Tag Archives: dive

Diving Kicker Rock


We wanted to dive once before we left the Galapagos. So, we reserved a dive tour off of Kicker rock. Our friend Emily, at Islanders Galapagos organized a fun filled day for us. We hopped in a small boat with about 8 other guests and made our way to Tortuga Beach.

We passed by Kicker Rock on the way to Tortuga Beach and got a great photo op.

Kicker Rock in all her Glory

Kicker Rock in all her Glory

Tobago Beach Lava Hike:

We had a wet landing at Tortuga Beach and went exploring around the lava formations. They jutted up all around us creating pits, gauges, water holes, and towers.  Pockets of water, green plants and cactus poking out of holes and breathtaking views all around.

Lava Formations at Tortgua Beach

Lava Formations at Tortgua Beach

There were several goat skulls. Our guide pointed out that they are aggressive and unwanted creatures that were destroying the natural habitat.  Eating precious turtle and bird eggs and destroying vegetation.  They are not indigenous to the Galapagos.

After a nice fish lunch, we were given our dive instructions. Only Matt, Ron, and I were diving. Everyone else went on a snorkel adventure. I hate to admit it, but I was nervous. Yes, I have well over 100 dives under my belt, but this was with strange gear, new BCD (back inflatable) and full 7mil wetsuit. I had never been diving with a wetsuit and weights. I was unsure of leveling out my buoyancy. It took a village to get me into my wetsuit – and provided a bit of entertainment.  I was laughing and a bit humiliated, not in pain – despite the photo below.

Squeezing into my wetsuit was entertaining for all

Squeezing into my wetsuit was entertaining for all

We jumped in the water which was a brisk 22 Celsius (warm in their standards, freezing for me). Took awhile to get used to the BCD, suit and weights, but we descended to 90’ fairly rapidly. The current was a bit of a bitch to get used to, but we saw some amazing sea life! We swam above several white tip and Galapagos sharks which was a first and a bit intimidating.


Diving Kicker Rock - descending to 90'

Diving Kicker Rock – descending to 90′

Santiago, our dive guide captured this beautiful manta ray, eel, fish, and starfish.  Not the best photos, but you get the gist.  Clarity was only marginal.

Kicker Rock Underwater Creatures

Kicker Rock Underwater Creatures

The second dive, on the other side of Kicker Rock, produced a huge school Galapagos sharks, a hammerhead shark, lots of sea tortoises, and some beautiful schools of fish.

Swimming with Sharks

Swimming with Sharks

We did see one hammerhead but were not able to get a clear photo of him.  He was there and then he wasn’t.

Kicker rock Fish

Kicker rock Fish

Cerro Brujo Beach Stroll:

We joined the snorkelers back on-board for some hot tea and snacks. On the way back, we stopped by Cerro Brujo to get the iconic view of Kicker Rock through the rock formation. We also enjoyed a beautiful stroll down Cerro Brujo beach (witch’s hill).

Cerro Brujo Beach Walk

Cerro Brujo Beach Walk

Matt and a Sea Wolf Practicing Yoga

Matt and a Sea Wolf Practicing Yoga


Before we leave for our 1800nm passage, we needed to provision and fuel up. Luckily, we still had a lot of frozen food and a few pre-cooked meals from Costa Rica.

Fueling in the Galapagos only takes place in San Cristobal and is done with jerry cans. First, you need to tell your agent 3 days in advance when you want to fuel and how much fuel you need. We needed 150 gallons of diesel, which came in (9) sixteen gallon jerry cans, plus one can of gasoline.

On our delivery day, a panga pulled up with one driver. This should be interesting as each jerry can weighed about 130lbs a piece. After we secured the panga to Sugar Shack, the driver attempted to transfer one can off the back of his boat to our sugar scoop. Let’s just say it came on-board, but it wasn’t pretty.

The rest of the cans were hoisted using a spinnaker line off the side of the boat. Much easier and more efficient process.

We were uncertain as to the quality of the fuel, so we filtered it using our baja filter. To bad our fuel filter wasn’t working properly.  We will have to fix it for next time.  It just took a little ingenuity.

Five hours later, all filled up, we returned the jerry cans and considered it a successful day.

Refueling in Galapagos

Refueling in Galapagos

Aruba dive site

Wreck Dives of Aruba: Renaissance Airplane

There are two dive sites with sunken airplanes in Aruba.  The most famous one is the Renaissance Airplane dive site and the other one is called the Arashi Airplane dive site.  Our following blog will be about our Arashi airplane dive-stay tuned.

We did not get to dive at Renaissance airplane site.  But in the spirit of sharing information, I thought I would still post about it with the hopes that one of you can dive it in the future.   Matt and I tried to find this dive spot, looked at 4 different mooring sites where we thought it could be and never discovered the actual airplane wrecks.  The maps all show different locations for this site which does not help either.  So frustrating!

But, evidently, just in front of the Renaissance Island are two submerged planes.  Aruba has intentionally sunk two airplanes an YS-11 and a DC-3 to help create an artificial reef.  Many of the wrecks we have explored in Aruba have been intentionally sunk and are located in relatively shallow waters.

