Diving Galapagos Islands

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Galapagos Islands, Ecuador


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Country: Ecuador  Area: Ecuador

Water Temp: 16 - 28°C (61 - 82°F)

Visibility: 10 - 30m (33 - 98 ft)

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A trip of a lifetime! The Galapagos is one of the last places in the world where you have the chance of diving with huge schools of Hammerhead Sharks.

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The Galapagos Islands consist of 13 main islands and 6 smaller isles approx which are owned by Ecuador and are approx 1000km off of its coast. Famous for its unique wildlife such as Giant Tortoises, Penguins, Sealions, marine iguanas and lots of different bird species which were all studied by Charles Darwin and helped lead to his Theory of Natural Selection.

As well as the unique island wildlife on land below the surface the environment is just as unique due to the convergence of cold water currents from the Antarctic and warm water from the tropics allowing warm and cold water species to co-exist.

Reef Shark in the Galapagos Credit

These islands are volcanic and have a barren but beautiful volcanic landscape. This volcanic structure has surrounding waters full of nutrients helped but an equatorial upwelling. The porous volcanic rock also provides home to smaller marine life in place of a coral reef. All these features attract a diverse selection of wildlife including Whale Sharks, hammerheads, manta rays and Sea turtles.  


There are two seasons in the Galapagos islands a wet and hot season from December through may which brings rough seas, and a dry and cool season from June through November with calmer seas. The wet season may have showers but most days will still be warm and sunny.

Water temperature is variable, like the climate and is warmer in the northernmost islands of Wolf and Darwin than the southern islands. September to November are the coldest months and February to April the warmest. Thermoclines are present which can drop the water temperature by up to 5C.

Marine Conservation

The Galapagos Islands make up the second largest marine reserve in the world.

There are strict rules and restrictions on the number of tourists and where they can visit in an effort to protect the wildlife and natural habitat. Most areas tourists cannot visit without a guide.

There are many volunteer conservation projects across the islands to take part in.

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Wildlife Calendar


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Day Trips

Most of the central islands will offer day trip diving the local sites around the area. These sites offer more of a range of sites for different levels of experiences. Although most sites in the Galapagos are for experienced or intermediate you can find some slightly easier sites near the island of Santa Cruz.

Academy Bay is a bay next to Puerto Ayora and has a couple of sites that are generally calm with little current which are great for less experienced divers. There are also sites in this bay which can become a little more difficult with interesting currents. This area gives you the opportunity to dive with sealions, marine iguanas and rays and sometimes even an odd shark.

Sea Iguana! Credit

The most popular site in day trip range is Gordon’s rocks. It is an hour away from Puerto Ayora and gives divers a great chance to see schools of hammerheads. Again there is large surge and strong currents so is not suitable for beginners. You dive in an old crater which is approx 100m across and there are many nooks and crannies which are home and protection to smaller marine life as well as sleeping reef sharks and rays. You can also dive on the outside of the crater, which is where you have the best chance of seeing the hammerheads and also Galapagos sharks, whitetips, green turtles and fur seals.

Hammerhead Shark 

Liveaboard Trips

Wolf and Darwin are the prime diving locations that people wish to dive when visiting the Galapagos. They are home to some of the best dive sites in the world and as they are in the far north of the archipelago and can only be reached by liveaboards.

Wolf Island is a 14hour overnight trip from the main islands, but it is worth is for the amazing diving you will have here. Due to Wolf being quite exposed with waves, strong surge, eddies and frequently shifting currents this island is definitely only for experienced divers. The water temperature here is warmer than the islands in the south which means a greater range of marine life and warm water fish that are not found in the south.


Darwin is 4hrs north of Wolf and the northernmost island. As is it is the warmest water here there are many more corals than in the south. There are only a few dive sites on this island, but they are the best in the Galapagos. These are all around Darwin’s arch which sits just above the surface on an underwater plateau. This area is great for hammerhead schools and sometimes there will be so many you can’t count! The hammerheads easily spook by bubbles and sudden movement so the best way to get the most of these spectacular creatures is to stay still and watch them swimming around you.

Although hammerheads tend to be the main attraction for most divers, these two islands have many other species and are a great place to see whale sharks, tiger sharks, marlin and other whales between June and November. There are also Galapagos sharks and silky sharks year round and many other reef fish such as snappers, jacks, Moorish idols, moray eels, parrotfish, turtles and octopuses.

