally goes through his air pretty quickly, so he wanted to become Nitrox certified which of course I got sucked into doing with him as well so he didn’t have to take the course by himself, but it ended up being the best decision. Diving with enriched air allows you to dive for a longer period of time and do more repetitive dives with shorter surface intervals due to the higher blend of oxygen (30%-33% oxygen as opposed to 21% in normal air). There was so much to see on our dives that we were both so grateful for the extra time we got to spend down there.

We did four dives a day for five full days and overall we completed 23 dives over six days. Normally our dives are about 20-30 minutes, but the Nitrox allowed us to dive for 60 minutes at a time, so all in all, we spent almost a full day underwater.  I also celebrated my 29th birthday on the yacht–not a bad way to ring in another fun year of life!

Kev and I have done quite a few dives at this point and Wakatobi was definitely up there as one of the best. My only complaint was the trash floating in the ocean on some of the dives closer to villages. The local people of some of the villages just throw their trash in the ocean and don’t understand the impact.

Some of my highlights of the dives were seeing the orbicular burrfish, pufferfish, cuttlefish, clown fish, mandarin fish that we only saw in one particular area at dusk when they came out to spawn, an octopus, large tuna,  shrimp, and a pod dolphins that swam along the tender of our boat on our way back to the ship from a late afternoon dive.