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Galapagos Travels

Galapagos Diving

The marine life is the most spectacular pelagic diving on the planet!  It is one of the rare places where you pass through a bank of hundreds of hammerheads while chasing a 60 foot whale shark. Toss in Galapagos sharks, silky sharks, sea turtles, giant free swimming morays, schools of thousands of pelagic fish species like barracuda or jacks along with large schools of tropicals like king angelfish and you have just 1 dive at Darwin.  At Wolf, you can expect huge Galapagos sharks, more hammerheads, eagle rays within feet-sometimes inches and Cabo Marshall will put you face to face with giant manta rays and inside a school of millions of black-striped salemas.  Macro life is spectacular at Cousins where the abundant (green) black coral shelters seahorses, blennies, nudibranches, hawkfish and frogfish.  And this is but a mere taste of why divers consistently proclaim the Galapagos to have the healthiest marine life in the Pacific as well as the best place to dive for pelagic life.

Galapagos diving is exciting. The thrill of Galapagos diving is to be surrounded by wildlife, a diversity of big animals like no other place, where every day can surprise you with real adventure. Diving with immense schools of fish, sea lions, marine turtles, morays, marine iguanas, invertebrates, rays, giant mantas, white tip reef sharks, Galápagos sharks, hammerhead sharks, sometimes even whale sharks, dolphins, humpback whales, or sperm whales. With so much exotic marine life, the Galapagos Islands are a photographer's dream come true.

Galapagos Liveaboards
Liveaboards in Galapagos are not for novice divers.  Before attempting to dive in Galapagos you should be completely comfortable in the water and comfortable with all aspects of your equipment. Having experience of diving in cold water with a thicker wetsuit and hood, as well as experience of diving in strong currents, up currents and down currents is highly recommended.  Experience in mixed surface conditions, mixed currents and varying water temperatures, proficient use of a DSMB and the ability to cope in buddy pairs or on your own should you become temporarily separated, is imperative.

We recommend that guests booking on to a Galapagos liveaboard should be advanced divers (minimum PADI Advanced or equivalent) and have more than 100 logged dives.

There is no insurance included in the programs and we highly recommend all divers to have their DAN (Divers Alert Network) insurance before going to the Galápagos.

For more information, we recommend you to go to: 

We also recommend bringing dive alert whistle and scuba tube

Galapagos Seasons
In Galapagos there are 2 seasons: the warm and sunny from December to May and the cold and cloudy from June to November. June and November are transitional months. On the warm season, there is almost no wind (so the sea is usually very calm) and the visibility tends to be better. In the cold season, there is more wind, sometimes the sea tends to be choppy and the visibility lower but there is more marine life.

Water temperature
The water in the Galapagos is relatively cold, ranging from 60°F - 80°F (15C- 26C) between May and November and 70°F - 82°F (20C - 26C) between December and June.  Divers are highly recommended to wear a minimum full 7 mm wetsuit or semi-dry with a hood and vest, or 5mm layers.

A large submarine current (Equatorial Undercurrent) coming from the West Pacific hits the largest island of the archipelago (Isabela Island) and is deflected upward reaching the surface, bringing up the cold and nutrient rich water; this can change the visibility in a matter of one or two days. Visibility can be as low as 4m and as high as 30m but the average is 15m. Visibility varies between dive sites and with the time of day and can even change during a dive. The visibility at Darwin & Wolf tends to be higher than in the Southern islands.

Each dive is one tank. Usually aluminum tanks with 3000 psi /207 bar are used - all tanks have the international connection system - if passengers want to use their own regulator with DIN system they have to bring their own adapter. The bottom time depends on each passenger’s air consumption. Mostl dives are in-between 15 and 25 meters because this is where you encounter most of the marine life in the Galápagos.

The daily diving trip rates always include complete dive gear. Divers can decide whether they want to use the equipment of the operator or bring their own.

The live aboard cruises do not include personal gear - only tanks and weight belts with weights. However, with advance reservation, equipment rental at convenient prices onboard all dive cruises is available if required.

Galapagos Travel recognizes the interconnectedness and fragility of island life and the marine environment. That is why we strictly work only with operators who follow the Park's guidelines for sustainable diving in the Galapagos Marine Reserve.

Guidelines: Flying after Diving
Experimental trials indicate the risk of decompression sickness (DCS) decreases as the preflight surface interval increases. Based on these studies, the workshop reached the consensus recommendations stated below. These recommendations apply to flights at cabin altitudes between 600 metres/2000 feet and 2400 metres/8000 feet and to divers who are without DCS symptoms. Work by Buehlmann, which was used by the US Navy Diving manual, suggests that immediate ascent to 600 metres/2000 feet altitude is possible with low DCS risk. In 1999, the US Navy adopted more flexible procedures based, in part on Buehlmann and Vann et al. Following these recommendations reduces DCS risk but does not guarantee that a diver will avoid DCS.

For Dives within the No-Decompression Limits
Single Dives - A minimum preflight surface interval of 12 hours is suggested.
Repetitive Dives and/or Multiday Dives - A minimum preflight surface interval of 18 hours is suggested.

