16th International Symposium on Vulcanospeleology

From March 16 to 22 the Galapagos Islands are the location for the 16th International Symposium on Vulcanospeleology. This international event with over 80 attendees started with a series of talks by international experts in several subjects and will continue with expeditions to caves and lava tubes in Santa Cruz and Isabela Islands.

Galapagos Tip Top Diving’s resident course director Jorge A. Mahauad had the chance to do a talk during the symposium. Jorge is the cave diving and underwater speleology advisor of ECUCAVE, the Ecuadorian Speleology Society and presented the advancements of underwater cave exploration in Ecuador mainland and the Galapagos Islands.

16th International Symposium on Vulcanospeleology talk about underwater caves of Galapagos
In his talk, Jorge explained that Cave and Cavern diving are completely undeveloped underwater activities in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands; however, he also suggested potential interest areas of underwater vulcanospeleology exploration in deep seamounts, sunken lava tubes and grottos of the islands.

Certified as a rebreather technologies specialist, technical diving instructor trainer and full cave diver Mahauad has experience diving the limestone caves of the Mayan Riviera & North Florida and the volcanic caves of the Canary and the Galapagos Islands. With his wife Jessica, he owns and operates Tip Top Diving, a 5 star instructor development technical dive center and live-aboard vessel in the Galapagos Islands.

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Galapagos PADI Instructor Development in 2014

Following the 2013 success with our first, we now have a PADI Instructor Development Program scheduled in Galapagos for February - March 2014. The course will be taught by Michel Guerrero and myself, PADI Course Directors in Ecuador & Galapagos.

For more information please contact us.

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DEMA 2013, a milestone for us

Ready for DEMA 2013, the most important of my life in the scuba industry so far... In fact, I attended my first in Miami 2003 and this marks my 10th consecutive year at the show. But this is not why this Orlando show is so important. In the beginning I would come to DEMA sponsored by Rolf Wittmer Turismo, that was back when almost all tour operators were able to offer dive trips to Wolf and Darwin. After 2007, I started attending the show as a dive professional and this eventually helped me become a PADI Course Director last year.

Anyway, the reason why DEMA 2013 is so important is because it will see the first ever TipTop Diving and Galapagos Rebreathers booth at the show, a business Jessi Pfeltz Mahauad and I now fully own. Jessi and I will also be launching Galapagos Nortada live-aboard, a new concept dive boat in the Galapagos Islands. If you are in the show, please come by booth 1735 and say hi if you can. We've made some nice stickers and giveaways for our visitors at the show and will be very happy to see old friends and meet new ones.

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MSDT Program and IDC Staff Instructor Course – September 2013

The Galapagos Tip Top Dive & Training Facility will be having a PADI IDC Staff Instructor Course on September 26 to 30. We have designed this program to exceed the training standards required by PADI and provide more water time and a fun, rewarding experience. Our aim is to discuss and develop instructor training staff members in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

To participate in the IDCS Instructor Course you need to be certified as a PADI MSDT. Those who are not yet PADI MSDT’s can still be eligible upon completion of some additional requisites. We will be teaching Instructor level specialties prior to the program.

Course will be held in Puerto Ayora at the 5 Star Instructor Development Dive Center. We have 3 confirmed PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainers that will attend the course and could accommodate a couple more.

If you are interested please contact PADI Course Director Jorge A. Mahauad. Course will be taught in English.

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Our new PADI Tec 40 graduates!!

Just a short post to congratulate PADI OWSI Mauricio de Santiago and PADI OWSI Eduardo Mahauad, they are our two new PADI Tec 40 Divers. They completed their Tec 40 over the weekend at Tip Top Diving

In the photo: Eduardo (trying to look like a badass), Mauricio and Javier (out tech divemaster).
We started working on a PADI Sidemount Diver Course and Sidemount Instructor courses today and will complete those over the course of this week. Eduardo will also be working on his PADI Specialty Instructor and MSDT rating for the IDC Staff Instructor course we will have at Tip Top Diving in September.

by PADI Course Director Jorge A. Mahauad, Galapagos Islands.
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Tec Rec news from the Galapagos Islands

Tec Rec news from the Galapagos Islands
by PADI Course Director Jorge A. Mahauad

When I first started a technical diving operation in the Galapagos in 2009, many of my colleagues and friends thought I was crazy. Some still think I am and very often I tend to agree with them. In any case, we have seen some advancement in the Tec Rec market here in the past few months.  I thought my sharing of this could inspire other people who are thinking of a technical diving oriented facility in other areas of the world.

