Schools of hammerheads
Everyone comes to Galapagos and would like to see the schools of hammerheads at the world famous site of Gordon Rocks. Unfortunately, due to the possible strong currents and depth of the dive, not everyone can go.
When I say strong currents to my recently certified customers, they say “but I am a strong swimmer, I did my course in currents, I am comfortable in the water.”
This all may be true, and 9 out of 10 times, if we take you to Gordon Rocks, though our guides may return tired from helping you, you won’t have had any life threatening or even close to it, experience.
But let me go through the problems we have with non experienced divers at Gordon Rocks – these are the basic and non life threatening problems to start with:
- In-experienced or nervous divers, or even experienced divers who have not been diving for a couple of years do not have good air consumption. You have not yet learnt, or need to practice on how to have good bouyancy, and therefore improve your air consumption. Because of the currents at Gordon Rocks and the depth (sometimes we dive up to 26-28 meters) divers are already using their air faster than shallower, calm dives. Add to that your in-experience and being a Little nervous and you are low on air after 15-20 minutes. Don’t laugh, it happens often. This is not fair on the rest of the group of experienced divers who should be able to have a 45-50 minute dive. No-one will want to buddy with you and our guides can not leave the group and surface with you. We then have 4-5 very angry divers!
- In-experienced divers take a Little longer to equalise their ears. At Gordon Rocks, due to the currents we don’t have much time after entering the wáter to descend and grab hold of the rocks. If you stay on the surface you will get swept away with the current and have to board the boat and lose the dive. 1 angry diver.
- Sometimes at Gordon Rocks the surface is very rough, there are huge swells against the rocks and waves hitting you in the face. New divers do not cope well with this scenario and sometimes won’t even get off the boat into the wáter, or panic on the surface before getting under the wáter. Another lost dive, and another angry diver.
Our guides and crew can cop with these scenarios. It gives them a little more work, but you and they will live.
Then sometimes we get to Gordon Rocks and it’s like a washing machine and then we have life threatening problems for in-experienced divers that our guides may not be able to handle.
For all the reasons I have mentioned above, you run out of air, you can’t equalise, you get stuck on the surface, or you can’t cope with the current and you are separated from your dive group and guide…. Are you experienced enough, and calm enough to know what to do?
All of our divers have a safety sausage in their BCD’s, a whistle, but if you are on the surface getting swept out to sea with waves breaking in your face will you know what to do?
If you get separated from your group and dive guide and are stuck in current, will you know what to do?
If you reach a corner at Gordon Rocks where the wáter is like a washing machine and the guide can not grab you and hold onto you and you get separated from the group, will you know what to do?
I know this all sounds dramatic and alarming, and most of the time Gordon Rocks is not quite that crazy, but you have to be prepared. Sometimes Gordon Rocks IS that crazy, and we don’t know until we get there what the currents are going to be like. Of course you can take into account the seasons and the tides and the storms, but sometimes on a bright sunny day in the middle of summer we arrive and there is the washing machine.
I can hear some of you out there saying, ok, but even experienced divers can lose the group and have trouble equalizing, and you would be correct. But those experienced divers also know what to do. They can take a deep breath, look around, stay in control and wait on the surface for the boat to pick them up – sometimes (though rarely) for 20-30 minutes.
My point to this article then is this
When you come to Galapagos and you are a new diver and you really want to see the hammerhead sharks, and everyone says Gordon Rocks is the best site, and the staff at Academy Bay Diving say Sorry, you can’t go…. Don’t go around the corner to the next dive shop who may say yes (I assure you you will be able to find one). We are not taking you to be mean, we are thinking of your personal safety and the enjoyment you and your fellow divers will gain from the dive.
The company that says yes does not have safety sausages, they do not have whistles, and they most probably don’t have emergency oxygen on board ore ven a first aid kit, let alone their crew being trained in emergency situations and CPR.
Dive at North Seymour instead, you can see the hammerhead sharks there too, and you will get a 40 minute dive instead of 20 minutes, and your fellow divers will be happy to talk to you on the boat, and not be scowling at you because they had to suface with a ¾ tank left!!
And finally, for those of you who knows someone who knows someone who dove at Gordon Rocks and only had 6 dives or 8 dives, and said it was amazing and easy, and you just have go…. I am glad they are able to tell their story…they got a good day at Gordon Rocks. But will you?