For Dives Requiring Decompression Stops
A minimum preflight surface interval greater than 18 hours is suggested.
Flying after diving recommendations need not be considered for flights to ambient/cabin pressures less than 600 metres/2000 feet.

In Galapagos there are great dive sites for beginners, intermediate and experienced divers, although the best dive sites are usually the most difficult ones, with significant to strong currents near vertical walls. Most of the diving is drift diving, so the dive masters skills play an important role. Beginners can start at the easier places and proceed to the more difficult ones always guided by the dive masters or instructors. In all the dives, the dive masters will be actually diving in the water with the customers. Another important aspect of the Dive masters skills is that, although there is decompression chamber on Santa Cruz Island, the dive masters’ duty is to guarantee that, to a reasonable extent, everybody is on the safe side.

Beginners: Newly certified divers or divers with few dives logged (6 to 15 dives).

Intermediate: 15 to 99 dives logged with experience in cold water and with drift and wall diving.

Advanced: 100 dives or more logged with experience in cold water and with drift and wall diving.

Detailed description of dive experience is always necessary to confirm a dive program, because a diver with 10 dives in cold water and currents may feel a lot more comfortable than a diver with 40 logged dives in warm water and little current - also a newly certified diver may feel more comfortable than a diver with 50 logged dives but who has not been diving for many years.

Information required before confirming a diving tour:
Safety comes first and therefore we require the following information about each passenger’s dive experience in order to make the program that fits the customer’s skills and interests:
What type of divers license (level and training agency)
How many dives
Date of last dive
Experience with drift and wall diving
Experience with diving in cold water and with 6mm wet suit
What would you like to see in the Galapagos
When would you like to dive in the Galapagos

Galapagos Dive sites

Academy Bay
The Academy Bay area is a short navigation from the dive center. This area is great for introductory diving, beginner and intermediate divers. We usually request that each person spend a minimum of 1 day diving in Academy Bay to get acclimated to our water, thick wetsuits and the visibility.
We recommend that beginner certified divers do at least 3 dives in Academy Bay before heading to the more distant spots. The Academy Bay area is easy diving with very little current. The following are some of the Academy Bay diving sites; dive sites will not be specified when confirming an Academy Bay dive trip.

Punta Estrada
Sea turtle canyon in Academy Bay. Invertebrates, tropical fish, stingrays, green sea turtles; possible encounters with golden rays and some whitetip reef sharks. There are interesting geological formations here.

Caamaño Islet
Offers a chance to swim and play with friendly sea lions, many tropical fish and marine iguanas.

Punta Nuñez Cliffs
Wall diving with a cave. At this site, you can see turtles, stingrays, tropical fish, whitetip sharks and – occasionally – manta rays.

El Bajo
This submerged shoal at Academy Bay has an impressive amount of fish, whitetip sharks, morays, invertebrates, caverns, eagle rays, stingrays, turtles and sea fans. A great diving site for intermediate as well as for experienced divers.

Enderby Islet, Punta Ayora, Champion Islet and Devil's Crown are the dive sites where you will experience sea lions, turtles, exotic fish, thousands of tropical fish, barracudas, black coral, whitetip and Galapagos sharks, moray eels, some hammerheads and eagle rays. You will have an excellent opportunity for dolphin watching during the boat trip to and from Floreana. You will also enjoy watching the local marine and bird life such as sea lions, blue footed boobies, frigatebird, penguins and marine iguanas from the boat.

Gordon Rocks
Here you will experience turtles, big fish, hundreds of tropical fishes, hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, white tips, large morays, spotted eagle rays, golden and stingrays as well as fur sea lions. This is the best one day trip for experienced divers, when done in combination with Seymour or Mosquera Islet.

Schools of hammerheads, loads of snappers and other fish, turtles, morays, manta rays and white tip sharks, sea lions, garden eels.

Cousins Rock
An intermediate dive combination of shoal and wall diving with sea lions, large amounts of fish, white tip sharks, hammerheads, eagle rays and manta rays. There is a breathtaking vertical wall with a profusion of black corals and other invertebrates. It’s possible to find seahorses and frogfish here as well. This dive site is often combined with diving in Bartolome.

Stingrays, turtles, white tips, plenty of fish, invertebrates and interesting rock formations with crevices. During the surface interval between Cousins and Bartolome dives, we snorkel to look for penguins.

Mosquera Islet
Largest colony of garden eels, mantas, sea turtles, white tips and maybe hammerheads schools and eagle rays, as well as plenty of tropical fish and sea lions.

Daphne Islet
Wall diving  with morays, white tips, eagle rays, stingrays, sea lions, Galapagos sharks , hammerheads, turtles, black corals   and many other invertebrates, and hundreds of fish.

Santa Fe
Easy diving with little current. Whitetips, turtles, stingrays and occasionally a couple of hammerheads. snorkeling with sea lions at surface interval.

