For divers, Galapagos scuba diving offers a multitude of rare treats, and the Galapagos Islands are a much sought-after diving destination. Many divers harbor a wish to dive in the Galapagos Islands at some point during their life time, and it is easy to see why, with such fascinating underwater ecosystems, and the opportunity to dive in areas where there are hammerhead sharks and other wonderful sea life. For those planning diving Galapagos tours, here is everything you need to know to get started.
Diving Galapagos Tours allow divers to see a wide variety of underwater life and experience the sea world. As with the animals residing on the land, the species living underwater have also not learned to fear people which makes them interested in what you are doing under the water. The underwater ecosystem is varied. You might very well get to see sea lions and dolphins, as well as sea turtles and marine iguanas under the surface. There are also a massive variety of sharks to be spotted. These include the Galapagos shark, white-tipped reef sharks, blacktip sharks and whale sharks. Hammerhead sharks can also be seen with some frequency, especially at dive sites near Wolf and Darwin – though it is worth noting you will need to take a liveaboard trip to visit these sites. You can also expect to see various varieties of rays including manta rays, or more likely, eagle rays. As well as these species, there are also a very wide variety of colorful fish and commonly spotted types include water jacks, grunts, barracuda, snappers and groupers. Also seen sometimes include bloody frogfish, rainbow basslet and Galapagos clingfish, among many, many others. The underwater world is also home to starfish, crabs, and even seahorses for divers that are lucky enough to spot them.
Diving Galapagos tours are arranged either on liveaboard cruises or from land-based trips. If you want to see the very best of the Galapagos diving options available, you will probably want to take a Galapagos liveaboard cruise. It is very important to note that only a few Galapagos ships offer diving as boats have to be licensed to do so. This means you cannot expect to dive from your regular Galapagos cruise – in most cases you will only be allowed to snorkel. However, you can arrange a one or two-day Galapagos diving extension, so that you do not miss out. The diving ships in the Galapagos include the Astrea, Galapagos Master, Galapagos Sky, Humboldt Explorer, Nortada, Nautilus, Lonesome George and Danubio Azul.
Some rate the best diving ships in the Galapagos as being the Astrea, the Humboldt Explorer, Galapagos Sky, the Galapagos Master and Nortada. Galapagos Sky is one of the best liveaboard Galapagos diving options as it offers nitrox, wreck, shark, manta and whale diving. Meanwhile the Nortada does offer some technical diving support, as well as a shore excursion to the Charles Darwin Research Station. The Galapagos Master was refitted recently in 2014, and it is considered an eco-friendly dive boat, which will surely appeal to some Galapagos divers. On the other hand, the Humboldt Explorer is a nice spacious boat which offers divers the chance to complete their PADI open water certification. On this boat there is also a specialization in underwater photography, which may be particularly appealing to some. The Astrea is another very good Galapagos liveaboard option, as it was custom-built specifically for diving and it is budget-friendly.
Galapagos diving can be a chilly experience during certain months of the year. Temperatures at the service can be anywhere between 18 and 30 degrees Celsius. Temperatures are at their lowest between September through to November. The warmest months for Galapagos diving are February, March and April. Between January and May, water temperatures generally vary between 24 and 28 degrees Celsius. Between June and December however, you are more likely to get temperatures between 17 to 20 degrees Celsius. Diving Galapagos tours typically run across all seasons, so you can travel to suit your preference.
Galapagos diving is not easy and is perhaps not the best option for a novice diver. Galapagos scuba diving can involve a range of currents, some strong, with colder water. There can be surges and low visibility. Divers with little experience may not be best equipped to deal with these situations at depths. There can also be downdrafts that can be dangerous, so being knowledgeable about what to do in such a situation is important from a safety perspective. Sometimes there is a need to firmly grasp rocks to ensure that the currents do not pull you away. As well as this, while visibility can be between 10 to 21 meters, it can also be a lot lower if the sea is rough. That is not to say that novices cannot do Galapagos scuba diving. However, inexperienced divers are more likely to stay in areas that are better sheltered and shallower, for safety reasons. Some boats will recommend that divers have 45-50 dives experience before taking a Galapagos scuba diving trip.