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Galapagos is one of the best dive spots in the world – diving here means being among an incredible amount and variety of marine life.
Throughout the whole year the diving is spectacular. The best time for diving depends on your expectations and experience.
The big animals such as hammerheads, manta rays and whale shark always look for cold water. The best chance of seeing them is from September to December. However, in this season the currents are very strong and therefore only very experienced divers can dive safely in these conditions.
At the foot of this page is a list of some dive sites and what you may see while diving.
Divers have four choices for their Galapagos dive holiday:
Option 1: Specialised live aboard dive boats
Specialised dive cruises aboard yachts fitted with all specialised equipment and facilities. The naturalist guide is a certified dive master.
The yachts have special planned itineraries with the best dive sites in the Galapagos such as Darwin and Wolf and the activities are about 90% diving and 10% lands visit. Only a few yachts offer these itineraries all year round.
Option 2: Hotel-based trips, dives available
Most divers now go for dive-only cruises, or adding a few days at the end of a cruise and doing some dives while staying in a hotel.
This type of arrangements can be made as an extension before or after a normal land visit cruise.
The good thing about the daily diving tours is that the dive itinerary is planned according to divers’ experience and not according to a yacht itinerary, so we can tailor make itineraries for both advanced and newly certified divers.
Option 3: As part of a standard cruise
This combines a ‘standard’ Galapagos cruise with some dives available.
There are several yachts offering the possibility of this. Some boats ask you to stay in hotels while diving, others offer it as an extension – you leave the cruise, join up with a dive group from the mainland, and then return to the cruise afterwards.
Dive sites are fixed according to the land visit itinerary.
Option 4: Land-based trips with diving en route
You stay on land on various islands and dive on trips out from the islands. Dive sites are fixed according to the land visit itinerary. Our Galapagos Multi Activity is an example of this.
Dive conditions and experience in Galapagos
Because of the location of the Galapagos Islands, the dive conditions include strong and cold currents. Galapagos diving aboard a specialised dive yacht or cruises with occasional diving is only recommendable for intermediate or advanced divers with experience in cold water and with drift and/or wall diving.
There are also easier sites which can be visited by beginners and for them it is recommendable to take daily diving tours from Puerto Ayora with a tailor made itinerary taking into account level of experience.
The dive limit is 30 metres or 100 feet and no one can dive alone. Dives depend on the sea conditions (currents, wind, visibility, temperature, surge and other variables). Currents are unpredictable and may be negligible or up to 3 knots.
In Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz you find the Galápagos Hyperbaric Chamber and in town it is also possible to buy DAN diving.
You must have your insurance sorted out before travelling to the Galápagos.
Requirements to dive in the Galapagos
To dive the Galapagos you need to be certified diver and it is essential that you bring your divers licence to the Galapagos.
To confirm a dive program we require to know your type of licence, number of previous dives, date of last dive and if you have experience in cold water and currents. Minimum age to dive 12-years-old.
This service can only be confirmed aboard specific specialised dive yachts and daily diving tours. Yachts with occasional diving do not, in general, offer nitrox.
Divers certification in the Galapagos
PADI and NAUI courses are available from Openwater to Divemaster certification. Also PADI dive courses can be arranged with theory classes and pool practice in Quito and open water dives in Galápagos.
Galapagos water temperatures
January to June 22 – 28°C (70 – 85F) and a calm sea
July to December 16 – 22°C (60 – 70F), the sea is choppy and with strong currents especially during September and October. Best time to visit Darwin and Wolf.
Marine fauna in the Galapagos
Reef Fish include: King angelfish, barberfish, butterflyfish, surgeonfish, morays, Moorish idol, chub, porgy, halfbeak, grunt, black striped salema, barred pargo, giant damselfish, Panamic sergeant major, Panamic graysby, flag cabrilla, barred serrano, Creole fish, parrotfish, snapper, bacalao, golden grouper, leather bass, wrasse, streamer hogfish, cornetfish, sea horse, blenny, frogfish, batfish, flounder, lizardfish, scorpionfish, hawkfish, puffer, balloonfish, burrfish, boxfish, triggerfish, goatfish and much more.
Pelagic Fish include: Bigeye jack, tuna, bonito, sierra, wahoo and more. Sometimes even marlin or sailfish. Unlike other places, the billfish come close to shore in Galápagos and are occasionally seen by divers. Whale sharks and mola-mola also are occasional visitors.
Invertebrates include: Octopus, three species of lobsters including the endemic slipper lobster, sea cucumbers, anemones, nudibranchs, sea urchins, starfish, sponges, and corals, etc. Also hammerheads, whitetip, blacktip, Galapagos sharks, dolphins, whales, giant mantas, eagle rays, golden rays and sting rays are common in Galápagos and might be seen on any of the trips.