Even though the Galapagos Islands are a major diving hotspot of the world and a “bucket list” destination for many, technical diving has never been popular here. Hundreds of sharks and other marine mega fauna lurk around in the current at about 15 to 20 meters throughout the year. Very often, the ever inquisitive silky sharks push recreational divers out of their safety stops because of their eagerness to explore; not too good if you are doing decompression diving. In addition, currents are strong and a fairly short drift hang can render a dive team very far from sight in an oceanic archipelago with rough surface condition that is located 1000 kilometers away from the mainland.

But dive conditions aren’t the only challenge. Like many other remote dive destinations, obtaining even a properly rigged set of 12 liter aluminum doubles is a quest, let alone specialized equipment, oxygen cleanliness, soda lime for rebreathers, etc. And, since welcoming a Tec Rec diver is definitely more laborious, the amount of dive operators willing to allow Technical Diving are very limited and guides are hard to find.

On the other hand, my passion for exploration, going beyond and doing things no one has ever done before, are stronger than the pure niche market existence (or not) and all the logistical and supply limitations. This is why in 2010 I opened Galapagos Rebreathers and the Galapagos Tip Top Dive & TrainingFacility, a 5 Star Instructor Development Dive Resort offering all the recreational and most technical courses available from PADI and the Tec Rec range.

Our first customer in 2010 was Andy Phillips, a Tec Rec IT who brought his Megalodon rebreather. We provided cylinders, Sofnolime, high pressure oxygen and support for his expedition. Since 2010, a number of rebreather friendly live-aboard trips in conjunction with Andy and Peter Seupel have been supported at least once a year. Our September 2013 live-aboard is the biggest to this day with a total of 13 divers on board using many different units. We have Megalodon, Evolution / Inspiration, Hammerhead, JJ, Poseidon and Titan rebreathers booked so far.

In Galapagos the deeper areas of the archipelago are mainly unexplored. Dive tour operators, fishermen and scientists have vast knowledge in the 0 – 30 meter range but little is known about what lies below. This is the reason why some of scientists in the Galapagos have started training in rebreather technologies. In late May 2013, we had the first ever PADI Tec 40 CCR course in the country. The course was taught to Paul Tompkins, whose intention is to use rebreathers to discover deeper species of algae in Galapagos as part of his PhD candidacy.

In addition to the closed circuit technologies, other trends such as sidemount and back-mount open circuit have developed lately. In early May we had the opportunity to teach the PADI sidemount course to a couple of instructor candidates. The specialty instructor course was part of their MSDT program and they became the first sidemount instructors 100% taught in Galapagos. June also saw a couple of other Tec Rec levels. I had a two Tec 40 and Tec 45 diver candidates who worked very hard to earn their Tec Rec certifications.

It is interesting to look back and see that the last three years have made a difference for PADI Tec Rec in Galapagos. This process has not been absent pain and heavy investment. On the other hand, the rewards obtained from seeing my region develop and appear in the world’s Tec Rec map are completely worth the effort.

Continuing with the vision of a more specialized diving in Galapagos, next year we will introduce NORTADA, a new concept charter live-aboard for 8 people. Nortada will be oriented as the option for private groups and specialized crowds such as photographers, rebreathers, and technical divers. The next couple years will also see the completion of the Tec Rec range of courses in Galapagos by the addition of the Tec 60 CCR and Tec 100 CCR levels. We are also working on the establishment of a local deep diving record. The idea of establishing such record is to set a landmark for others to follow and to be the event of a deep reef expedition that will attempt to explore areas of Galapagos where no man has ever gone before, mainly in the 50 – 120 meter range.

Most of these new projects are very ambitious and require a team. If you are a interested in getting involved please get in touch with me, the possibilities are truly endless.

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Congratulations to our latest PADI Tec 40 & Tec 45 in Galapagos Tip Top Diving

Life have just not had enough hours lately. But I don’t want to skip making a post about my latest Tec students Nelson Salazar and Javier Mahauad, even when their course ended a week or so ago. I think they deserve the well earned recognition.

Nelson and Javier came to the Galapagos Tip Top Dive and Training Facility for the Tec 40 and Tec 45 certifications. We worked on the courses over two weeks and had a very good time together. Here are some photos of them taken over the days.

They are the first divers to be certified as Tec 40 and Tec 45 in the Galapagos Islands. I’ve taught the Tec 40 before but in Ecuador mainland. This is the first Tec 45 course ever in the country.

Nelson will use the skills developed in these courses in a trip to Mexico. He will be doing the full cave training with Phocea in Playa del Carmen. Having dome my own full cave there I was more than happy to refer him in their direction.  Javier is working his way up to Tec Instructor now.

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