Guy Fawkes
Combination of wall and shoal diving. Great side for seeing a lot of sea horses and fishes. Whitetips , sea lions, turtles, Galapagos Sharks.

Darwin and Wolf
These two islands are located 14 hours sailing north of the main island group. The seas surrounding Wolf and Darwin support large concentration of the marine life that makes the Galapagos the dive destination that it is. Schools of hammerheads, dolphins and rays make these islands a highlight for many divers visiting the Galapagos. The whale shark aggregation occurs in the warmer water surrounding these islands. Hammerhead sharks and other shark species make regular appearances in numbers year round.

Galapagos Islands Marine Life
More than 2,900 existing marine species have been reported up to now, of which 25% of the marine organisms are endemic.  There are several species of marine mammals like whales, dolphins, and sea lions, making a total of 24, with two endemic species.  This also prompted the declaration of the Whale Sanctuary in 1990. 

Algae: 333 species of algae are reported at the Galápagos, (35 % are endemics). During "El Niño" many of the algae are replaced by others which can grow better in warm waters, changing the food chain.

Invertebrates: 24 species of sea urchins, 28 of sea stars, 30 of sea cucumbers, approximately 600 of mollusca, and more than 100 of crabs exist in the Galapagos. The colors of the Blue Sea Star Phataria Unifascialis, the shape of the Black Spiny Brittle Star Ophiocoma aethiops, the red phosphorescent skin of the Horse conch Fasciolaria Princeps and the quantity of Slate Pencil Urchins Eucidaris thouarsii will fascinate you during the dives. We strongly recommend the book "A Field Guide to Sea Stars and other Equinoderms of Galápagos by Cleveland P.Hickman, Jr. of Sugar Spring Press, 1998.

Corals: 31 non-reef building corals (30% of them are endemic) and 13 reef builders are reported. The Galápagos have the same quantity and diversity of corals as other parts of the east Pacific. They are congregated in some areas, especially in Darwin and Wolf where more warm waters are present. Out of those congregations, you should not expect to find large quantities of corals.

Fish: There are more than 300 species of fish (17% are endemic to the Galapagos). Big schools of Creole Fish (Gringo or Paranthias colonus), Black Striped Salema (Ojón or Xenocys jessiae), groups of Almaco Jacks (Palometa or Seriola rivoliana), Barracudas (Sphyraena idiastes), Moorish Idol (Zanclus cornutus), and dancing Rainbow Wrass (Vieja Arco Iris or Thalassoma lucasanum) are common.
You may see a Pacific Seahorse (Caballito de Mar or Hippocamous ingens) hanging in a Black Coral, a Fantail Pipefish ( Pez pipa or Doryrhamphus excisus) inside a small crevice and several Red-lipped Batfish (Pez Murciélago or Ogcocephalus darwini) lying in the sand, the Sanguine Frogfish (Pez Sapo or Antennatus sanguineus) changing colors due to the surroundings sponges are more of a challenge to see because of their size and camouflage.
Galapagos Barnacle Blennies ( Acanthemblemaria castroi) living inside old barnacles, Yellow-tail Damselfish (Damisela Cola Amarilla or Stegastes arcifrons) protecting their algae garden, Wrasses cleaning other fish, Stone Scorpionfish (Brujo or Scorpaena plumieri mystes) with the same shape and color of the rocks, fascinating juvenile Giant Damselfish (Damisela Gigante or Microspathodon dorsalis) with their iridescent blue spots and the poisonous Bulleye Puffer (Tambulero or Sphoeroides annulatus) are easy to see.
Many Fine Spotted Morays ( Morena Puntofino or Gymnothorax dovii) opening their mouth to breathe, congregations of Galapagos Garden Eels (Anguilas de Jardín or Taenioconger klausewitzi), and several species of rays including the huge Manta Ray ( Manta or Manta hamiltoni) which reach 7 meters or 22 feet also are common.

Mammals: Two species of sea lions inhabit the Galápagos; the sea lion (Lobo marino or Zalophus californianus wollebaeki) and the Fur seal ( Lobo de dos pelos or Arctocephalus galapagoensis). Total estimated population 80.000 individuals. When snorkeling with them, don’t forget your camera. Don’t try to touch them, they can bite you.
The most sighted whale is the Bride´s Whale (Balaenoptera Edeni). Also you can see Sperm Whales (Physeter Macrocephalus), Killer Whales (Orcinus Orca), (Megaptera Novaeangliae), and others. If you are looking for whales, try the upwelling areas. Close contacts with whales can be done snorkeling between the islands. Approach the whales by they rear. Do not make noises or splashes. Be silent.

When cruising in the day the Bottlenosed dolphins (Delfín nariz de botella or Tursiups truncatus) often swim in front of the boats giving you an opportunity to take their picture, and the small Common dolphins ( Delfín común or Delphinus delphis) like to jump off the waves made by the boats. Sometimes you can snorkel with Bottlenosed dolphins jumping in the water right in front of you and can wait as they pass under you. On occasion you can hear their sounds and distinguish the mothers and babies.

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