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How to get there

Located 1000km off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are very remote and the best way to get there is to fly. This is done via Quito or Guayaquil on Ecuador’s mainland, which are international airports and have regular flights to and from many US destinations. The flights tend to be cheaper from Guayaquil but there is only one a day where a Quito has two a day.

You can fly into one of two airports on the Galapagos depending on your choice of holiday; these are San Cristobal or Baltra. Baltra Airport is about two hours from the main Galapagos settlement on Santa Cruz.

Most tourists get around the islands by boat and its best to book a tour or cruise that will visit various islands.

Manta at Galapagos Credit

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Other activities

The Galapagos is a wonderful location for anyone with a passion for wildlife whether it be on land or in the sea. Most of the activities revolve around the unique wildlife that the islands are home to. This includes the famous Giant Tortoises, many birds, penguins and sealions.

The Charles Darwin Foundation center is worth visiting as it administers research stations across the islands and has some very interesting wildlife exhibitions.

The tortoise breeding and rearing program at the Charles Darwin Research Centre on Santa Cruz

There are also other activities that you can take part in such as hiking, kayaking or horse riding, all of which will allow you to explore and take in the stunning scenery of the islands.

Giant Tortoise, Galapagos Credit 

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The nearest dive hyperbaric chamber is on Santa Cruz Island at Puerto Ayora.

The number of visitors to the islands is limited as are the wildlife sites you can visit and you cannot stray off the marked paths.

Land visits are prohibited on both Wolf and Darwin islands due to the fragile environment.

Do not snorkel close to sealion colonies. The bull sealions can be very protective and can inflict nasty and potentially life threatening bites. But don’t let it put you off, it is only the bull sealions that are dangerous, snorkelling with the juveniles is amazing fun and the highlight of many trips.

Playful juvenile Sea Lion.. Cutest thing ever! Galapagos Credit

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Diving with Hammerheads

Is there anywhere you can reliably dive with them on day dives from resorts.

Looking at late July and wondered if liveaboards where not the only possibility as hard to leave family for days on end sadly


Joanne Roberts

0 votes

In Bimini you can, this is February/ March though.

Traci Quick

0 votes

San Sal, Bahamas. Riding Rock Resort.

Rating 10/10

Galapagos Diving Adventures !

Galapagos Islands20 Aug 2014 - 20 Aug 2014

Diving in Galapagos is considered to be something of a pinnacle in the scuba diving world. Its a unique experience that every diver should experience.!

In RED MANGROVE ,we will take you to enjoy an underwater Adventure in the Galapagos Islands: Santa Cruz and Isabela in our original Red Mangrove style. With only a short navigation from island to island, you will experience the best of each. Without missing the amazing land excursions.

For novice to advanced divers.

Follow this link and learn all about our adventures.! : http://goo.gl/9rHnPX

Rating 8/10

SCUBA diving with white-tipped reef sharks

My SCUBA dive instructor Abraham briefed me on the hand symbols for the different types of things we might see while we were diving. This included the hand signs for 4 different types of sharks (White tip, black tip, hammerhead, and Galapagos shark). This gave me only a mild panic attack as the entire Jaws movie genre flashed by. Luckily for my pride, I was able to forget about this just long enough to jump into the water.

Shark spotting: Ten minutes later we are around 40 feet deep, swimming along the rocky outcropping and cliffs that form North Seymour island. As we kept peeking in hidden caves along the bottom it occurred to me that we were actually looking for sharks!

The first cave was empty, a couple of brightly colored fish swimming about. But lo and behold, it wasn’t long before we found sharks left and right. Prior to this trip, my stereotype of sharks is that they are solitary, lonely creatures… primordial killing machines that devour any little fish in sight. Quite to the contrary, the sharks seemed to be hanging out together, taking a mid-afternoon siesta in the comfort of their cave, with the company of some little fish looked completely at ease. Some of the little fish were actually exhibiting what I later learned is “cleaning” behavior – where they eat parasites off the back of the sharks. Each shark was about 4 feet long, not big enough to eat me (I reasoned), but certainly big enough to make a nice snack out of one of my fingers if it should wake up in a bad mood. However, when the sharks woke up, they simply meandered off into the deep blue sea, perhaps to find a more secluded nap spot for the rest of the afternoon. My heart rate returned to normal, but with adrenaline pumping, and ready to go looking for more.

Rating 8/10


Galapagos Islands13 Oct 2012 - 20 Oct 2012

Losts of whales and dolphins; viz was a bit challenging; lots of marine life and huge schools of fish.

Pacheca 1 of 1
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