How to Dive The Galapagos Islands and Plan Your Dream Scuba Holiday
...without losing any more of your time researching on the internet
If you want to dive the Galapagos Islands and have us – a group of
scuba professionals organising everything for you…
Then this is going to be the most interesting message you will ever read.
From the lounge lazy chair of
Sebastian De la Peña
A.K.A Seabass Diving Instructor
Gili Trawangan – Indonesia
Dear Scuba Divers:
I’m writing this letter because I have something to share with you and is vastly important for anybody who’s been wishing to dive the Galapagos Islands… and who is itching to go for an adventure to a remote place… or have the best possible scuba experience and finally dive on one of the best dive spots in the whole planet.
In other words… I’m going to show how to get onboard of an expedition that will make you experience diving in a whole another level… pleasure filled and excitement guaranteed.
This is not for you if you are a novice diver. Having 50 or more logged dives is required for diving the Galapagos Islands.
Is that you? Yes?
Then, Here’s the story:
There’s 2 scuba professionals that met while working in the Philippines, that used to live a very happy and busy life until COVID hit and left us without our jobs.
I still remember that day. March 18th. I was in the middle of a pool sessions when the rumours became reality.
The island was closing and all the boats were to stop working the very next day. That provoked a collective panic and 99% of tourist left the island that same day.Leaving us with absolutely nothing to do.
That was the last course I could teach and it was not even half of it. Businesses closed and we lost our jobs.
Many dive Instructors left the Island and came back to their countries to live a “better life”.
Not us, the die-hard scuba Instructors did not want to give up on the diving industry. We knew things were going to get really tough but there must’ve been something out there. For those who resisted.
I am not gonna lie… It’s been real tough. We’ve been tested and challenge every day nobody knew how long this thing were going to last.
We had to learn and come back to the basics. But being in a beautiful island took away a bit of the stress that I can only imagined, my family and friends were living in their cities being lock downed in their apartments.
I was sure I did not want that.
So, finally, the reward has arrived. The opportunity I was looking for…
Recently, a few days ago, I had a virtual meeting with liveaboard company and…. Even though we are an entire ocean away, we agreed to partnered and work together!
To do what you might ask…
To organise a unique expedition to the Galapagos Islands.
This expedition is certain to be a
once in a lifetime experience.
But before I got in touch with them. I was talking with my mate Harry who’s an underwater photographer/videographer producer.
And here’s how we came up with the idea: We started wondering… “What would be one of the world’s best dive spots? How’d it be like? What are people’s favourite animals?” …
Well… Most of divers get excited to see big pelagic marine life, don’t they? We thought...
Then, we said: “We have to go to a place where there’s gotta be sharks! Lots of them!
Then there’s gotta be also whale sharks! That’s right!
Then, of course… There’s gotta be Mantas!! Oh Yes!!
Is there any place in the world one has the chance to see all of them in one place??
Yes, there is! It’s called…
The Galapagos Islands
Galapagos islands were one of the first ever designated UNESCO World Heritage site. The Marine Reserve covers 51,000 square miles (133,000 square kms). They are located 600 miles (close to 1000 kms) off the coast of Ecuador.
But, so what? There are many sharks in others parts of the planet, right?
However, the northern islands of Darwin and Wolf are literally the sharkiest place on the planet. There are 17.5 tons of sharks per square hectare (2.47 acre).
You won’t see walls of hundreds of hammerhead sharks in almost any other part of the world.
Not only you will see hammerheads but also: Galapagos Sharks, Silky Sharks, white tip sharks, black tip sharks, Galapagos Bullhead sharks and the favourite of many divers… the Whale shark!
No one ever forgets the massive school of hammerheads sharks and unlike elsewhere in the world, around 99% of whale sharks in this region are huge adult females of 12 meters (40 ft) and up!
If that is not exciting enough…. I doubt you’d say it is not… But…
In addition to all those sharks, expect to see… Oceanic Manta Rays!! And also, spotted eagle rays, Golden Cow rays, Sting rays, marble rays and schools of mobula rays.
And… In addition to all of this, the topside isn’t too shabby either! In fact, it’s the reason most visitors come to the Galapagos. Blue Footed Boobies, Magnificent Frigates, Sea Lions, Galapagos penguins, Giant Tortoises and Marine Iguanas… this is the only place in the world where you can see them feeding underwater…
There’s so much life that is hard to imagine… There’s a reason why it inspired Charles Darwin to write his controversial book “The Origin of Species”.
What makes the Galapagos So Special?
So, Why the diving in the Galapagos is so good. Why do we have all this different species at the same time. What are the unique conditions that gathered all this marine wildlife? What is the thing that make it so special?
Well, The Galapagos are situated on both sides of the equator, at a point where 3 ocean currents collide. This makes it one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world.
The south Equatorial or Cromwell current runs from the west and it’s a source of upwelling when it hits the islands bringing nutrients from the bottom to the surface layer.