Remember: In Galápagos do not feed or touch animals.
Academy Bay, Santa Cruz Island
This is the bay of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, offering 5 dive sites. Three of the sites are generally calm with little current; ideal for students or novices. At the other two sites the dives could be a little more complicated if there is current, so they are suitable for intermediate or expert divers. It is possible to see reef fish, sea lions, sting rays, golden rays, eagle rays, invertebrates, morays, garden eels, turtles, marine iguanas, and white tip reef sharks.
Santa Fe Island
This island offers 4 dive sites. Generally the waters are clear and the currents mild, so they are ideal for novices. At the same time, the animals and topography make them interesting for intermediates and experts. We can see reef fish; sting and eagle rays, garden eels, turtles, sea lion colony, invertebrates, morays, pelagic fish, maybe white tip reef sharks or hammerheads.
Floreana has 9 dive sites usually with calm water but if there is a strong current at one, we can quickly move to another. This makes Floreana ideal for all levels of divers. You may see coral heads, endemic black coral, reef fish; sting and eagle rays, turtles, sea lion colony, barracudas, pelagic fish, white tip reef sharks, Galápagos sharks, hammerhead sharks, sea horses, morays, garden eels, invertebrates.
North Seymour Island
There are 5 dive sites suitable for all levels of divers, although sometimes the currents can be strong. We can see reef fish; sting and eagle rays, a large garden eel colony, turtles, invertebrates, sea lion colony, morays, pelagic fish, and usually white tip reef sharks and hammerheads. Occasionally there are Galápagos sharks.
An islet with a wall dropping from the surface into the deep, full of spectacular endemic young black corals, and a big area of sloping rock plates known as a “Planchonal”. Cousins is about one hour north of Santa Cruz near Bartolomé Island. There can be strong currents. You may see reef fishes, rays, marine turtles, sea horses, morays, pelagic fishes and usually hammerheads sharks
This is an isolated offshore “sugarloaf” with vertical walls all around. The main dive site is a shelf of boulders at about 60 feet. We usually see many Galápagos sharks here, some schools of pelagic fish, and multi-coloured sponges on the rock wall. Currents and surge are the controlling factors at Nameless Island
This rock formation is a world famous dive site close to Plazas Islands, about one hour from our base. There are 4 dive sites in the area, but only the two at Plazas are for novices. The other two sites are for intermediates and experts because there can be strong currents and surge.
The Gordon Rocks dive sites are mostly walls with a deep bottom. Reef fish, large pelagic fish; golden, sting and eagle rays, turtles, sea lion colony, endemic galapágos fur seals, morays, invertebrates; white tip and Galápagos sharks. Hammerhead sharks are the main attraction, often appearing in large schools.
Easy dive site with vertical wall, but great for both beginners and experienced divers since this is probably one of the best places to see manta rays, green sea turtles and Galapagos Sharks. Also possibilities to see sealions, king angel fish, surgeon fish, barber fish, Moorish idol, Indo pacific bonito, yellow tail grunt, flag cabrilla, mutton hamlet, barred Serrano, Creole fish, parrot fish, rainbow wrasse, Streamer Hogfish, Galapagos blenny barnacle, sabertooth blenny.
Vertical wall with rock and sand bottom. Dive site for intermediate and advanced divers with a schools of barracudas, garden eels, bigeye jacks, hammerheads but also manta rays, moray eels, sting rays, white tip sharks, leopard flounder, butterfly fish, king angel fish, goat fish, surgeon fish, purple surgeon fish, almaco jack, yellow tail mullet, blackspot porgy, Galapagos grunt, blue striped snapper, panamic sergeant major.
Wall diving and big rocks spotted with corals and small caves. Easy diving with green seaturtles, rays, several sharks and many reef fish.
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We had a brilliant time , we loved it and managed all the mountain climbing! Our group was fantastic and also the guides .
We celebrated our wedding anniversary and both our birthdays - they managed to arrange cakes for our birthdays and we had such great laughs with everybody.
Shirley & Colin Whittaker (UK), Mar 2020
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Highlights - everything really but probably Isabela.
The island was so beautiful, lots of areas to explore on your own - the walk to Muro de las Lagrimas, lagoons, beach, watching the pelicans diving for fish around sunset. Los Tuneles was probably our favourite snorkelling trip. Kicker Rock would be a close second, we have some fantastic footage of hammerheads.
All the breakfasts were fresh and enjoyable as were the lunches provided on the trips - especially the ceviche on Los Tuneles tour. Andrea, our main contact was great always on time, very friendly, lots of useful information. Overall organisation was excellent - no problems.
Thanks again Tom - it was worth the wait!!
Neil and Julie Buckley (U.K.), Jan 2020
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