A Truly WILD Honeymoon – Galápagos 2017

2017 was a big year. I graduated from grad school (Go Bulls!), held down two internships, got married, and TRAVELED TO THE GALÁPAGOS on honeymoon. What. a. whirlwind.

I say “I”, but of course the marriage and honeymoon was actually a “we” thing, and boy oh boy did WE have fun in The Galápagos! We started the trip with a flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador where we crashed for the night before meeting up with our National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions tour group the next morning. After a quick flight from Guayaquil to The Galápagos Islands, we were in one of the most picturesque places in the world.

Get on Board!

We were quickly whisked away to the National Geographic Islander, the boat that we would call home and provide transportation overnight as we went island hopping for one incredible week.

We visited the islands of: San Cristobol, Española, Floreana, Santa Cruz, South Plaza, Santiago, Genovesa, and Baltra. Each one of them had its own special characteristics that made them unique.

Like most visitors to the Galápagos, I was VERY interested in getting as many photos as possible of the wildlife. From the sea lions, to the boobies, to the marine iguanas…I wanted to see it ALL! And in fact, we did! Even flamingos! (The one animal we didn’t see that was on my list was the flightless cormorant, but that’s because we didn’t visit the islands they are endemic to.)

Back on Land

But wildlife wasn’t the ONLY thing to see in the Galápagos! We visited a coffee farm, “Post Office Point”, and a local school. We also walked through a lava tunnel!

After all of the incredible experiences on the National Geographic Islander, we decided to stay a few extra days on Santa Cruz in the city of Puerto Ayora.

Dive, Dive, Dive

These extra days on Santa Cruz were so we could go DIVING! Where better to dive than the Galápagos, I ask you?!

We went diving with SCUBA Iguana at Gordon Rocks in hopes of finding hammerhead sharks! While we didn’t see any hammerheads, we DID have the most incredible dives. There is nothing that can compare with the feeling of being surrounded by what feels like a wall of fish.

After a day of off-gassing on the island, re-visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station for the—oh, I don’t know—millionth? time, we packed up our gear and started the journey back home.

Time to go Home

Eventually we made our way back to the States. This trip to the Galápagos was one of those that takes your brain a few days to register, but provides a lifetime full of memories. From the barking sound of the sea lions, to the tenacity of the boobies, to the immersive underwater world, I can honestly say that our lives were changed by this trip—in the best possible way.

If you’re looking for more dive stories, be sure to check out this post about the Great Barrier Reef and our trip with Spirit of Freedom.

Eat. Sleep. Dive. Repeat.

It was a lifestyle…for a few days, at least. And it was wonderful. In September of 2018 my husband and I traveled “down under” for his top-of-the-bucket-list trip. We started with a land-based tour from Brisbane up to Cains (two words I didn’t pronounce right until we got out there) and ended on a liveaboard dive boat on the Great Barrier Reef.

Map of the route we took with Intrepid Travel.

We fed kangaroos, we held koalas, and saw some of the most stunning Aussie views from the Whitsundays, but nothing held up to the adventure we had on Spirit of Freedom’s 4-day Coral Sea trip on the Great Barrier Reef.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary – Koala Encounter

Unfortunately, due to weather, we were unable to head out to Osprey Reef (known for sharks) and had to stay a bit closer to land. While I’d have loved to witness the sight of sharks circling overhead, any disappointment I felt was quickly forgotten as soon as we got in the water.

And we got in the water faster than you can say “P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney”. It was advertised that we would do up to 15 dives in 4 days…and we did (minus one, for us personally…darn ears!) We quickly adapted to the liveabord lifestyle, which, as you might have deduced from the title was “eat, sleep, dive, repeat.” Our daily schedule was typically as follows:

  1. First breakfast & dive briefing
  2. Dive #1
  3. Second breakfast (yes, like a hobbit)
  4. Dive #2
  5. Lunch
  6. Dive #3
  7. Snack
  8. Dive #4
  9. Dinner
  10. Night dive (twice!)
  11. Sleep

We also got to visit “Cod Hole” known for its giant potato cod congregation. After we went off and explored the area a bit we did come back to where the potato cod were hanging out and had some great one-on-one interactions with these beautiful giant fish. What personalities! (Fish don’t get enough credit…perhaps there will be a blog about that, too, soon.)

