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Galapagos Scuba Diving

Photo © Patrick H.

Travel Guide South America Ecuador Galapagos Islands Galapagos Scuba Diving

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Introduction

Galapagos 8

Galapagos 8

© All Rights Reserved kreglicka

The Galapagos Islands are a unique, world-class diving location yet it remains relatively unknown among the wider diving communty. For experienced divers, it is precisely because the Galapagos Islands underwater world remains relatively still private, pristine and unexplored, that it is such a unique diving experience.

Unlike many other extraordinary dive sites, it is not the coral reefs that are the main attraction in the Galapagos but rather the unique mixture of marine animals (one in four species are endemic to the islands) and their fearlessness of intruders into their watery world. In the Galapagos it is possible to dive in the company of sea turtles, manta rays, penguins, sea lions, dolphins, and numerous species of shark, including hammerheads and whale sharks. There are also hundreds of species of tropical reef fish, many of which are particular to this fantastic underwater sanctuary.

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Dive Sites & Accessability

Galapagos 7

Galapagos 7

© All Rights Reserved kreglicka

The Galapagos Islands feature about 30 dive sites which can be accessed via daily dive charters or one to two week live aboard trips. Shore diving is virtually impossible as most dives are drift dives along the cliff faces of offshore rocks and pinnacles. Galapagos Dive Site Information

Daily Dive Charters

There are dive-shops on San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela. Due to distance, the majority of dive sites visited on a day tour are accessible from only one of these islands.

Arranging your dives locally can be frustrating, most daily dive shops, despite advertising work on a schedule (Site A on Monday, Site B on Tuesday, etc), decide the night before if and where they will be diving the next day. Dives will only depart with a minimum number of divers - so you still may find your trip cancelled on the morning of the dive. Though there are a number of dive sites within close reach to both dive centers, dive operators typically may offer choices, but may change the destination the night before and you may dive the at the same place multiple days. Dive Operators often cancel the schedulled daily dive trip if they don't have the minimum number.

Dive Sites Accessible from San Cristobal

  • Kicker Rock
  • Caragua Wreck - 100 year old ship wreck
  • 'Jessica' - Carrier Wreck

Dive Sites Accessible from Santa Cruz

  • Gordon Rocks
  • North Seymour/Mosquera
  • Cousins' Rock
  • Floreana
  • Daphne
  • Guy Fawkes
  • Acadamey Bay

Dive Sites Accessible from Isabela

  • Isla Tortuga/Brattle Islet
  • 4 Hermanos/Crossman Islets

Live Aboard Dive Charters

All live-aboard boats operate under permission of the Galapagos National Park Service. Permits for diving changed in 1997, boat now have either regular cruise permits or dive permits. Boat which operate under the regular cruise permit are not permitted to offer diving as part of their cruise. There are a handful of boats which are permitted to offer diving. All of these cruises are for advanced divers and feature diving at the northern islands of Wolf and Darwin. Liveaboard cruises offer two to three dives per day as well as some land excursions during the week.

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Visability & Weather

Galapagos - Green sea turtle

Galapagos - Green sea turtle

© All Rights Reserved fredrik_p

The best time of the year for diving the Galapagos is strongly debatable. There are two generally accepted seasons in the Galapagos Islands:

  • Hot Season (December to April) - water surface temperature averages 22° C - 26° C
  • Dry Season (May to November) - water surface temperature averages 18° C - 22° C

From October to April the seas are comparatively calm, visability good and the water temperature is warm. During the warm season there is more "ray" activity (Manta, mobula, spotted eagles, and golden eagle rays) and winds are not as strong.

However from May to September the strong Arctic currents bring vast amounts of plankton into the Galapagos waters, attracting many more fish, sharks and sea mammals. During this period, visability may not be as good and the water somewhat colder, but the chance of seeing large schools of sharks and rare marine life increase. Whale Shark Season, from April to November, is when the chance to see whale sharks is highest, but also when the water in the central islands happens to be the coolest.

Irrespective of season, visability is generally best early in the morning. Rain is most common in the early mornings in January, and the hottest month is March.[1]

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Choosing a Dive Operator

Galapagos - King angel fish

Galapagos - King angel fish

© All Rights Reserved fredrik_p

Be careful of who you dive with!! Just because someone has a divemaster's license does not necessarily mean they were trained for it - many in Ecuador were literally purchased. Divers should also be particularly careful about Dive Shops and Operators claiming to be PADI or SSI Certified; many of the stores are simply displaying the PADI/SSI logo and are not actually certified or associated with either of these bodies. Always ask to see the original certification and thoroughly question the level of experience your Divemaster has. If in doubt, check the PADI/SSI website for certified Dive Centers in Ecuador.

Certified Dive Operators include:

On Santa Cruz:

On San Cristobel:

  • Franklin Dive Center

For the best experience, choose a bilingual naturalist guide who specialize in Galapagos flora and fauna as well as scuba diving. (Galapagos Certified Dive Guide/Ecuadorian Certified Naturalist Level II or III Guide). Local operators (non-liveaboard) will usually provide all equipment, dive boat, transfers from the Dive Shop to the dive boat, qualified Dive Master/Guide, onboard snacks & lunch, first aid & emergency equipment (including emergency oxygen) and possibly a clean towel.

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Cost

Galapagos - Sea star

Galapagos - Sea star

© All Rights Reserved fredrik_p

Most of the 'pre-book' dive trips are USD$180 - $200 for a day trip that includes 2-3 immersions.

It is more expensive to arrange and book dives in advance due credit card/paypal fees, and overheads to cover online transactions etc. However, failure to book in advance may mean you are not able to dive if you simply show up.

On the other hand, dives do cost about US$40-$50 pp less if booked upon arrival.

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Equipment

Due to tight weight restrictions on most flights, pretty much all dive shops provide all equipment as part of the price...no additional rentals are necessary (unless you wish to hire a dive computers). Almost all operators on Santa Cruz provide 7mm wetsuits, however operators on San Cristobel tend to only carry 3mm - 5mm wetsuits.

Equipment condition can vary significantly between operators so be sure to check it out carefully before you dive. There have been recent cases of some Dive Operators providing regulators with faulty air gauges, torn BCDs and non-functional Octopus'.

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Tips for Diving Galapagos

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands

© All Rights Reserved NoreenA

  • There is a very high level of salinity in the water around the Galapagos (often 4-6% saltier than many other popular diving locations around the world). This means you will be much more buoyant than other places you may have been diving - carry extra weights.
  • Whilst some Dive Operators offer land-based Day Dive Charters for begginer divers, diving in the Galapagos is really only recommended for experienced divers. Whilst beginners can start at the easier dive sites and proceed to the more difficult ones, many of the best diving sites have cold water, with strong currents along vertical walls.
  • As the nearest decompression chamber is a significant distance from most dive sites (nearest Hyperbaric is in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island), it is highly recommend that all divers have current DAN insurance before going to Galapagos Islands.

References

  1. 1 http://www.weather.com/outlook/travel/businesstraveler/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/ECXX0016

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This is version 25. Last edited at 11:18 on Oct 19, 12 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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