The colder Humboldt current that runs north along the coast of south America turning west near the Equator.
And the warm Panama current that runs from north to south.
All the sea currents, with different temperature and directions, provide the perfect conditions to deliver this amazing biodiversity. Where you can see hammerheads, followed by a whale shark, dolphins and mantas.
You never know exactly what is going to happen! But for sure something unique and unusual.
These islands are so remote that they are only accessible via liveaboard…
Do you have internet? What a question... You wouldn’t be here if you didn't...
If you go to google and type diving the galapagos liveaboard. You will find way too many options.
So many, that you will get confused and you will find yourself again in google with another search… And then another one, and then some more until you get into that tunnel that it’s hard to get off!
All the information the internet provides us is good but it can get overwhelming and difficult to figure out who to trust.
But, hey! We’ve done that research already. And we’ve came up with…
The exact same boat the BBC used recently to film their next nature documentary
You know the BBC, right? You’ve watched at least one of those beautiful documentaries such as Blue Planet or Planet Earth, haven’t you? I’d guess you have!
So, think about it. If the BBC, with all their budget, decided to charter this boat. If they thought it was good for them and their one-month expedition…
Why not us?
I’m 100% sure if it is good for them it's gotta be good for us too!
The expedition will be made in this boat, that was recently and completely rebuilt from the keel up and designed for the comfort of divers. A full crew of 11 will be headed with us. The boat is equipped with all the safety features such as, life jackets, life rats, first aid kits, oxygen kits, 2 defibrillators, search lights, GPS Antenna, VHF Radio, radars and more. Special diving safety equipment such as nautilus lifelines, dive alerts, SMB’s and noisemakers will be provided.
For your comfort the boat offers satellite Wi-Fi, hot water showers, new cabins with individual climate control, a spacious dive deck and a sun deck with jacuzzi, bar, BBQ area and lounge chairs. Everything you need to relax in between dives.
Now, you might be wondering when you should go, right?
When is The Best Time To Go?
Diving in the Galapagos Islands has 2 seasons: The Manta season (December - May) and the Whale shark season (June - November).
The Manta Season is the "warm season", with the highest water and air temperatures.
The average air temperatures go from 22°C to 31°C (72°F - 88°F) and the water temperature goes from 21°C (70°F) to 28°C (82°F).
Visibility is usually the best at this time. Seas are also calm offering perfect diving conditions to explore the underwater world.
Brief rains are more common, but expect the sun shine after the rain.
Even though Galapagos is in the Equator it does not have a tropical weather. So the rains are not that strong or long as in tropical places. That’s why visiting Galapagos is good all year round!
What can you see in this time? Well is called manta season for a reason!
In this season. There is also an increase of hammerheads action. It is the time you have the possibility to see large school of scalloped hammerheads, creating a wall of sharks!
They can be often seen Darwin and Wolf Islands. At the northern part of the Galapagos Islands.
And boats are planned to do 6 dives in each of these islands! To see plenty of shark action!
The Whale Shark Season (from June to November) is known as the guarua and is the cold season.
Average air temperature goes from 21ºC (70ºF) to 27ºC (80ºF) and water temperature goes from 18ºC (65ºF) to 24ºC (75ºF).
Wind creates rougher seas, currents are stronger and visibility is slight less. But is still great for diving as the rich currents bring nutrients to the islands.
While we can see whale sharks at any time in Galapagos this is when the number of encounters increase drastically. With its pick numbers on September.
The whale shark, as you all know, is the largest fish in the ocean with an average size of 10 meters in length (33ft) and they may reach 12 mts (40ft).
So, when is diving in galapagos best time?? It really depends on what you want to see! What’s your level of diving? If you are comfortable with strong currents and What is your favourite animals? Mantas or whale sharks?
If you don’t have 100 dives yet or you like only warm water you will be better off going between December and May and see the Oceanic Manta Rays, plus the all the hammerhead action.
If your goal is to see whale sharks and see more mola molas, you have more than 100 dives and you are comfortable with colder waters and stronger currents, then you should go between, June and November or in the pick of whale shark season which is in December
If you are like us and you want to have the chance to see both, mantas and whale sharks. Then, the best time to go diving in the Galapagos would be in May as we can still go to see the Mantas and see the early arrivals of Whale sharks.
How cool would that be!!?
The expedition members will meet on Wednesday, May 5th evening in San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands, for a reception and dinner.
Here, the adventure begins…
This is how an Itinerary looks like.
Next day we'll head together to the “Tiburon Martillo” dock, where the boat crew will escort us to the yacht, Calipso!
PM: After getting settled in, we will have lunch and briefings followed by a check dive at Isla Lobos. Lobo is Spanish for wolf and sea lion is lobo del mar in Spanish. Expect to see sea lions.
AM: Punta Carrion is located on the island of Santa Cruz. Sometimes we get lucky and see mola molas here. It’s a good first dive to acclimatize to Galapagos diving.