Swimming with Potato Cod, a relative of the Goliath Grouper we’re typically used to seeing on our dives.

I could go on forever about the friendly white-tip reef sharks visiting us on our night dives, the phytoplankton we saw bioluminesce (is that a word? I’m making it one, now), and the abundance of macro-life in and around the “bommies”. I could also go on forever about how wonderful the crew of Spirit of Freedom was. They were so attentive, so talented, and made us feel right at home the entire time. It was like diving with friends who 100% had your back the entire time, and happened to put your fins on for you with their “finderella” service. The food was amazing, the crew attentive, and the dives incredible. If you’ve ever thought about taking the leap and doing a liveaboard my recommendation is…DO IT! If you can do it on the Great Barrier Reef…even better!

Of course, a liveboard is not for someone brand new to diving. We had our advanced certification before getting on this boat, and around 30 dives under our belt. You can read about my first dive experience here.

Some of the crew/guests pre-dive on Spirit of Freedom.

*Side note- these thoughts/opinions are completely my own and I was not encouraged or paid by Spirit of Freedom to write this blog. They really just were that good!*

First Dive Experience – SCUBA Diving

Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Sounds so scientific. So cold. And it is, when you think about it. All that gear, all that math involved in the training (15ft/5 meters is forever engrained in my brain…but to be honest the atmospheres of pressure- not so much.) But most of us aren’t scientific or technical divers. Most of us are SCUBA diving simply for the enjoyment of it. Once you hit that water nothing about it seems scientific or cold, but maybe still scary the first few times.

My now-husband, boyfriend at the time, and I were getting ready to go on a trip to Costa Rica. There was a chance we may be able to dive on this trip, and I had never tried it before. For good reason…I was pretty scared. I had seen that episode of House with the guy on the plane, I knew what the “bends” was. And I wasn’t in. Until he convinced me to try it in a pool.

Seemed like a safe place to try it…so I did. I honestly don’t remember much of the entire experience. “Blacked out” is too strong a term, but there was definitely a combination of excitement and nerves that kept me from developing any memory of the situation. After that session, SCUBA diving wasn’t so bad! Maybe I should get certified…

Fast forward a few years, and we moved to a state with year-round diving opportunities, I worked in the marine science field, and at that point…how. could. I. even. without being certified. So we did it — our open water certification. Day 1: half-day in the pool, half-day in the Spring at Blue Grotto.

This was my first time diving outside of a pool and we descended deeper and deeper, past the point of feeling comfortable, particularly when he gestured to us to come down further and into a cave-like system. Like good buddies, my husband and I looked at each other and gestured “noooope” before hovering where we were. The instructor got the message. It was one way to get figuratively (and kind of literally…) thrown into the deep end, and I was hooked.

The next day, for the second part of our SCUBA diving certification, we hopped on a charter. This was an overwhelming experience. It still is, to this day, even with 50+ dives logged and time spent on a liveaboard. The dive boat experience is a unique one. One I recommend. (More on that here.) But a rough one for a new diver. My second day diving, I could hardly remember how to put my gear together but the captain, crew, and instructor helped and away we went. Oh. My Gosh. Game changer. THE FISH! It was very Ferris Bueller, “How could I possibly be expected to handle school on a day like this?”…how could I be expected to focus on my skills when the fish were all around?! (“Schooling” pun unintended, but will remain.)

We got back on the boat and that was it. We were certified. Book lessons, video lessons, checkout dives- DONE. Did I feel prepared enough to go out on my own? No way. Did we do it anyway ’cause we had to? Yep. Was it awesome? Double yep. Both my husband and I are pretty risk-adverse people so we never push it too much, always keep an eye on our gauges, and have become pretty proficient divers since then. But there is always that thought in the back of my mind like “…that’s all we had to do to go 60 ft underwater?!”

I became much more confident as we started our advanced certification but that’s a story for another time…