Diving In The Galapagos: Top Spots

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diving in the Galapagos

For most divers, the Galapagos is definitely on their bucket list! The clear waters are bursting with life that is both colourful and unusual. 

However, it's not just the bio-diversity that's incredible, but the friendliness of the animals! Seals often play with divers, and turtles, iguanas, and penguins show absolutely no fear when approached. 

Because you'll only be in the Galapagos Islands for a short period of time, you won't be able to dive every single site. This means you'll need to choose your favourite two or three sites and see what itineraries match (more on the below).  

If you are visiting the Galapagos to dive, we strongly suggest taking a cruise-based trip. This will allow you to reach the best dive sites that are unavailable on land-based and day tours. 

Below we provide more information on the most commonly asked questions before revealing our favourite Galapagos diving sites. For more information on the best things to do whilst in the Galapagos, please click here

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Best Time To Dive In The Galapagos

Because the Galapagos Islands lie on the Equator line, there is no bad time of year to visit or dive here. Saying this, there are still two distinct seasons; the warm (or rainy) season and cold (or dry) season.

The warm season runs from December to May and offer warmer water and better visibility (in general). This is the best season to see manta rays and sharks, particularly large schools of hammerheads! The water temperature stays around 20-25°C. 

The cold season runs From June through to November. The water is slightly colder during this period (around 17-20°C) and the visibility decreases because of the influx of nutrients in the water. Saying this, visibility is still around 15-20 meters normally. This is the best time of year to swim with penguins, mola mola, and other larger marine creatures such as whale sharks and humpbacks that are attracted by the nutrients.  

Please be aware that because of the major currents that swirl around the Galapagos, temperature in water can change dramatically over a short distance. It is not uncommon to change wetsuits within 5 meters of the last dive site. 

Cost, Equipment, And Experience 

Dive-focused cruises in the Galapagos tend to be a little more expensive than standard cruises. This is for several reasons. Firstly, the best dive sites are located far north of Isabela Island, making them more difficult to reach. Secondly, the ship needs to be decked out for dive equipment and zodiacs. The cheapest week-long itineraries you'll find start around $4,000 for a basic boat and go upwards of $8,000 for a more luxurious boat.

In terms of dive equipment, tanks, weights and weight belt will be included on most itineraries. Items such as BCD, nitrox, regulators, gauges, wetsuit, hood, fins, mask will often not be included within the price and must be rented. If you have space in your luggage then you can bring your own. If you plan on snorkeling, all equipment will be provided. 

Due to the strong currents, limited visibility, and cold water temperatures, diving in the Galapagos is considered advanced. You'll be making 4-5 dives a day and often entering the water from a small inflatable boat.

Because of this, it is recommended that you have at least 50-100 open water dives, experience removing gear in water, and the ability to exit the water in choppy sea conditions. It is strongly advised that all divers have a Nitrox certification. If you do not have one, you will not be able to dive around Wolf or Darwin island due to non-decompression limits, depth and length of dives. This would essentially make the trip pointless. 

Best Cruise Itineraries For Diving

There are only a handful of boats that offer dive-focused itineraries in the Galapagos. These boats tend to take very similar itineraries. The difference in price comes from the level of boat you choose to sail on.

Galapagos diving itineraries generally visit San Cristobal, North Seymour, Darwin Island, Wolf Island, Santiago, and Santa Cruz. 

Boats that offer diving-focused itineraries include the Humbolt Explorer, Galapagos Sky, Agressor II, Astrea Diving, Galapagos Master, Nortada, and the Danubio azul.

For a detailed page on choosing the best Galapagos cruise itinerary, please click here.  

Top Diving Spots In The Galapagos

Because there is no guarantee on water visibility, weather, and wildlife you may see at each site, this list is in no particular order. 

However, if you are wondering which dive spot is 'best' in 'general', the answer is Darwin's Arch off Darwin Island, and Shark Point off Wolf Island. Both locations are included in every dive-focused cruise for at least 3 days. 

Daphne Island: Major And Minor

Both Daphne Major and Minor are great dive spots for beginners. Because of the gentle currents, you can essential do a drift dive which is ideal for fledgling divers. 

Because of park restrictions, these dive spots are generally only accessed by dive cruises. Surprisingly, one of the highlights of this location is seeing remnants of US World War 2 machinery. including several bombs! The geology of the site is also pretty fun to explore with Galapagos black coral, lava remains, caves, platforms, rock walls and much more. 

In terms of wildlife, expect to see schools of tuna, reef sharks, sea turtles and plenty of reef fish. 

Kicker Rock

Named due to its close resemblance to a shoe, Kicker Rock is one of the premiere dive and snorkel sites in the Galapagos and lies just off the Coast of San Cristobal Island. Like Daphne, Kicker Rock is ideal for beginners. You can actually visit Kicker Rock as part of a day trip during which you'll also visit the sea lion colony at Lobos Island.