PM: Seymour is an island known for having great dives. Sightings include mobulas, white tip reef sharks, Galapagos sharks, sometimes hammerheads and many fish species.
We make it to Wolf Island. Wolf is located 115 miles north of the central islands and it is one of the reasons Galapagos is on most divers’ bucket list. Scientists have designated Wolf and Darwin, together, as the sharkiest place on earth because they have the largest biomass of sharks on the planet, 17.5 tons of sharks per hectare (2.47 acres). Only divers visit Wolf. There is no chumming in Galapagos. This is where sharks come naturally. There are no land visits.
Sightings include huge schools of hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, whale sharks (in season), silky sharks, eagle rays, sea lions, fur seals, mantas, turtles, jacks, moray eels and dolphins. Some sites at Wolf are covered in coral and all of the tropical fish species that live on coral reefs. Dive sites include Shark Bay, The Landslide, La Banana and Islote La Ventana. On the island itself, there are hundreds of thousands of seabirds including all 3 types of boobies in Galapagos – red footed, blue footed and nazca. There are frigates, pelicans, lava gulls and red billed tropicbirds.
Darwin’s Arch is an icon, the symbol of diving the Galapagos. It is located 229 km / 142 miles north of the central islands. In addition to Wolf, this is where we find massive schools of hammerheads. Huge, pregnant whale sharks pass through Darwin Island each year for reasons unknown.
Darwin is the warmest dive site in Galapagos due to the tropical Panama current. You spend a lot of the dive stationary, on a platform that drops into the blue where hammerheads swim against the current. It’s like being on the side of a hammerhead highway watching traffic pass. You leave the platform to swim out into the blue when a whale shark is spotted. That sometimes means swimming through the hammerheads, to get closer to a whale shark...
Just... Imagine... that...
A truly magnificent experience you will carry with you forever.
AM: We have 2 more dives at Darwin in the morning.
PM: We have 1-2 more dives at Wolf in the afternoon. There is an optional night dive at the Anchorage site. Anchorage has a sandy bottom where you may see garden eels and the red-lipped batfish.
We have 2 different itineraries for the western sites due to seasonal visibility…or rather lack of visibility.
AM & PM: Cabo Marshall (Isabela Island)
Cabo Marshall is located on the eastern side of Isabela Island. Giant mantas, large schools of barracudas, Galapagos sharks, sea lions, flightless cormorants and enormous schools of black striped salemas in Galapagos. These tiny fish can be so numerous, a diver inside the school cannot be seen, only the bubbles rising above the school. 4 dives at 2 Cabo Marshall dive sites.
AM: Cabo Douglas (Fernandina Island). The westernmost island in Galapagos, Fernandina is an active volcano. It has erupted twice in the last decade. It is the ‘hot spot’ in Galapagos.
This is the only site on liveaboard itineraries where you can see diving Marine Iguanas feeding underwater. You also see Penguins feeding on tiny silver Sardines using schools of black striped salemas as cover. Turtles are especially abundant at Cabo Douglas which is probably why this is a likely location to site Orcas.
PM: Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela Island). If you look at a map, Isabela Island looks uncannily similar to a seahorse. Punta Vicente Roca is located on the north western side of Isabela just below the ‘mouth’ of the seahorse. Isabela has 5 active volcanoes.
Punta Vicente Roca is a mola mola (Sunfish) cleaning station, has large turtle populations, the endemic Galapagos bullhead shark, penguins, sea horses, sea lions and many species of fish not found elsewhere in Galapagos. It is not uncommon to find yourself diving with an endemic flightless cormorant.
AM: Cousins Rock. Cousins is a small rock, the remains of an eroded crater sticking up out of the sea. On the eastern side, the rock cascades down in a series of recessed ledges strewn with black coral, which is bright green under the water. Taking cover in the coral, you may find seahorses, frogfish, octopus, turtles and the elusive longnose hawkfish. It’s not unusual to spot pelagics from Cousins including mantas, eagle rays, mobulas and hammerhead. Sea lions are fur seals are also at Cousins. 1-2 dives depending on the mood of the divers.
PM: We disembark head for a reserve in the Santa Cruz Highlands to see the iconic Galapagos Tortoise in its natural habitat. After the Highlands, we descend into the largest town in Galapagos, Puerto Ayora. You may opt to visit the Charles Darwin Research Centre in the Galapagos National Park or wander about town.
Our farewell dinner will be at a restaurant in Puerto Ayora. We then return to Calipso and sail to San Cristobal overnight.
AM: You will disembark after breakfast. And then you are free…
Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?
We’ll be diving 4 times most of the days. Diving begins early to get in all 4 dives in a 12-hour day.
There’s going to be more than 20 dives in one week! That’s truly exciting! Isn’t it?
But there could be a problem with diving this much.
First, our Residual Nitrogen after the deep dives will be very high which is something that will limit our bottom times. That would be a shame, wouldn’t it?
Second, and for the high partial pressure of Nitrogen in our bodies we will have a higher risk of getting decompression sickness.