Scuba diving in the Galapagos is a lifelong dream for many divers. This small group of volcanic islands exudes natural beauty on every side, boasts unmatched land and aquatic fauna.
For many divers, diving in the Galapagos is a lifelong dream. The Pacific waters west of South America have long been a favorite of avid divers, but this small group of islands west of Ecuador remains at a higher level. Diving in the Galapagos shows unparalleled beauty, a life that cannot be found anywhere else, and a wild soul that magnetizes. We can explore Galapagos either on liveaboards or from shore resorts. We recommend it to combine diving with shore excursions, where you will find unique animals of these places.
Story of Galapagos
It is an archipelago located 972 kilometers west of the coast of Ecuador. In 1959, they declared a group of 19 islands of volcanic origin as a national park and marine biological reserve. At the intersection of three ocean currents, the equatorial countercurrent, the North Pacific Current, and the southern equatorial current, the Galapagos is a true “melting pot” of marine species.
There is an amazing list of creatures you can see in the waters of the Galapagos – sea lions, penguins, seals, rays, sea iguanas, hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, turtles, golden rays, whales… An additional plus is that many of them are tame because they are used to divers. Probably the best location for diving in the Galapagos is the place Darwin’s arch.
It is on the southeast corner of Darwin Island, with a depth of nine to 40 meters upwards. Visibility is usually 12 to 24 meters, the currents are moderate to extraordinarily strong, but it is a great location for observing white sharks, hammers, and other fish that live at medium depths.
When is the best time for diving there?
You should know that from January to May, the ocean is calmer and the water much warmer. The general conditions of diving and travel, whether you are on a cruise or day excursion boat, are much more comfortable. While you probably won’t see whale sharks during this time of year, it will reward you with the chance to come across many more hammerhead sharks (sometimes schools of several hundred), manta rays, mobula, sea eagles, rays.
June to mid-December is the best time to see whale sharks in Darwin and Wolf islands. The ocean, however, is colder, livelier, and less transparent because of the greater presence of plankton (which, however, recalls whale sharks).
Regardless of the time of year you choose for your trip, you will be ready for some incredible diving!
Visibility during diving
In the Galapagos, visibility can be as high as 30 meters, but more often it is between 10 and 21 meters because of the abundance of plankton. Remember that nutrient-rich water is the reason the archipelago has such a wealth of large pelagic.
The visibility is seasonal, being higher from December until the beginning of June and changes with the currents even during a single dive, also depending on the thermocline. The clearest waters are also the coldest.
It is unnecessary to dive deep in the Galapagos, as the largest variety of organisms normally find between the surface and 18 meters. As a result, the profiles of most dives are between 6 and 24 meters, although the depths in most sites easily reach or exceed 40 meters.
The only time that this general rule change is during the El Nino years, when predators like sharks stay towards the bottom, following their food sources and avoiding warmer water at shallower depths.
The presence of moderate to strong currents is one of the most challenging aspects of diving in the Galapagos. The strength and direction of the currents change constantly, sometimes even during diving. You never “fight” the current, but you go along with it. The entry into the water must be fast, the descent rapid and controlled.
The Garua season, when there is usually a fog covering the islands, runs from late June to December, with the coldest water temperature from September to November. In the “hot” season, from January to June, it rains more but intermittently, so there is also more sun. December is a popular month for diving in the Galapagos, as warmer currents predominate, so water temperatures are often several degrees higher than at other times of the year.
February, March, and April are the hottest months, but also the wettest ones. The surface water temperature varies from 18 to 25 ° C. Conversely, the temperatures in depth can drop as low as 13 ° C with thermoclines at depths of 12-18 meters.
Another aspect that the Galapagos must not miss is a safety kit. I repeat myself on the environmental conditions: you can find the rough and rough ocean, strong currents, and reduced visibility. The possibility of losing contact with the group has to be considered.
Cruise boats and most diving clubs provide safety equipment deemed necessary for the environmental conditions expected on a particular dive.
However, being “technologically” independent and having your kit (also useful for diving in the Mediterranean) can only help lower the risks of diving in the Galapagos.
Last but not least
Diving is strictly regulated by the Galapagos National Park Service and is only allowed in specific areas of the marine reserve. Divers must be accompanied by a certified divemaster/guide, so do not expect to dive alone.
Many of the dive sites are partially eroded cones of volcanoes that have now disappeared. The steeper walls of these sites were the exteriors of the craters, while the steeper areas were the interiors.