Diving Pichidangui

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Pichidangui, Chile

Copyright Macarena Gonzalez
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Country: Chile  Area: Chile

Water Temp: 12 - 15°C (54 - 59°F)

Visibility: 5 - 80m (16 - 262 ft)

Depth Range: 3 - 60m (10 - 197 ft)

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Pichidangui is a small fishing village in central Chile, about 200 km north of the captial Santiago. It sports a large and beautiful beach and a little harbour.  

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During the Chilean summer holidays (January and February), Pichidangui is crowded with tourists enjoying water sports like surfing, wind-surfing, kayaking, sailing, and many more. The rest of the year, the village is rather quiet, but diving is now practiced all year long, especially beause the visibility becomes better in winter time and some species are better seen off-season.

The dive sites in Pichidangui cover all levels from easy beginners to deep sites that require technical training and equipment. The under-water landscape is like an extension of the rocky coast close to Pichidangui. Cliffs, peaks, and little islands allow for rewarding multi-nivel dives. Large rocks covered with  sponges, corals, shellfish, and starfish form the scenery below and give shelter to many different colourful fishes. Damselfish and mackerels form large swarms and with average transperancies between 20 and 50m can easily be spotted. They are the main hunting grounds for the larger animals like dolphins or sea lions. Wrecks in various dephts and various states of conservation give room for additional biospheres in this richly populated area.

Pichidangui, Chile, Credit

The large beach allows for all kind of water-related activities including snorkeling that is also offered for children by most dive centers. Short excursions by boat leave regularly to watch the coastline with wildlife like small penguins, cormorans, sea lions, fish otters, dolphins and more.  In addition, hiking and horse-riding tours are offered to explore the surroundings of Pichidangui. 

Climate

The climate in this area is generally dry savannah climate with air temperatures variing bewteen 30 C in summer and 15C in winter. Nights are ususally cold.  The water temperature is more stable around 12-14 C all year. In winter, i.e. between May and August, occasional rains and strong winds can occur. While the bay is protected and one can usually still dive close to shore, the visibility drops dramatically during these days. Very seldom, the harbour is closed due to the wind and no diving can take place.

Marine Conservation

Marine conservation around Pichidangui is generally restricted to the efforts of a few small local organizations and dive shops, with the occasional research-based visit from more major institutions such as the WWF. Greater and more organized efforts occur out of Los Vilos, and have some impact on the reefs and oceans in the Pichidangui vicinity.

It has been recommended that the area surrounding Pichidangui be protected as a national conservation area, but efforts surrounding that recommendation have yet to be fully realized.

Other Year round Marine life

Medusas (harmless but beautiful jellyfish): all year, best see Jan-Feb

Sunfish & Sea lions: all year

 
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Shore Diving

There is no shore diving in Pichidangui because for logistic reasons it is easier to enter the water in the harbour rather than from the beach. All dive centers therefore operate with small boats to go directly to the dive sites, even if only a few minutes away. 

Several dive centers operate in Pichidangui which has become one of the most popular places for diving in Chile.

Boat Diving

Most of the dive sites are inside or close to the bay of Pichidangui and can be reached by boat within a few minutes. The reach from 3m (confined water for beginners' classes) to about 60 m (technical diving):

Several easy sites are in the bay itself and thus protected from the currents, this includes a degenerated wreck which however still serves as a home for many fish and other sea-life.  The ground here is populated by several kind of crabs and with some luck also soles or similar flatfish can be spotted hiding in the sand. Large rocks pile up every now and then and build natural reefs populated with colourful shellfish, starfish, and sea anemones, inbetween mainly wrasses but also small swarms of pomfrets, damselfish, or mackerels can be found. 

The most popular sites are between 25m and 40m and apt for advanced recreational divers, they include another better preserved wreck in 30m depth (Indus 9) that allows penetration, and several rock peaks with open caves, or swimthroughs like tunnels, and chimneys to explore (Penitentes, Quelen, La Isla). The species sitting on the rocks vary with depth, but generally include many different kinds of colourful sponges, sea anemones, corals, shellfish, and starfish. Inbetween, many species of fish including congrid eals, hagfish, wrasses, pipefish and small squids can be found, while sunfish and large swarms of pomfrets, damselfish, or mackerels circle around the rocky peaks, occasionally being hunted  by yellowtails, sea lions, or dolphins

Liveaboard Diving

There are no liveaboards in Pichidangui.

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How to Get there

Pichidangui  is located 200 kilometers north of Santiago and 250 kilometers south of La Serena. There is an international airport in Santiago, and a national airport in La Serena. From those cities, or elsewhere in the country, a number of busses connect the cities together year round.

Santiago Airport, Credit

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Where to Eat & Drink

Pichidangui is a very small town, with a small collection of restaurants in the little harbour and along the highway. Restaurants generally serve Chilean dishes – with fried fish and French fries being a particular favourite.

Food! Credit

For more variety in restaurants, and for a more thriving nightlife scene, consider traveling to the small town of Los Vilos, roughly 25 kilometers away.

Pichidangui is a very small town, with a small collection of restaurants in the little harbour and along the highway. Restaurants generally serve Chilean dishes – with fried fish and French fries being a particular favourite.

For more variety in restaurants, and for a more thriving nightlife scene, consider traveling to the small town of Los Vilos, roughly 25 kilometers away.

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Other Activities

The beach of Pichidangui is broad and about 6km long. All kind of water-related activities (swimming, snorkeling, surfing, wind- and kite-surfing, kayaking, sailing, water-ski, stand-up paddeling, fishing) are practiced here. Wind sports are particular popular here. Some cliffs along to the beach are used for free climbing activities. Hiking and horse riding is practiced in the surroundings and guided tours are offered. A small artisanal market is open during summer months and on weekends.

Ready to enjoy the beach, Credit

Beyond that, it is a very small beachside town that is not especially developed. Enjoy the remoteness of the area and the lack of established tourism facilities. This place sits among Chile’s top beaches!

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Tips

Chile is generally a safe country to travel, but pick-pockets are very common and should always be watched out for.        

Pichidangui is generally a very quiet place, seldom visited by tourists. It does however become more busy during the holidays, when local Chileans descend on the beach.

Pichidangui Seashore, Credit

The neighbouring town of Los Vilos has much more activity than Pichidangui – and more options for tourists in terms of accommodation, restaurants and nightlife. Dive operators tend to have bases in this town and in Pichidangui, making both viable options to stay.

The nearest hyperbaric chamber is located in Santiago, roughly 200 kilometers south of the city. The drive takes between 4 – 5 hours.

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