The name “Galapagos Islands” alone evokes colorful images of the exotic species who call the archipelago home, a blend of Darwin’s blue-footed boobies, giant tortoises, sea lions, penguins and more, all set amongst a remarkably varied landscape. The different islands’ unique and separate habitats are credited with diversifying these species, however, few remember this image is only half of the thriving life in the Galapagos. Living in the clear aquamarine waters between the islands is an entirely separate range of impressive species, visible to those ready to enter their world. They don’t vary by island, but rather makeup one diverse community of beings that co-exist.
Those with an interest in scuba diving won’t want to pass up the opportunity to scuba dive in the Galapagos, for an experience that will unveil yet another layer of the destination’s feats of nature (and likely top your dive list).
This legendary diving destination is often considered to be one of the ultimate diving experiences in any scuba diver’s record, with a laundry list of species to be seen in this protected natural environment. Because there is virtually no commercial fishing and the waters are all part of a protected marine reserve, the Galapagos are very densely populated by a vast variety of thriving species, living without much impact from human activities.
Most divers agree that the Galapagos cruises are some of the best in the world, offering a multi-faceted experience to accompany the dives. Some liveaboard diving trips are offered here, though scuba diving in the Galapagos is especially common as an “optional” activity on many cruises.
Where else can you see a variety as rich as in the Galapagos Islands? A scuba dive in the Galapagos is likely to be full of encounters with countless aquatic animals including sea lions, dolphins, penguins, seals, eagle ray, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, golden rays, whale sharks, and even marine iguanas.
Smaller fish and creatures vary from sunfish (mola mola) to red-lipped batfish to seahorses, small yet magnificent as they swim amongst the larger creatures of the sea.
With no shortage of top-notch sites in the Galapagos, here are some of the best Galapagos scuba diving sites that you won’t want to miss.
1. Gardner Bay, Española
Just a 45-minute boat ride from Punta Suarez, Gardner Bay has a beautiful white sand beach that a colony of sea lions call home, and is an important nesting site for marine turtles. Swim in this calm bay amongst stingrays, white-tipped sharks and vibrant parrot fish.
2. Leon Dormido, San Cristobal
A couple of hours off the western shore of San Cristobal sits this striking rock formation, jutting hundreds off feet out the water. Standing next to the sheer walls of another stunning volcanic formation, the two rocks form a narrow channel offering some of the Galapagos’ best diving. White-tipped reef sharks, sea turtles, and manta rays are commonly spotted here, with hammerheads visible at depths only scuba divers can get to. Beautiful sea birds fly overhead, making for a perfect experience that combines dramatic scenery with impressive wildlife in and out of the water.
3. Gordon Rocks
An hour from Puerto Ayora, this Galapagos dive site is only recommended for intermediate and advanced divers on account of strong currents in the water. Excellent visibility allows divers to witness schools of hammerheads, rays, moray eels, and sea turtles.
Depths are 20 meters at the deepest, with visibility ranging from 5 to 25 meters. Medium to strong currents can make diving a little tricky, and thus render the Galapagos a better scuba diving destination for intermediate and advanced divers. Water temperatures are on the colder side here, ranging from 16-28 degrees Celsius (60-82 degrees Fahrenheit), with colder temperatures from September-November. Wetsuits are usually needed year-round, however, hoods and gloves are needed during the colder season.
Diving insurance is mandatory for the Galapagos Islands, which is not the same as regular medical or travel insurance. DAN (Divers Alert Network) is popular diving insurance.
Serious divers are encouraged to bring their own equipment to the Galapagos, though some cruises will have everything available for rent (make sure to inquire beforehand). Wetsuits are not included in cruise costs, but can be rented. Do not bring weights or weight belts, unless you require a weight-integrated belt.
Children 10 and older are only allowed if they are certified divers, otherwise, the age minimum is 16 and older for nondivers.
Flash photography is not permitted while taking photos of wildlife, nor are unauthorized photographs of videos recorded for commercial purposes. Underwater cameras without flash for personal purposes are permitted, and some cruises will even have them available onboard to borrow (inquire beforehand to confirm).
To prioritize environmental conservation, the Galapagos National Park Service only issues a limited number of scuba diving permits to a select group of tour operators. If you are interested in scuba diving on your Galapagos cruise, make sure to confirm this before booking. The Nemo II, Ocean Spray, Galapagos Legend and Coral I or II are all very popular cruises with permits to offer scuba diving to guests.
To witness some of the world’s best marine life, make sure to take advantage of your time in the Galapagos by including a scuba diving trip on your Galapagos cruise. For more information, please contact us.
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