Diving down between the steep cliff rocks, you'll see large rays, plenty of fish species and sea iguanas. For divers that head deeper down you may spot Galapagos sharks and hammerhead sharks. Always be wary of the current between the rocks which can change very rapidly!   

Darwin's Arch

Located on the very northern edge of the archipelago, Darwin's Arch is one of the great dive spots of the Galapagos, if not the world for seeing large marine species! 

Because of its remote location, Darwin's Arch is only accessible on dive-focused cruises and cannot be reached on day trips. Without having to dive below 40 feet, you'll likely see rays, sea turtles, dolphins, and plenty of fish. During the cold season you may even see a whale shark! 

The real highlight of Darwin's Arch is the sharks that get drawn in by the current. during certain periods of the warmer season, you'll see school of hammerhead sharks, reef sharks, Galapagos sharks, and silky sharks. 

Gordon Rocks

Located off the northeast side of Santa Cruz Island, Gordon Rocks is probably the best dive site in the central Galapagos area. The entire site is an eroded crater that looks like a submerged cone with a nice sandy bottom. 

The main attraction is the schools of hammerhead sharks that regularly get drawn in by the strong currents. However, you can also sea a number of ray species, turtles, barracuda, and moray eels. 

Be warmed though, Gordon Rocks is known locally as the 'washing machine' due to the strong currents that swirl around the site. Gordon Rocks is therefore only for advanced divers who are confident is strong currents. When we say strong, we mean strong. Sometimes you may have to crawl along the ground holding onto rocks! 

Bartholomew Point

Located off the Coast of Bartholomew Island, Bartholomew Point is a fabulous diving spot for marine wildlife and underwater geology! The lava and rock formations beneath water are breathtaking and perfect for divers who love a good explore! 

The site is also known for large bait balls which appear at you like tornadoes in the water. These attract plenty of reef harks, sea lions, and penguins. Seeing a bait ball up close, or even being in one, is a tremendous experience and not easily forgotten.

Above water, Bartholomew Point is one one of the most picturesque spots in the Galapagos and well worth a short trek around.  

Cousins Rock

Located off the northeast coast of Santiago Island, Cousins Rock is one of the most consistently great dive spots year-round. Ideal for intermediate divers, the site extends downwards in large stepped rock platforms before reaching the sandy bottom at 130 feet. The rocks hide plenty of small fish and are often covered in black Galapagos coral. 

There is plenty of marine life on show here including sea lions, sea turtles, reef sharks, and best of all - sea horses! Ocassioanally you'll also spot hammerheads, and giant manta rays. School of barracuda are common here also, as are Galapagos sharks. 

Lobos Island

Located just off San Cristobal Island, Lobos Island is probably the premiere site for sea lion encounters. There is a big colony that live here and beginner divers can interact with them underwater.

The sea lions actively follow you around and play with you. One of their favourite things to do is race at you full speed and then dive upwards just before they hit you! This can seem a little alarming initially, but it's nothing to worry about. Sea lions often chew on your fins and nudge you to chase them. 

On top of the sea lions, you'll probably see marine iguanas, sea turtles, rays, starfish and plenty of coral fish. 

Wolf Island (Shark Point)

Sister site to Darwin's Arch, Shark Point is located off Wolf Island. Like Darwin Island, this site can only be reached via liveaboard cruises. 

The site is world famous for being one of the premiere dive locations for seeing whale sharks. From May to November these gentle giants are drawn in by the nutrient-rich waters and strong currents. Although sitings are by no means guaranteed, Shark Point gives you the best chance of seeing these beauties! 

The site is also popular with hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, manta rays, sea turtles and plenty of fish species. Due to the strong currents and limited visibility, the site is recommended for experienced divers only. 

North Seymour Channel

North Seymour is a small island off the coast of Santa Cruz that is famed for its bird watching. Off the northern side of the island there is also some incredible diving to be had. 

North Seymour Channel is known for its varied fish species such as bluestriped snapper, Salemas, yellowtail grunts, marble rays, eagle rays and much more. You'll also see plenty of reef sharks, sea turtles, and Galapagos garden eels. The eels are tiny and can be seen in the thousands across the sea floor. 

If you're lucky, you'll also see blue-footed boobies diving the fish from above - makes for a great shot! 

Roca Redonda

For people who love geology and exploring rock formations, then Roca Redonda should definitely be on your list! Known for its its streams of natural gas bubbles and volcanic landscape, Roca Redonda is also a hotspot for Galapagos sharks. During your dive you'll probably have several in very close proximity.

The entry is fairly difficult due to the heavy surge and divers have to pull themselves along the rocks. Because of this, the site is recommended for experienced divers only.  

Get a Cruise Quote!

Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote with our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

​FAQ

If you have any queries or questions regarding diving in the Galapagos, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below.

Thank you and happy travels!

Expedition Cruise Team

About the Author Expedition Cruise

ExpeditionCruise.net is the web’s most authoritative information portal on adventure and expedition cruising. Our mission is to provide up to date and comprehensive information on traveling to the Arctic, Antarctica and further afield, so that your experience is as fulfilling and safe as possible.

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