The DC-3 is a small aircraft at about 23 meters long and holding 40 seats.  In the late 1980’s this plane was confiscated during a drug bust and later sunk by authorities.  Originally it was sunk in fairly shallow waters, but in 1999 hurricane Lenny decided to find a better place for it in deeper waters – 28 meters and cut the fuselage into two big pieces. Several other pieces of the plane have been scattered around the sandy bottom reef called Sonesta coral reef.

Aruba dive site

DC3 Airplane wreck Aruba. Photo courtesy of AquaViews Online Scuba Magazine.

Aruba wreck dive

DC3_wreck_dive_aruba. Photo credit star5112.

The second airplane belonged to Air Aruba who donated it to the Aruba Water Sports Association in 2004.  This plane was a Japanese turboprop passenger airliner that was laid to rest on the Sonesta reef.  She is about 20 meters long and weighed close to 13 tons.  The cool thing about this plane is that she landed with its nose in 13 meters of water and its tail section resting at the 28 meters of water so it gives you the impression it is ready for take off.  The cockpit is still intact and provides for great photo opportunity.

Aruba dive site

Fuselage. Photo courtesy of AquaViews Online Scuba Magazine

I cannot tell you how disappointed I am that we could not find the Renaissance airplane dive site.  I am sure we could have paid to go out with a dive group, but that just seems silly when we have all the gear and have found over 50 dives on our own.  This was the first elusive dive spot and it did not help that the dive maps are inconsistent and vague at best.  But nonetheless, it is a cool blog story and I found some great photos online.  Hope you enjoyed it!

Why we couldn’t find the dive site:

Several days later, we went to get our scuba tanks filled at Aruba Watersports and found out that the moorings for the Renaissance airplane site broke off and are no longer visible.  You have to go with a local dive group to do a drift dive in order to see the airplanes.  Phew, at least we weren’t totally off the mark.

Dive Buoyant

Buoyancy An Art or Skill?

Buoyancy is something you have to constantly practice and perfect while diving.  It is not something you learn once and then move on as there are so many different variables.  The water depth, tank weight, BCD, weights, and your breathing all impact your buoyancy.

Diver buoyancy

Photo Courtesy of Diving Frontiers

Matt has it mastered and can literally site Indian style in the water, gently moving up and down with each breath.  Sign of a skilled and controlled diver and flexible yogi.

My new BCD has helped tremendously.  The original BCD was a unisex BCD which did not fit me correctly.  The torso was too long and it sat below my hips and was overall just too big.  I sold it and bought a female Aqua Lung Pearl which fits much better and gives me far more control.

I am pretty flat (or neutral) while I am diving.  But I do tend to struggle when I want to stay in one place to take a photo, look at a critter, or wait for other divers.

Work needed to be done so I jumped at the chance when Eric on “Ad Astra offered to do buoyancy skills with a few of us.  Eric is a dive instructor and has over a dozen certifications (rescue, first aid, deep, technical, side mount, etc…) and is the perfect person to teach us new techniques.

Me diving.

Me, before I learned my new skills, pretty neutral.

Jane from “Cheetah II,” Daryl and Janet from “Maple” joined me at “Ad Astra’s” mooring where Eric had rigged a little skills course.  He put up a diagonal line creating a space that got smaller as the line met the sea bed on opposite side.

Eric had us practice fin kicks where you leave the tips of your fins on the floor and raise your body up with an inhale and down with an exhale.  After we “mastered” this exercise, he showed us different fin kicks.  Most people do the flutter kick which tends to kick up sand and can disturb the sea life so we were learning alternative kicks that are less disruptive to the animals.

Types of Kicks:
  • Flutter kick
  • Modified Flutter kick
  • Frog Kick
  • Helicopter turn

After displaying our new skills, we used the modified flutter kick to get under the line, then helicopter around and swim back under the line without touching the line or the ground.

Next, we used the same kick to swim barely over the line, then we headed straight down (perpendicular to the ground, head first), then swam under the line belly up (tank closest to the ground).  Of course, I looked at him in disbelief when he demonstrated it and indicated I might not be able to do it, but to my surprise, I killed it!

The next skill I had heard about and swore I would never do – but here I am preparing to do it in front of 5 other people.  You swim slowly, just above the floor (18″), up to a spoon that has been buried in the sand (the top part of the spoon showing).  As you slowly approach the spoon, you gently nudge it with your regulator, then slowly and calmly remove your regulator, grab the spoon with your mouth, look at Eric, and then replace your regulator.  I am not sure what the spoon’s problem was but it kept evading my mouth or jumping out of my mouth- it was comedic for everyone but me. Goin in, miss, goin in again, miss, spoon flops on sand – try the entire move again.  Eventually, I got it, but man it was irritating.

For the last skill we slowly swam up to the mooring, 18″ off the floor, hovered at the mooring for 5 seconds.  We then used our breath to raise up over the mooring then headed upside down, holding for 5 count (basically doing a “U” around the mooring.

Mooring Block

Mooring Block – Not Eric’s, but similar.

When we came up to the surface, we were all surprised to learn that we had been down for 90 minutes!  It was an incredibly educational and useful session that we are all very grateful to have received.  It certainly should be included in the basic Open Water or at least in Advanced training – which it is not.

None the less I feel much more equipped to handle my buoyancy and look forward to putting my new skills to work while diving.

Matt upside down

Matt pretending to be a trunk fish – upside down.

Salt Pier dive

Me at the Salt Pier.